Monthly Archives: September 2018

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 37/100Title: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable
Episodes Aired: 39
Year(s): 2016

It’s only been a few months since I watched the last season of JoJo’s Bizarre AdventureSince then, I read the next part of the manga and found it increasingly hard to wait that long before finishing off the anime series. Honestly, I don’t know why I leave these gaps between series when I am keen to carry on watching. I think this is something I need to remedy going forward…

ANYWAY. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable is an adaptation of the fourth part of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga series; also it is the final anime series that has been produced… for now. I assume that more will be produced eventually, but for now it ends with Diamond Is Unbreakable.

As with the previous parts of the series Diamond Is Unbreakable has a new member of the JoJo family as the central character – this time it is the illegitimate son of the JoJo from Part 2, which makes him the uncle of the JoJo from Part 3. This 4th JoJo is well meaning and outgoing, which makes him a complete contrast to his predecessor.

If you know third part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure then you can pretty much guess what this particular part is going to be about. The mythology of the stands (alter-ego spirits with special powers that are used to fight) continues as follow a new group of powered up individuals as they battle against stand-owners with evil intentions.

The JoJo series has always contained interesting villains. Yoshikage Kira – the villain of this seasons’ second half – might be the most threatening and best realised of all of them so far. Sure, the previous seasons had Dio (an incredibly powerful and vengeful vampire), but he always felt a bit pantomimish at times. Then there is Kira, a serial killer who just wants a peaceful life as he gives in to his uncontrollable urge to kill and dismember women. He’s a scary villain because he actually feels like a real person (albeit with supernatural powers) and I wish there had been a way to have him more involved in the first half of the season…

Still that’s a small glitch in what is an enjoyable supernatural fight series with a good heart and sense of humour. I hope there is a Part 5 soon as I am eager to see where the JoJo anime goes next.

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🎻♫♪ – Symphony No. 6 by Ludwig van Beethoven

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 33/501Title: Symphony No. 6
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Nationality: German
Year:
 1808

Well, I did say that I was going to try and cross off all the Fantasia pieces before progressing further in the 1001 Classical Works list – so today’s post will be awash with multi-coloured pegasi and centaurs depicting racial stereotypes.

Symphony No. 6 has the secondary title of the Pastoral Symphony as it is meant to evoke thoughts of the goings on in the countryside. Each movement (of the five in total) is written to depict events; unusual for Beethoven who worked more melodically and abstractly.

If you have seen Fantasia you’ll know exactly the images that Beethoven tried to create, but even without the help of Disney there is a lot you could get when given the secondary title. The fact that the first three lead into a grand party celebrating the great outdoors (I imagined it as a celebration of the first blossom as a signifier of the end of winter) is showcased by the jubilance of the woodwinds and brass section.

It’s the fourth section, which depicts a thunderstorm, where I fell back into the Disney images. The infant pegasus being tossed about by the wind and the unicorn foal trapped by the rising river were images too strong to be ignored (probably because I used to find them upsetting). Even with those images in mind it’s hard to deny the power of the timpani in it’s role of the striking lightning (all the more powerful as this is the only movement featuring percussion).

Did I get more out of this listen because this is a piece I knew and could focus on more minute details? Maybe, but that doesn’t stop this being an interesting, enjoyable and worthy piece of classical music. There’s still a lot more Fantasia to go, so let’s see which way I go next time.

Let’s Get Literal – The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

List Item: Read 100 of the greatest works of fiction
Progress: 45/100Title: The Sound And The Fury
Author: William Faulkner
Year: 1929
Country: USA

With three entries on the book list, it was about time that I got around to my first William Faulkner. This book also continues me along my adventures in the world of the literature of the American South. Seriously, there are an awful lot of books on this list that delve into this area of the world after the American Civil War. I guess it shows how much can be mined from this period in time and, equally, how US focused this list is in places.

