Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Si Amapola Sa 65 Kabanata (2011)

Note: in honor of the book, this review will be in Taglish. Go ahead and let Google translate it if you can't read Tagalog. The experience is magical. If you know Tagalog and use Google Translate anyway, your journey will be transcendental.

Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata ay isinulat ni Ricky Lee, ang sikat at award-winning na manunulat ng mga script para sa pelikula. Ang bida ng nobela ay siya mismong si Amapola, isang baklang impersonator sa club. Parating na naman ang eleksyon, at itinakda si Amapola bilang tagapagligtas ng bayan. Ngunit feel ba niya?

Sa umpisa pa lang ay naloka na ako sa bonggang kabaklaan ni Amapola. Malakas ang tiwala niya sa kanyang sarili. Bilib na bilib itong si sister sa kanyang kagandahan. At malalim ang kanyang pagnanasa sa kanyang kapitbahay na si Oscar, na single father. Gusto ni Amapolang magkatuluyan sila ni Oscar, ngunit marami siyang hinaharap na hadlang. Ang mga tema ng libro ay nakatali sa mga sagabal na ito. Ito ang mga kailangang talunin ni Amapola:

I. Hindi siya buong tao. [Tema: Lahat tayo ay hati.]
  1. Mayroong dalawang split personality si Amapola. Ang isa, lalaking-lalaki. May girlfriend pa! Ang isa naman, ayaw lumabas sa closet, pero magaling mag-research.
  2. Manananggal pala siya. Isang gabi, bigla na lang sumipot ang kanyang mga pakpak at pangil, humaba ang kanyang dila, at humiwalay ang kanyang taas sa kanyang baba sa bewang. Kairita noh?
  3. Galit si Oscar sa mga manananggal. Ipinagbibintangan niya ito sa pagkamatay ng kanyang asawa. Ay, bad trip.
II. Itinakda siya bilang tagapagligtas ng bayan. [Tema: Lahat tayo ang tagapagligtas ng bayan.]
  1. Si Sepa, ang lola sa tuhod ni Amapola, ay manananggal noong panahon ng Katipunan. Lumakbay si Sepa sa kinabukasan upang hanapin ang apo niyang itinakda, na tatapusin ang sinimulan nina Andres Bonifacio.
  2. Kumampi kay Sepa ang isang pandak na pulis na Noranian (fan ni Nora Aunor). Kung hindi ka ba naman himatayin sa kanyang mala-encyclopedia na kaalaman tungkol sa buhay at mga pelikula ni "Guy" (si Nora ulit).
  3. Ay, hindi pala si Amapola ang itinakda. Yung nakababata niyang kapatid pala. Kelangan niyang hanapin 'yun.
III. Hindi magkasundo ang mga minamahal niya. [Tema: Iba-iba ang anyo ng pagmamahal.]
  1. Hindi magka-vibes si Sepa at ang nanay na umampon kay Amapola. Lagi silang nagsusumbatan.
  2. Ayaw na siyang kausapin ni Oscar nang malaman nito na manananggal siya.
  3. Kahit ang mga inililigtas ni Amapola bilang manananggal superhero ay minsan itinatakwil siya.
At iba pa.

Tulad ni Amapola, hati ang libro -- minsan nakakatawa, minsan nakakaiyak, at minsan nakakainis. Malakas talaga ang imahinasyon ni Ricky Lee, lalo na't sa bahagi na nakalista ang mga tawag si iba't ibang tipo ng manananggal (yung bakla, yung hindi kumakain ng tao, atbp). Mahusay niyang ipinaghalo ang kasaysayan, alamat, current events, at ang puso't damdamin ng tao.

Kung masuwerte kayo tulad ko at nakatanggap ng kopya ng librong ito mula sa mabait at syempre magandang kaibigan, basahin niyo kaagad! Maloloka kayo. Matututo kayo ng salita ng mga bakla, tulad ng "Crayola ako!" (= umiiyak)

Ang review na ito ay inihandog ng bilasang Dunkin' Donuts coffee.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Binge Drinking, Oscars Party Edition

I threw a small party to celebrate the Oscars on Sunday. The only person who didn't show up was the one who sincerely thought we were gathering for Oscar, the grouchy cat. Oh, well.

'Twas a fun evening, but it ended badly for me. Now that my brain is working again, here's a list of warning signs to stop. Mixing. Drinks. Just stahp. Stahp.

