Favorite Books of 2015

I surpassed my goal of reading 40 books in 2015 by reading 56 instead. I may have overshot a little. Here were some of the ones I liked best.

10149142The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
I went into this unsure of how I’d feel about it, considering it was about a dysfunction family and written by a man. What I thought might be an entire book dedicated to manpain turned out to be a funny, endearing narrative told from the perspective of a woman, the older daughter of the Fang family. It follows the Fang children when, after brushes with bad luck, they both end up back in their eccentric, artist parent’s home. They worry they’ll be dragged back into the chaos that was their childhoods. A great story for anyone who worries they’ll never escape being the child of their parents, which is something I know a lot about.
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27111324The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal by E.K. Weaver
Finally. FINALLY this is available all together in one wonderfully, giant package. I’ve been following E.K. Weaver’s characters, TJ and Amal, since she was posting character designs and stitched together long-form comics on, uh, less than reputable art gallery sites. And that was around 2008? 2009? So I’m a little biased. The web comic can be read here, but if you can get your hands on the omnibus, I recommend you do. So much wonderful story, but also concept art, design notes, extras – all in one beautifully bound edition. The story: After coming out to his parents, Amal leaves Berkeley on a cross country trip to see be at his sister’s college graduation. A man he meets at a bar, TJ, agrees to pay for the trip, no questions asked, so long as he gets him to the other side of the United States, and like, right now.
GoodReads

13497818The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Does this book need an introduction? The life of a British idyll is disrupted when one of their parish council members dies unexpectedly. “Disrupted” might be the wrong world. “Goes totally fucking insane” might be better. I loved this book, and I was crushed to see how much people disliked it overall. The characters and their inner lives were fascinating, and the struggle between the rich and poor of the town was heart-wrenching and hit hard. As someone who grew up poor, this book meant a lot to me. And knowing Rowling lived in poverty before she struck it rich with Harry Potter, I’m sure she’s drawn on a lot of real life experience, and that makes it all the more engaging. If you tried reading the book and thought she was “trying too hard” with the crassness in the first part of the book, or that she was trying to distance herself from the boy who lived, go back and try again. Forget it is by the beloved author of Harry Potter and read it as a stand alone book. You may be surprised what you find.
GoodReads

18630542Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
I loved this graphic novel, because I’ve been saying for years that I wanted a version of Scott Pilgrim from Ramona’s perspective. And while I may never get that, I did get Seconds, which is pretty close. Katie runs a successful restaurant, but she’s still not content. She wants to open another, but things are not going well. She gets a second chance when she finds a tiny notebook and a basket of mushrooms – all she has to do is eat a mushroom and write what she wants to happen in the notebook, and she gets to go back and change the past! But of course nothing is that simple. As a slacker fuck-up in her twenties, I appreciate that O’Malley’s mastery for creating slacker fuck-up characters extends beyond Scott. My only complaint was that Katie should have ended up with Hazel, but that might just be me.
GoodReads

12349My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
Have I mentioned I love well-written female protagonists? Because I do. When Jane Tagaki gets a job making a documentary television series for a Japanese audience to sell American meat products, she uncovers not only misogyny, bigotry, and racism, but an insidious industry cover-up that penetrates deep into her biggest fears and (perceived) failures. Not only does Ozeki create wonderful characters in her protagonists, but the families she has Jane and her crew interview are so wonderfully real. I read “A Tale for the Time Being” a couple years ago, and I look forward to reading Ozeki’s third novel, “All Over Creation,” as soon as I can.
GoodReads

23093359The Wicked and The Divine: Volume 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
WHO LOVES WELL-WRITTEN FEMALE PROTAGONISTS? THIS GIRL. Anyway. I read Gillen & McKelvie’s run on one of my all-time favorite super teams, The Young Avengers, and when I heard they were doing an original story for Image, I jumped on that so fast my head spun. And I was not wrong. Every nine years, a pantheon of gods are reborn into living mortals, and within two years, they are all dead. It’s depressing as hell and gives wonderful commentary on the state of (mainly comic book) fandom. They go to a convention for gods, for Christ’s sake. Pun very intended. Sadly, I haven’t been able to keep up with the releases, but rest assured I will collect the graphic novels as they come out.
GoodReads

