Summer Reading, and my Poor Habit.

I suffer from a weird reading habit. For me it’s very hard to get into a book, or a manga… any fiction story. I either, read the first two paragraphs and close the book, or read enough to get me a little hooked, but immediately jump to the last page, read the end, and… well, close the book depending on the ending. I’m not sure what it is that has made me this way, but I’m sort of jaded when it comes to fiction stories. It feels as if I have read them all, and know them all; only that it’s not really how it is.

Most stories follow a pattern; in comedies, at the beginning everything is bliss, then it all starts to fall apart to later go back to that state of happiness. It is the twist and turns, the misunderstandings, and incongruities the characters have to face what makes the difference. In drama, well, things are dramatic, tragic, sad, etc. It might have a successful conclusion or not, but the character is supposed to have changed drastically in one way or the other. In action, a good set of complications together with a charismatic character, and your set. In mystery, complex main characters, and creepy family stories, also a lot of details and information on the murderers… well, you get my point. Ultimately, it is how the writer tells the story what really gets the reader hooked or disappointed.

I have been reading since I was very little. I remember my mom always tried to get me to read a story. Whether it was from a magazine, book, or comic book, but she would bring home something for me to read. She is a veteran reader; she can read ten books in a month and still have time for everything else in her life. (sighs) I’ll never be as good as her.

As a child I read mostly Russian children books (back then it was Soviet Union) I had four children books from Russia, and each tome was a different color; red, blue, yellow, green. Stories of Czars and Czarina, frog princes, cities on top of gigantic whales, filled the pages of the book with gorgeous illustrations. All were beautiful stories that marked my childhood. I will never forget them.

Later I indulged in Victoria Holt, and her mystery love novels. I read them once, and then read them again; it was pure bliss for my teenage self. Then it was Ann Rice’s turn to captivate me, and she did with an incredible speed. I had only read the first book of the Vampire Chronicles (Interview With The Vampire) and was already buying all the other books in the series. I read them all, and fell in love with Lestat –my forever prince. I had dreams that Lestat was real, and that someday he would come to my window and ask me to join him in his adventure. I was also only seventeen, and very naïve. After that, my desire to feed every fiction story I could find into my brain became more of a placid diversion in my life. But there were very few writers that could hold my interest and not make me want to jump to the last page.

There was Sidney Sheldon with Tell Me Your Dreams, and then, after that, every other book I read from him was more of a commitment to the writer than anything else. Dan Brown with Digital Fortress, whose other books quickly turned into another commitment (a “jump to the last page” kind of thing). Of course, there was always manga in between fiction novels. I read Hot Gimmick and was very much into it; Tokyo Boys from the same author; Doubt; Kare First Love, and many others that don’t come to mind at the moment. It was all a novelty for me, those manga stories. Then there was the Pendragon series. I loved Bobby Pendragon and was constantly hoping for him and Loor to stay together. But, my “almost-never-wrong” intuition spoiled it for me. And it’s that I seem to, 95% of the time (I don’t like to say 99% it really is just a more modest way of saying 100) know who the killer is, or with whom the main character will stay, or what the mystery concerning the old abandoned house is. Really, I do know these things from very early in the book, and as I progress in the story and things turn out as I predict, then it all becomes very boring and not so interesting anymore (so I do the “jum to the last page” thing). I stopped reading all together for a while. But then, Larsson happened. I got so attached to the book it was ridiculous. I couldn’t tell the outcome, I had no idea that it was what it was until later in the book, much, much later. Sadly, there are no more books of the Millennium series (at least for now).

So, what happens now? Do I go into another depressing time in which I have nothing to read, and -in a miserable attempt to read something- spend lots of money on books (the ones that make me do the “jump to the last page” thing) that don’t even make it to the bookshelf? They lay around the house for days until they get lost in some kind of storage box. Nope, not this time.

This summer, I read many manga stories; also, I read (tried to is more like it) The Twelfth Card, and James Patterson’s, I Alex Cross. It seemed like I had all the time in the world to finish reading those two books I last mentioned, and so, always put off the reading for another day. But there is no more time to put it off, really. Because school has started, and with it my summer has ended. I can no longer read as much as I would like. Hey! At least I didn’t jump to the last page.

I want to end my summer reading, with a list of the manga and books I read or have the intention of finish reading. I want to share what awesome stories I read, and hope that it would help those who are in search of something good to read.

I have list them in no particular order, but I have rate each based on how much I enjoyed it in a scale of 1-5. (It would be helpful to know that I am only basing my judgment on the first volume of each manga, whether I have read more volumes or not. I figured, if you are not hooked in the first volume, then, you won’t be hooked at all.)

–      Rurouni Kenshin, by Nobuhiro Watsuki. 5 (awesome, but who does not think so?)