How to Tell When You've Had Too Much to Drink at Your Oscars Party
  1. You keep using the word "amazing" to describe everything.
  2. You're so loud that the loudest person in the room keeps looking at you.
  3. You take a sip of sweet wine, briefly pause to consider that you hate sweet wine, then down the entire glass.
  4. You only vaguely remember what happened in between Octavia Spencer announcing Best Supporting Actor and Meryl Streep walking onstage.
  5. You upchuck the contents of your stomach when everyone leaves, like you're still in college. Gahd.
  6. You wake up the next morning and want to die immediately.
Anyway, my shambling corpse managed to roll out of bed at 11 am. I felt much better after being fed milk, crackers, and aspirin by the doting betrothed before he left for work. It's like I never learn my lesson. The next thing you know, I'll be chugging white wine, when the worst hangover of my entire life happened as a direct result of exactly that activity. "White wine has fewer congeners," hah!

Naturally, Fragrant Mother cackled with glee when I confessed my sins and swore never to touch alcohol again. "Lasenggera (alcoholic)!" she declared. Well, it would be impolite to prove a mother wrong, non?

In other news, there's a rumor going around my office that I lost weight. It must be from being a moron, somehow.

...I'll take it. In the meantime, I hope everyone enjoys/enjoyed their Hump Day!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Game Review: Symphonica (iOS)

Symphonica is an iPhone game that combines classical music, anime character designs, and finger tapping. Square Enix made the prologue and the first three episodes of the game available for free download in the App Store, confident that nerds such as myself would shell out fifteen bucks for the whole package. Fortunately, my strict ninja-pirate training has rendered me immune to such pleas for remuneration by game developers. I will wait patiently for my birthday so a loved one will buy it for me! Mwahahaha, I have defeated your aggressive pricing model, Square Enix!

...oh, wait, they still get their money, don't they. Curses.

Anyway, if you're looking for a brief distraction on a slow workday, I never have those so I can't possibly imagine what it must be like, I highly recommend joining perpetually upbeat conductor Takt and his ridiculously young, pretty, and skinny orchestra as they struggle to ascend the ranks and perform in the prestigious King Hall.

Symphonica takes place in Einstaz, the classical music capital. The city's top attraction is Concerto Tower, which features performance halls in every floor, arranged according to awesomeness. Amateurs start out in Open Hall, at the lowest level. Meanwhile, nobody has ever performed at King Hall at the very top, because no one is awesome enough. Performers at King Hall will receive the elusive Zero Score, a Lady Gaga/Jay-Z/Alicia Keys/Kanye West/Taylor Swift mashup that marries Tchaikovsky's intensity with Shostakovich's dissonance. Just kidding. I have no clue what the Zero Score is, except that apparently every musician wants to get their strong, slender fingers on it.

Enter Takt, androgynous, well-dressed, and determined to become a master conductor so he can reunite with his older brother, Volt. If you think that's contrived, I agree. We're not here for the story, kids, we're here to do the touch-screen equivalent of button-mashing, while grooving to the masters.

Takt goes to the decrepit and possibly haunted Magica Hall to meet the members of his orchestra, the Fayharmonic, so named because everyone looks like fairies. Below is a group picture of the musicians with speaking lines: clarinet player Iren, flutist Ires, concertmaster Maria, and the Episode 3 addition, French horn player Irina. And no, I have no idea why Maria poses like she's on the red carpet.

Fayharmonic: modeling is their Plan B.
The twee musicians immediately reveal the stakes: many of their conductors have quit, so they decided to disband if Takt gives up, too. Our heroic hero cheerfully spins this into a positive, i.e. an opportunity to build something from nothing. Everyone expresses disbelief at his optimism, but he's so darn handsome, not to mention their new boss, so they eventually play along. Get it? Play along? They're an orchestra? Tee-hee-hee, I kill myself.

And then it's off to the first rehearsal! By this time, you know the finger drill, no pun intended: the one-tap, two-tap, swipe, arc, etc. Your first song is The Nutcracker's "March." GO!!!

These small creatures await your command!
Once you're done with the 30-second practice, you move on to Symphony No. 25 in G Minor. If you do really well, your orchestra glows! The cuteness, it is unrelenting!

