Thursday, December 31, 2009

So sorry, a dream, and goodbye, Mr. Despair!

Here's a post that truly fits the "random stuff" label:

I just realized that my last full post with a synopsis, commentary, and read-alikes/watch-alikes was nearly a month ago. Forgive me, I am lazy! I have lots and lots of almost finished posts, but I haven't been finishing them. I'll try to work on some of them before it's time to go back to work. And yet, here I am, inflicting another "random stuff" post on everyone...

Last night, I had a dream I was helping someone at the reference desk. Some frustrated, stressed-out girl needed to find a particular issue of our student newspaper. I vaguely remembered that the archives for the newspaper are available on the newspaper's website, but the website wasn't easy for me to locate. Also, not everything has been archived yet. For some inexplicable reason, it wasn't until after I had been helping her for some time that I asked her which issue she needed. The one she needed was from 11/11/09 (our student newspapers come out on Thursdays, and yet this is a Wednesday), too recent for the website archives. I asked her if she had looked through our current print newspapers and she said she had. Then I realized that the newspaper is also available on microfiche (it's not), and she said she knew that, but hadn't gone to look yet. She went to go do that, and it was then that I realized that the reference desk was located in my bedroom, which, to my horror, had dirty clothes everywhere. Then I got a surprise visit from my middle school math teacher. I can guess what inspired most of this dream, but how does my math teacher fit in?

As far as anime goes, I'm plowing through Soul Eater - if I didn't have to go back to work, at the rate I'm going, I could probably finish this series in a week. Antique Bakery will just have to wait, because I just started Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei. I've only seen the first episode so far, but, considering that it began with an attempted suicide (or, depending upon your perspective, an attempt to become taller), it's surprisingly funny. It's short, only 12 episodes long, so even if the series is just a bunch of jokes and no coherent plot, it may still be watchable.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Anime - moving on again

I'm appalled at my anime attention span right now. I finished Black Butler, true, but I'm still working on the first season of The Story of Saiunkoku. I've only finished a tiny fraction of Shugo Chara (too much "egg of the week" going on), I'm halfway through Nabari no Ou (I'm afraid of the depressing ending I can see coming), I'm way behind with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and I just started Soul Eater. Soul Eater may take me a while, not only because it's got lots of episodes, but because I can't figure out whether I want to watched it dubbed or subtitled. There are lots of characters I like in both the sub and dub, although I like Maka better in English dub (maybe it's just that I don't know Japanese, but her Japanese voice actor seems to have problems putting the proper amount of emotion in her voice) and Death the Kid better in Japanese. The people who subtitled the episodes made some very different decisions than the people who dubbed the episodes, giving viewers "kishin" in one version and "afreet eggs" in the other, plus all the other little differences. Any Soul Eater viewers out there with a preference that doesn't boil down to something like "watch the sub because all dubs suck"?

Oh, and did I mention that I may also start watching the Antique Bakery anime? There's just way too much stuff to watch out there. One of the reasons I buy so much anime is because it allows me to put those titles "on hold" while I watch other stuff online that could potentially be pulled at any moment. All of the titles I mentioned in this post, except The Story of Saiunkoku, are ones that I'm watching online.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A lazy movie post about Avatar

I'm too lazy to write something long and complete up for Avatar (plus, I strongly suspect I'll be buying the DVD when it comes out), but I wanted to at least write something. I saw the movie yesterday and really enjoyed it (although, again, probably not good for my hearing...). The visuals were gorgeous - I liked it all so much that I actually got teary-eyed when it was all being destroyed. There were times when it was easy to forget that the Na'vi weren't humans dressed up with prosthetics, the movements and facial expressions were that good. As a general lover of romantic stories, I loved the romantic storyline. One of my favorite parts was when Neytiri first got to see Jake in his real body and not his Na'vi body. Seriously, if someone hasn't already written romantic Na'vi fanfic, it's probably only a matter of time.

