My mum tells me that the way to get things done is to simply do it. No thinking about how daunting it is or who will think what of it, “That’s totally nonsense!” she expresses, in a way best emphasized by the accompanying beheading of a chicken corpse.
So I’m being a filial daughter and listening to my wise mumma, noting on webspace the things I like because I would just like to write about something. While these are not formal reviews where plots are talked about in summary or detail, I am just sharing what appeals to me or doesn’t. Books; gadgets; TV; food; more past the jump.
1) Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Okay, I’m late to the party. 16 years late, yes, I know, boo and hiss and rattle all you want about my lazy attitude as a book nerd. But if my friend Hatta had never recommended it (along with 1602, which I sadly can’t get my hands on anywhere), I would’ve never batted an eyelid at it even now. So glad he did.
I’m a person who buys hype easily, which makes it even weirder that I always had the opinion that Neil Gaiman was simply an overhyped, “English male writer with messy hair”-ed machine because of American Gods or Sandman. When the suggestion to read Neverwhere came up, I brushed it aside to make way for other more explicitly overhyped material like A Song of Ice and Fire. I obsessively read A Storm of Swords, and couldn’t let the ending and mythos go so quickly, so I put A Feast For Crows ahead in the queue and took a long time with it. And then it was a choice between my last paperbacks before abandoning traditional reading for my Kindle – The Sisters Brothers or Neverwhere.
Compared to the hunk of pressed pulp that was A Feast For Crows, I thought that it’d be one of those quick and dirty fantasy rides. Obviously, I forgot whose text I was reading and found myself poring over the many “wedding cake layers” that Clive Barker advertised on the back of the book. Yes, Mr Barker, you are very correct in your analogy indeed.
An ingredient here, an ingredient there; the further I read, the more I got the sense of a steady building towards something unusually exciting. Since I’m not done with it, it’s like the marble swirl of butter and chocolate and eggs in the mixing bowl. You can sort of see it slowly coming together and imagine the story’s cake-y deliciousness on your brain’s tongue. I hope it’s as satisfying as I’m expecting it to be.
I wouldn’t say that it’s cheesecake dense or that it’s classifiable as “light reading”. The characters took time to grow on me, and while they are plainly distinguishable as good or bad, I like the way they play off each other. The sinister comic of Mr Croup and Mr Vandermar versus the bumbling, optimistic kind-heartedness of Richard Mayhew and Door. Each can be off doing their own thing, but you can always see how the thread is tied to the main plot, which is something I like and miss in a lot of books nowadays. And London Below is more magical than I could’ve ever imagined. I’m such a sucker for alternate universes, and I will gladly say that I underestimated the world of Neverwhere.
Words, eaten. I’ve even lined up The Graveyard Book for future purchase, because I like the snappy but colorful dialogue, told like you were seated by the foot of Neil Gaiman, enraptured by his Storyteller Voice. Thanks Hats!
2) Samsung Galaxy Note
Contrary to the belief of many of my friends and colleagues, I am not a tech person. Although I love gaming, previously worked in a gaming company, and dabble in a bit of computer/gadget exploring here and there every now and then, I’m no real aficionado of technology or the development that goes on behind it. I’m just interested in many things, of which on occasion, the limb of curiosity has somehow stuck itself into the territory of tech.
Prior to buying the Note, I was using a dated iPhone 3G I borrowed from my boyfriend and before that, a Blackberry Bold 9870. The BB QWERTY keypad was my phone fantasy. In fact, even as the iPhone 4S was released, my stubborn eyes were only for my pet product, to hell with backward development! Research In Motion could’ve already been halfway through digging its grave and I would still be cradling my BB to my boob, stroking its generic faux leather sleeve with blind tenderness.
Then the trackpad got irreparably wonky and I was forced into iOS slavery. Plagued with a laggy, “meh” interface, I was totally and unfairly maintaining the contempt I had for the iPhone, struggling until I learned that my contract was finally due for renewal. I shopped with my boyfriend who was trying to sway me, and swayed me he did. “THE NOTE!” he said to me, like it was the stupidest, most obvious decision I ever had to make. “BUY THE NOTE.”
I had never seen the Note in person but when I did, I found its innate largeness disturbingly attractive. It’s so ridiculous-looking when answering the phone, I thought to myself. The more I thought about how absurdly big it was held against my face, the more I liked it. So I looked at the plans, paid $500 for the phone, and didn’t even test its swiping or apps or anything. I just went with it because it gave me the feeling of “MEGA” when I held it in my hands, like a king’s scepter as he indicates with it nonchalantly who in the court will be keeping their heads.
A great big, jewel-encrusted scepter at that. I bet I face-sparkled when the display seduced my eyeballs with its high color contrast. So clear! So vibrant! I’m not a designer, so “the louder a color can go, the better” applies true here, moderation be damned. It made the Market widget look so good.