Next, Takt takes Fayharmonic to Concerto Tower for the Hall Exam, where they meet the Hallmaster, whose thin mustache, scheming eyebrows, and Dracula costume radiate pure, musical evil. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, and you will because that's how the game advances, is to conduct "Eine kleine Nachtmusik." Hells yeah.

In my second run-through of the game, I was so inspired that my orchestra turned PINK and SPARKLY during this piece. I mean, come on. Come on. What's next, a screen full of puppies? ...Please?

The story, such as it is, moves along, and introduces you to Chloe, a ghost inhabiting a doll that creeps out everyone in Fayharmonic. Chloe selects Takt as her apprentice. Their mutual goal: the Zero Score. Wow, I did not see that coming. I will lay down good money on a wager that the Zero Score will restore Chloe's spirit to where it belongs, or averts a city-wide disaster being planned by the Hallmaster, or something like that.

Chloe just wants you to be happy, like her.
As the plot thickens to the consistency of gruel, you will get to conduct "La primavera (Spring)," The Nutcracker's "Waltz of the Flowers," as well as "From the New World," which legit hurt my wrist. Conducting is hard.

After that, a tile for Episode 4 appears on the episodes menu, and tapping it informs you that the free ride is so over, like my crush on Jordan Knight. I don't want to talk about it.

Based on the episodes I've seen, Symphonica is eye and ear candy. Forget what I said earlier. I would snap up the full version of this game, if I didn't have Assassin's Creed III for the PS Vita waiting patiently for me to finish Eiyuu Densetsu: Zero no Kiseki Evolution.

Ah, the gamer's life, it is so busy.

On a completely unrelated side note, I just realized that if me and my friends were Planeteers, our battle cry would go like this:

"LET OUR POWERS COMBINE!"
"NERD (video games)!"
"NERD (arts)!"
"NERD (neuroscience)!"
"NERD (sci-fi)!"
"NERD (comic books)!"
"With your powers combined, I am CAPTAIN NERDFACE!"

This post is being sponsored by a tuna sandwich.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rejection: How I Dish It, How I Take It

     I.  DISHING IT

Lifehacker posted "Nine Practices to Help You Say No Without Feeling Like a Jerk" yesterday. I initially ignored it, because I have no problem saying no, and even HALE NO when warranted.

I developed this ability by working at a nonprofit for three years. Nonprofits tend to be chronically underfunded and filled with clueless eager beavers. After being sent to the Armpit of Asia twice to be a mobile Staples, I gave a hard pass when offered yet another chance to get a skin infection/ be followed by strange men/ find fire ants in my bed/ not sleep for a month. Soon after that, I gave my job the ultimate NO by scarpering to a for-profit.

My say-no-ability, which we shall call my NObility, became part of my established style of answering questions and/or explaining, which goes like this: MAIN IDEA > MAJOR DETAILS > MINOR DETAILS. I learned this technique while teaching reading comprehension to kids with special needs/learning difficulties in Philly. We would read a short passage, then they had to tell me what the main idea was, and recall the other details I asked about. Prioritizing the gestalt in this way influenced my methods of communication.

For instance, if Fiancé asks me if I want to play a board game I don't care for, I immediately say, "No. I don't want to. That game is too needlessly complicated." Parsed, that answer gives the rejection first, followed by what I consider the more important bit, namely my lack of desire to participate. Then, because I am generous, I add the secondary reason: the lameness factor.

By the same token, I get annoyed when I ask a "yes/no" question, and don't get the "yes" or the "no" as the first part of the answer. An example of such a question would be, "Do you want to volunteer for a charitable organization?" Folks, that is a "yes/no" question, and the answer is "HALE NO," thank you for asking, I am a spawn of evil and volunteering is against my nature.

NObility must be used after thoughtful consideration. I never say no in my current office, because I like it here, and, more importantly, I never get asked to do anything ridiculous or wildly beyond my job description. But in my personal life, I use my NObility freely, because Me Time calls dibs on everything. I do consider what I would be missing by saying no, like it says on #8 on the Lifehacker article, but nap time/mealtime/video game time will always weigh heavier in my cost-benefit analyses.

Also, I am a sucker for reviewing and editing grad school personal statements, so fear not! -- my NObility will gladly take a break so that I may read about your horrible childhood experience that led you to your shining academic career. Did I mention I'm a spawn of evil?

