Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Health & Happiness, the Matsuri Way

Instead of my usual library circuit Saturday afternoon, I attended the Arizona Matsuri for a few hours. Although unseasonably warm for winter, it was a pleasant, clear day (when the breeze graced us with its presence here and there). The line for my Melon-pan, standing under the direct blaze of the sun, was a little torturous though.

Some of my Matsuri spoils: program, "Good Health" fan,
and black lucky cat for good health (left paw for happiness).

Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival or holiday. Ergo, the Arizona Matsuri is a festival celebrating Japanese culture. They pack the Heritage & Science Park in downtown Phoenix with booths that sell Japanese items (books, jewelry, toys, art) and cuisine, and feature Japanese hobbies (calligraphy, bonsai) and organizations. They also have performers and shows, like swordsmanship and cosplay and ongoing rounds of taiko drummers. You can watch a master candy maker craft sugar sculptures, get calligraphy on a fan, pet some cute dogs, get a beer in the beer garden (if you're old enough ;), and have a generally good time.

One of the many bonzai trees on display.

Danbo from Yotsuba&! XD

This makes my third year in attendance (I unfortunately have yet to see the opening ceremony, though). I purchased my annual origami fish (three this year - I always buy one more than the last year), and my fan (this year: "good health"). I found some sakura chopsticks at a flea market, a few half-priced manga for my overflowing collection, and finally purchased myself a lucky cat! It's black, which is for health (or so they said), and a left paw for happiness.

This little girl kept dancing along
with the taiko drums. So cute!

If you ever get the chance, definitely attend the Arizona Matsuri, held the last weekend in February. It's a lot of fun, usually a relatively gorgeous day, and who can beat free admission?

I include this awesome video of the "dueling taiko drummers" (or that's what I call them) for your enjoyment (the drummers are awesome - not my crummy video skills). You have to wonder how many pairs of glasses they broke before perfecting it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Flying Books @ the Oscars!

Cirque acrobats weren't the only thing flying around the Oscars last night: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morrie Lessmore won Best Animated Short Film! *throws confetti* It's a fantastical "silent" story about a love of books and rediscovering one's passion and drive for writing. Every writer should watch it.

If you haven't seen it yet, give it a watch:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Comma Confession

My name is Skye, and I do not know how to use commas properly.

I used to know, but for some reason the ability has since come loose and I suspect slid out my ear one night while I slumbered.

While polishing Project SS12 for submission, I found myself disagreeing with several of my Alpha and Beta readers about missing commas. "But a comma couldn't possibly go there!" I would think when they recommended it. "It doesn't sound right!"

Well, sound in music is one thing, but when it comes to proper punctuation, sound is a very different kettle of fish. It all came to a fish-head last night when I had a problem with over half the commas in the first chapter of Soulless. This is a published book from a reputable house - and not only that but I trust the author's punctuation skills. This left only one conclusion: the problem was with me.

So I apologize to anyone I may have led astray with my comma critiques. Do not trust my punctuation judgment at this time - it seems to have wandered off on holiday somewhere and refuses to return my calls.

Now that I have accepted my problem, I am seeking ways to remedy it, lest my writing suffer any more. As it is I am questioning every comma I put to the page. So if you will please excuse me, I am off  to brush up on my Strunk & White, Lynne Truss, and get my hands on a copy of Punctuation for Dummies...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Library Haul: Floors of Breaking Cinder

It's time for a look at my Library Haul, the tower of goodies I picked up during my weekly trip to the libraries (TL, ML, and CL). Sideways are borrowed, upright are purchased used from library Friends.

