BOOK OF THE MONTH: MARCH

Another month has rolled around and I’ve looked at more books this month than I have in any previous months.

 

Book of the Month: The Color Purple– by Alice Walker

imageI originally thought I was going to make it To Break The Demon Gate, but as soon as I read the Color Purple I realized it couldn’t be anything else. A heart wrenching story of oppression, love, the importance of education and friendship seeing you through adversity. I said everything I needed to say about this book in my review here, and it’s a book that I would recommend to everyone and that’s why I’ve put it my Top 20 Books Everyone Should Read.

 

Short Story of the Month: Mummy– by Banana Yoshimoto

imageThis was definitely the most difficult category to choose because I’ve read so many superb 5 star short stories this month. However, the stand out had to be Mummy by Banana Yoshimoto which was found in a compilation of short stories by Japanese authors called The Book Of Tokyo. Banana Yoshimoto is currently one of the most acclaimed authors of Japanese fiction, and from reading this short story it’s easy to see why.

Mummy is a very strange and utterly intriguing short story about a young women who enters a warehouse alone with a guy she barely knows, but instead of finding herself a murder victim, she enters a three day sexual adventure that’s  strange, dangerous, fucked up and exhilerating. Banana perfectly captures what it’s like to be a young woman embarking on an early sexual adventure- the hunger for the forbidden, the new, dangerous and the thrill of adventure.

Runners up: The Forest of Memory, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, Moonlight on Shoji Bridge

World Building of the Month:The Teracotta Bride– by Zen Cho

This was another category that was difficult to choose. Right up until the end I was torn imagebetween the supernatural politics of the Mercy Thompson series and the science fiction reimagining of the Himba people in Binti; I thought I had finally decided on Binti, but then I read the Terracotta Bride. The Teracotta Bride gives us an in depth look at the Chinese/ Malaysian afterlife,a world with ten levels of hell where wealth is gained by corrupt methods and from paper burnt by the deceased’s ancestors. As well as giving us a fully realized interpretation of that world, it also points out its flaws (that even though the rest of the world’s evolved, the afterlife still possesses a medieval view of the role of women); it also asks some interesting new questions about this world like ‘are those paper servants created to serve their master sentient?’ or ‘what happens to the Teracotta Soldiers after their master’s reincarnated?’ On top of that, it even brings in a little speculative fiction element with the same principle used to created the Terracotta Soldiers is used to create a robot servant? What happens to a robot in the afterlife? Does it have a soul?

Every about this story was so unique and fascinating that there could only be one choice for Best World Building.

Runners up: Moon Called, Binti

Male Character of the Month: Lord Yamada and Kenji

to break the demon gateTo Break The Demon Gate is one of my all time favourite fantasy series. It takes place is Japan during the Heian era and is full . Lord Yamada is a great protagonist- a disgraced minor Lord who’s suffering from the loss of a loved one and is taken to the edge of grief. I think we all know what it

However, a story with only Lord Yamada wouldn’t be the same, as part of what makes the novels so great is his banter and odd couple friendship with Kenji, the ‘reprobate monk’. Kenji is the yin to Yamada’s yan, a carefree, light hearted lecherous monk who’s always getting lost along the tenfold way in the bottom of a cask of sake or some other worldly pleasure. Even though he’s always on the recieving end of the more humourless Yamada’s scoulding, the two have a strong friendship that sees them through their numerous adventures against the various schemes of the supernatural.

Female Character of the Month: Jade Yeo

imageIt was either Jade, Sofia or Cyan from Hedon this month and since I’m trying to avoid giving The Color Purple everything, it just had to Jade. I mean, come on, what’s not to love about her? She read’s like an unholy hybrid of The Importance of Being Earnest’s Cecily and Jane Austen’s Emma, completely rebels against all of societies norms and calls her unborn child ‘the worm’. She is one of the greatest females in literature and I really enjoyed the relationship between her and her best female friend.

Runners up: Sofia, Nettie, Cyan

 

POC Character of the Month: Sofia- the Color Purple

imageI really, really try not to nominate the same book for every category, but I couldn’t read The Color Purple and say it’s not the best thing I’ve read all month and that it doesn’t include the best POC portrayal in literature; because it is one of the most revolutionary portrayals of African American women ever written, so much so that it garnered praise from Oprah Winfrey (who ended up playing Sofia) and Lenny Henry.