Now, let's say the movie hadn't looked as good as it did, and let's say I weren't a sucker for romance. The movie's basic story has been done before. One example would be Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's Powers That Be. A damaged military-type person going to a strange new planet because he/she doesn't have much of a choice? Check. A planet where everything is connected and alive, threatened by people who just want to take what they view as its only riches and leave it a dead husk? Check. A main character who slowly learns the local ways, even as he/she is supposed to be betraying new friends, and ends up falling in love? Check. There may be more similarities that I haven't thought of, but you get the idea. I'm sure there are other books or movies out there that also share a lot of similarities with this movie. No, it's not exactly an original story. Also, with all the time what was spent on shots of the scenery, Jake learning stuff, and Jake and Neytiri being together, there wasn't time to give everything else the same attention, so some aspects suffered from that. Several of the military guys and the corporate guy were cardboard bad guys. Cardboard bad guys kind of annoy me.

Considering the time frame in which this was all supposed to be happening (a little more than three months for all of it, I think), some things were just unbelievable. Other than a bit of stumbling at first, Jake got used to an entirely new and differently proportioned body (with a tail and "hair" that can interface with almost anything on the planet) in a few minutes, maybe a few hours. For some unknown reason, Jake was allowed to be a guard for a sample-collecting research group despite the fact that he apparently had had no training on the planet's flora and fauna. When Jake is taken in by Neytiri's people, he manages to learn everything he needs to know, including how to speak their language fluently, in only three months. I'd have to see the movie a few more times to get a better idea of the language, but, at the very least, it seems to have a very different sentence structure than English, either Object Subject Verb or Object Verb Subject. Either way...he learned it in three months?!

And still, I enjoyed the movie. I only saw it in a regular movie theater - I'd probably go see it at an IMAX theater if the closest one weren't two hours away.

Packed in like sardines, some of which might eat each other

I just found out that, since I'm not going home for Christmas, my parents will probably be coming to me. And bringing their two dogs. Depending on how all the plans (ha, plans!) work out, I may have to figure out how to cram three people, two dogs, and one rat into my tiny apartment for a couple days. Since the thought freaks me out a little, I'm looking into hotels that accept pets. Miracle of miracles, it looks like there are still rooms free, but for how much longer I don't know. I can afford to put everyone up in a hotel room for a couple days, but can I convince my mom to let me do that? Who knows.

One phone call: all it takes to instantly and simultaneously ramp up stress, worry, and happiness levels.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hearing, movie time, and grief

I might have to cut back on my movie theater visits. My ears have been ringing for the past 4 days, and loud movie theater audio probably won't improve the situation. I did, however, cave and go see The Blind Side yesterday. I enjoyed it a lot, although that may partially have been do to my intense need for something "feel good." I got my pet rat's ashes yesterday and needed a pick-me-up. Thankfully, my remaining rat is doing fine and has gotten over the "destroy everything" phase he went into after his brother died.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"It's not you, it's me..."

"...or maybe it's just you."

Wendy over at The Misadventures of Super Librarian has a great post right now that made me realize that I am not alone with a particular problem - breaking up with an author. Have you ever come to the realization that an author, or maybe just a series, that you used to love is now a chore to read? Having come to that realization, do you still continue with the books?

I admit it, I have that problem. I should have stopped reading Laurell K. Hamilton at Narcissus in Chains, book 10 of her Anita Blake series. She is now up to book 17. I've read up to book 16 and will probably read book 17 at some point. Part of me resents her Meredith Gentry series - it seemed like her Anita Blake books changed at around the same time she started putting out her Meredith Gentry books, taking on the, er, feel (i.e. excessive, long, detailed, plot-killing sex scenes) of her new series. It's possible that the change would've happened regardless, but I still can't help being resentful.

Hamilton is the first author that comes to my mind when I think of authors I really should just break up with, but there are other authors that are coming dangerously close to being on that list (or maybe they already are on the list and I'm just deeply in denial). Names that come to mind are J.D. Robb, Janet Evanovich...depressing. I don't spend any money on them (ILL is awesome), at least, but I do spend time.

I can only think of three major author/series break-ups in my life. Try not to laugh too hard at this first one - my earliest was with the Baby-sitters Club books. That one was pretty painless. I remember devouring those books and then, one day, opening one that I think had some kind of environmental theme and realizing I didn't want to read it. I quit cold turkey and didn't look back. Then (again, try not to laugh too hard), the next one I can remember was Christopher Pike. Although that one was more recent, my memory of the exact moment I broke up with Pike isn't as clear. I think it had something to do with suddenly discovering a love for the fantasy genre. The only big break-up I can think of that happened when I was an adult was Mercedes Lackey. That happened, I think, after I read Exile's Valor - I remember being stunned that she had basically written herself into her own series and made another, well-established character (one I had loved, until this point) fall in love with the character that was her. That was the last straw for me. I still have some of her earlier books, because I still like them and reading them gives me warm fuzzy feelings, but I squash any urges I have to try her newer ones.