For The Sound And The Fury we spend four chapters (each with their own viewpoint) examining the lives of the white Compson family as they fall further into ruin and disrepute. It’s not an easy read and, for the first half of the novel, it’s a bit difficult to untangle what is happening. Things do come together with the final two (more straightforward) chapters as we move from the less mentally stable characters to the more put together ones.

What makes this an interesting (and sometimes confusing) read is how the first two viewpoints are written as a stream-of-consciousness. The first viewpoint (Benji) is the most confusing as this is a man who has some sort of mental disability (think Lenny in Of Mice and Men) which means that his thoughts are all out of order. It gives an interesting look at what live might be like inside his head, but I did need assurance from people online that this was a book really worth finishing.

The answer is that, yes, it is. Faulkner uses four very different personalities to paint how this family fell into ruin. The second chapter demonstrates extreme stress and the encroaching darkness of depression; the third takes on greed and anger whereas the final one (narrated by one of the black servants) is the most grounded and focuses on family, duty and endurance.

It’s difficult to say that I enjoyed this book, but I definitely got something out of it that I had never really read before in a book. I do wish there had been an additional point of view chapter from the daughter (or granddaughter) in the place of the appendix, but I think that would need to be the penultimate one as Dilsey’s really is the chapter worth ending on.

Whilst I am not even half way through this list, I am looking to the future. Will I add a new book list to my blog after completing this Top 100? Or will I take the time to get really far ahead on the comics list? Not sure, but for now I am going back into the world of written fiction and choose one of the many remaining books that were written by a female author.

Good Eatin’ – Verjuice Salad Dressing

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 717/751Food item: Verjuice

It’s good to already be using another thing from my big box of French goodies. It feels like the proportion of food posts in the coming weeks is going to skyrocket, which I am not going to complain about. I mean, it is distracting me from cooking the woodcock I have in my freezer… but that’ll keep, right?

Verjuice (or verjus in French) is a condiment that exists in the space between fruit juice and vinegar. Traditionally it is made from unripe grapes and can be used in any number of recipes that calls for vinegar or lemon juice. As the title of this post states, I decided to use it as a vinegar substitute in a salad dressing alongside some garlic-infused olive oil.

The result was a far subtler and fresher salad dressing than you would have gotten with a cider or sherry vinegar, which is still full of flavour. On it’s own, by which I mean the taste after I properly swigged it from the bottle like a lush, is a cross between grape, lemon and a tart apple. It’s actually really delicious and this will be the base of most of my salad dressings until the bottle runs out.

Around The World In 100 Films – Turkey

List Item: Watch films from 100 different nations
Progress: 45/100

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 675/1007Title: Yol
Director: Yılmaz Güney
Year: 1982
Country: Turkey

This is one of those happy occasions where the stars align and I am able to further multiple goals at the same time. I believe, if I have my facts straight, that there are two more countries for me to cross off which have films on the 1001 list. Why don’t I just do those next and get further into my goal? Because I just found out what Ace in the Hole is about and I am intrigued to watch that as my next movie.

So yes, this is my first foray into Turkish films. I have been put off of watching one of films from this country for YEARS because of how many of their films have inflated values on IMDB – thanks to a rather dedicated fanbase. Since Yol won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and is on the 1001 list, there is a promise of some form of quality or importance here.

With Yol the placement, at least for me, leans more towards the (historical) importance. In fact the story behind the making of this film (whereby the director had to direct by proxy because he was a political prisoner at the time) and the fact that the unedited version is still not shown in it’s native Turkey (because of the depiction of Kurds) makes this a weirdly controversial and historically interesting film.

The basic summary of this film is that we follow a group of prisoners who have been granted a week’s leave to go home and visit their families… with a whole series of tragic consequences befalling them. This is one of those films where everything feels relentlessly bleak as when horses aren’t freezing to death, families are setting up an honour killing.