I chose Sofia in particular because I fell in love with this character. Strong and independent, she had to stand up for herself her own life and she vowed never to let any man treat her like a punchbag. True to her word, when Harpo tried to beat her into submission she didn’t back down but fought him with every ounce of strength she had. Her finest moments included taking down Miss Eleanor Jane and her misguided and privileged view of her importance to her unwilling ‘mammy’ figure- something that is sadly still relevant today when films like The Help continue to get made and receive more critical acclaim than films like Selma.

LGBT Character of the Month: Celie- The Color Purple

shug and celie.jpgBefore Pam Grier’s portrayal of Kit Porter in The L word and Orange Is The New Black came on the scene, The Color Purple’s Celie and Shug Avery were two of the very few portrayals of black lesbians and bisexuals in the media.

Celie is a great character: she is a very human character who suffers a lot. She starts off as an extremely passive person who suffers silently and endures through life, even proving to be a little manipulative when she advises Harpo to beat his wife because she envies her freedom. However, she soon develops into a strong and capable person with a sense of self worth, and a big part of what takes her on that journey is her love for Shug. In spite of being constantly forced to sleep with men since she was 14, the first time she ever feels desire of her own was when she thought of Shug, who she felt a mix of adolescent infatuation and sexual desire for since she first found a picture of her. That sexual awakening burgeons into a deep friendship and later a physical relationship. Two often gay relationships are reduced to either ‘just sex’ or an asexual companionship, but The Color Purple avoids that by both 

Because of the pernicious stereotype of gay people being turned gay because of abuse and that lesbians are attracted to women because they hate men, it can be difficult to portray an LGBT character who was abused. However, although she 

What

 

REVIEW: THE TERACOTTA BRIDE- by Zen Cho

BLURB: In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.

It’s a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn’t choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she’s reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua’s creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death.- Amazon books.

Review: Zen Cho is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, especially when it comes to fantasy. Sorcerer to the Crown was a brilliant Victorian Steampunk and one of the only ones to explore Britain’s relationships with the word around it, while The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo was a fantastic 20s romance written in a style that was reminiscent of the Master of Romance herself, Jane Austen. The Terracotta Bride is another fantastic entry from the author, a 51 page novella that combines the Malaysian/ Chinese afterlife with a little bit of speculative fiction.

I’ve seen a few stories set in the afterlife and usually they are inspired by Judeo Christian mythology (and in one case the Shinto afterlife), but I’ve never seen one set in the ancient Chinese/ Malaysian afterlife before. This in and of itself makes The Teracotta Bride fascinating; in this world, wealth often depend on the fidelity of one’s descendants as material things are burnt in order to give their ancestors luxuries in the afterlife; there are ten hells in this world, and depending on which sin you commit, you do a certain amount of time suffering a certain punishment until you atone for any offences you’ve committed in your past life; the tenth hell, however, is for those who are either wealthy enough to bribe their way up there, or for those who have committed no sins of note, and this is a comfy waiting room for reincarnation.

It’s interesting that none of the people in the tenth hell actually wanted to be reincarnated; if you become reincarnated, you lose all your memories and personallity, all of who you are and it’s unknown how many horrors of the flesh you would have to endure again when you’re reborn. It was also interesting how the world was very patriarchal and corrupt; although our heroine Siew Tsin, was born in a later time period (it’s unclear when, but most likely in the forties onward as she was hit by a motorcar and possessed ambitions), the world of the afterlife is deeply patriarchal to the point her male ancestor is able to sell her to off to a powerful male as his bride.

Another interesting thing is that the afterlife appears to contain the same flaw as the majority of other afterlives: that your age and appearance is that of when you die. This means that authors always end up using protagonists that die young and tend to be surrounded (Eve and Kristoff Nast from Haunted were in their forties, Siew Tsin was only 19). This makes no logical sense though, as since your body has gone, why would you be bound to your body’s age? Why wouldn’t you appear the age of the prime of your life? Wouldn’t it mean that it would be more forward thinking to kill yourself in your late teens/ twenties/ early thirties after an intense exercise boot camp to ensure you spend the rest of eternity in the best body possible?

