Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Have Expired Medicine and I'm Not Afraid to Use It... On Other People

I'm seeing a doctor tomorrow for my Angelina Jolie Lips Syndrome. It's that thing where your lips swell to Angelina proportions, cause unknown, hence the doctor.

^ This, but unnatural and painful.

Worried that I've become allergic to him, Boyfriend insisted that I make the appointment. Then he took two steps backward by extracting, from a stained Ziploc bag plumbed from the depths of the bathroom cabinet, a topical painkiller... that expired in 2006. He earnestly offered it to me, to ease my suffering. Let's see what a doctor has to say about that:

All drugs have unique formulations consisting of active and inactive ingredients geared to treat specific diseases. Once a drug is developed, manufacturers determine the length of time a drug will last without deteriorating; this is known as the drug's shelf-life. If a medication is used within its shelf-life, maximal efficacy and safety of the drug is expected. [...] The safety of expired medications should also be considered. Medications may change their chemical and physical properties, as is evident when tablets disintegrate and liquids separate into layers, or even change color within the dispensed bottle.

I rejected the medication and made him throw it out.

Now I'm thinking -- heck, if I have Angelina Jolie Lips Syndrome, maybe I could get Angelina Jolie Face Syndrome! Wouldn't that be terrific! Here's the plan: I gather all expired meds lying around the house, apply it to someone's face, and watch the magic happen! Any volunteers?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Faceless Employee Upgrade

I am no longer Faceless Employee: an expendable resource, a cog in the machine of a dysfunctional organization. I am now Shameless Employee: the terror of leftover office sandwiches everywhere.

That is all.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Other Sexy

"For women, their list of hot men includes a dad who waits at the corner bus stop with his toddler son and places him on the bus with a kiss atop the head and waves goodbye as the bus drives away. This man could be thirty pounds overweight and wearing a goofy hat. Women will still find him sexy."
-Denis Leary, Why We Suck

It's true. My gender programming is such that I swoon whenever Boyfriend utters these words:

"Can you teach me the recipe of this mango dessert? I'd like to make it sometime."
"I cleaned the house while you were sleeping. Here's breakfast."
"I'll take care of the litter box. You just relax."
"Sure, you can play another 100 hours of Xenoblade."

Ladies, you know what I'm talking 'bout, right? "Sexy" means awesome at life. "Sexy" means considerate. A sexy man cooks, cleans, and cares.

I wonder, is the opposite true for men, i.e. is it all about looks? What I'm really asking is, can my cleavage alone sustain a relationship, with a little help from Victoria's Secret? 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Game Review/Nerd Alert: Xenoblade Gushing (Wii)

Xenoblade Chronicles is the greatest game I've played since Chrono Trigger. It's got four main things going for it: (one!) an expansive, beautiful world; (two!) epic music; (three!) a mind-blowing story; and (four!) compelling characters.

Let's start with one:

"You and me can totally take that giant in the sky. Whaddya say?" 
The game has about a dozen locations, with plenty of standouts like Gaur Plain (pictured above), Makna Forest, Eryth Sea, and Satorl Marsh. The developers weave these impressive locations into the gameplay, and reward observant players who like to wander off the beaten path. I happily explored everywhere, and in this way, accidentally stumbled upon secret areas that would later become crucial to sidequests.

The amazing music sets the mood as you move through the world of Xenoblade. For example, Gaur Plain has a rhythmic, toe-tapping number to accompany your characters' free ranging. At night, ether adds an ethereal glow to the otherwise icky Satorl Marsh, and the music shifts to a choir-and-keyboard arrangement that floats as gently as the marsh lights. Eryth Sea, home to the isolated High Entia race, has a melancholy sound. When it comes to boss battles, there's a piece called "You Will Know Our Names" that captures the fury and defiance of the characters, in their initial encounter against an unbeatable foe. In every instance, the music is in step with what's happening on the screen.

Xenoblade starts off with an epic story -- two gods, the Bionis and the Mechonis (whose silhouette is seen in the picture above), battled, and eventually, each struck blows against the other that froze both titans into place. Then on the bodies of both gods sprang the races: the Bionis gave birth to pioneering Homs (humans), entrepreneurial Nopon (fluffy balls with legs), and the aloof High Entia (angels, except their wings grow out of their heads).  At the game's start, players are introduced to the Mechonis species: the Mechon, soulless machines intent on eliminating all life on Bionis.