So, anybody else have any good author/series break-up stories?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Doubting the posts again

Right now I can smell my upstairs neighbors cooking their dinner. Whatever it is, it smells good and probably has meat in it. I'm so jealous! I'll be eating a dinky cheap pot pie with stuff in it that the box calls meat and vegetables, but, with all the chunks being so small, who can really tell?

Anyway, I'm behind on writing for this blog, as usual. I'm currently in the process of watching two anime series, the first season of The Story of Saiunkoku and the first season (there's going to be a second?!) of Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler). I'm seriously hooked on The Story of Saiunkoku and will have to figure out how to scrape together the money for the next season. Kuroshitsuji had me at "sexy demon butler," even if certain other aspects of the series kind of weird me out a bit. Hopefully I'll have full posts for both of these series up in, oh, less than 6 months. I'm starting to think I need to rework the way I do posts. The synopses may be long, but they're sometimes the only way I can remember what happened in a book, movie, or anime a few months after I read or watched it. I usually have at least one of the three main sections of my posts done well before I ever publish them, so I was tossing around the idea of making each section its own post, except that might just make things even more annoying. At least each post would be a more readable length, though. Hmm, I don't know...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dexter: The Second Season (live action TV series)

I finally got the newest Dexter book via ILL - I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next to Dexter and the people around him. While the first season of this show definitely used the first book as its guide, the second season isn't anything like the books. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and I wasn't too surprised by this, because I figured that there would be problems with putting the second book's killer (and victims) on TV. It was a relief to me, not to have to see that. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, go read the books - and beware of that second one if you have a good imagination and a weak stomach.

Also, isn't that the creepiest packaging ever? It's not the blood spatters or his smile, so much as his blank, soulless eyes combined with the blood spatters and smile. Actually, I think his eyes would be creepy regardless.


After killing his brother at the end of the first season, Dexter has a bit of a problem - he can't seem to kill anymore. He needs to kill, but he can't bring himself to do it. When he gets over that problem, a new one crops up - Rita starts to wonder about Dexter's habits and behavior and comes to the conclusion that he's a junkie. She tells Dexter that he either has to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings and stay clean, or he can no longer have her and the kids in his life.

Narcotics Anonymous introduces Dexter to another complication - Lila, his beautiful, reckless sponsor. Although Rita does approve of Dexter doing something about his addiction (Dexter didn't technically lie when he said he had one, but he didn't tell her that killing is his true addiction), she's not happy about his sponsor. Things come to a head when Rita finds out that Dexter and Lila went on a trip together. Dexter took Lila with him as support while he confronted his mother's last remaining (not in prison, not dead) killer, but Rita assumes they had sex while they were gone. Unfortunately, Dexter actually does have sex with Lila not long after he assumes he and Rita are over. When Rita decides to hear him out about the trip, finding out that they really had sex after the trip is the last straw for her. It looks like she and Dexter are over.

While Dexter is dealing with all of this personal stuff, his life as a serial killer is falling apart. His dumping ground has been discovered, and his sister, his coworkers, and brilliant FBI agent Lundy are all working to find the Bay Harbor Butcher, aka Dexter. It's a stressful situation for Dexter, whose first rule, Harry's first rule, is "don't get caught." Then Dexter has something of a crisis when he discovers that Harry not only knew his mother, he got her killed (not on purpose, but still) and he was having an affair with her.

There's no one Dexter can really talk to. He can't tell his sister any of this, because too much of it touches on what he is and does in his free time, plus there's a whole lot of never-to-be-resolved issues between Dexter's sister and Harry. He can't tell Rita, because there's too much she doesn't know about him and because their relationship is in a seriously rocky phase. The closest Dexter comes to someone he can talk to is Lila. Lila knows his mother was murdered in front of him when he was a child, and she knows that there's a lot of darkness inside him, although she doesn't know that he kills people. Even so, she seems to understand him better than anybody. It's unfortunate that she's a master manipulator with no conscience. She becomes obsessed with Dexter, much to Dexter's annoyance and, later, anger.

