Oliver & moths II

Salimbol announces her (kind of, sort of) retirement

Ahem! *tap tap* Is this thing on? I have a little announcement to make:
The Chocolate Mud Wyvern's journal is now (as of late September 2012) on permanent hiatus. I'm preserving my content here because I'm fond of it and I've had some amazing discussions with people over the years (though I've removed most of my lovingly-chosen icons, since you can't have 100+ icons with a free account. Sniffle. I loved those little icons.). But I haven't posted anything for a good six months (i.e. haven't given my journal the love and attention it requires) and I think it's time to make it official. It's not quite a farewell, as I'm still reading my f-list's posts and commenting here and there (you're all awesome, y'know), but as I'm unlikely to be posting here anymore, it's definitely a 'thanks for all the fish' kind of situation. ;-). Feel free to PM me if you like;  I'm also quite active with my reading on GoodReads and LibraryThing, and am sporadically active on Twitter, so you can catch me there too.

Oliver & moths II

Second live action Rurouni Kenshin trailer is out!

Squeee! This one has got some cuteness (e.g. the obligatory "oro?" or two), some exciting new action sequences that we couldn't see in the first trailer, and just more of a feel for the guy who's playing Kenshin (verdict: I like him. Pretty scarred face, slender lithe body, self-effacing and sweet, and intense and deadly when the occasion calls for it). Plus: Saitou! I didn't realise he would be in this. If only they had Aoshi too, my life would be complete ;-).

Heh, you know you've seen too much anime when you can watch a trailer like this and easily understand every single word they're saying.
Last but not least, the poster is here:
I *really* hope this movie lives up to the expectations it is stirring up!
This entry was originally posted at salimbol @ dreamwidth. Feel free to comment on either site.
Oliver & moths II

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Tonight was the first night of Auckland's famous Chinese Lantern Festival, celebrating the Year of the Dragon. It was a great evening, as A) it was overcast and not as sweltering as it usually is (we usually drip sweat everywhere - urgh), and B) they had so many lovely new lanterns this year. Here are some pics of xiaobellsa, Mum and I:

Next year we have GOT to go when it's dark; gorgeous as things are at about 7-8pm, it's still light and you just don't get the same effect...
[And WHY did I get rid of all my dragon icons? I'm cheating with a sea serpent one here :-(]
Oliver & moths II

I thought it was summer! Or, the randomness of random music selections

Technically, it's the middle of summer, but the weather here has been decidedly autumnal for the last few weeks. Which I do not mind at all, as A) autumn is my favourite season, and B) it means we haven't yet been hit by the awful wet blanket sensation of Auckland's usual summer humidity (though I'm sure it will come). Thus I am sitting here eating a fresh peach/nectarine tart with hokey-pokey ice cream, with jeans, socks and sweatshirt on! (Instead of the shorts and tank top you might expect.)
Anyhoo, I've had my music on random this evening, and I've been both amused and entertained by the songs that have popped up. So far, I've had the following:
  • 9-Tailed Fox (k-drama) - Dalm Eun Sarang (the "Trance Pop" version - groovy, baby!)
  • Ranma 1/2 (anime) - Piece of Love (j-pop, peppered with the inevitable Engrish)
  • Loreena McKennitt - Seeds of Love, The Gates of Istanbul
  • Cowboy Bebop (anime) - 3.14 (an Ed song)
  • Dirty Dancing - In The Still of the Night (by The Five Satins)
  • Hercules (Disney) - The Gospel Truth
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Standing (Giles' song from "Once More With Feeling")
  • Hong Gil Dong (k-drama) - U Can't Stop (fabulously anachronistic hip-hop song. In a period drama. Yup)
  • Meteor Garden (tw-drama) - Qing Fei De Yi (a.k.a. the happiest song in the entire universe. There's nothing more feelgood than this song)
  • Sarah Connor Chronicles - Ain't We Famous
  • SeaChange - Big American Car
  • Princess Mononoke - Tatara Women Work Song
  • The Devil/Mawang - Love Theme
  • Gokusen II - No More Cry (Engrish! Catchiness!)
  • Plus instrumentals from Read Or Die, Return of the Jedi, Witch Hunter Robin, Arjuna, and The Princess and the Frog.
What I find funniest is how much my media player seems to be dipping almost exclusively into the soundtrack sections of my music collection. I do have some music that was never in a movie or a TV show, ya know!
Hm, what else has been going on? Let's see:
  • In catching up with the manga Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, I have discovered that in some respects, I am scarily like Chiri. Not so much the teacher-stalking aspects, but in the obsessive perfectionism… oh, yes. A sobering mirror to look into! :-)
  • I've been re-reading the Boys Over Flower manga for the first time in ages. Still heaps of fun, and I still love Tsukushi, Tsukasa and Rui to bits. I've been trying to keep myself to one manga per day, and, er, failing quite badly. 'Nuff said!
  • I have a couple of Ngaio Marsh audiobooks narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch ("Sherlock") sitting there, waiting. Not sure if I'll listen to them fully, as audiobooks take a LOT of time and I have Vorkosigan and McKillip audiobooks waiting to be listened to already. But the man has a voice that has famously been described as a "jaguar hiding in a cello", so I definitely want to give them a go.
Oliver crafty