22318578.jpgThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo and I have a lot in common. I mean, she’s a well-respected, certified domestic goddess and I’m not. But! We both hate clutter and think hanging on to things you never use is unnecessary and should be remedied as soon as possible. I appreciate that Kondo encourages people to purge things from their life, but not to think of those things as useless or garbage. Nicely kept possessions can be sent on to second hand stores, and worn items can be thanked for the joy they brought you and laid to rest in the garbage. You would be surprised how freeing thanking and saying goodbye to a possession you no longer have use for is. Needless to say, she even encourages you to pass her book along to someone else, which I did. Also needless to say, I’m pumped for the sequel. In-depth sorting and organizing tips? Please, go on.
GoodReads

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The Year of Mounting Frustrations

A few days ago, I was tagged by a friend on Tumblr to post six selfies I’d taken in the past year. It’s one of those memes that’s meant to boost self-esteem, and then you tag more people to do it, their self-esteem gets boosted, etc. Of course not everyone wants to post selfies, or even *takes* selfies, but it’s nice nonetheless.

For whatever reason, I couldn’t think of many pictures I had taken of myself this year, so I scrolled through my phone to find some. I got my phone in early February, so most of the year is on it. As I scrolled, I recalled the year and the good times I’d recorded — and also the bad, hiding conspicuously between the good times on my phone, made all the more prominent by the fact that they aren’t there. You know what I mean: I remembered my year, but my phone only remembers the good times. To me, they’re glaringly not there.

As I scrolled, it occurred to me why I found 2015 so hard: it was a year of mounting frustration. One of the first excursions of the new year ended up being a disaster. Between February and April, two local friends moved far enough away that I rarely see them now. A couple months later, I got a raise and hour increase at work, which only last about six months, until I was let go. Much of my summer was taken up by visitors or travel, and while I had good times, everything was crammed together: work, entertain visiting friend, work, bf’s friend visits, work, fly to other coast to visit home for a week, work. I didn’t get a real break at all. Work got increasingly annoying, because even though my hours increased, my boss got busier, so I was often working by myself and felt isolated — but I was making good money finally, and didn’t want to quit. So naturally  I was then let go when financial problems occurred. And now, finally, in the last three months of the year, I’m looking for new work that I still haven’t found.

Maybe that sounds exciting for some people, but this was too many ups and downs for me. And I didn’t even mention things like my boyfriend being sick/hurting his back, or times when I was sick, car problems, and financial problems of my own. I just felt like I couldn’t catch a break this year. Everything was in flux and it was terrible trying to keep myself from flying apart, being pulled in all sorts of directions, my insides always churning, making me feel terrible.

Next year, I’m taking it easy. I’m finding a job I can settle into, something that promises stability and perhaps even a desk to call my own. I don’t think I’ll go many places or take many trips that aren’t very short. I feel like I’ve lived too long without proper footholds and now I’m in desperate need of them. I’m too frustrated, not being able to stand on solid ground.

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2015: Year End Job Hunt

I’ve updated this blog approximately four times this year. Once to ring it in. Once for a blog carnival. Once, mid-year, to say “hey, maybe I should update this again?” And now finally, again, to say goodbye to 2015.

There are still two weeks left in the year, but by most people’s standards, it’s over. End of the year lists are out. Christmas is in less than ten days. Holiday gift exchange deadlines are coming up. (My first one is on Friday.) The year is effectively over.

This year I made more money than I ever have at a single job and then was let go due to financial strain. Strain I can’t help but feel I may have caused. Now, with 15 days left in the year, I’m still job hunting. I hope I don’t have to ring in the new year jobless, but it seems possible. I also just don’t want the stress of worrying about it over the holidays, as the holidays already cause undue stress, but I guess that’s just what’s in the cards this time around.