Just as Dexter becomes sure that he's been identified as the Bay Harbor Butcher, a stroke of luck - Doakes has been acting suspiciously enough that, combined with the discovery of Dexter's blood slides in Doakes's car, he becomes the prime suspect in the Bay Harbor Butcher case. Unfortunately for Dexter, everyone decides that Dexter is in danger and needs to be put under protection. Although he eventually gets that protection to back off, the extra attention does make it hard to deal with the remains of a recent kill and Doakes, who Dexter has locked up in a remote cabin.

Dexter wavers between the "don't get caught" rule, which encourages him to frame Doakes for his murders, and a strange new desire to quit being a ticking time bomb in his relationships with the people that he, well, kind of cares for. He knows that Deb (his sister), Rita, and the kids will all be horrified and devastated when his murderous identity is revealed. His code doesn't make him comfortable with the idea of killing a relatively innocent man like Doakes (Doakes isn't a killer in the same way Dexter's usual victims are), and it also doesn't make him comfortable with framing him. Dexter wants to do the right thing and turn himself in, but admitting what he is to the people in his life isn't easy.

In the end, Lila makes things easy for Dexter. She finds the cabin where Dexter keeps Doakes locked up, discovers what Dexter is (and, rather than being horrified, feels even more like Dexter's soulmate), and blows up the cabin with Doakes still inside it. Doakes's charred body is found with the remains of Dexter's latest victim, so it seems clear to police investigators that Doakes is truly the Bay Harbor Butcher.

When Rita decides to allow Dexter back into her and the kids' lives, most of Dexter's problems are solved. All that's left to deal with is Lila, who still won't leave Dexter alone. After a botched attempt at killing her, Lila kidnaps the kids and escapes, leaving Dexter and the kids to die in her burning apartment. Of course, everyone survives (although poor Deb misses out on her chance to be with Lundy, with whom she had developed a romantic relationship), and Dexter eventually hunts Lila down and kills her, removing her from his life once and for all.


I wasn't sure what to expect with this season, since I figured it wasn't going to follow the book. It was...okay, but I kept having to take breaks. For a while, I was only watching one episode every few days, at least until the end, when I started watching several episodes at a stretch. I think it was the tenseness of things that got to me. In the first season, the overarching plot dealt with the Ice Truck Killer. There were individual episodes where Dexter had to fear being caught (the one with the little kid was amusing), but, as far as I can remember, nothing like the amount of stress that was heaped upon Dexter in this second season - and when I'm really into a show/book/whatever, when the main character is stressed, so am I. By the end of the season, the "need to find out" overwhelmed the stressed feeling, and I was able to watch more at one time, but it still took longer to get through this season than I thought it would.

I have to say, I liked the first season more. When taken with that first season, the second season had too many inconsistencies. Plus, some things were kind of...meh.

First, the inconsistencies. Whatever happened to the NA meetings? Sure, Dexter had no excuse to keep going to them after he and Rita broke up, but what about after they got back together? Are they just going to pretend that the whole "junkie" thing never happened and that Dexter is now all better on his own without any outside help, even though Rita thought he needed something like NA and a sponsor in order to stay clean? Also, what happened to Dexter's aversion for blood? He still chopped his kills into pieces and neatly packaged the pieces in plastic bags, but he made no attempts to keep his kills from being massive gore fests. The man who killed his mother, in particular, was killed in a way that could not avoid splattering blood everywhere. I suppose you could argue that, in that case, he was dealing with his mother's murder by killing the man in the same way he killed her, with a chainsaw, but I'm not really convinced. This is the guy who wigged out after walking into a crime scene filled with blood in the first season - it's hard to believe that he could chop a guy into pieces with a chainsaw and be unaffected. Another thing - why did Dexter stay with Lila for so long? He might not necessarily love Rita, but I think he cares for her, and he definitely cares for her kids. It didn't make sense to me that he'd completely abandon them for Lila, even for a little bit.

