Media Log: 2024

2024's media log! As of writing this it's only the second day into the new year, which will make things so much easier to keep track of.

As of 5/14/24, items are now listed from newest to oldest!

Books

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Reread for the first time in college. Has some of the lush, stunning prose you'll ever read. Each page blooms like a flower. Janie is one of my favorite characters honestly, and I adore how she's willing to make tough choices. There's so much more I can say BUT a longer review will come at a later time.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Reread for the first time in... who knows how long. The Great Gatsby is a common high school reading assignment for many Americans, but to tbh honest, in order to appreciate it the most, you need to read it as an adult after you've had more life experience. Not to say that it can't be enjoyed as a teenager, or that it's utterly unrelatable, but it certainly becomes more familiar with age. You start recognizing the characters and scenes: the crummy parties, social climbers who are liars and BSers, sad, desperate adults hungry to get laid and relive a fantastical past that only exists within their imaginations. So much of Gatsby deals with regret too, and not regret in that you're embarrassed about something small you said or did. These are regrets on a more existential level, mourning about what's gone or what never was and wanting to recapture it anyway. Devastating stuff.

It's incredible how almost a hundred years after it was first published, it remains as relevant and scathing as ever. So much of the book's enjoyment comes from how it's told––Fitzgerald weaves magic from his words. His prose is absolutely beautiful while still quite readable. Many passages are just achingly beautiful, which only adds to the melancholic tone throughout the novel.

What's so remarkable about The Great Gatsby is that despite its short length, its packed with layer and nuance. Not a single scene is wasted. In turn this allows for a rich variety of themes and readings to explore. Eventually I want to do a longer review talking about all of the, but for now I want to touch on what I focused most on this reading, which is how the narrator's sexuality affects perception on the story.

Nick Carraway is at the very least bisexual, if not outright gay. While brief, he has a sexual encounter with a man, and the way he views and describes other male characters is in a very sensual fashion. With this framework, we unlock like. The final boss of Great Gatsby interpretation. Our focus becomes less about Gatsby trying to win Daisy's affections while Nick just third wheels the entire time, but rather Nick's grief over Gatsby's death. He mourns over the senseless of it (and clout chasing in general) while denying his own sexuality. Since The Great Gatsby is framed as a retrospective written by Nick, we realize that he is no better than the other characters when it comes his own fixations on the past and idealizing figures in it. Nick's character is a master class of the unreliable narrator tbh. He's not an unreliable narrator in that he presents a mystery for readers to solve, but rather he keeps his secrets and we can't fully trust him to be fully honest. Thanks to Nick's infatuation over Gatsby, we are tricked into thinking that Gatsby is more morally righteous than the other characters, when that isn't the truth. Yet because of this narration, we are still swayed into it and left with a complicated mix of emotions! God tier stuff!!!

ANYWAY if you haven't read The Great Gatsby since high school then I highly recommend it. A few aspects of it haven't aged well but there's so much fertile ground to dig through that I definitely think it's worth revisiting.

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl
You ever read a book and feel changed by the time you reach the final page?

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Aemlia Nagoski
In a word: disappointing. My favorite sections of this book were the ones focused on how the stress cycle works and ways to complete it, plus the importance of rest. I thought the bulk of the material would center on topics like this. Not true. A good chunk of the writing instead is about the ways the patriarchy is the root cause of burnout in women.

I have mixed feelings about this. In my opinion, there's a lot of truth in the notion that patriarchy and cultural misogyny fuels burnout. Many women are taught to be people pleasers, constantly sidelining their own wants, needs, and feelings for the sake of others, their jobs... you know. This expectation, of course, is the perfect kindling for burnout. There's nothing wrong with this discussion. HOWEVER. I take umbrage with certain aspects of how the material is incorporated in the book.