This week I was on a mission to find a good read to strike my fancy, and scoured the Juv/YA shelves for possibles. Hence, the huge stack of fiction. Here is this week's haul:

  • Never did finish The Pledge, so thinking I might. Bliss looked intriguing, as well as Cinder, which I've been hearing a lot about. I read a blog review about Floors and it sounded fun, although I have since read Chapter 1 and haven't been impressed. Alcatraz is a re-read - I never got past Book 2 and want to continue the series, but refuse to continue without re-reading the previous ones first (I'm like that).
  • Since watching Going Postal, I've been interested in reading a Discworld book. I've previously tried Color of Magic and couldn't get through it, so I thought I'd just read one that sounded interesting. And why not read Going Postal itself? Unfortunately, I couldn't find a paperback - but I did find Making Money in paperback, which turned out to be the sequel to Going Postal. But I can't decide if I should read Going Postal before Making Money... Decisions, decisions...
  • Not that you would know it, but this is my second copy of A History of Ghosts, the reason being that my first copy is a smoker and I refuse to choke my way through it. Happily, this one appears to be smoke-free, so I can continue my research in peace.
  • Found a new Blade of the Immortal! Unfortunately, new volumes come out so infrequently that I always forget what's happened until now...
  • Although I have already seen it (twice, I believe), I put a hold on Ghostbusters for another watch. Strictly for research purposes, of course. Research.
  • Guess who has Breaking Dawn Part 1 and is dreading to watch it? Yeah, that would be me. But there are some things that a girl must do. If she must. I guess.
  • Yes, that is Doctor Who Series 6, Part 1. Now to find time to watch it...

What interesting items did you pick up from your last library trip?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day: America vs. Japan

(Some virtual Valentine's chocolate, from me to you. Happy V-Day! :)

I find it fascinating how the same holiday can be so different in different countries. Take America and Japan:

In America, Valentine's Day is mainly about men doting on women - buying them candy and flowers and jewelry and taking them out for fancy meals. This is all well and good - if you have a significant other. If you don't, the holiday becomes just another day on the calendar, since they have yet to make it a National Holiday (if they did, then we'd have someone to love ;). Children are not to be left out, however - there are also the popular Valentine's Day cards, emblazoned with the latest and greatest in entertainment (movies, music, video games), which are purchased by the box and handed out to every friend and schoolmate a child may come into contact with. Some parents even give their kids candy, creating a second Easter (although instead of being delivered by a rabbit it's a baby in a diaper wielding a bow and arrow).

In Japan, however, Valentine's Day is mainly about girls giving boys chocolates. Some prefer to hand make them, but the Valentine chocolate industry is a booming one. It's a great way to announce to a boy you like that, well, you like him (and find out if he likes you back). Some popular boys rate their standing by how many chocolates they get (or, at least, that's what they do in manga ;). Girls (especially ones without boyfriends) sometimes use the holiday to give "thank-you" chocolates to friends and colleagues and people they are grateful to. Smaller children are sometimes required to give chocolates to their whole class by the school - or their mother.

While in America the holiday has expanded to women also giving men things (romance goes both ways), in Japan it's rare for a boy to give anything to a girl on February 14th (unless they are very young). This is because of White Day, which is held exactly one month from Valentine's Day on March 14th. White Day is when the males who received chocolates reciprocate by giving a small thank-you trinket (sometimes white, but not always). Girls who received "thank-you" chocolate sometimes reciprocate as well. Nothing like instituting a holiday to clear up any confusion about when that thank-you is due. ;)

Two different countries, one holiday, two totally different ways of celebrating it. Fascinating, no?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Super Special Secret Surprise

After much toil and way too many revisions, Project SS12 is in the mail and on it's way to the contest! *throws confetti* It feels so good to finally be done with it. I have been dying to get back to writing Project V, but wasn't allowed to until SS12 was out of the way. Now it's back to the WIPstone for me!

As for this week's Library Haul, I was engaged elsewhere and unable to make the trek to peruse the stacks, therefore limiting my haul to just holds. The only thing to note is I got my hands on Pandemonium by Chris Wooding and Cassandra Diaz - a youth graphic novel that looked pretty good when I spotted it at B&N last month. I will let you know how it turns out.

Well, I think that's about it...hmm? Super Special Secret Surprise, you say? Oh, that. You'd like to know what it is? Really? I mean, sure it's super special, and a secret, and who doesn't like surprises, but you aren't reading this post just to find out what it is, are you?