If this film is an honest depiction of life in 1980s Turkey, then you can see why  film like this would be banned regardless of their opinions of the Kurds. The thing that ruined this film for me, however, was that it didn’t feel like you were watching a truly connect and holistic film. You keep veering between stories of woe that are acted out by people whose acting abilities are pretty much average. Then again, it took a lot of effort and secrecy to even get this filmed, so I probably should cur this film some slack. Probably.

In the end, I didn’t find this film engaging and that really is a non-negotiable.

I know that my films by 100 countries quest is not going as fast as it could… but at least it’s moving faster than the Shakespeare challenge that I keep forgetting about. It’ll probably pick up speed when I, eventually, finish off the 1001 film list and I can focus on filling up the countries that are left behind… most likely starting with Thailand.

Good Eatin’ – A Big Box From France!

It’s been so long since I last splurged on a big box of food from an online seller and this is the first time I have bought so much from outside the country. Yes, this box of goodies from just over the channel from the good people of BienManger.

Well, not quite from them because that £15 delivery charge is a killer but I think this was £70 well spent as I am going to get a lot of fun out of everything in this box. Thankfully, nearly all of these have a good long sell-by date so I don’t feel the need to rush through each of the 10 food items that arrived in my very battered box.

I say nearly all of these…

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 716/751Food item: Madeleine De Commercy

I really should be dipping these into a cup of tea and contemplating my life a la Proust, but I just ended up eating my first one with some Pepsi Max and an episode of The Great British Bake Off. Because I’m classy.

Amazingly this pack of madeleines survived their trip to the UK with just some of the corners nicked off. Despite the superficial damage I have always found the scalloped shape of these little cakes to be as comforting as their taste. The lightness of the lemon flavour within the centre of the cake contrasts well with the more burnt caramel of the cake’s edge. Whilst I have not indulged in dipping this in a cup of tea (as the only tea I own is mint tea) I can see how this would work beautifully as a dipping cake.

🎻♫♪ – The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 32/501Title: The Nutcracker
Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Nationality: Russian
Year:
 1892

There are times where the only thing that helps me concentrate at work is some classical music (or ambient music like Digital Rain by Johnny Jewel). I have pretty much done Chopin’s Etudes and Beethoven’s Kreutzer to death by this point so, for whatever reason, I decided to pop on The Nutcracker.

Despite only writing three ballets, it is hard to deny that Tchaikovsky didn’t write three classics. With The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty (which I’m actually seeing in a few months) to his name, it makes me wonder why he didn’t write more of them. He obviously has an incredible talent for them and having listened to The Nutcracker on Spotify… well I just want to see it live now.

Having read up on the story that the music is written for, I do wonder whether knowing this even matters. In the end, for a ballet like The Nutcracker, it really is a bunch of beautifully composed and choreographed set pieces loosely stuck together with a narrative thread.

I mean, it is easy enough to deduce from the music alone that the second act of the ballet is the more fanciful and far more interesting than the first one. I’m likely not alone in saying that my favourite section of music in this ballet is the Divertissement in the second act – where the different residents of the Kingdom of Sweets dance for the heroine (the Chinese and the Russian dances being my favourites).

Now, I swear that I’ll be done with the Fantasia music soon. It might make sense for me to prioritise it over the rest of the list; just so that I am able to listen to more music with fresh ears and fresh images in my brain. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to have the dancing thistles in my head for the ‘Russian Dance’, but I like to be able to think of my own interpretations rather than remember someone else’s.

At least when I see Sleeping Beauty live I will be able to associate that music with the live ballet more than the animated film. Well, live in hope.

Acclaimed Albums – The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 153/250Title: The Soft Bulletin
Artist: The Flaming Lips
Year: 1999
Position: #111

In all the years that I have been listening to Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots it never really  occurred to me to listen to their previous album. Sure, I tried listening to the excellent follow up (At War With the Mystics), but it wasn’t until a week ago that I turned on The Soft Bulletin at work whilst typing up some handover notes. It actually worked rather well.