But this is a minor problem. The ideas in this novella are true to the idea of the afterlife. Heard of the teracotta soldiers buried with the Chinese Emporor. Well, after the emporor is reincarnated and they have no one left to serve, they don’t disappear, but become like masterless ronin and reek havoc. Those paper servants burnt to serve their master? Are they real with a consciousness, or mindless? The Teracotta Bride is a fascinating idea. Instead of copying the idea of the ancients and building teracotta figurines, what would happen if we used our advanced knowledge of technology to create a servant? This novel then goes down the traditional science fiction route with this character and asks the usual science fiction questions. We have a perfect woman created to serve the needs of her male owner. What is she thinking? Can her true will be brought out from behind her smile? Does a robot have a soul? This is science fiction at its most recognizable, but I’ve never seen these questions asked in this context. This gives the story a fresh feel.

The story itself is just very well paced and interesting. Siew Tsin is the passive doormat character (like RGU’s Anthy, The Color Purple’s Celie, or Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price) who observes the action around her. However, when she meets this terracotta bride, she slowly develops a sweet friendship with her and gains a reason to rebel (like Celie and Anthy). Junsheng and Ling’en are not likable characters, as they are so self absorbed, but they are interesting and the eternal marital disputes between them is interesting. Ling’en even relents from being the cold imperious ice queen and is even able to show some compassion for Siew Tsin, giving her more depth and making her a more human character.

VERDICT: With a unique and well realized world, excellent pacing and some interesting characters, The Terracotta Bride is a brilliant novella is an interesting novella which I would strongly recommend.

RATING: 5 artificial girls / 5

REVIEW: KUNG FU PANDA 3

A Dream Works animation with the number ‘3’ in its title is enough to raise anyone’s alarm bells; after the disastrous cash grabs that were Shrek 3 and Ice Age 3 , you would be forgiven for being leery about this film. However, though Kung Fu Panda 3 may not be as strong as the franchise’s previous entries, it still has the heart, beautiful animation and lovable characterisation that made the previous entries so enjoyable.

In this film, Po has finally become comfortable in his role as Dragon Warrior when Master

Moe Panda.jpg
It’s Moe Po face (Or Poe face), the most adorable new addition to this film

Shifu informs him he’s going to take over training the Furious Five. After a hilariously disastrous first day, he meets a Panda who tells him that not only is he his dad, but that there are other Pandas in the world. However, as the two begin to catch up, a new villain called Kai emerges from the Spirit Realm, and he has the power to steal a foe’s ‘chi’ and  turn them into jade warriors for his own personal army. It is said that only a master of ‘chi’ can defeat him, and guess who are known to be renowned chi masters? The pandas. Of course, it supposedly take years of dedicated training to master chi, but you know the Kung Fu Panda formula; Po manages to master skills in five minutes that takes supporting characters years of dedicated training to learn because he’s the main character and destiny says he is just more special than everyone else (my biggest peeve with this franchise). Po joins his father on a journey to the secret Panda village and reconnect with his father, earn what it means to be a Panda, master chi and save China from Kai.

As you would expect with any Kung Fu Panda film, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, from its fluid fight sequences, great character designs and beautiful backgrounds.Jack Black is brilliant again as Po, the lovable goof ball who is a funny, Kung Fu fanboy but with depth of feeling that lifts him above a mere comic relief character. The film’s other biggest strengths are Shifu, who’s never ending bemusement with Po being made the Dragon Warrior is always hilarious (and matches my own); and Mr Ping- a worry wort who loves his adopted son and always tries to do his best for his son. I enjoyed the action sequences and although they weren’t as tense as the fight sequences from the previous film, were still enjoyable to watch.

tigress.jpg
Tigress has a new fan

The biggest problem I have with the film I have  is the same problem Po has with his physique: the flabby middle section. We spend a long time with Po and his father doing crazy Panda hi-jinks, which really slowed the story down and felt pointless. A lot of the children in the cinema found the Pandas doing cute-and-funny-things entertaining, but when compared with the tight plotting of the second entry, I couldn’t help but drum my fingers and wait for Po to actually start trying to learn how to deal with Kai. It also didn’t help that it really clashed with the urgency of the threat; Kai is charging through China dominating  martial arts masters left, right and centre while Po left his hometown without its greatest warrior (the Furious Five’s ability to anything without Po diminishes with each film)- yet we spent a good part of the film watching him scoff rice balls and nap. There were also just way too many characters in this film: we already had Po, Master Oogway,the furious five, Mr Ping and Master Shifu. Now, we are being introduced to Kai, Po’s father, Mei Mei (what was the point of her?) and a village full of Pandas. It did a good job of not getting bogged down considering, but there were just too many characters for one film.