Bring back those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer...

Alas, it is that sad, wistful time of the year when you have to admit that your three-week long summer holiday break has well and truly come to an end *sob*. At least I can now reflect on what I/we accomplished in that time (and think longingly of my next break):
  • Re-watched all of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood *and* made Wellington Sister a fan (victory is ours!).
  • Discovered The Inbetweeners, an incredibly coarse and funny British comedy series about four hapless teenage boys who are exactly as snarky, pathetic and sex-obsessed as you'd expect. We slammed through all three seasons very quickly indeed, and our shrieks of laughter probably scared the neighbours.
  • Re-watched Band of Brothers once more. That's what you want over Xmas, after all - WWII bloodshed and manly bonding.
  • Started the tw-drama adaptation of Skip-Beat!, which I'm enjoying (they've managed to translate it quite well to live action, actually - can't wait to see the chicken suit!). Plus that theme song is DAMN catchy - S-O-L-Oooooo!
  • Went on a bit of a superhero movie bender and watched: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man 2, Wolverine, The Incredible Hulk (Norton version). We also developed a collective crush on Chris Evans.
  • Got a Bluray player for Xmas, and therefore had to buy a lovely big digital TV for the lounge! And, naturally enough, ensue we started a proper side collection of Bluray discs (we are now approaching 20 Bluray disc sets already).
  • Spent $400 at the vet's on A) fixing up Taly's terrible chest/nasal congestion, B) getting an abscess on the back of Gus' head seen to, C) two lots of flea stuff for nine cats (sigh) and D) more bags of the special biscuits we have to have for Milo (kidneys) and Duncan and Taly (bladder). Cats are rilly rilly expensive!
  • Went nuts in the garden and whipped them into shape; they have possibly never been this tidy. I pruned olive trees into submission! I kicked the butt of rampaging maidenhair ferns and ivy! I am covered in the cuts, bruises, scrapes and eczema to prove it! We now have a lovely new fig tree, a peach tree, a pohutukawa tree, an apple tree, a blueberry bush, more passionfruit vines, pale lemon-green roses, and some marigolds to cap it all off.
  • Read a bunch of novels and manga (I most enjoyed Cordwainer Smith's The Discovery of Man, a bit of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei and the latest volumes of Skip-Beat!), and spent some quality time re-reading Basara and Girl Genius.
  • And last but not least, celebrated the 17th anniversary of Senior Cat Milo's arrival (very, VERY important day).
This entry was originally posted at salimbol @ dreamwidth. Feel free to comment on either site.
Oliver & moths II

2011 in review

Happy New Year to all and sundry! I hope it will be a great year for you.
My back is giving me grief today, which is perhaps not the best start to a year, but we finally have some bright sunlight in Auckland after a week of miserable rain and wind washing out the end of 2011. I'm going to take that as a sign to look over the year as a whole :-). Highlights of 2011 for me include:

Reading in general
It's been a great year for reading; I've read a grand total of 157 books, which means I am now firmly back in the reading groove (especially of novels). My favourite books of the year:
  • Catherine Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
  • Terry Pratchett's Men At Arms, Moving Pictures, Monstrous Regiment and Night Watch.
  • Some really good short story collections by Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm and Ray Bradbury and the young adult anthology Firebirds.
  • I've been making good headway through Orbit's Science Fiction Masterworks series, and it's been extremely rewarding.
  • I've just re-read the manga Basara in its entirety over Christmas. Sigh - so magnificent - but I've said tons about that before.
Plus I now have all my entire collection loaded onto LibraryThing, as well as everything I've read since 1991, and I'm using Goodreads to see what my friends are reading and share what I'm reading with them. This has actually been heaps of fun *cue spasms of geeker joy*.