–      Flower in a Storm, by Shigeyoshi Takagi. 1 (too predictable)

–      Butterflies, Flowers, by Yuki Yoshihara. 3 (it managed to entertain and intrigue me, even if just a little)

–      Dengeki Daisy, by Kyousuke Motomi. 4 (Nice romance, with a twist)

–      Suki-tte li nay o, by Hazuki Kanae. 5 (good-classic-school romance)

–      Honey Hunt, by Miki Aihara. 3 (I miss Hot Gimmick)

–      Ikigami, by Mase Motoro. 5 (excellent manga, truly the best read)

–      Dogs, by Shirow Miwa. 2 (eh… nah)

Do I expect you to trust my ratings? No. Like I said, I have a very poor reading habit.

Other posts related to reading:

“It” is The Dragon Tattoo, Not Twilight

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Back to School, Back to Drawing!

I start school tomorrow, after two semesters (almost a year) of slacking off… no, not really. I was busy with changes in my life, but never mind that now. I’m taking a math class… ugh, and an art class, yay! I’m a little anxious, I have not done much drawing since my last drawing class and that was like a year ago. I don’t want to suck at drawing, specially, because I have been doing it since infancy and have taken some art classes here or there, and yet, I have not mastered my skills completely. Shame, shame! Of course, I’m also –always- too hard on myself. So, I wanted to shape up my skills a little, and see where I’m falling now.

I did my very first anime-looking character, of that, I’m proud, although he needs some fixing; the head is too small, but maybe his neck is to wide, and I think he is kind of stiff. I’m still proud of Kotaro… yep I named him after the brat from Sword of the Stranger. Hehe. And that eye! Ooh, I want to leave my comfort zone -as in drawing only pretty faces, and always very big- and do different things, like very expressive eyes… well, one eye really. Didn’t have space for two; too lazy to turn the page and use a new one. Blah!

I never really understood why manga artist, all complain about drawing guys hair. It’s not that complicated. I’m a sorry manga artist, I apologize. ITS FREAKING HARD!!!

 

Sword Of The Stranger

This month I have had my share of good, funny, lovable, and memorable movies. I have watched a handful of love comedies (I will only mention the ones I liked) which is my favorite genre in movies – at least that’s what I think since it seems I’m always more willing to watch those than any other. There was I Hate Valentines (it was cute, but pretty ordinary) Valentine’s Day (I dislike Julia Roberts, but the movie was okay) Ramen Girl, and Love and Other Disasters –which I loved, loved, loved. I always liked Brittany Murphy, I think her acting – in comedies- was always very refreshing and natural. There was also the action movies, the drama, war movies –yes, there is always some of those; Black hawk Down, According to Greta, Blood The Last Vampire (the motion picture). But none of these movies  have that peculiar feel of familiarity I look for in a movie to post under my “Films” category. With all the good films I have seen, there is only the one film that caught my heart this month. Maybe because I have watched it many times before, and thus the familiarity.

On another note; what a coincidence this film falls under two other categories; Anime, and Rurouni Kenshin… (sigh) I truly am lazy. Before I get into anything, this is not a proper review of the movie, in case you are looking for a discussion on character insights and plot development. Just my take on it, and its similarities to some manga, which has been my obsession recently.

Sword of the Stranger has been a favorite at home for a long time now. My boyfriend cannot get enough of it. He has seen the film at least a dozen times, and I’m not exaggerating. Is that, Sword of the Stranger is one of the few decent anime films about samurai. And of course, we love samurai stories.

The film begins when soldiers of the Ming Dynasty are chasing a boy name Kotaro, and his dog Tobimaru. Kotaro is running from his persecutors and trying to get to the main temple where he will be safe, since the monk who was caring for him died protecting him from the Ming. While hiding in a deserted shrine, he meets Nanashi (nameless) and hires him as his bodyguard after Nanashi saves him from the soldiers of Akaike, a daymio working together with the Ming.

Nanashi is a samurai with a heavy past. Because of it –and I suppose as a form of atonement- he has sworn to never use his sword again. However, he fights and defends the boy from the soldiers, and he doesn’t hold back.  Kotaro tells the stranger he has no idea why the Ming wants to kidnap him. This makes Nanashi suspicious and he starts taking his job more seriously. Although at first it was what kept him close to the boy, after days of traveling together –and after many quarrels- they form a bond and Nanashi takes a liking to Kotaro and his dog. The samurai does not offer much detail about his life since he cannot remember where he comes from, but the boy is surprised to see Nanashi’s real hair color is red (a secrete he keeps by dying it black) and that he has no more desire to serve under a lord. (Am I speaking of Kenshin? No. Weird. Yep).