First of all, I found the book misleading in regards to its content. Upon reading its title and blurb, you have an expectation that the book will contain multiple in-depth examinations about the science of stress, the stress cycle, and how to handle it. I hoped for in-depth studies about how stress affects the body and brain, what it looks like under the thumb of chronic burnout, chapters dedicated to different techniques and its science... all that fun stuff. What I discovered instead was a bunch of punchy platitudes rather than nuanced advice. It lacked new ideas and perspectives. The "case studies" used were actually like. Composites of women rather than the stories of actual people, which I found troubling as well. For as much as the book touts it containing the secrets to unlocking the stress cycle and "what" you should, it lacked little "how-to. " This could be due to a mismanagement of expectations on my part, so maybe I shouldn't be so critical about this part.

But on the subject of punchy platitudes... the tone wore me down further and further. The writing was, for lack of a better word, condescending. Every time the word "patriarchy" was used, it was accompanied by an ("ugh"). From there, the writing continues to be too-cutesy. This bothers me for a myriad of reasons. In my opinion, it underestimates the intelligent of its target audience––ie., women. As though that "real science" is just too hard to understand. Anti-intellectualism, especially anti-intellectualism geared around women, is an issue. And while I do not think that this book is as troubling as certain trends, it still bothers me that the authors felt the need to dress up its material in twee "#girlbossing through the patriarchy" language. Idioms like this and "the feels" and "*sigh*" and "hellz yeah" drove me absolutely crazy and bogged down the content. Others might not mind it, but I found it very distracting.

I don't want to discredit those who have read this book and find it helpful. I think it provides a solid baseline understanding of what stress and burnout is and how it works. We all have different tastes, but personally isn't speaking, this isn't to mine.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Wow, what a baffling and offbeat book. All the characters were so bizarre. Nobody asked for a book about President Snow and yet here we are! All of this is saying, is being said with the upmost affection and respect. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was chock-full of Suzanne Collins making bold (weird) decisions and you have to give her snaps for sticking to her vision.

The prose in this is leagues above of what was in the original trilogy; Collins comes across as much more confident in her artistic choices which results in a more engaging and grounded world. She crafts a super strong narrative voice within Snow's character, resulting in an engrossing read as we watch for what narcissistic, possessive, or manipulative move he'll make next. The dysfunctionality in all his relationships did more for me than any of the ones in the original Hunger Games trilogy.

Speaking of. The doomed romance in this was a huge draw for me; the presence of a doomed romance at all is cause enough for The Price is Right ringer to start blarring but my excellent taste aside it's sooo compelling. Some readers have complained about the dysfunctionality of it and how quickly it developed, but it all makes perfect sense when considering the context and characters. It was built on trauma and manipulation from both parties. Snow conflates love and possession as well. His relationship for Lucy Gray, his love interest, could never work because of this, and she recognizes this at the very end. It's awesome that she values trust over infatuation. It's awesome that she recognizes how incompatible they are.

You can probably guess who my favorite character in this was LOL but seriously, you're telling me NOT to adore the charming and confident and clever Lucy Gray? She's sharp and perceptive and sassy while still choosing to be compassionate. The choices she made were fascinating, and I love how she represents a different (and very real) kind of power versus what Katniss has in comparison. There's more I could say but this review is long enough but... god tier character. New favorite, to be honest.

Biggest critiques are that the pacing in the final third was kind of weird until the end which made it bit of a slog and that Collins's references and tie-ins to the THG trilogy felt contrived, but it wasn't a massive issue for me.

Suzanne Collins, if you read this, I would read 534536 books about Lucy Gray ruining Snow's life. Hear my cries!!

The Woman in Me by Britney Spears
Listened to the audiobook. Like many others in my age group, I was a fan of Britney Spears as a child who grew into an adult curious about her story. While I supported her emancipation and followed the #FreeBritney movement here and there, it's always important to hear the words from the survivor's mouth. Immediate reaction to said words: it takes a special kind of resilience and strength to endure what she did during the conservatorship. It's utterly unimaginable. And I think that's one of the biggest takeaways from this book, how vital women's freedom is and how fast the legal system can snatch it away. Britney Spears' case is an example of the dehumanization that can exist.

I found the prose and pacing of The Woaman in Me to be odd and disjointed. While it probably isn't fair for me to compare the writing of Spears' memoir to Jennette McCurdy's who is stellar at her craft, I do wish that Spears had hired a better ghostwriter to elevate this to a higher level, similar I'm Glad My Mom Died. Again that's just me being critical lol.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Read for Bookbug. Check out my longer review here!