 

There are two things I’ve learned about being unemployed, and they are:

  1. You get very bored. There is very little to do when you don’t have a job and when you’re not applying for them. Even with TV shows to watch, books to read, apartments to clean, you run out of things to do.
  2. You get to see a lot more of your area. In the last two weeks, I’ve been to San Francisco more times than I have all year. I visited a city 45 minutes away and took four different freeways to get there. I passed this place and didn’t go in, but I might now that I know it’s there.

In 2016, I hope to have a job. That’s really all I’m shooting for this year. It’s not a New Year’s Resolution – I just need it to survive. Maybe my NYR should be updating this blog again, but eh. We’ll see. If I could see into the future, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this, huh? :P

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Oh geez

Maybe I should update this again?

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Female Goth Mangaka Blog Carnival: Growing Up on Junko Mizuno

This post is for The Beautiful World‘s Female Goth Mangaka Blog Carnival. Click through to read and participate!

It started with a pop-up.

You might not believe it, or if you’re young enough, understand it. Pop-ups are a practically archaic form of internet advertising: on certain sites, ads used to pop up in separate windows, instead of nestling into new tabs or the edge of the screen. But it’s true: I discovered Junko Mizuno via a pop-up ad.

Exhibit A: The Beginning

Exhibit A: The Beginning

I don’t remember the site I was on. I think it was a personal site, which are also kind of archaic in the days of social media platforms. Back in the day (circa 2002), people had to build their own websites if they wanted to talk about themselves. Nowadays we have multiple platforms that let us talk about ourselves in various ways (hi, WordPress!), but back then, we made our own, and to keep them free, we had to have ads.

The image in the pop-up was a girl in a red sailor uniform with a silhouetted face, her eyes glowing the same color as her skirt, and her pigtails flared upward, ending in fiery plumes. She looked evil as hell — and I loved it.

The pop-up linked to Viz Media’s (nee Communications) web site, and was advertising the beginning of the release of Junko Mizuno’s fairytale trilogy – Cinderalla, Princess Mermaid, and Hansel & Gretel. The girl on the banner was a character from Hansel & Gretel, and I think only Cinderalla was out at the time, but I was excited by the unusual manga art and vowed to buy it as soon as I could get back to Borders. (Yet another relic of the past.) I was a high school freshman at the time, so getting anywhere on my own was a trial.

Thankfully, my parents were used to me begging for trips to the bookstore to buy manga, so on my next one, I found Cinderalla and took her home. I was nervous due to the shrink wrap around the book – denoting adult content – but thankfully my dad didn’t look too hard at it, and the cashier didn’t question a grown man buying a shrink-wrapped book.

I got the book home and devoured it, pored and obsessed over it. I tried out the drawing style and read it again and again. I Googled Junko constantly to learn as much as I could, and kept checking Viz’s site for news of new releases. I debated heartily about what to do with the stickers in the back. Some of them were racy and/or goth-looking and I didn’t want to put them on anything that could be seen by my very Catholic school or my sort of Catholic mom. So I snuck it in where I could and put only a tiny sticker of Junko’s signature skull and cross-bones rabbit on the back of my student ID.

As mentioned, I was a high school freshman then and quickly finding out how crappy it was to be a teenager. My teachers were mean, my peers were assholes, and the self-loathing was settling in. I retreated into my own world to keep myself from losing my mind, and getting to see even a small daily reminder that the entire world wasn’t all uniform-wearing robots was unbelievably helpful. For the next four years, every student ID I got was christened with a bunny skull and crossbones sticker. It was a sort of talisman, and it helped keep me sane.

Junko-Full1_2-Laptop-sig

Exhibit B: Sanity

Remember those personal sites I mentioned? Another web site relic of internets past was the collective, a bunch of sites often hosted on a single domain, dedicated to things like fictional characters, real life celebrities, obscure movies, etc. They were hand-coded by fans, and really only served to help spread information and promote the things they liked. It was a labor of love if there ever was one. And some of the most popular versions of those sites were fanlistings, which strove to bring together all the different fans of a certain thing. Like a rudimentary Facebook fan page, fanlistings asked people to submit their names, emails, and web sites to be listed – pretty much what the name suggests. And of course, for years, I owned one for Junko Mizuno.