On the dark-side there is Rarou, second in command of the Ming Dynasty soldiers. He is a foreigner who joined the Chinese in search of a good fight. In his hunt for Kotaro, he meets with our mysterious ronin and sees his dreams come true.

The plot moves with good pace towards the climax, in which both sides are confronted in a battle that unravels the mystery surrounding Kotaro’s existence.

Sword Of The Stranger was directed by Masahiro Ando –a new liked director on my list- and produced by Bones (Wolf’s Rain=extraordinary.)

I have seen more than a handful of animated films throughout my life, and this one is really a great movie in general terms. I’ts got a good storyline –yes, it’s true, nothing new, we have seen this plot before, but it’s well told- stunning visuals, well-drawn animation, and the fight scenes are mind blowing.

I cannot praise it enough. The only thing that really questioned my faith in it -although I got over it-  was the obvious relation it has to Ruroni Kenshin, and how it is not really essential to the plot.

There is no information on this movie that pertains to the anime Kenshin, but the fact that the main character’s hair is red; no cross-shape scar, but a scar on the face nonetheless, and he is a ronin who’s past has led him to lead a quite and peaceful life in a sort of redemption quest. It all screams KENSHIN to me. Couldn’t the director (with all respect)  think of something else? Or is this really, another representation of the character Himura Kenshin? Moreover, it is true that Kenshin was based on a real hitokiri, Kawakami Gensai. So, let’s just assume for a minute that Nanashi is based on the real hitokiri therefore having some similarities to Kenshin. However, I’m pretty sure the real hitokiri didn’t have red hair being that he was Japanese, so, I don’t see why Nanashi has to have red hair too if this is another representation of Kawakami.

This, my friends, is the only part of the movie, which does not make a lot of sense to me. But at the same time gives me warm feelings every time I watch it, since I forgive the nonsensical part of it, and rejoice in the idea that it is my dear Kenshin; that he never dies like the OVA series shows; that he keeps forever wandering, like the true wave man he is.

Now, leaving all that Kenshin talk and going back to the movie, I will say once more that this film is great despite that little tiny bit of detail. If you are looking for a samurai story with good fighting scenes, this is the one for you.

To read a proper review of the movie with insights on the characters and story, click this link; Sword Of The Stranger, Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?

Other Kenshin related posts:

– Wave Man
-Obsession or Addiction?

Artist’s Block?

That all artists suffer from some kind of weirdness, is known to all. Poe married his cousin, and was all-together a very disturbing fellow; his poems are mind-blowing. Van Gogh cut his ear and was always very dramatic; he was a brilliant artist. The only thing I suffer from is restless legs, and, well… writer’s block, HA!

Today my writer’s block took a ride on the wild side, instead of reading over and over again what I have written (I open my computer with the intention to write, and spend more than one hour reading instead of writing… that is what writer’s block does for me) I took a pencil and drew, I drew without the proper tools, and yet it was coming out perfect. So, I decided to do something crazy, and left work two hours earlier to come home and draw. The result was very disappointing.

I think the original is perfect even when is not finished. If you ask me about the hair, well I was trying to use a picture of an actor as reference for a new Spike. I wanted to do a Spike that looks more realistic, but I chose the wrong actor. The only thing I could incorporate that would be familiar to Spike fans is the hair, but as you can see, not enough paper. GRRRRRR!!!!

This is the second try, and I’m sort of embarrassed now to say that I was trying to do a Spike. He looks nothing like Spike. And, like I said, I prefer the original.

Looking for some answers about art I found a post which questioned whether we (creators) should be called artists or painters. I read many of the comments and most were just corny; “I’m an artist because I try to recreate the beauty that is around me…blah blah blah”. There was one comment which caught my attention. The commenter basically said that people will call you what they see, meaning that if they see you are skilled and talented, they will say you are skilled and talented. But, if they see art in what you do, then they will call you an artist. All of these got me thinking, where does the word “artist” comes from. Well, the word comes from the Latin Ars, and it means professional skill. Interesting. I say, today, I am an artist. Tomorrow, I don’t know.

 

The Empress of Soul. My First Reporter Job!

Do you know who Eunice Kathleen Waymon was? Perhaps if I say she was referred to as High Priestess of Soul? Maybe if I add she was a jazz singer -although she hated to be labeled as one, since she believed for most white people jazz was a derogatory word. Okay, so I’m talking about Nina Simone, yes! a Diva among Divas.