The Gospel of Mary Magadelene translated by Jean Yves Leloup
Utterly breathtaking. Many times while reading this I had to pause because it took the wind out of my sails. My latest deep dive has been learning more about Gnosticism lately, so I decided to read some of the material for myself.

The actual gospel is rather short, with the bulk of the book being Leloup's illuminating interpretation. What struck is much of what Mary Magdalene meditates on is similar to Eastern and New Age spiritual schools of thought. From a modern perspective, the content of it centers around radical love for the self and others around you. Mary Magadelene argues that spiritual goal of a human is to become "fully" human, bridging all selves together. Divine knowledge and maintaining a personal relationship with the divine is the way to accomplish this. The concept of having an "intensity of life" resonated with me at all, because it's true––living a rich life is how you find freedom. Super metaphysical stuff all around.

It's crazy to imagine how modern Christianity would have looked if this (along with the other Gnostic gospels) was canonized. A part of me wonders is if it's because the focus is on a woman, and a woman who held great spiritual power at that.

There's so much to ponder and I'd love to write more about it on a longer blog text, but I need to continue mulling everything over. So much of the text and advice is quite practical... it's sad to think how it was hidden away for so long.

Movies/TV

Hairspray (2007) directed by Adam Shankman
A glittery feel-good that has an undercurrent of slyness which makes fun. Unreal amounts of energy, like you can feel its pulse against your skin. Amazinggg choreography!!

Stand by Me (1986) directed by Rob Reiner
First time watching this in forever I was losing my mind the entire time in the very best way. SO stunning and raw in its simplicity; without being overburdened by too much plot, the emotion and character dynamics and performance take center stage. The atmosphere it creates is so palpable. I feel like even if you haven't had the exact life experiences as the same characters, the film still resonates in this personal way due to the tone and mood is crafted--it has a nice streak of weirdness, too. The lifelike quality of the dialogue delivered by such natural performances from the actors is breathtaking. The empathy and understanding the boys have for one another is so touching, it sticks with you. One of my favorite movies.

The Sandlot (1993) directed by David Mickey Evans
A favorite when I was 8 and even though it's not a favorite now, I still have to watch it every year like some summertime ritual. Just guys being dudes, cute slice-of-life anime fair.

Forrest Gump (1994) directed by Robert Zemeckis
What do you say about this that hasn't already been said? An utter encapsulation of lightning in a bottle? The first opening notes is enough to get me weeping lol. I love how fearlessly it goes from mood to mood, capturing the ups and downs of a lifetime. The special effects are so well-done, like they feel so REAL. Required summertime viewing.

The Birdcage (1996) directed by Mike Nichols
Rewatch. Such a scream!! I love how bright and playful the art direction of South Beach is and how it contrasts with other moments and settings in the film. Robin Williams, of course, killed it, but that's no surprise. The final drag performance in this brings down the house. The difference Sondheim songs that were incorporated too... Nichols you really just get me. Recommend this as a tongue-in-cheek feel good!

My Cousin Vinny (1992) directed by Jonathan Lynn
A flick that's so easy to watch again and again. Mona Lisa Vito is one of my favorite characters of all time. If she had been the lawyer, then the case would have never made it to trial.

The Spectacular Failure of the Star Wars Hotel (2024) by Jenny Nicholson
YES this counts as a mini-series and YES it's going to be one of the best things you watch all year. Jenny's scriptwriting and editing is, as always, top notch, but it really reaches it's zenith here. The pacing was so well-done and it makes for a brisk watch. While it's interesting to look at the hotel itself, Jenny as its strength when she (quite fairly and correctly) critiques Disney's current business practices. I'm glad it's getting the traction it deserves!!

Back to the Future III (1990) by Robert Zemeckis
A return to form! What an uplifting ending! Let's make a good future for ourselves!!