     II.  TAKING IT

Throughout my life, various people and events seemed to point to my becoming a fiction writer. First, my family encouraged my growth as a bookworm. My dad read The Hobbit and Watership Down to me, and contributed funds to my girlhood comic book collection (mostly X-Men and X-Factor). My mom allowed me to fill my closets with Sweet Valley books instead of clothes. My grandmother introduced me to the mammoth Wheel of Time series. My siblings actually read this blog. (!)

Later in life, my friends and Fiancé encouraged me to write and try to get my stuff published. With my solid experience as a bookish nerd growing up, and my current official job title as "Proposal Writer" (proposals for government contracts, not marriage), I thought I'd give it a go. I started in 2011 with a piece called "The Marshmallow Test." I submitted it to Funny Women on The Rumpus. Reeeee-jected!

I tried again last year. I thought I'd start with short stories, so I looked at the stuff on tor.com, McSweeney's, and Flash Fiction Online. I wrote something for each site. Rejected, rejected, and also: rejected! It burned because I admired the stories on those websites. Being rejected meant I sucked, or my fictions didn't fit their publishing themes. Or both.

Undaunted, I moved on to writing contests in late 2012. I entered the ones that cost money (for judges' reading fees and prizes, I'm told). They didn't break my bank; the highest entry fee was 20 bucks. I tried Boston Review, Women on Writing, New Millenium Writings, Columbia Journal, and Literary Juice. I haven't heard back from any of them yet. But I like to prep for the worst possible scenario, so in in the "Result" column in the spreadsheet where I track my writing submissions, I already wrote "rejected" in bold. That way, I get my depression and self-loathing out of the way in advance!

By the way, I discourage anyone from submitting to the Columbia Journal, because their payment portal blows extremely hard. It looks like they don't have their own dedicated portal, so they piggybacked off the one that takes payments for university events. So if you find yourself confused about why you're paying for a performance with a different date from the writing contest deadline -- I WARNED YOU.

     III.  IN CONCLUSION

I readily dish out rejections in my personal life, and also in office settings when appropriate.

I get rejected a lot.

I guess that evens it out.

     IV.  THIS POST BROUGHT TO YOU BY

A green balloon on my desk. Don't ask.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Movie Review: Mama (2013)

Mama offers a terrifying ghost, an even creepier child, and touching performances by Jessica Chastain and Megan Charpentier. As horror movies go, this delivers the scares. Andrés Muschietti, who also directed the short film that inspired the full feature, keeps the dread and tension at a slow simmer, and makes an interesting decision for the film's ending.

Mama tells the story of two young girls, Victoria and Lilly, abandoned for five years in a cabin in the woods. Their artist uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, A Game of Thrones) gains custody when the girls are found, feral and undernourished. His rocker girlfriend (Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty) stays to help him care for the kids, although she repeatedly declares, "This is not my job." The small "family" moves to a larger home, where the girls appear to play with someone only they can see, who they call "Mama." Cue the terror.

The movie checks off a lot of items in the Horror Movie Tropes list, including jarring music, sudden scares, a vengeful spirit, people acting stupidly, a desolate location, and cleavage. The plot is similar to the one from The Woman in Black, with some Poltergeist thrown in. Mama also has its share of contrivances. I rolled my eyes at a couple of them -- after I left the theater.

But Mama transcends the schlock because of its cinematography and acting. Chastain sells the character of Annabel, who gradually grows into her role as mother/protector to the sisters. Charpentier plays Victoria, the eight-year-old older sister who recognizes who her true Mama ought to be. Tiny French actress Isabelle Nélisse is Lilly, the creepiest kid who ever creeped. For me, the scariest scene in Mama involved Lilly loping up and down a hallway.

Speaking of hallways, Muschietti makes great composition choices when framing key scenes. One in particular stands out: a medium shot with the hallway on the left, where we can see Annabel's room in the distance. The girls' room is on the right, from a closer perspective. Lilly is playing tug-of-war with someone off frame. The previous scene suggests it's big sister Victoria. Annabel walks down the hallway to check on Lilly, and then [REDACTED]. Let me just say that my eyebrows shot up and my eyeball radius expanded.

Even though a seasoned moviegoer like moi can predict what happens next based on camera angle, Mama had me fighting to grip my armrests instead of covering my eyes. Mr.X, the company who did the visual effects for the movie, did a fantastic job with the full rendering of Mama. Lady is jacked up everywhere.