If I were to write about Nina Simone, I would probably take about 7 to 10 pages and I don’t think it would be enough to tell who she was. In the other hand, I’m probably not the best person to write about her, since I’m lacking in many requirements. Thankfully, there are books and documentaries about her, which tell the truth of who she was – there is particularly a very interesting fact about Nina, which was never made public, until after her death. Because is something I think should have been kept private, I prefer not to say it myself. It is only a part of Nina and does not change how great she was. I appreciate that we had such a wonderful talent among us. For her music has served as inspiration for every other contemporary artist out there; it has been future in films, TV shows, commercials, video games… etc. And, of course, it has been inspiration for much of my craziness. I love all of her songs. If I had to pick one in particular, it would be “Wild is The Wind” but that is juts my over-dramatic self taking control.

In this post I won’t provide information on her, as I find that I could never say it better than Ann. Her post on Nina is simply wonderful, here is the link; NINA SIMONE.

As for me, I’m content with bringing you a few interviews I did here and there, although they did not all turned out good, I still want to share with you who is reading this blog.  I went on a quest to find out how many of my acquaintances know Nina Simone (my very first job as a reporter… at least I tried):

Interview-1, a Rookie and a Captain, and chess (Rookie is white, Captain is black):

Rookie- You know who Nina Simone is?
Captain- Who?
Rookie- Nina… she was a jazz singer, very famous…died. No? YOU DON’T KNOW WHO NINA SIMONE IS? (big sigh)
Captain- Why? Is that bad?
Rookie- No is not bad, is just that now I have nothing to write for my interview.
Captain- Oh! So this was an interview? What about? Your turn.
Rookie- I already told you, the jazz singer, very famous… wait a minute, did you just move that pawn there? Ohohoho, you are going down big time.
Captain- Really? You think so?
Rookie- Yep, because now I’m going to take your knight.
Captain- Is that so? How about this… (takes white queen with black bishop)
Rookie- Oh, NOOOOOO! Why didn’t I see that bishop.
Captain- Because you are too greedy and don’t think ahead. So what about the interview? You were saying?
Rookie- Oh! Yeah, well if you don’t know who Nina was then I can’t do an interview.
Captain- Nina? You mean the jazz singer? What about her?

Interview-2, a Quenepa and… a Quenepa (Quenepa is Mamoncillo, also Spanish Lime):

Quenepa 1- You know who Nina Simone is?
Quenepa 2- (stares into space)
Quenepa 1- Do you like jazz?
Quenepa 2- What?
Quenepa 1- Nina Simone!! Do you know who she is?
Quenepa 2- Why, what is this? Are you going to start writing a story with me? Don’t write a story with me quenepa…
Quenepa 1- I’m not writing a story, is an interview. So do you know Nina or not?
Quenepa 2- Yeah! Nina Simone, the writer…
Quenepa 1- She was a singer, a jazz singer and composer…
Quenepa 2- No I don’t know who she is.
Quenepa 1- (Sighs in defeat)
Quenepa 2- Shakira, you like Shakira?
Quenepa 1- (stares into space)

So these interviews were a complete disaster, I know. I should’ve not asked people I work with. Not that theirs is a lower level of intellectuality –not at all. But, obviously they do not listen to any jazz at home. I did a final interview; this time it was a friend. He listens to Nina, so here is what he had to say:

Interview-3, Disco Queen and Dude:

D.Q.- Okay, tell me what you think of Nina Simone.
Dude- Uh!…
D.Q.- No wait! Don’t tell me what you think of Nina Simone, tell me, when you started liking Nina Simone.
Dude- Okay, I started liking Nina Simone when I -fitslalalala- first saw, uh, Point Of No Return, that movie with Bridget Fonda, that she… you know… they played Nina Simone throughout the whole thing, she is a spy, and her name is Nina…
D.Q.- She is called Nina… yep.
Dude- So, that’s the first time I actually fell in love with Nina Simone.
D.Q.- Dude I remember that you introduced me to her because of that movie.
Dude- Yeah…
D.Q.- So is that all?
Dude- Uh…
D.Q.- So… say something more unique. Like, something like how she makes you feel and why.
Dude- You asked me when I first started liking her… this is my answer. Now, if you ask me something more interesting like how she makes me feel and why, then I will give you a more unique answer…
D.Q.- Dude, are you repeating everything I say?
Dude- No “DUDE” I’m not, just answering you.
D.Q.- O-kay I thought you liked the name Dude, if you don’t want that name then say so.
Dude (or not)- We are off camera right now, so why do I have to be called dude? Plus, you don’t even say that word, is not original, you stole it from Yaime.
D.Q.- I did not!
Dude (or not)- Yes you did.
D.Q.- Did not.
Dude (or not)- Did too…
D.Q.- Fine, what name would you like then?
Dude- Okay, you can call me dude if you want.

Somehow, this last interview doesn’t have the right feeling either. Oh well! In case you are wondering… no, I don’t plan on becoming a reporter!

Check out the music video I made with “To Love Somebody”  for funny clips. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Vodpod videos no longer available.