Back to the Future II (1989) by Robert Zemeckis
My first time seeing this one all the way through it. The story was taken in a darker direction that I'm unsure entirely aligns with the sensibilities of the tone for the franchise? Still workshopping my thoughts on that in particular. The story felt muddled in parts, but I also understand the script was kinda stuck with utilizing the conclusion of the first movie.

Back to the Future (1985) by Robert Zemeckis
Like Star Wars, there's not much I can really say about this movie that hasn't already been said. I really appreciate Michael J Fox as like. A person--and an actor too, of course!

Pokemon Concierge (2023)
Finally watched this and YES it did clear my skin, water my crops, etc etc. Super soothing watch, I can watch little adventures with Pokemon all day. It'd be great if it were a bit longer, but their length is understandable given how labor intensive stop motion is. In all honesty this series has done more for me than the last few generations of the games.

Little Shop of Horrors (1960) by Roger Croman
The second of our B-movie double feature! Remember when camp was a thing? And it was good and authentic?? Honestly it was so hilarious, much more than I expected it to be! Like the writing, performances... it was made to be adapted into the musical that exists years later (which happens to be one of my favorites--but now I can see I've read the manga along with watching the anime LMAO). Like Bucket of Blood, this was made on a minimal budget AND over like three days. I really love and appreciate the sincerity of the craft that it takes to do something like that, it's touching. Love a goofy Greek tragedy!

A Bucket of Blood (1959) by Roger Croman
A friend of mine who is a big movie buff were talking about the passing of Roger Croman a few days ago. She recommended A Bucket of Blood to me and it was a fun watch! It was made on a shoestring budget but honestly I think the low cost really allows Croman's love of the craft to transcend throughout the film. The narrative is SO compelling and it's so fascinating how the themes in it crop up again in The Little Shop of Horrors made the next year. Beatnik culture was satrizied quite a bit, and it was done in a way that makes you KNOW the writer/director immersed in it. That said watching this made me want to be one LMAO. That said I DID hate the part with the cat in this, and I skipped ended skipping it.

Jurassic Park (1993) directed by Steven Spielberg
Rewatch.

Groundhog Day (1993) directed by Harold Ramis

The Wizard of Oz (1939) directed by Victor Fleming and others
lmao it seems funny to be reviewing the Wizard of Oz... after a few friends and I were chatting about it I was inspired since my last viewing was years ago. This was one of my favorite movies in childhood and it still gives me the warmest of fuzzies. More than anything on this viewing I was astounded by the production design and direction. It's incredible how timeless it still looks, honestly. Technicolor >>>>>>>

Star Wars: A New Hope directed by George Lucas
IT'S STAR WARS what else do I have to say that hasn't already been said. I wish the franchise had stayed true to its kitschy roots in more recent years.

Bringing Up Baby directed by Howard Hughes
Honestly what inspired me to watch this is that someone said that it had clerith vibes and I wanted to microdose on my OTP lmao. Not only did it have those vibes, but it was a wonderful movie in its own right. The writing was really snappy and I laughed a bit, it's totally obvious why it's considered a classic of screwball classics. The relationship between Katharine Hepburn's character and Cary Grant's was top tier honestly and was a delight to watch them play it out on screen. I did worry about how the leopard playing Baby was potentially treated on set, but I tend to have those concerns when watching old movies that feature them such as this.

Video Games

The Sims 2
Replay in the sense I've been playing this on and off since I was like 9. Truly the greatest game of all time like I need a dedicated shrine to talk about this. Infinity stars.

Final Fantasy IV
They weren't kidding about the moon in this one!

Played the pixel remaster and steamrolled through thanks to me adjusting how EXP is distributed to cut back on grinding. What a charming game though!! The storyline and themes and sentiments were really sweet. To modern standards it may be simplistic but the game has so much heart in it that it can be overlooked. In retrospect it can be pretty kitch, but I don't mean that as a pejorative at all. I love it when all old RPGs start dumping about Crystals(tm)

The rotating cast is fun; each party feels so distinct depending on you have in it, which creates solid gameplay. Rydia is (of course) my favorite, but all the characters were charming enough. There's like... a lot I could say about Rydia especially lmao. A part of me feels like she needed an extra line or so to fully resolve her arc, but the bones are certainly there! Perhaps my answer for her is in the 3D remake.