Another problem is how much the film undermined the villain. After defeating Master KaiOogway and possessing the power to create a jade army out of conquered foes while using their chi to increase his strength, Kai is the most powerful foe Po has faced yet. However, his strength is greatly diminished by the running joke about characters not knowing who he is, and by Po’s lack of urgency in getting stronger.The film would have been better if the middle focused on Po rising to meet the threat, rather than cute Panda antics (because we had seen enough of that with Po and his dad laying waste to a Kung Fu museum). It would have been better if Kai was solely focused on defeating the Pandas and the Furious Five were left in their village with their dignity in tact (seriously, they got anihilated; all they seem to do is beat some mooks and then get thrashed by the big bad so Po looks even stronger by comparison). Then, we could have  focused on Po and the dynamic between him and Mr Ping and Li, because Po’s relationship with his father and adoptive father was where the heart was. Mr Ping’s fear of losing his heart and his well meaning worry wart behavior was endearing, and the one surprising tear jerker was when Po and Li remembered his mother. It was a beautiful sequence, and that alone deserves to get Kung Fu Panda 3 an Oscar nomination for animation (though of course, the actual award should go to Zootropolis).

As it stands however, Kung Fu Panda 3 may not be the strongest entry in the franchise, but it’s still entertaining, beautiful and even has some heart warming moments. I think with this entry, the film franchise has probably run its course, but this is a strong finishing point for a franchise that has been an entertaining ride.

 

RATING: 3 members of the Furious Five/ 5

SHADOW HUNTERS RECAP, EPISODE 1: THE MORTAL CUP (IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST GLOWER)

The episode kicks off with the Shadow Hunters stalking a man who changes appearance.  while cool music plays in the background. If you’re undercover stalking demons, you’re going to look as cool and sexy as possible doing it.. Jace bumps into Clary and gives her the full Cullen treatment, glowering at her and being surprised a mundane (muggle) can see him.

Cut to an art audition. Clary is auditioning for an art college and they are unimpressed with her entries. They then see Metallica cover-art sketches all over her book, and because they’re obviously fans of 80s metal, they let her in.

She then has a conversation with her obviously lovestruck best geeky friend (we know he’s a geek because he has glasses). He starts saying ‘to think you could be in love with someone and they don’t realise it’, thus giving us a premonition about how much nuance the show will use when handling relationships.

Clary goes home to visit her mother’s shop and their assistant is acting weird. She goes upstairs and her mother Jocelyn gives her an ancient light saber. Now, we know we’re supposed to feel tension because they’re playing ominous music. Ominous music.

Her mum starts acting distressed all of a sudden. She tells her daughter that there’s something she desperately needs to tell her, but Clary blows her off to talk to her friends. I’m sure it’s okay though, because I’m sure Jocelyn isn’t going to reveal things at the most dramatic moment.I’m also sure Jocelyn is going to live a long and fruitful life…

‘I love you mum.’

OH MY GOD DON’T SAY THAT! YOU’VE JUST ENTERED A BLATANT TRAGIC FORESHADOWING SCENE, YOU AIR HEADED AMOEBA.

So that we’re not kept in any kind of actual suspense, we’re kindly given a flashback of when Clary is playing by a lake and HOLY CRAP WHAT WAS THAT? Jocelyn saves her from what can only be described as a terrible CGI Lock Ness monster.Instead of deciding that maybe it’s time to maybe start teaching Clary how to defend herself , the first thing she does is to rush to warlock Magnus Bane and ask him to wipe her memories.Because that decision always turns out so well.

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See? See how well this is going?

