Freaky Tales from Wood Buffalo

Happy Halloween, boils and ghouls!

My library has just started a blog, and I wrote up our first post, all about strange tales and occurrences in Wood Buffalo (in and around Fort McMurray).

If you enjoy local ghost stories, please check it out here!

Happy haunting!

Kamikaze Girls

Man, I often get stuck in a reading rut and find myself pushing through books that don’t hold my attention very well, but I’ve been really lucky with my picks recently- they’ve been knocking it out of the park! My last post I reviewed The Beast Player, which is an immersive fantasy. My most recent read, however, is a more everyday sort of story, but it certainly has its share of unexpected moments.

Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto is a cult classic in Japan that inspired a film adaptation. It’s a book about two Japanese teenage girls who live in a rural prefecture and become unlikely friends. Each follows her chosen lifestyle devoutly: Momoko strictly adheres to Lolita fashion and indulgent living, while Ichigo is a full-on Yanki: a member of a motorcycle gang who thinks she’s super tough despite only having a scooter.

Cover Variant

When Momoko tries selling some of her father’s knock-off Versace pieces to make some money for buying expensive Lolita clothing, she encounters Ichigo and the two are drawn together on a fateful journey to find a legendary embroiderer.

What makes Kamikaze Girls so engaging is the humour: author Takemoto says in the afterward that Momoko is pretty much his alter-ego (p. 213), and her sarcastic narration, exasperation, and dry commentary throughout the story carry it along with tons of hilarity. You might expect an adherent of Lolita lifestyle to present herself as sweet and dainty as the fashions she wears, but Momoko is far from a delicate flower. She takes the indulgence part of Rococo style very seriously, and is quick to shut down or criticize anything that doesn’t suit her whims with a brutal retort.

Cover variant. This hardcover is the version I purchased and read.

The story is fun and at times a tad absurd, but it also feels genuine- the girls, especially Momoko, come alive as you are reading. I haven’t seen the movie adaptation yet, but I could practically imagine the whole thing in my head because it was portrayed so well. I wish I could be friends with Momoko and Ichigo! Their friendship brought to mind for me that of the Amars from Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish series: girls who may seem outwardly very dissimilar and have completely different interests, but who share some important core values and can embrace their individuality while also supporting the passions of their friends.

The ending is very suiting, with things falling into place just as they feel they should. What really earns Kamikaze Girls a special place in my heart, though, is that there is an emboldening underlying message of “let’s all get along while following our own paths and doing whatever the hell we want!” (p. 215).

Cover Variant

I’ve ordered the film based on the book through inter-library loan, and very much look forward to seeing Momoko and Ichigo come alive in a different way on the screen!

The Characters That Define Us

Matt over at Normal Happenings has finally revealed the character choices for his biggest blog collab project ever, The Characters That Define Us. The epicness will kick off in January 2020, with each week of the year bringing a different blogger and their chosen game character to the forefront, including tailored Daily Inkling writing prompts, themes, artwork, and of course uniquely personal blog posts!

Each participant is doing a different character- I wanted to represent the avatars that I’ve created for various RPG games over time, so my character will be… Alternate Shauna! 

Without giving too much away, I will say that my contribution to this project will delve into the different types of characters I’ve created for role playing games of all sorts- from adventure games and MMORPG to more chill games like Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing and The Sims. In doing so, I hope to highlight how creating these alternate versions of myself has given me new ways to express myself throughout my life, as well as virtual role-models to look up to.

Thanks again to Matt for preparing this awesome collaborative project! This will be something fun to look forward to in the new year!

Japanese Candy Wrapper Journal Video Tour

I love Japanese candy and snacks- they are often packaged very creatively and cutely, and feature all kinds of unique textures and flavours. For a while I had a subscription to a Japanese snack box (best birthday present ever) which gave me the chance to try out all kinds of different stuff. I love the cool packaging of these treats so much that I thought it was a shame to toss out the wrappers, and so I decided to start a Candy & Snack Journal. I’ve since added more and more as I’ve gotten candy as gifts, at shops, and on my trip to Japan in 2017.

When I first started this blog I made a post with a quick peek of my journal, but I decided it would be fun to make a video going through each page. I’ve enjoyed looking back at the candies and snacks I’ve tried, and hope that some others will enjoy the video too!