Having not listened to Zaireeka, or any other of their older records, I cannot exactly comment on how The Soft Bulletin was a sharp change in direction that ended up being the making of The Flaming Lips. I mean, how a group can go from being mostly guitar-led alternative rock group to something neo-psychedelic and incredibly beautiful is beyond me. Speaks to the creativity of the band.

As a listen, it is hard find another overarching word to describe this album than ‘beautiful’. The arrangements are intricate, the vocals are heartfelt and everything about it just feels lush. I love the lilt in his voice as he sings as well, it’s somewhat unusual and helps to really sell the lyrics.

However, I cannot tell you what any of the songs are about – I just get so swept up in the sounds of the music and vocals that I find it hard to focus on what is being sun. In no way is that a criticism of the lyric writing ability, just my own inability to concentrate.

With The Soft Bulletin I really do have the agency to go back and get better acquainted with The Flaming Lips’ discography. I mean, this is the third album of theirs that I think is absolutely fantastic and there are eleven other albums of theirs for me to give a go to. At least now, thanks to Spotify, I won’t have to source 4 CD players in order to give Zaireeka a go.

XL Popcorn – Field of Dreams

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 674/1007
Title: Field of Dreams
Directors: Phil Alden Robinson
Year: 1989
Country: USA

Having sat through Field of Dreams I have the urge to keep this extremely short and exclaim: “what was the point of this movie!” I mean how did this film manage to snag itself a nomination for Best Picture over the likes of Crimes and Misdemeanours, Do The Right Thing, When Harry Met Sally or sex, lies and videotape? Is it just a case of a film ageing poorly, or am I just immune to this type of schmaltz… maybe a bit of both?

In any case, a film shouldn’t make me feel actually angry when I watch it. They’re clearly aiming for a feel-good film in the same ilk of It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story, it’s just that (at least for me) it fails spectacularly because it is so profoundly unbelievable. For example: why is the wife so quick to agree to putting their family on the path to financial failure because her husband heard voices as he was roaming the cornfield? How does the time travel work? Don’t the baseball players have better things to do than put on a constant show at some random’s farm in Iowa? Did we watch a character commit suicide whilst a little girl happily waved goodbye?

So yes, instead of being fantastical and magical, Field of Dreams just felt stupid. I don’t get it and, honestly, I don’t really care to get it. I’m just weirdly disappointed that something that became such a huge cultural touchstone was just so blah.

Good Eatin’ – Myoga Sunomono

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 715/751Food item: Myoga

There were many souvenirs that I brought back from Singapore, but when I ran into a small pack of myoga in a supermarket on Orchard Street it was into the suitcase with the hope that it would last the trip home. The hope was that I would be able to make this a double ginger post but, regrettably, this was dead on arrival. Still, I have the myoga!

Myoga isn’t something that I have ever seen in the UK so I am really excited to be making something with this. With these three bulbs in the pack I have decided that I will be trying one of them raw in a salad and the other two will be pickled at a later date.

As the salad I went with a recipe for a Myoga and Cucumber Sunomono that I found on Cookmap. As a salad, this is a basic idea where thinly sliced vegetables are mixed with vinegar – so I thought that something simple would be well placed to showcase the taste of myoga.

It makes a lot of sense that myoga has the alternate name of ‘Japanese ginger’ –  there is the slight earthy heat that you would expect from regular ginger but it’s no where near as intense. As someone that doesn’t like a strong ginger taste, the myoga is pretty much the right level of ginger heat for my palate and doesn’t overpower the mildness of the cucumber and the sweet vinegar dressing.

Another thing that I really appreciate about the myoga is that it has a pleasing crunch. This crunch means that, in terms of both flavour and texture, it really is an excellent partner for the cucumber.

This really is one of those plants that I think could do well in the UK and be one of those next big imports. We just need someone to champion it, grow it and convince the masses that this could be the next ‘in thing’.