To the experienced RPG gamer, this is all pretty cliché -- e.g. the Bionis vs. Mechonis is clearly an allegory for humanity's anxiety over technological advances -- but the plot later develops genuinely surprising twists. For instance, what starts out as a roaring rampage of revenge -- humans swearing to smash the machines that destroyed their loved ones and homes -- becomes a realization of the fundamental similarities between biological life and mechanical beings. Another example would be the shocking link between genetics and divine will.

I haven't finished the game, and I'll write up a review on GameFAQs with more about this, but I'm at the point where my characters have journeyed all the way to the body of the sleeping Mechonis, only to find out that the Bionis, their creator, views them simply as an energy source and is intent on wiping them out. Take note that the two gods are basically planets, and the Bionis had just destroyed the Mechonis, so if we destroy our planet who wants to kill us, where do we live? Um. Paging SpaceX, paging SpaceX, please report to your nearest titan at your earliest convenience.

Sharla, the undisputed leader
of the Crushing Boobs team.
Which brings us to awesome factor number four: the characters. To the developers' credit, I care about my characters because it's so much fun to mix-and-match dream teams with varying strengths (e.g. I have a Crushing Boobs team, a Sausage Tank team, a Cuteness Overload team, a One-Hit Kill team, etc.), and also because of their engaging stories and backgrounds. There are tons of hints that some of your characters aren't really what they seem. The main character, Shulk, is orphaned when his parents died in an altar to the Bionis' sword -- how did he survive? Melia, the half-human, uptight crown princess of the High Entia, is informed by a machine that her "80% Homs gene integration" is a very good thing. What does that mean? Why does rejected J-Pop band member Alvis seem to be helping us, but not really? 

Well, I have an answer to one question above, at least. I'm 116 hours into this game, and I'm having a blast. I can't wait for the conclusion, since I hear the ending is super fabulous, but I'm also content to keep exploring, fighting, discovering, hunting, having mini-heart attacks during cut scenes, and squealing during the sweet heart-to-heart character conversations. And maybe, just maybe, I'll play the game again and take note of the egregious license they took with the translation. Like, "Konna ni samui no wa hajimete da!" which I'd have translated to, "I've never been anywhere this cold before!" Instead, MonolithSoft went with, "I could really go for one of Dickson's homebrews right now!" It conveys the same point: it's butt-cold, but the resulting characterization becomes different. See? See? Also, why are my characters not yet gay despite my best efforts? MOAR GAY.

To end on a silly note, here are tributes to my favorite Xenoblade characters:


DUNBAN

MELIA

RIKI

SHULK

Happy Friday!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Movie Review: The Woman in Black (2012)

I heartily recommend The Woman in Black to anyone who's in it to shriek it!

In Daniel Radcliffe's first post-Harry Potter film, creepy kids are creepy, vengeful spirits are vengeful, and ohmyLord there are scares aplenty. The Woman in Black boasts impeccable costume and set designs, which, combined with the effective "Boo!" moments and tense music, eventually distracted me from my disbelief at baby-faced Radcliffe being a father.

Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who loses his wife during childbirth. To support himself and his little son, he travels to Creepy Mansion on a Deadly Marsh to sort through the papers there and, I don't know, make sure the ghost isn't pressing charges. The villagers who live near the Marsh of Doom want Kipps to leave, except for the helpful Daily (Ciarán Hinds). Then kids start dying, and Kipps must appease the woman in black before his son arrives to join him in the village.

I'd buy you a cocktail if I had a dollar for every time this movie made Boyfriend jump. There are tons of half-glimpsed silhouettes, shadows, and movements, and the music goes quiet until SUDDENLY A GHOSTLY FACE FILLS THE SCREEN! AAAAHHHHHH!!! It's that type of movie. Being nerds, Boyfriend and I were speculating about the Reveal ("The wife did it," or "They killed the woman and now she's an angry ghost!"), which, spoiler alert, we were totes wrong in both instances. Personally, I liked the ending, even though it made me feel like drop-kicking the Woman in Black (WiB) for being a jerk. The best vengeful spirits are sympathetic, and WiB didn't get enough screen time -- apart from being terrifying -- dedicated to giving her a compelling backstory, or at least one where she wasn't a lunatic.