Meanwhile, Clary talks with  the world’s most sidelined black best friend (she’s stuck being Clary’s emotional sounding board and totally brushed aside by love interest in favor of the white lady? Here’s hoping she becomes a lesbian and gains magical powers or her life is gonna suuuck. Right Bo?) They have a Totally Subtle foreshadowing conversation about keeping secrets. ‘My mother is incapable of concealing anything from me.’ ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Your mother was obviously on edge and then she gave you a weird heirloom saying she had something to tell you – that  screams family secret! What more do you want, Clary?  Do you need a giant neon sign telling you whenever something’s going to happen?

shadowhunters-pandemonium-jace-clary-demon.jpg

 

I hate you, Shadowhunters.

Team Zoolander (I’m calling the Shadowhunters that from now on) enter the club on a mission and we’re back at our starting point.Clary follows him in and we go to a curtained off area of the club (don’t VIP sections usually have security?) Then Izzy starts doing a dance… I’m really not sure why she’s dancing, as they start hacking their foes away two seconds later. Clary gets involved and uses the force to defeat one.

Clary is royally freaked out. She finally has a conversation about the Shadowhunters with Jocelyn at the most dramatic moment possible and learns about the existence of the supernatural. Jocelyn is tracked down by the Circle and refuses to give over the Mortal cup and sends Clary to safety in an unconvincing magical portal. Meanwhile, she traps herself in this green energy… stuff… so the Circle can’t interrogate her. Nice work Clary, you just had to set up that tragic foreshadowing, didn’t you?

Clary’s transported to Luke, but as he’s being questioned about her whereabouts, she does to get out of her way. A woman tells her about her mum before she turns into a weird chest hugger faced thing.

Jace rescues Clary from a monster and takes her into the Shadow Hunter HQ (at east that’s where I think they are). He takes her to the Shadow Hunter HQ and he and Alec have a lover’s tiff about bringing her there and Izzy suggests that he’s jealous because it’s the first time he’s shown interest in someone. Really? Did I miss something, because Jace looked like he was glaring and folding his arms. Is that how flirting works in Shadowhunter society?

Finally, the Big Bad reveals he wants to find the mortal cup and learns about Jocelyn’s daughtet. Now he’s determined to track her down to find the cup.

 

I’ll admit, this episode was a lot better than I expected- though that’s a really low bar to clear. This show wasn’t good. It really, really wasn’t. The acting is so, so bad- but then again, saying half of those lines with a straight face must be challenging enough, let alone making it sound like stuff that real human beings would say. Everyone sounds like they’re rushing through it and trying to skip through as many of the book’s events as possible.

But I wasn’t bored for a second. Harry Shum Jr was kinda badass and I’d like to see more of him. The cast are gorgeous to look at (especially Izzy and Alec- seriously, did the recruit Shadowhunters by sifting through CVs for Abercrombie and Fitch models?); hell,  they even took the time to show the unlucky-in-love geek best friend is ripped. It also helped it was unintentionally amusing. Some of the cliches and scenes were so ridiculous, so heavy handed, that it was funny to watch and I laughed my ass off.

Maybe as the series progresses it will develop its characters a bit more and spend more time building tension and not jump from pace to place so much. As someone who never read the books (but has a vague idea going in about the premise and who Clary, Jace, Alec and Magnus Bane are) I was a bit lost about who some of these people were and why there are so many face huggers. However, I’m hoping it will get clearer as the series goes on. But if Jace goes full Cullen, I’ll watch just for the pure comedy.

RATING: 2.5 Abercrombie and Fitch models/ 5

 

The Japanese mythology of Okami: who is the wolf Goddess?

Okami really was a unique game; it drew you into an epic Legend of Zelda like quest through a world of Japanese myth, rendered in a stunning visual style to make all the inhabitants look like they jumped straight out of a traditional water painting. But it’s not just the game that’s wonderful; it’s the fascinating use of Japanese myth which makes it a brilliant experience. This week we look who Amaterasu really was, why was she associated with wolves, and what was the inspiration behind our canine protagonist. If you’re not all that familiar with the game, then that’s fine, as we’ll learn a little bit about Shintoism and Japanese fairy tale.

Amaterasu

Amaterasu_cave_edit2

Amaterasu is the most central figure of the Shinto religion. The Sun is always a really important part of any religious mythology and Amaterasu is one of the only examples of a female being given the exulted role of sun deity.