Of course you are. (I would be.) So without further ado, the Super Special Secret Surprise I've been hinting about for several months... *drum roll*

I have started a local writing group! It's called Wordsmythes (like "wordsmiths," but British ;), and it's "an exclusive writing club for young ladies of a noveling persuasion." We had our first meeting Saturday afternoon, and I think we'll get along rather well. Together we are four young ladies working in similar genres, at similar stages in our writing, who met through the East Valley Nanowrimo group. Well, actually, I met each of them through the group - before our meeting Saturday they didn't know each other from Eve. But we had a good time getting to know each other, and I foresee some fun and productive meetings ahead of us!

Curious about the group? I already made us a blog! (I do stuff like that. ;) Check it out here: Wordsmythes. Although it won't be up and running officially for a few months, we have some great ideas for it and can't wait to start posting. I definitely recommend giving it a Follow. *nods*

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Where I Haz Been (& Consolation Music)

If I've seemed a little more absent than usual this week, I apologize, but life has been insane. I normally blog at work, but we're getting new carpet and paint next week and I've been trying to get the files ready for boxing - which has been impossible because I've been so busy with general work! I barely have enough time to respond on Twitter - don't even ask how many unread emails I have. T.T

The major time-consumer this week has been putting the final touches on Project SS12 for the contest (which has to be mailed Monday or else). This included a complete re-write Tuesday/Thursday and shopping it out last-minute to several writer friends for comments (thank you to everyone who read it for me!). It's almost finished - I polish up the final draft tomorrow. I'm just thankful it's only 2,400 words - last year I was two pages over the limit and had to take a cleaver to over 100 words. It wasn't pretty. *shudder*

I've also been preparing for a special something that finally goes down today (my Super Special Surprise ;). I'll post about soon, but if you want a hint, click here!

I have lots still to do today, so I close this post with a consolation for my absence - this is the latest song from one of my favorite artists, Imogen Heap, called Xizi She Knows. Imogen is very hands-on with her music, and for her upcoming album she's been traveling the world and writing a song about her experiences in each place. This time it was China, and even though I wasn't initially impressed with this song it totally grew on me and now I'm addicted to it (I have it on Repeat right now). I especially like the dancing girl in the paper factory at the end - she looks so graceful and magical in such a mechanic setting. Take a look, and a listen, and I'll be back soon!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Library Haul: Hold Me Closer, Postmaster

It's time for a look at my Library Haul, the tower of goodies I picked up during my weekly trip to the libraries (TL, ML, and CL). Sideways are borrowed, upright are purchased used from library Friends.

Here is this week's haul:

  • Finally got my hands on the Going Postal movie! Not much for the Discworld books, but I adore the movies. And this one was very timely too, given the state of our own postal system. I'll talk more about it in an upcoming post - on the post! XD
  • Felt the need to re-watch Ella Enchanted. Wasn't quite as good as I remembered, but Ann Hathaway rarely fails to entertain.
  • I thought Salt was rated for dreadful things, but when it turned out it wasn't I gave it a try, even though I'm not a Jolie fan. It wasn't bad, although whoever didn't rate it for "language" should be fired.
  • Picked up Parasol Protectorate Books 2-4 (I already own 1) for a re-read before Book 5 comes out next month. (I'm going to buy them at Comic-Con so I don't have to lug them there on the plane.) I'm excited to see how Gail ends the series, especially since I know there will be both pre- and post- spin-off series to come soon. If you haven't read Gail Carriger's books yet, DO. She is an amazing writer and a genius storyteller.
  • ML is finally collecting Bakuman., so I can continue reading the awesome series!
  • Discovered a new manga series: Saturn Apartments. It's very plain but very interesting. Will have to do a review on it when I finish the first two volumes I was able to snag.
  • A friend informed me that I should give The Scorpio Races a try, even though I thought the werewolf series by the same author was dreadful. We shall see...
  • Also picked up Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Have been ready to give it a try if I ever came across it - I finally did, so home it came.
  • Giving Stephen King's On Writing yet another try. Only the writing part though.
So what good reads (or watches) did you pick up on your last trip to the local library?