I talk about fanlistings as if they don’t exist anymore, but they do. Just click the link above and you’ll be shown tons. But I haven’t used them properly in years, in the same way I haven’t made hand-coded websites since college. But for a good six years (2002-2008, RIP) when I was still making them, I kept up the “approved” Junko Mizuno fanlisting, which I first called “Ideas from Hell” and then “Hellish.” I often had people contact me via the fanlisting, asking to speak to or book Junko, and I had to explain (sometimes very slowly) I did not represent her. The “fan” part was clearly lost on them. (Junko’s then-official site did link to my fanlisting for a little while though, which was kind of amazing!)

I closed my websites in 2009, and the fanlisting along with it. Very few people were keeping up their hand-coded sites by then, social media was becoming prevalent, and Tumblr’s star was just starting to rise. I joined right before I moved to Philadelphia to finish up college and not long after created Fuck Yeah Junko Mizuno, because I couldn’t stay away. Maybe I didn’t run her fanlisting anymore, but I still wanted to keep updated with her work, and what better way then running a multipurpose microblog that provided art and news?

Exhibit C: "Something Blue"

Exhibit C: “Something Blue”

(And if the name sounds weird, sorry, calling a fan Tumblr “fuck yeah [blank]” was pretty popular around the end of the 2000s. I just haven’t come up with a better name for it in the meantime. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.)

In 2012, as detailed in previous entries on this blog, I won a contest with the jewelry designer Morphik and received a free blue leather cuff bracelet with Junko’s piece “Wedding” on the inset. I plan to wear this during my wedding as my “something blue.” A few months later, I got to meet Junko herself at the Kid Robot store in San Francisco, where she signed the cuff and I told her I planned to wear it when I got married. According to the Morphik designer, she as “blown away” to hear that:

This is really special for me as the owner and designer of this bracelet. Thank you for honoring morphik by being selected as a item for such a special day. Junko told me you got to meet her in SF. She was really blown away that you pick her work to be in your wedding.
a comment left on my wedding Pinterest board

When I met her, Junko recognized me as the person who won the cuff and we spoke briefly about the “essay” I wrote to win it. The theme of the contest was keeping art in your everyday life, and I wrote about how putting her bunny skull and crossbones stickers on my student IDs kept me sane throughout high school. She told me she did the same sort of thing when she was in school and hating it, and that looking at the work of her favorite artists made it bearable, too. I was touched to have something like that in common with her. I might have been out of high school for six years at the time, but I like to think learning that made my high school self feel retroactively better.

This entry is already pretty long, and I haven’t even talked about why I like Junko Mizuno’s art so much. But suffice to say I do. Maybe that’s a post for another time…

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To 2015

Happy 2015 by kinkei on DeviantArt

A new year has dawned, and I rang it in playing iPad games while sitting in bed next to my boyfriend. He was watching Let’s Play videos on his tablet.

Sounds good to me.

Happy 2015, everyone.

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Doll Photo Roundup

Have I ever talked about how much I love Instagram? Lots of people hate it, citing their disinterest in what you’re having for lunch as their reason they don’t use it. Yeah, except that’s the same thing we said all those years ago about Facebook book status updates and Twitter. And look who’s still reigning supreme? Whether you like it or not, Instagram is a social media mainstay, and I for one welcome our new box-photographed overlords.

I post all sorts of nonsense to it, but these days I’ve been getting more and more into the doll photography scene. The tag #dollstagram brings most dolly photographers together, and tagging the brand (#mattel), line (#monsterhigh), or specific character (#frankiestein) makes for much more direct browsing. I’ve been having a lot of fun these last few months trading pictures with other instadollgramers, and decided that I’d share some of my favorite photos with those of you who haven’t yet jumped on the bandwagon.

IMG_0876 IMG_0901 IMG_1125 IMG_1647 IMG_2066 IMG_2073 IMG_2081 IMG_2107 IMG_2239 IMG_2343 IMG_2459 IMG_2475 IMG_2521 IMG_2575 IMG_2638 IMG_2761 IMG_2785

Follow me on Instagram @welcomequeenalice.

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