Thoughts

Stray Thoughts: Anime Suggestions

Maybe I finally started watching anime because there’s a healthy sample of patrons at my library who regularly check out the DVDs we offer.  Or maybe I got frustrated enough with the various Abridged Series on YouTube that I actually wanted to start looking for something that would appeal to me past the pop culture jokes.  (Don’t get me wrong–I love the stuff put out by people like Team Four Star & they’re talented people, but I think I’ve had my fill of supernatural fighting tournaments.)  Whatever the the spark was that caused my curiosity to catch, I’ve spent the last few months exploring the vast world of anime & have been enjoying myself immensely.

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Books

Off the Shelf: Columbine

ColumbineColumbine by Dave Cullen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d been looking forward to reading Columbine for some time. The book promised to be a comprehensive account of a haunting event in American history. Dave Cullen had written about the shootings around the time they occurred and continued to follow and research the story, creating the now-published book.

There’s no doubt that Cullen had a massive task in front of him. The shooting had tons of formal & informal records attached to it & was partially filmed while it happened. When the author quotes from the reams of journals, police reports, transcripts or even mentions how much material was released, readers can only imagine the daunting task of going through it all. Not only does Cullen examine the shooting itself, he examines the boys’ lives and what lead up to their horrible plan as well as how the community coped afterward. Brief anecdotes evoke much, but sometimes the narrative feels stretched thin, as if Cullen is struggling to keep all these stories balanced at once.

Because of this abundance of information, Columbine does do well in deconstructing the myths built up around it and strives to point out what the media got wrong. But the story keeps returning to the why of it all & while Cullen suggests possibilities, carefully describing them as “theories” and citing the evidence that supports them, there are no hard and fast answers for anyone looking for one. Realistically, readers may know this going into the book, but Cullen’s story has moments of stylistic weakness that seem to suggest one thing but deliver another. For example, late into the book, Cullen makes the assertion that Eric Harris’s arrest was an incident that influenced his decision to follow through on his massacre plans and that Dylan Klebold had one as well. But when this premise is set up, the following paragraphs does not give a concrete “instigating event” but describes what his state of mind must have been through an incident where Klebold’s creative writing teacher was disturbed by a story he turned in.

Personally, reading Columbine was a cathartic experience and caused me to reflect on my own perception both in 1999 (when I myself was an angry teenager getting ready to graduate & thought the world was worthless) and currently. Reading the stories of the survivors has been a glimpse into a reality that not many of us will probably know. The book is a well-researched work so if there are readers who want to know more about the event itself, Columbine will suit your interest. But it is also an emotionally harrowing read with a good deal of ambiguity surrounding it, so don’t expect to be finished with it when you read the last page.

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Books

Off the Shelf: Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror

Vampira: Dark Goddess of HorrorVampira: Dark Goddess of Horror by W. Scott Poole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 instead of 4. (Goodreads, bring back the half-star system!) Poole’s bio on small-screen legend Vampira admits upfront that there is not a lot of material to work with and eventually evolves into a cultural survey of the movements and events that not only shaped the creation of Vampira, but tracks the effect the character had on subsequent pop culture. I personally loved this approach–the structure was very similar to Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson, although not as dense. There are some weak spots where specific examples of Vampira’s work or interviews could have lent strength to some of Poole’s argument. For example, many of the ends of chapters are focus more on Poole’s statements of Vampira’s impact, than statements she herself or other people may have made. But Poole’s insights inspired plenty of curiosity & research topics for this reader, so I’m willing to overlook that. Other reviews here on Goodreads note that some of the book may have some of its facts wrong & they are probably more familiar with the Vampira mythos than I. I was fascinated & eager to get my hands on my own copy of the book so I could make more notes. Recommended for those interested in the origins of contemporary American goth or those who love the freaks and subversives that hang at the margins of the horror genre.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Consumed

ConsumedConsumed by David Cronenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

David Cronenberg’s debut novel, Consumed, follows political and cultural intrigues much like Sacred Games, but on a smaller (but no less denser) scale. The story originally focuses on Nathan Math & Naomi Seberg & the extreme stories that they chase in hopes of turning into accessible new media-worthy “journalism”. Naomi is obsessed with getting to the bottom of the grisly murder of a beloved French philosopher, Célestine Arosteguy & what part her husband, Aristide Arosteguy, may have played in her death. Nathan, a medical student turned journalist, hunts down an unlicensed Hungarian surgeon who performs illegal surgeries as a political act. Naomi & Nathan’s respective assignments converge in unexpected ways & they unwittingly begin to uncover a conspiracy that spans not only multiple continents, but touches on multiple fields of thought.

As an English major, I saw many influences present in Cronenberg’s writing. The work is undeniably Nabakovian with its many doubles, the ardent pursuit of an ephemeral idea (or illusion) & the manipulations/traumas of language. I found one character, Hervé, remarkably similar to Iris Murdoch’s Trickster characters, who thrive on sensuality, chaos & the drive to instigate, well, everything. Aristide’s example of eating a rose recalled one of David Foster Wallace’s major symbols in “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way.” But for all of these literary allusions, the story is undeniable Cronenberg’s, reflecting his own obsessions with hermetic societies, the lifespan and transformative powers of disease, and of course, body horror and all the taboos it uncovers.

Consumed was a fascinating book that entangled me. In fact, I felt the same way I did after watching one of Cronenberg’s films–enjoyed it but felt overwhelmed by everything lurking under the surface. I was pleasantly surprised that much of the physical violence and horror did not effect me as much as I feared. I was someone who passed out while reading Palahnuik’s Haunted but in Consumed, each physical act was so encoded in ideas & symbolism that I was continually trying to grasp what exactly was happening. (The book did give me some weird vivid dreams though.) Recommended to anyone who is looking for new, intense fiction or, more specifically, to anyone who enjoys Cronenberg’s films or was disappointed by what last year’s Night Film tried to, but couldn’t, pull off.

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Thoughts

Seeing the World In Code

So as I mentioned a few posts back, I’ve made my way through the online lessons at Codecademy, brushing up on my HTML & CSS skills.  As I was working through the last third of the ‘Make An Interactive Website’ course, there were a few beginning lessons on how to use JavaScript and jQuery.  These programs focused on how to handle user-end actions like clicking or pressing a key on the keyboard.  As I worked through the practice lessons, I was often reminded of Ellen Ullman’s novel The Bug, which is also about programming code.

Continue reading “Seeing the World In Code”