I encourage you to face your fears like I did. Go watch Mama. Then give your mum a hug. Or run screaming from her, whatever feels more appropriate. You decide.

This post brought to you by More Fracking Snow on the Ground.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

After Black Valentine's

Fiancé just called me downstairs to the office lobby to hand-deliver his V-day gifts for me: a little flowering plant, a Blu-Ray of Pitch Perfect, and a punny card, because I text him puns on the regular.

Last year, he got me a Flaming Katy plant (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) and chocolate. Katy had flowers back then:


Here is this year's V-day plant, which I shall call Chloe, beside Katy, who lost her flowers and had a massive growth spurt in the past year:


Meanwhile, my officemates have been distributing chocolate and cookies like nobody's business. It's a fantastic V-day so far, and it'll only get better because we shall have a lovely dinner tonight!

But all this joy and delight comes after years of loneliness. Before this, I spent several years bemoaning my fate of being Forever Alone. But those years helped forge me into the strong, sassy, and sometimes shameless woman I am today.  Let me fill you in, because sharing is caring.

Back when I was finishing up with grad school, my then-boyfriend and I broke up. We spent five years together. Not three months later, he replaced me with a Brazilian model. True story. They canoodled on Facebook and wrote each other saccharine love messages. Devastated, I quit Facebook.

Still happy with that decision, by the way.

Years of singledom followed. It took me a while to realize how handicapped I had been by my reliance on another person to make me happy. I also saw that I created a narrative about myself ("I will marry whatsisface!"), and didn't have the emotional tools to cope when something disrupted that narrative.

My story is common. Many people in their early twenties make plans in their heads, only to be rudely awakened by the fact that, hello, it takes two to tango. Verily, the imaginary checklist that we as a society have compiled leads to much suffering. That checklist looks like this:

STEPS TO SUCCESS
__ Earn college degree
__ Get job
__ Get married  
__ Have fat babies
__ Die in bed surrounded by adoring grandchildren

After the big breakup, I spent years with absolutely no hope of checking off the other items after "Get job." I resigned myself to my fate. It was a good deal, really -- I had my own money, my own place, my group of friends, and I understood the system here. When V-day rolled around, it was just another day.

Unbeknownst to me, in the same city where I slogged through life, Fiancé had a tradition going called Black Valentine's. It was basically a night of drinking where only single people could join.

In other words, he and I endured our own Black Valentine's for many years. Then we found each other and felt mutual attraction, and, on top of that, discovered our compatibility. Booyah.

Hey, he and I spent a lot of time being that single friend at parties. We understand. I know that not everyone needs to partner, and some people shouldn't inflict themselves on others.

But, oh, the sweetness of having moved past Black Valentine's.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to a plate of chocolate, cookies, and Fun Dip to consume.

Happy Valentine's.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow Storm Nemo

People on TV yelled at us for days about the coming "historic blizzard." News headlines screamed, "ZOMG STORM ON FRIDAY!" for a week. Meteorologists ominously proclaimed that our freezing northern air would mix with moisture coming off of the Gulf of Mexico and dump a metric ton of snow on us. They also helpfully predicted the storm's schedule: snows start at 8 am on Friday, blizzard gets going at 5 pm, and continues through Saturday.

Thus informed, schools shut down. My office declared a half day on Friday.

Fiancé, born and raised a hardy New Englander, got the essential supplies together: shovel, ice scraper, two-alarm chili kit, and a six-pack of beer.

The day of Nemo came. My boss texted me that I didn't have to come in. I went anyway. Fiancé drove us to work on Friday morning amidst...wait for it...not a single snowflake. "They always blow this out of proportion," he scoffed. He dropped me off, and I walked into a ghost town. Everyone seemed to have stayed at home, except for the folks in Finance, because they are hardcore. Well, in any case, better safe than sorry.

The wind began to pick up by noon. A police car blared, "No cahs on the road after foah pee-em!" as I walked out of the building to wait for my ride. We got home safely. Fiancé made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, then prepped for chili while I played Eiyuu Densetsu: Zero no Kiseki Evolution, the talkiest RPG ever made. It was slow going because the game is in Japanese, but I persevered, because I am hardcore. Meanwhile, Fiancé watched reporters cooing endlessly about the storm.