Anyway, if you want to be scared silly, this movie'll do it. I say, excellent show, good man! Tea! Crumpets! Fish n' chips! Cheerio!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fragrant Elephant Puts On Make-up

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Fragrant Elephant Puts On Make-up

Boston, Mass. -- June 18 -- Claiming to be bowing to pressure from her mother, Boyfriend, and society, obscure blogger Fragrant Elephant applied eye shadow and mascara for a recent event. Her efforts, which she modestly described as "heroic," were cheered by the committee inside her own head, who praised her effusively for not poking out her eyes even though she'd only applied eye make-up once before, possibly for some other event. The invisible committee, composed of the voices of Fragrant Elephant's mother, Boyfriend, and society, also reminded her that this was why she'd gone through Lasik: so people could be wowed by her enhanced eyelashes and limpid brown eyes.

"I told her she needed a regimen," said the blogger's proud mother. "One for during the day, and moisturizers at night. It's very important to not look like a maid." Beaming, Fragrant Mother added: "Now I'm going to send her beauty products in a balikbayan box. Heaven knows she needs them."

"I did not, at any time, tell her that she should put on make-up," said Boyfriend in controlled tones, when reached for an interview. "In fact, I distinctly told her that she should do what makes her happy." Reading from his documented conversations with Fragrant Elephant, he commented: "I can tell you that I had a 10-minute conversation with her about this very topic, and every single answer I gave to her persistent demand of whether I think she should put on make-up has been in unqualified support of her doing whatever she wants."

As of press time, Fragrant Elephant reports no traffic accidents caused by her smoky eyes, but she remains hopeful.

ABOUT FRAGRANT ELEPHANT NEWS

Fragrant Elephant News is the only place for news about all things related to Fragrant Elephant, for obvious reasons.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Electionerd: The First Ladies

Today's Electionerd is brought to you by the mainstream media quoting men on women's issues! Men: women without the wo(e)!

Speaking of, here's a primer on the lovely ladies who are campaigning for their husbands to take/remain on the Seat of Ultimate Power in November:

Your ad here!

Full name
Ann Lois Romney
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama
Hometown
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Chicago, Illinois
Occupation
Housewife
First Lady of the United States
(former VP for Community &
External Affairs at University of
Chicago Hospitals)
Years Married
43
20
Number of Offspring
5
(Taggart, Matthew, Joshua,
Benjamin, Craig)
2
(Malia, Sasha)
Number of Grandchildren
18
0
Championing
Better opportunities for urban youths
Ending childhood obesity
Personal Health Issue
Multiple sclerosis; breast cancer
(now cancer-free)
Brain might be too big
Best Feature
Stepford smile
See picture ^
Likes Dogs?
May prefer horses
Yes
Likely to be Played by
Amy Poehler
Oprah

Thank you to Wikipedia for the factoids above, the ones I didn't make up, I mean. Wikipedia: contributing to the information overload since 2001.

In the latest Fragrant Elephant comics, grouchy Oscar becomes happy! Click here to find out why! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is It Love, or the Drugs?

This morning, Boyfriend commented that with my just-out-of-the-shower hair, I reminded him of "that woman from Last Samurai with the white kimono or whatever that was."

"That woman" is Koyuki. She is so awesome that Japan has deemed her last name unnecessary. In the scene that Boyfriend was talking about, she looks like this:


Meanwhile, I look like this:


Is it love, or the LSD tablets I slip into his aspirin bottle? I think it's both! <3

Disclaimer: This blog does not condone the abuse of LSD for any purposes, even romantic ones. I recommend alcohol instead.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White & The Huntsman (2012)

We were all there for the Queen. We sat in the darkened room, enraptured by her flawlessness, rooting for her to defeat Snow White and become a revisionist fairy tale villain triumph. We sent Care Bear stares of love and good will into her perfect eyes. And then she opened her mouth and crushed our dreams, and not in a good way.