Oh, and the soundtrack--banger after banger tbh. Many Final Fantasy titles get nominated for best OST in the franchise, but IV can get overlooked in this conversation! Which is a shame because it now has one of my favorites.

What fascinates me the most about FFIV is how thanks to its role as like the first "serious" title Squaresoft/Square Enix produced, they often look back and respond to it in the storytelling of their later games. Spoilers for FFIV and FFVII, but this is especially apparent in how death is treated in this game. There are constant sacrifices only for the character to return a few hours later, or they were not actually dead at all. This lessens the blow of the one permanent death in my opinion. It feels like that when they worked on Final Fantasy VII, they created a more mature and realistic framework of the emotional weight of Aerith's loss.

Overall a fun romp! I'm going to check out the 3D cutscenes tonight and see what other additions they had made.

Stardew Valley: 1.6 Update

Roots of Pacha

Music

Satie: Gymnopedies, Gnossiennes by Erik Satie

Heaven or Las Vegas by Cocteau Twins

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
Relisten.

HANA (self-titled EP) by HANA

Theatre

Anything Goes by Cole Porter
So cute!! An old-school musical in the best way; it has all the camp and hijinks you want and expect. The original production of Anything Goes first premiered in 1934 and it warms my heart to see shows that old still be performed. The way Reno was costumed throughout the store was beautiful, everything suited the actress and character so well. Cole Porter's music, of course, absolutely slaps. Adore how the titular song Anything Goes is the original diss track tbh.

Other

Media Log: 2023

This was my media log for 2023. It's by no means comprehensive, so I may continue to add reviews of things from time to time!

Books

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Animorphs #1: The Invasion by K.A. Applegate
I was never an Animorphs kid. I read this out of pure curiosity and apparently these books go way harder than I ever imagined?

Animorphs #2: The Visitor by K.A. Applegate
The emotional intimacy of this book was too much for me to handle. What happened with Rachel's friend and her friend's dad was too much for me lol.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Remarkable work on the science of trauma and abuse, and how it affects the body. My favorite sections were the ones that discussed trauma's impact on the brain's physiology.

No Bad Parts by Richard C. Schwartz
While the Internal Family Systems model is an interesting paradigm, I strongly disliked the author's framework and writing. Very dogmatic, and misrepresented other schools of thought to uphold his own. DNF.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Stellar writing. Kimmerer's desire to bridge together the science and humanities and explore the relationship between the two is both moving and validating. Her mindset and values regarding our planet is inspiring, too!

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Reread. This is getting a whole review or possibly a shrine, you don't even KNOW!!

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
A doorstopper of a biography. Anything you've ever wanted to know about the Little House books in here, and BOY is there A LOT. What fascinates is how much Little House has mythologized our narrative surrounding the homesteading movement of the 19th century, when so much of the books themselves are fictionalized and do not describe the realities of it. Also another book that needs a longer review.
ALSO! Rose Lane Wilder SUCKS!!!

Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko/Yokohama Shopping Log: Volumes 1-14 by Hitoshi Ashinano
Also is going to get a review––LOVED this!! The melancholy that oozes in every single page is so delightful. Few works convey the gentle bittersweetness of the passing of time so well.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Oh. My GOD. It's the end of October as I'm writing this, but it's easily my book of the year. I don't think anything else will surpass. After reading this I felt like I went to Applachia and back. No words for how insane it made me. Will be getting two (2) shrines LIKE!!!

Counting the Cost by Jill Duggar
What can I say I'm fascinated by fundamentalist movements lmao. Intriguing insight of IBLP movement and familial greed.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
First reread since I was a teenager. My two impressions are "wow there are aspects of this I appreciate way more as an adult!" and "wow there are issues that gripe me way more as an adult!" Not to be mean but Collins phoned it in with the names of things. It's okay though, we all have our strengths.

Tea: A Global History by Helen Saberi
A brief read on tea! Nice primer to the history of the history, I learned a lot!