It is from her divine lineage that the Emporors of ancient Japan used to support their claim of divinity and divine right to the throne. However, although there are a number of myths surrounding her, none of them have anything to do with a wolf. Which brings us onto the next question…

Why is Amaterasu a wolf?

The real question should be ‘what excuse did the game makers use to portray the Shinto sun Goddess as a wolf?’ Well, traditionally Amaterasu does not have anything to do with wolves, and though a sacred animal, wolves are not the most prominent creature in Japanese mythology. The reasoning (or rather excuse) that they used to make Amaterasu a wolf is explained in this Quora article:

Amaterasu is called Amaterasu-ōmikami(天照大神) which means the Great God(dess) Who Shines A Light From the Heavens. The 大神 part can be read a ōkami (oh-kami), which is the same reading as the word for wolf, . It’s believed that the reading for the kanji does come from the word 大神 which means ‘great god(dess)’

This gave the creators the perfect wordplay to justify making the sun Goddess a wolf. The real reason they made her a wolf is because they wanted to use a wolf as part of game play and because there are a few interesting myths surrounding dogs in Japan, and a wolf is a more powerful form of a dog. Most of Ammy’s wolfish traits are inspired by the Japanese fairytale ‘The Old Man who made Withered Trees to Flower’, a story the creators would have grown up with the same way we grew up with Sleeping Beauty.

Mr Orange and The Man who made the Withered Trees to Flower

okami.jpgI spoke about this story briefly in a previous article about being too nice in fairytales. Mr Orange’s dance and the importance of Ammy’s ability to make cherry blossoms bloom all come from this Japanese fairytale. It centers around an old man who owns a dog called Shiro (maybe this influenced the name Shiranui?) because: ‘Shiro means “white”, and he was called so because of his color. He was a real Japanese dog, and very like a small wolf in appearance.’ I think we can see that Shiro is more the influence behind our four legged friend than the sun goddess Amaterasu.

In this myth, the old couple who own Shiro have a very jealous neighbor. One day, Shiro digs under a yenoki tree and finds  a heap of valuable coins (like how Ammy can tig up treasure in the game). The old couple are overjoyed, but the scheming neighbor is jealous. The old neighbour asks the old man to borrow his dog, and because the old man has all the spine of a jelly fish and would rather lend his dog to an abuser than cause a fuss and grow a backbone, he acquiescences. Of course, when Shiro digs up a pile of refuse instead of gold

Mr Orange
This old man was your neglectful owner in the original myth, Okami.

(symbolising the state of the neighbor’s soul), the neighbour loses it and kills the dog and buries him beneath his yenoki tree. When the old man finds out, he asks for the neighbour’s yenoki tree and proceeds to cut it down to make a mortar. The mortar produces eternal rice cakes and again the neighbour borrows it and it doesn’t work, thought his time the elderly neighbour chops up the mortar and makes firewood.

This time, the old man asks for the ashes of the firewood, and he scatters them on his own yenoki tree. Surprisingly, it causes it to burst into full bloom and the old man gains a talent for it.

He is eventually called in by a Daimo (an earl) and is tasked with making his withered tree bloom. He acquiences and is rewarded. The neighbour tries the same but is humiliated and justly punished.

Clearly, this is the inspiration behind Amaterasu and her two most basic spells from the paint brush; the sun comes from Amaterasu’s connection with the Shinto Goddess; meanwhile, her ability to make the ccherry blossoms bloom comes from the fairytale of Shiro the dog and the old man. But Amaterasu isn’t the only character loosely based on Shinto mythology.

Next time, we’ll look at the other central figure of this game: Susanoo. We’ll explore the mythology behind the eight headed dragon, as well as Kushi and her magic sake. If you haven’t read it already, in part one we looked at the secret sparrow kingdom and the moon people, you can check it out by following this link.

okami

 

REVIEW: KARATE STUPID: A TRUE STORY OF SURVIVAL- by Scott Langley

BLURB: The Japanese Instructors’ Course is infamous in the Karate world. In 1997 it had been running for 50 years, with less than one hundred people successfully completing it – only four of which had been non-Japanese. In the same year Scott Langley was at the top of his game, a third degree black belt, captain of the British JKS National Team and JKS European and World Champion. He moved to Japan with a secret plan – to be the fifth foreigner to complete the course. This is the true story of Scott’s Journey, spanning five years, chronicling the highs and lows of facing karate’s toughest challenge and how he learnt to survive and never give in.