Dialogue turns out to be the main weakness and the greatest strength of Snow White & the Huntsman, Hollywood's latest gritty interpretation of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale. Charlize Theron plays Queen Ravena, whose mandatory giant mirror is pimped out with a spectral golden figure that gives her beauty advice (of the "Eat her heart, never use foundation again!" variety). She's a career evil queen who travels, kills kings, takes over their kingdoms, and destroys the land itself, presumably by yelling. Charlize shouted so hard during filming that she pulled a stomach muscle, true story. That's role dedication right there. The best part is she wanted to lie and say it was from doing "a bad-ass stunt." No, Charlize, you yelled too loud and hurt yourself. There is much honor in that, spear-sister.

Anyway, the problem is that Queen Ravena has a one-track mind. She's on a beauty train, and the railroad is made of crazy. The woman wants revenge for what happened to her, and her face is her weapon. Since no one is powerful enough to challenge her, her warped viewpoint just keeps getting validated. So she goes onnnn and onnnnn about how her beauty is super important and she's gonna destroy everything and blah blah blah. Fortunately, even if her whine-bellow gets tiresome, her costumes are always fabulous! Just tune her out and marvel at Colleen Atwood's costume designs. I had no idea evil crowns came in such an assortment of shapes, sizes, and colors!

Meanwhile, in brunette land, Kristen Stewart plays Snow White, who is gifted with princess-ness, basic human decency (the first thing she does after her jailbreak is try to free the other prisoner), and (this is key) not very many speaking lines. For example, a moment comes when the epic music swells, and everyone looks all shiny and brave and determined, and Snow White is exchanging emotion-laden glances with her hunky dreamboat hunter-man, and she...just smiles. Nothing about loving him, or promising to win, or any other deadly dull cliché. Her constipated smile says it all: I'm in full armor and I'm gonna kill an Academy Award winner and I need a sandwich!

Where Snowy had the best non-lines, the dwarves had the best lines. They were cool and competent and funny, and Snowy's damn lucky to have them.

The other two standouts in this film are the soundtrack (check out this moody ending theme), and the special effects. Honestly, it should be called Snow White & the Mushrooms, with all the LSD imagery going on. Some seemed derivative, though. The Dark Forest reminded me of Pan's Labyrinth, and there was a bit in the Forest of Fairies that came straight out of Princess Mononoke. Also: very lovely cinematography and set designs!

Props to this film for being dark, refreshing, and having a great ending. The showdown girl-fight scene was especially awesome, with Snowy being hopelessly outmatch at first and just grimly trying and trying until...well, I shan't spoil it. And in the end, at her obligatory sunny coronation, did she say one word? No. No, she did not. Long live the queen! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus is a great yarn. If you haven't seen the trailers, the story goes: scientists discover ancient cave paintings that point to a location in space. They convince a corporation to fund their mission to go there, and off they go on their merry way. And then [REDACTED]

Spoiler jokes aside, here are what make this film epic: the amazing CG (we watched it in 3D), the tensions between the crew of the Prometheus, and the horrific discovery(ies) that lie in wait. Dun dun DUNNN! The characters who matter were well developed. In particular, the character played by Michael Fassbender, my secret lover (so secret he has no idea), stayed on my mind throughout the elephant car ride home.

I think the best thing about Prometheus is the questions it raises. What would you ask your creator? How far would you go to get those answers? And most importantly, what is this wiggly black stuff and is it a new and interesting way to die?

Yes. Yes, it is. Go see it. It's worth it. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Life's an Onion

Life is an onion. It can make your eyes water as you peel away the layers to reveal the core of your being. This post is about a special kind of life onion: the Onion of Societal Expectations. It's special because I made it up. Behold:

Today's exquisite artwork brought to you by MS Paint
Each item is an onion layer. Let me explain.

Your face: Society is mostly on the lookout for symmetrical features, clear skin, and absolutely no unibrows. At the very least, society expects your face to not look like something that would make a gargoyle go, "Ew."

Your body: Vogue apparently did a roundhouse kick to the current trend of too-skinny models by pledging to promote "healthy" models. You're not off the hook, though. Rolls of fat are only cute in babies. You must be able to fit into an airplane seat. The absence of muffin tops or love handles is also a bonus.