Girl Genius
I mentioned a few months ago that I'd fallen hard for the webcomic/graphic novel series Girl Genius. Set in a steampunky alternate version of Europe ruled over by mad scientists (aka Sparks), it follows the adventures of Agatha Heterodyne, last scion of the heroic Heterodyne family. It's got an engrossing story, sly humour, fabulously witty dialogue, generous dollops of romance and great characters - it's chock full of talking cats, sentient castles, gentlemen adventurers and monster soldiers with a keen fashion sense, not to mention a never-ending parade of wonderful female characters (apart from ultra-Spark Agatha herself, we have pirate-queens-cum-airship-captains/homicidal-maniacs, monster hunters, warrior princesses, androids, scientists, actors, mechanics, secretaries, soldiers, spies and villains *happy sigh*).

Fullmetal Alchemist
I've loved Fullmetal Alchemist (manga and anime) for years, and during 2011 I have *totally* been in the mood for it. I've blogged a bit about catching up with the Brotherhood anime and re-watching the original anime series, but this is really just scratching the surface of how much time I have spent watching the anime and music videos, reading the manga and fanfiction (I have found some fairly astonishing stuff that's been written in the last few years) and just thinking about it in general. Equally importantly, I have managed to cunningly addict both of my younger sisters to the Brotherhood anime (guess my work here is done!), and now I can look forward to watching my FMAB blu-ray discs on our new, BIIIG digital TV :-).

Jersey Boys
We went to see this awesome musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in November when we were in Sydney for xiaobellsa's 30th birthday, and dear god, it was amazing! It was sharp and funny and moving, and the most incredible energy just rolled off the stage through the entire crowd - even the little kids in front of us were going bananas, and there's no way that they'd been raised on those songs (speaking of which, I hadn't realised just how many of their songs I knew, and just how damn catchy they all are. We've been singing them for the last six weeks).

Lows of 2011:

Our cat Ben died from a nasty illness, less than a year after we had to put Phoebe down :-(. And it hasn't affected me personally, but this has been a *terrible* year for many of my countrymen and indeed, for many people around the world. So I sincerely hope that 2012 has far fewer natural disasters and man-made nastinesses in store.

New Year's Resolutions:
I don't usually make formal resolutions, but I thought I'd give it a go this year - let's see how well I manage to keep them:
  • Be healthier! I haven't been as good this year eating-wise and exercise-wise as I should have been, so I've put weight back on that I (laboriously) lost a few years ago. Plus, I've been sick quite a lot this year, picking up lots of bugs (including two horrendous bouts of flu that left me washed-out for weeks and weeks). It's time to get healthy! I prescribe careful eating, sustained exercise, and lots of sleep.
  • Write! I've had a fantasy epic gestating in my head for years, but it's always been "bubbling under" and not actually being written. Well, this is the year to get some proper work done on it! I want to do work on shaping and sharpening my writing in general, as well.

Things I'm looking forward to:
  • The second Girl Genius novel, Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess, is due out in April, as is the audiobook version (here's hoping Angela Dawe will be the narrator again, because she did an amazing job with the first novel). In addition to that, the eleventh graphic novel should be coming out in print, as is the shiny new omnibus of the first three graphic novels. A year stuffed full with Girl Genius-y goodness, in other words.
  • I intend to thoroughly kick my reading backlog in the butt! I've finished off all the books that I bought in the 1990s and still hadn't read, so next target is to tackle all of the books I bought from 2000 to 2005.
  • Now that I've re-read Basara, a re-read of one of my other favourite manga series is surely overdue. The only problem is, which one to choose? Please Save My Earth? Boys Over Flowers? Rurouni Kenshin? Samurai Deeper Kyo? Decisions, decisions!
  • The Rurouni Kenshin live action movie! I'm always a bit leery of live action versions of manga, because they're more likely to be ghastly than glorious - but the trailer looks so cool!

ETAs: Trying to get the weirdness with the Youtube embedding fixed, to no avail. So you only get one video after all :-(.

This entry was originally posted at salimbol @ dreamwidth. Feel free to comment on either site.
Oliver & moths II

Two RIPs: Anne McCaffrey, author, and Ben, my cat

I just heard that SFF author Anne McCaffrey has passed away at the grand age of 85, and I see that already plenty of very eloquent tributes to her are flowing across the internet, which is lovely. No matter how problematic some of her books now seem when I re-read them as an adult, they meant an awful lot to me when I was a teen, and part of me still wants to live on Pern :-). So thanks for the dragons and all the memories, Anne.
Another, more personal RIP: to my cat Ben, who had to be put down the weekend before last after a week-long struggle with some nasty disease that basically just shut his systems down. He was 11 years old. We love all our cats very dearly, but Ben was a particularly special cat, always sweet, charming and possessing a puppy-like enthusiasm, and we're feeling his lack very sorely. We miss you, Benny-jango!
Oliver crafty

Victory is mine!