As promised, the blizzard hit that evening. We could barely see outside our windows. We comforted ourselves with delicious chili. We woke up the next morning to the same sight: snowmageddon! Fiancé went outside to shovel the sidewalk. He also trudged to the neighborhood 7-11, which was open because the employees couldn't get out the day before. On the way back, he encountered a runner in shorts, because insane runners here are hardcore, and also dog poop on a freshly shoveled sidewalk, because some people are jerks.

This is what the streets looked like on Saturday:


We had more chili and watched a Mystery Science Theater 3000 of the worst movie I have ever seen in my life, Future War. It tried hard to rip off Terminator and Jean Claude Van Damme, and its graphics looked very eighties despite having been made in 1995. Even with the MST3K insults, it was so awful that I went to bed with a headache. The pain persisted through Sunday.

The snow had stopped by then. We ventured outside for breakfast at our favorite Brazilian eatery. I had my usual cheese omelette, and treated myself to the açaí bowl. I recommend you get açaí, too! It is yummy and good for you.

Here's how high the snow got (those are windshield wipers):


I helped Fiancé shovel this time. We had to cut a path from the sidewalk to the street, which had been cleared by a plow in the wee hours of the morning. As I shoveled, Fiancé heroically freed the fire hydrant from the tyranny of crystalline water ice, aka snow. The TV asked us to dig out hydrants, to help out the fire department, and Fiancé dutifully did his civic duty, because he is dutiful. Also, he is hardcore.


In conclusion: snowmageddon has passed, we still have snow on some sidewalks, everyone's back at work, some coastal areas of Massachusetts got flooded (Fiancé's hometown in particular), and here is a photo of Sheba sticking half her head in my glass just so she can drink my water:


I hope all is well with you also, dear reader. Carry on.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Gray to Light

A perfect day
Begins with rain
So that we fight to rise
And live.
So that when the sun
Comes out,
And the clouds flee,
Everything we did
Mattered.
And everything we do
Is bright.

***

This uncharacteristic free verse poem brought to you by Winter Storm Nemo. Keep your children inside!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Tribute to Sailor Moon

Language School Application – Personal Statement

Young women deserve a powerful role model to emulate as they join the struggle for equality. That model is Ms. Naoko Takeuchi’s ultimate creation: Sailor Moon. My one-woman campaign to introduce the Sailor Moon series to the next generation of strong women hinges upon achieving fluency in Japanese. I humbly ask the Sunshine-Sunshine Japanese Language School to consider my application.

Sailor Moon would teach girls the values of love, friendship, justice, and microskirts—the supreme expression of feminine freedom. Sailor Moon and her Sailor Scouts fought off alien invaders, defended the entire galaxy, and routinely sacrificed their lives so that humanity may be saved. Like Jesus, Sailor Moon always came back from the dead. Unlike Jesus, she got right back to work preaching the good news of girl power. She eventually became Queen of Crystal Tokyo, and used her magic crystal to build her own palace. Sailor Moon is the ideal woman: compassionate, resilient, and armed with a solid understanding of mineral-based architecture.

Sadly, the North American TV version of Sailor Moon strayed too far from the creator’s original intent. The first prominent example includes the unforgiveable alteration of Sailors Neptune and Uranus into cousins. In the manga, they are sixteen-year-old lesbian lovers in a stable, long-term relationship. I shudder to think that impressionable girls might believe that they must hide their passion by pretending to be incestuous family members!

Next, DiC Entertainment Anglicized the character’s names in an utterly mystifying fashion. For example, how did Sailor Moon’s beau, Tuxedo Mask, get his civilian name changed from Mamoru to Darien? “Mamoru” in Japanese means “to protect,” whereas “Darien” inevitably reminds viewers of the Darien Pocket Gopher, a rodent native to Panama. How can a girl swoon properly over Tuxedo Mask saving Sailor Moon in every single episode whilst also envisaging a furry, whiskered creature stuffing food into its cheek pouches?

Finally, the promotion of the transgender Sailor Starlights into protagonists in the final season is atrocious. Their actual role in the manga consisted of being badly-dressed minor characters. But on TV, they fought alongside Sailor Moon in her epic battle against Chaos itself. Granted, the Sailor Starlights’ attractive androgyny contributed to the overall sexual tension—a must in any self-respecting series. However, in battle, they wore ill-fitting bikini tops and what can only be described as leather boxer briefs. They do not strike fear into the hearts of evildoers. Nor do they inspire lust—another must in a story meant to empower young ladies. Saving the galaxy requires impeccable fashion sense, and so the Sailor Starlights and their hideous outfits should be rejected as role models.