Words: It doesn't have to be your own words. You can regurgitate if you like. But your words must match the current social context, e.g. condolences when tragedy strikes others, protests when rights are being trampled, or snark when trying to conceal raging jealousy. Society approves of such utterances.

Your actions: If you say one thing and do something else, society is disappointed in you. Although in Old Country, society disappoints you.

Level of "success": Society judges, in no particular order: your education, your job, and your kids. The lack of one of these detracts from your "success." Have all three? You get society's stamp of approval.

Net worth: Society usually knows if your net worth is astronomical or somewhere close to the earth's core. For the former, your house/car/trophy lover typically points to material worth. For the latter, when you're that person who goes to a group dinner and tries to get away with over-ordering and underpaying, we know you're either (a) poor, or (b) a cheapo. If (b), your social net worth is waaaay down.

Are you a murderer: Society has made the killing of another human being illegal, because it is wrong. Unless you're in Florida, in which case it's totally okay because it was self-defense.

Why not: We've all considered what life would be like without a specific someone on the planet. If you answer the question with, "Because I don't want to go to jail," or some variant, society considers that fairly normal. If you say, "Because I am one with the human family," it's time to put down the bong. If you say, "I just haven't been caught yet," society will back away from you slowly.

I labelled the scale leaves but not the immature flower on the onion above. It's an allegory for my lack of understanding of the core of the Onion of Societal Expectations, which is too deep and profound for my callow brain. It's also because I ran out of space on the image, darnit.

Advertisement: In today's Fragrant Elephant comic, humans discuss the killing of an endangered animal!

Join me next time for another installment of ELECTIONERD

Monday, June 4, 2012

Time Suck, Work, Etc

This morning I enjoyed a trifecta of articles that piqued my monkey brain. Incidentally, I thought “trifecta” meant “trio,” but in fact its primary meaning has to do with horse racing.

Anyway. The first piece, from Harvard Business Review (HBR), has a title that sums up my life philosophy: The Unimportance of Practically Everything. The operative word here is “practically,” as in, “I practically peed in my pants when I saw Jennifer Garner three feet behind me in the GAP dressing room area.” Note: not the same as “literally” or “virtually.” In other words, my underwear remained safe, and yes, I did see her. She’s very, very pretty.

Anyway, part II. HBR suggests that most things—emails, online articles (oh, the irony!), etc—are more numerous than the truly vital stuff, e.g. money, cats, and video games. We need to shut out most of the noisy information pouring into our brains. That dovetailed nicely with How to be Happy at Work by Inc., which informed me that about 20% of what I do in the office matters. Perfect! I only work about 20% of the time anyway, which means I am 100% productive! Math: it can justify everything.

More importantly, the article told me I am in charge of making myself happy, because I have standards in my head that may or may not be unreasonable. The article suggested that I reflect on what has to happen for me to be (a) happy, and (b) unhappy. I tried out this little exercise and came up with these results:

What has to happen for me to be happy in the office?
  • Not get caught reading online articles and then blogging about them. 
  • Have a fun conversation about Game of Thrones or any pop culture subject. 
  • Have lunch with my posse. 
  • Free food!!! 

What has to happen for me to be unhappy in the office?
  • Only free food available is pizza. sadface

Apparently, I’m also supposed to create some new rules to make happiness easy to achieve and unhappiness difficult, but that takes effort, so let’s skip that and move on to the pièce de résistance: The Surprising Secret to Time Management, which I honored by not even reading the article. Is it good? You tell me!

Speaking of not knowing if something is good, last night’s MTV Movie Awards had the distinction of flying by while being boring. I died a little inside every time Kristen Stewart went onstage. Fortunately, Elizabeth Banks redeemed the show by rubbing up against three muscular gentlemen. Then Boyfriend finished playing Diablo III with his brother and asked me to switch to the Celtics vs. Heat game, which went into overtime. Spoiler alert: we won!

Confession time: I also don’t know what this blog post was really about.

Join me next time when I unpeel the Onion of Societal Expectations!

Movie Review: Hereditary (2018)