Film/TV

Free Solo by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Nail biter. What drew me in as much as the climb was how Alex Honnold navigated his relationships.

Dear Evan Hansen directed by Stephen Chobsky
BAD!!!!!! I went in knowing it would be (and I don't care for the stage musical to begin with), but BOY HOWDY was this one of the most baffling adaptions I've ever seen. Really bizarre direction.

Parenthood directed by Ron Howard
Recommended to me by a friend. Did an excellent job of tapping into my latent fear of being a bad parent!!

Rain Man directed by Barry Levinson
It's Rain Man

Rocky directed by John G. Avildsen
Nobody told me this was a love story disguised as a boxing flick. Rocky went the distance!! Adrian's declaration of love at the end made me insane!! Same with her self-actualization!! Winning or losing doesn't matter if you are seen and heard for who you are!! OTP to tbh honest!!

The Terminator directed by James Cameron
Big Jim has no right to render romantic relationships that rot my brain this much

The Terminator 2: Judgement Day directed by James Cameron
A Mr. Cameron believes that that love conquers and he's so right for it.

Hot Rod directed by Akiva Schaffer
Imagine my surprise when this wasn't about race cars at ALL

Fiddler on the Roof directed by Norman Jewison
Rewatch. One of my favorite musicals! I want to see it on stage again!!

Shrek 2 directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, and Conrad Vernon
Rewatch. Hot take is that it's better than the first Shrek and I'll die on that hill!!!

Titanic directed by James Cameron
Rewatch. I saw this in theaters last February for the 25th anniversary which was honestly a dream come true, and I saw it again today with a group of friends. One of my absolute favorite movies tbh. There's not nearly enough space here for the things I wanna say about it, and it really needs a shrine. The whole production just. Drives me utterly insane. The themes and they're expressed in the film especially is just. Utterly bonkers. Forever a love.

The Bear created by Christopher Storer

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! directed by Masaaki Yuasa
Each episode is full of little and large delights alike from start to end. All the little details poured into the background and animation are so beautiful, and make the world feel real and lived in. Along with Azumanga Daioh, this is probably one of the most accurate depictions of what weird high school girls are like.

Games

Final Fantasy VI
I started this a long time ago but finished it this year! While I wish the cast was a bit smaller so everyone could have tight storylines, I had a blast with this. Fantastic music and art direction. Thank you Square Soft for deciding to toss steampunk, the Renaissance, and Italian opera into a blender to see what would happen.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
SOOOOO I crushed this in less than a week but it hooked me by its claws!!

Props to the team for their ambition on this one! Honestly, it's astonishing that the narrative is coherent as it is given the nonlinear format (plus, how Vanillaware really said "more plot is more"). But it's because of the nonlinearity that makes you want to discover the story's secrets, so it worked!

The artwork for the adventure/visual novel segments are sooo painterly and pretty; the color palettes set the mood of each scene perfectly! The point-and-click gameplay of these segments turned out to be engaging too, and it helped you get immersed in the story. While the RTS segments are satisfying enough, they broke the pacing for me at times when I just wanted to move forward with the plot!

A handful of characters and relationships were total misses for me, relying too much on certain tropes and archetypes I personally dislike. I enjoyed most of them, and left the game with a few ships LOL. All that said, the scope around the game's themes were really admirable! Sci-fi's is at its best when it probes at bigger ideas imo!!

The Sims 2
This is SO getting a shrine, or at least a webpage where I detail the exploits in my favorite virtual dollhouse.

Being snobbish about Sims games is pretty silly, but I can't deny the Objective Truth of its status as the best in the series. I would goas far to say it's one of (if not the) best sequels ever made to a video game. You've never seen a fanbase more devoted to a game, it's one of the most dedicated ones in the whole wide world. The amount of the care that the community pours into it is unreal.

I partitioned my Mac into having a Windows side so I can play the complete edition in its entirety. Voted "Most Likely to be the Video Game with the Most Hours Sarah has Racked Up." Have played it on-and-off for 18 years, will probably be playing it in the afterlife. I wanna see what mods they have up in heaven.

Music

Theatre

Other