In Autumn 2013 Scott sent this book to his Sensei in Japan for their approval. They responded immediately declaring the book to be full of lies and misrepresentations of Japan and forbade him to publish it. He was suspended for a month and then affectively expelled in January 2014. Suddenly, his 30 year relationship with Japanese karate had abruptly come to an end. This had been major a part of his entire karate life and he had dedicated himself to its values and rules, running a karate organization in Ireland for over ten years. He never wanted to jeopardize his position or damage the reputation of the group. However, unfortunately, the sacrifices he made during this true story are nothing compared to the sacrifices he has had to make to publish it.- Amazon Books

Review: Karate Stupid is a true Hero’s Journey- Langley’s uphill battle to gain respect of his peers after a lot of of blood (always his blood), sweat and tears (as well as numerous beatings). His training was less like Mr Miyagi’s in The Karate Kid and more like Pei Mei’s boot-camp from hell in Kill Bill; the main difference between Langley’s training and Uma Thurman’s in Kill Bill Vol. 2 is that Langley’s training was far more ferocious than anything Uma Thurman’s character had to endure, and though nobody got their eye gouged out it was Langley’s knee that bore the brunt of his instructor’s wrath. Continue reading REVIEW: KARATE STUPID: A TRUE STORY OF SURVIVAL- by Scott Langley

TOP 20 BOOKS EVERYONE SHOULD READ (PART 1)

As I mentioned in my review of The Color Purple , there are some classics (and damn good modern stories) that are amazing reading experiences and some that take you on a journey that change you forever. This is a list of 20 of these books- books which are exceptional, books that make you laugh, cry, scream with anger and cheer for joy when good finally triumphs over evil after a long and difficult struggle. Unlike a lot of these lists, which include a lot of long and tedious classics that though are brilliant, the reading experience feels like slow water torture, the key rule of this list is that the books have to readable- and not an endurance test- as well as excellent.

Continue reading TOP 20 BOOKS EVERYONE SHOULD READ (PART 1)

FILM REVIEW: ZOOTOPIA

Zootopia is the perfect animated film; funny, smart, gorgeous, full of likable characters and containing a clever message about prejudice and stereotyping that makes it a film for children and adults alike. The story begins with Judy Hopps, possibly a contender for world’s most adorable bunny (and new queen of the furries, but that’s something I try not to think about). She is determined to overcome the stereotype of ‘dumb bunny’ and become the first rabbit officer in Zootopia, a place where any animal can be anything they want to be. Or so she was brought up to believe. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: ZOOTOPIA

REVIEW: APOLLO (Olympians 8)- by George O’connor

Mighty Apollo is known by all as the god of the sun, but there’s more to this Olympian than a bright smile and a shining chariot. In the latest volume of Olympians, “New York Times” bestselling author George O’Connor continues to turn his extensive knowledge of the original Greek myths into rip-roaring graphic novel storytelling.

It’s interesting to see how the stories of Greek myth play out when O’Connor depicts them in his modern day graphic novels. In Hera, he managed yet to turn the arch-villain of Greek mythology into a harsh but admirable character; he portrayed the adulterous, vengeful, tyrannical Zeus as a flawed but lovable chess-master; even Aphrodite, the woman ultimately responsible for the Trojan war and the tragedy of Dido, was given new depths. It says a lot that even O’connor wasn’t able to find anything remotely likeable in Apollo, one of the most recognized and exulted Gods of the Greek pantheon. And he didn’t even touch on the Cassandra myth. Continue reading REVIEW: APOLLO (Olympians 8)- by George O’connor

TRAILER REVIEW: THE JUNGLE BOOK

When I went to see Zootopia yesterday (review will be up soon),I saw a trailer for the live action version of The Jungle Book. Any film involving talking CGI animals and child actors is always a cause for concern, but this surprisingly looks very, very promising:

Continue reading TRAILER REVIEW: THE JUNGLE BOOK