I hope to use the Sunshine-Sunshine Japanese Language School’s immense resources—including its world-renowned faculty, ultramodern library, and campus in the heart of downtown Inaka—to become the North American authority on all things Sailor Moon. In conjunction with my formal studies, I will read all Sailor Moon manga, magazine specials, and puff pieces; watch the TV show and Takeuchi-sensei’s interviews; and even subject myself to the stage musicals.

Once I have purist knowledge of all things Sailor Moon, I will return to the US and begin exposing DiC Entertainment’s botch-job through viral campaigns on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, FourSquare, LinkedIn, MySpace, Friendster, and LiveJournal. I will post tweets, statuses, and videos with accurate translations and thoughtful analyses. I will reveal to the masses the true message of Sailor Moon while deftly eluding copyright laws. I know Sailor Moon herself would approve, for the justice of the universe transcends all.

With the help of the Sunshine-Sunshine Japanese Language School, the women leaders of tomorrow will be introduced to the transformative magic of Sailor Moon; learn from its many lessons; and lead fruitful, fulfilling, and alien-free lives.

***

The Rumpus - Funny Women Blogs rejected the above piece, while The Mary Sue and McSweeney's Internet Tendency ignored it. Why? Because they have taste.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be in the corner huddled in the fetal position.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Confessions of a Reformed Neat Freak

I love cleaning. It represents the pinnacle of responsible household activity. So many things out of place, so many items crying out for categorization and proper placement. I hear your cries, my children.  I'm coming for you. I am your salvation.

I led a monkish existence when I lived alone. Only the basics survived under my roof. I allowed a bed, dining room furniture, and a futon for guests. I borrowed books from the library. My hard drive held all my movies. The hardy little PlayStation Portable served as my video game console.

Then I moved in with Fiancé. Here, I saw the peril of home ownership: stuff. SO. MUCH. STUFF. Laserdiscs, VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-rays, boxes of paper, boxes of unknown content, textbooks, paperbacks, hardcovers, board games, pictures, shirts, sweaters, mom jeans, pants, coats, costumes, suits, XBox games, D&D paraphernalia, knick-knacks, mismatched glasses, expired alcohol, expired medicine, I've-never-seen-that-before thongs, Mason jars, office supplies...and that's not even counting an entire room of things in the basement.

My head exploded. So much stuff, none of it mine. I couldn't go on a cleaning rampage and donate everything to Goodwill.

Evolution favors not the strongest or the fastest, but the most adaptable. I adapted. I took the 65% closet space allotted to me and obsessively organized my clothing by Professional, Casual, Flirty, Formal, and Hobo. I stacked my important papers, all arranged by subject, in the space under my bedside table. I sorted what books I had by size. I won a petition for a space exclusively for my bags. I put my shoes in a space-saver and classified them according to seasonal use.

Why have I been cursed such organizational skill that my own mother sends me her stuff in advance of a trip so that I may pack her suitcase for her? Did some childhood trauma involving insight into entropy and chaos forge in me some determination to exercise control over my surroundings, preferably with the help of a label maker? Did I inherit it from my grandma, who makes a list of all the contents of the refrigerator and tapes it onto the door, for the benefit of anyone who could possibly be interested? Did I learn it from my sisters, who painstakingly organized their beauty items in small, easily accessible pink trays?

Whatever the case may be, I know I am now a reformed neat freak. Reformed neat freaks are those individuals who have no choice but to accept the lower different neatness standards of those with whom they co-habitate. We conceal our tics whenever we see stacks of board games on a chair instead of on shelves on the entertainment center. We secretly indulge in our fixation for neatness by conducting unannounced raids on cabinets and refrigerators, and throwing out items years past the sell-by date. For health! For safety! For the ability to argue for neatness by pointedly putting four bottles of grape jelly side-by-side where the culprit will see them as soon as the culprit opens the fridge! See, if the fridge had some semblance of order, one would know that one already had three bottles of grape jelly!

RRRRAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!

In the meantime, I continue to joyfully clean the bathroom. A sparkling tub provides comfort and reassurance. A hair-free floor promises prosperity. Neatly lined beauty items, one side for him, the other side for me, allows for efficient ablutions. Yessss, my precioussssss, we must have the neatnessssss...

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