And there I was, sucked into the black hole of Android apps. I would be watching videos, I would be app gaming (gasp!) and be heavily dependent on a smartphone for the first time in my life because of all my to-do lists and expense tracking and live-monitoring social media feeds without having to enter an app at all. It was so intuitive that I didn’t even have to look at the quickstart guide to get everything customized and introduced the way I wanted. Though the battery life/charging still leaves much to be desired and it gets quite hot with use, I’m fairly certain that this phone has ruined me for all other possible options I could’ve had in the future, what with Windows 8 and iPhone 5’s releases drawing near. Pah. (/cradles) Irreversible damage, I tell you!
3) Are You There, Chelsea? – Starring Laura Prepon
The pilot wasn’t so good, but the rest is getting there. At the moment I like it, but barely. I’m not really into sitcoms that much anymore since the terrible decline of ex-favourites like How I Met Your Mother (no, I will never stop complaining about that one), but the charm of Laura Prepon as a crass jerk who actually has a heart somewhere in there is an irresistible concept for me. With her Donna role, it was always a little one note because she couldn’t be more than Eric’s cool girlfriend. Here she can be a tough girl with heart – easily a winning formula, but whether it’s handled well is another story.
After watching 4 years of my guilty pleasure Greek, seeing Jake McDorman as someone other than a rich frat boy dickhead was quite otherworldly as well. I like that they also have Mark Povinelli there, but I wish they’d just focus on him as a normal character rather than being the go-to for cracking midget jokes 80% of the time. And (mind the pun) I haven’t had much experience with geeky virgin characters or angry bespectacled Asian chicks, so this zoo of an ensemble is more exotic than I’m used to.
Perhaps my favouritism for Prepon has skewed this sideways into “bad recommendation” oblivion, but I’m not ready to give up yet because I do see it improving as each episode goes by. Whether I would urge you to watch it, however, I think you’d be better off with 2 Broke Girls, even if you’re a fan of Chelsea Handler. It’s not something everyone will enjoy. I particularly do because I get really knackered from work, making it a remarkable form of release. No brainpower needed. Definitely will be keeping an eye on this one, but I suspect it won’t last long.
4) SBTRKT (Young Turks Records)
I can’t shut up about SBTRKT. Aaron Jerome’s minimalist compositions are mesmerizing as they are deceptively complex in production, skillfully layered and carefully planned out. I’m always in awe of the incredible Soul Voice of his frequent collaborator Sampha. Together they create a sort of wandering, pulsating weave of synth and two-step beats that can be very sweet, sad, and/or simultaneously sexy. In any which way, I always feel like I’m floating when Sampha hits his falsetto notes in a risky, slightly dissonant pitch, or when the female features (Roses Gabor! Jessie Ware!) lend their varied versions of huskiness to a track.
SBTRKT’s debut album launches straight into my list of favourites. Instead of assuming that it’s dance just because it’s electronic, I think everyone should have a chance to experience it before categorizing it or dismissing it for its associations. It’s elevated electronic pop music I suppose, but it explores emotion and feeling just as well as any other piano-banging Adele song.
While not always something to dance to like the ones I normally pick, it works as a perfect downtempo segue from boppy mainstream EDMusic to something with base classical elements (eg. I use 1 Ghosts I by NIN to wind back up into some industrial rock, but I could be the only one who likes transporting styles like this).
Here’s my favourite part of the album:
5) Iberico Chorizo
A fat 7″ stick of this is approximately $15. My wallet was practically tsk-ing its notes away resignedly as my mouth watered all logic and reasoning away. MUST. HAVE. CURED MEAT.
I spent many a morning in Germany for a month and a half stuffing my face with a fabulous breakfast of cold cut meats that only my brother and I dared to shamelessly attack like the savage Asian barbarians we were. On my second last day, Mama Schuetz, as we called her, had the delivery truck bring us a very interesting, addictive roll of spiced Polish sausage that I never got the chance to ask about and simply let slip through my fingers.
The Iberico Chorizo that I bought from the local Cold Storage most resembled that explosive spiced and spicy (albeit much less than I prefer) flavour, smoked up into the heavens and condensing back down as the precious, oily salt tears of food angels, vacuum sealed to preservation perfection. It’s not exactly the same as the one I had overseas, but it’s good enough for me. I had chorizo sausages in my scrambled eggs before when I hung out at the marvelous egg specialist centre Hatched, but it’s not quite like the expensive roll of meat I have in my fridge now.
I’m so excited to experiment in the kitchen with it, if only I’d stop depleting it slice by slice to eat first. Garlicky, intensely flavoured paprika coated-and-marinated coarse pork goes with ANYTHING besides dessert, I swear. Pasta, stews. Crispy rice cakes with a sweet basil cream and two delicate slices of Iberico Chorizo on top.
Who wants to be my guinea pig? NOM!