Now, the "meh" stuff. The relationship between Deb and Lundy was...weird. I'm sure the show's writers, and maybe Showtime, were hoping for it to come across as edgy and unusual. Depictions of relationships between older men and younger women are pretty common, while the reverse is less common (more common than it used to be, though). It might have been more interesting and less icky if Deb hadn't had all that daddy baggage, and if the writers hadn't made sure to remind the audience of that baggage. At one point, before she started sleeping with and dating Lundy, Deb told her current boyfriend (a nice guy who had nothing wrong with him except he wasn't really adding to the story) that she couldn't possibly have a crush on Lundy because he reminded her too much of her dad. In fact, for the longest time I thought that she followed Lundy around like a puppy because she saw him as a surrogate father figure. She never got the approval and attention from her father that she craved because her father was always more focused on Dexter. Then she and Lundy jumped into bed together, and my brain started screaming "Elektra complex!"

Another thing that I didn't really like so much was all that Lila stuff. I hate it when I can see a character being painfully, obviously stupid about something, and yet they keep on being stupid. Dexter was that way with Lila. Dexter's not always very good at divining others' emotions, so it didn't bother me too much that he didn't seem to realize that Rita didn't like him hanging around Lila all the time. However, nearly from the beginning, Dexter knew that Lila was wild, a risk-taker, the exact opposite of what he had to be to keep from being caught. Despite that, he kept hanging out with her. Okay, so she "understood" him better than anyone he'd ever met, but that didn't mean she wasn't bad for him too. I was like Deb, I could've smacked Dexter for leaving Rita for Lila. Lila was either the cause of or contributor to a lot of Dexter's problems in this season. By the time he realized what an annoying snake she was, it was too late.

Quite a few people found out about Dexter's secret this season. Two of Dexter's failed kills got to run around with that knowledge (one of them was blind, but still), Lila found out, and Doakes found out. I was surprised it took Lila so long to find out, considering how well she could read Dexter, but I was also kind of surprised that she reacted so well. I figured for sure that all her talk about there being no monsters in the world was really just talk, and that she'd crumble in the face of what Dexter really was. Instead, she not only went all "poor, lonely Dexter," she helped him out by killing Doakes. I wonder, if Doakes had gotten free or if Dexter had voluntarily freed Doakes, would Doakes really have taken Dexter in, or would he have just killed him. After Dexter killed his mother's killer in front of Doakes with a chainsaw, I figured it was possible he'd just kill him, but I was never really sure. I guess now I'll never know - I can't believe he was killed off.


Most of the extras are only available if you pop the final DVD into your computer. I wasn't willing to do that, so it felt, to me, like there was only one extra - a couple episodes of the second season of Brotherhood. I haven't seen the first season. I tried a little of the first episode of the second season, hated it, and shut it off.

The list below was a bit of a cheat for me, since I actually focused on Jeff Lindsay's books as part of my final project in my readers advisory class. Sorry there aren't any watch-alikes (unless you count Silence of the Lambs), but I haven't really watched anything very similar to this show and my usual resources for watch-alikes are no help.

  • Darkly Dreaming Dexter (book) by Jeff Lindsay - I shouldn't have to say this, but, if you like this TV series, you really should try the books. The first book introduces Dexter, a serial killer who follows a strict code to only kill criminals the law is unable to deal with. Dexter is fascinated by a serial killer who has entered his area - someone who may know more about Dexter's past than he himself does.
  • Whale Season (book) by N.M. Kelby - This black comedy set in fictional Whale Harbor, Florida begins with a poker game between a used-car dealer and a man who claims he’s Jesus and continues with the threat of grisly murder. “Jesus” is actually a Cuban-American doctor and serial killer who views murder as an act of mercy. Those who'd like another serial killer story with a sense of humor might want to try this.
  • Florida Roadkill (book) by Tim Dorsey - In this darkly funny novel, fifteen varied criminals make their way through Florida in order to get to a suitcase full of drug money. Lindsay fans may like the Florida setting, writing style, and Serge, a goofy serial killer.
  • The Silence of the Lambs (book) by Thomas Harris - In this thriller, Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee, is trying to catch a serial killer and seeks the expert advice of the imprisoned Hannibal Lector, a pleasant and well-mannered sociopath. Like Dexter, Hannibal can get into the mind of a killer because he is one himself. I haven't actually seen the movie (this is one of those where I'm not really sure how many others besides myself know about the movie but have never seen it), but it might also be a good watch-alike.