This week I celebrated a momentous feat - I have now loaded up the past 20 years' worth of reading onto my LibraryThing account. So I now have not only every book I own up there, but everything I have read since my third year at high school! I feel ever so slightly smug at this accomplishment :-). Next step: get through the backlog! I am determined to finish off the books that I bought in the 1990s and still haven't read by the end of this year, at the very least.
Recipe for Gertrude - Puppen and

Happy Hallowe'en!

Our Hallowe'en viewing round-up:
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("Phases", "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", "I Only Have Eyes For You" - still damn good! Even the werewolf episode - despite being a not-great episode over all - has got some awesome bits in it)
  • Dracula 2000 (o-ho, so very bad! But not the worst thing we watched...)
  • Fright Night (1985 version) (Still love it. Sure, it's got cheese, but clever, funny, spooky and scary cheese.)
  • Fright Night (2011 version) (Um... missing most of the above-noted elements of the 1985 movie, unfortunately. It looked like it was going to provide some kind of interesting commentary on the empty rawness of new suburbs and cookie-cutter culture, but... didn't. On the plus side, the special effects were good, the movements of the vampires were cool - pinched right out of Japanese horror movies and video games, though.)
  • Jaws (yup, still scary. I first saw this when I was eleven, and I've never been able to look at any body of water in the same way since. Swimming pools included. Thanks, "Jaws".)
  • Lost Boys 1 (it still speaks to me ;-)
  • Lost Boys 3 (well, we tried, valiantly, to watch it, but it's in the dictionary next to "godawful" and "Ninja Assassin" and so we gave up :-)
  • The Mummy (good dumb fun, and there's nothing wrong with that :-)
  • Scream (still clever and entertaining. "Not in my movie!")
  • Se7en (hadn't watched this in years. Still queasy-making)
  • Shaun of the Dead ("What should we do now?" "... Have a sit-down?" Heh :-)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (Still makes my skin crawl. And I'm not used to seeing the unedited version, with all the man/woman body parts and the naughty language left in, so it was oddly surprising as well)
  • Terminator 1 (oh yeah, baby! #1)
  • Terminator 2 (oh yeah, baby! #2)
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (end of season 1, start of season 2 - these are some of the most awesome episodes of the entire show)
  • Wolf (I'd never seen this before. It's pretty damn bad... and yet it had the makings of something quite interesting)
That's a fairly good spread of movies and TV episodes (though I think we should have made more of an effort and watched some Asian horrors as well - we didn't even watch" The Ring" this time round!)

And, in honour of All Hallow's Read, here is my spooky reading rec for y'all: the manga Sugar Sugar Rune by the inimitable Moyoco Anno, in which two young witches compete for the throne of the Witch World. Okay, it's not scary or anything, but it is an inventive and bittersweet coming of age story, with bold and dazzling artwork, wry humour and some intriguing darker undertones. I've reviewed the following volumes before: Volume 1, Volumes 2-3, Volumes 4-7. I don't think it's very well known, so here is my tiny attempt to spread the love!
ETA: Added in the two Fright Nights!
FMA - Mustang-gumi at rest

Fullmetal Alchemist: Original anime - quick review

Nothing can be gained without sacrificing something of equal value

My shiny new Fullmetal Alchemist DVDs (that's the original anime series from 2003-4, hereinafter called FMA:O) arrived today. This is the brand new (re-released) boxset with the thinpak DVDs and the little hardback book of all the artwork and notes that came out with the original DVDs; it includes all 53 episodes of the TV show, the OVAs and the movie, The Conqueror of Shamballa. I've been meaning to get the official version of these for years, so this is very exciting for me :-).
Naturally, the second adaptation, known as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (FMA:B) is going to win over FMA:O in almost every respect (how could it not? It had the full span of story to work from, and that story is one of the most awesome manga tales it's ever been my privilege to read). However, the first series is certainly not the total loss that some reviewers seem to think (it was after all responsible for massively expanding FMA fandom, in Japan and around the world, back in the day). I re-watched the entire series for the first time in years recently, and noted down a few impressions.

Here follow some vaguely spoilerish maunderings, so here's a nice cut for you!

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Coming soon - a proper review of FMA: Brotherhood and - and! - our exciting live action casting decisions [that's who we'd cast in a live action adaptation]. Very important stuff!