 

 

 

Daily Inkling: Crooked Man

Matthew of Normal Happenings has challenged me to participate in today’s Daily Inkling:

Write a blog post inspired by today’s Daily Inkling:

“THE MONSTER IN THE DELL”

Take your favorite nursery rhyme and turn it into a nightmare.

I love the Daily Inklings ideas posted on Normal Happenings and I really should participate more!

And now, without further ado…

Here’s my disturbing take on the nursery rhyme “There Was a Crooked Man”

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

He wasn’t literally crooked, at least in the beginning (though his sour face often twisted in disgust) but he saw everything and everyone else to be crooked, never supposing that his was the truly twisted view.

Nobody knew what turned him so bitter against the world- he just showed up in the town one day  with the rage already inside him- but for as long as anyone could recall he was known to be an angry recluse with a grudge against humanity at large.

His condition worsened steadily as he aged. His damaged worldview was paranoid, fearful, and angry. What started as bitter verbal vitriol eventually began to manifest in his physical mannerisms. His posture was affected, too- his back began to hunch and his shoulders bunched up tightly. He would sometimes be seen peeking out of his crumbling house, shrouded in shadow, craning his neck to look out at passersby and twisting his body as though to see them proper. His startling eyes would bulge and his mouth would hang open, revealing useless brown stubs of teeth on a face tight with silent fury and judgement. His face wasn’t seen often, but when it was, it was never forgotten.

His home became more and more dilapidated with time and his shoddy slap-dash repairs. Sometimes newcomers and visitors to the town would inquire sympathetically about the aging recluse in the patchy old house on the corner, but the town residents would dredge up abominable memories that swiftly dashed any potential for pitying him.

The only companion he had was a mouser with a sharp kink in her tail – the clever shorthair was fast and wily, and loved nothing more than catching mice to bring, still wriggling, to her master.

~~~

One fine and fateful day a young girl was selling cookies in her neighborhood without much luck. Her friends, who lived nearby, had already hit these familiar streets and taken the pocket change of her willing neighbors. These cookies are famously delicious, but nobody’s biting, she thought.

So she took her cookie wagon, and her business, elsewhere.

The new neighborhood was a ways away, and much more receptive to her Minty Crunchies. The little girl was feeling pretty good about her smart business choice. She moved briskly from home to home, feeling a lightness in her step, and in the red wagon she pulled behind her as the cookie boxes dwindled.

She was left with just six boxes when she noticed the sun was nearly done dawdling- it would soon be dark. She was about to turn around and head home when she saw a slender cat on the sidewalk a couple of houses down. The stripey cat looked curious, and very approachable. The girl couldn’t resist. She sidled up alongside the cat and gently stroked its fur. She noticed a bend in its tail and thought aw, poor kitty, did you get your tail caught in something? Did something fall on you?

The cat seemed to smile as it rubbed its face against the hem of the girl’s corduroys. It turned and padded languorously down a weedy, broken path towards the house on the corner, as if beckoning. The girl figured that this decrepit place was where the cat lived, and she felt a bit guilty for thinking I doubt they will have any money for cookies at least I can make sure the cat gets home, and who knows, maybe they’ll buy a box.

She grabbed a box of Minty Crunchies and skipped after the cat, who kept looking back at her invitingly as they approached the neglected old house.

 

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~~~

The girl’s parents had begun to worry- didn’t we tell her to be home before the sun was down? She knows better than this. 

As the minutes turned to an hour, and then another, they knew something was terribly wrong.

They called the houses of all of her friends. The mother circled their neighborhood in the car. The father’s frantic calls, echoing from the garden, grew more desperate every minute. The police were called. Two officers visited the house. They wrote down some things. Said they would drive around the neighborhood. They were calm, they obviously didn’t realize, this isn’t like her, this isn’t normal.

A neighbor offered to watch the house so the parents could search for themselves in the car. The mother insisted on a thorough search expanding outward from their neighborhood- maybe their daughter wandered somewhere new and got lost?

Their circle widened and widened as the father called out the passenger window into the darkness. The mother drove slowly but purposefully with a grim determination.

Isn’t this too far? the Father asked, why would she come all the way out here? We should turn back and go around our neighborhood again, then we-

Then they saw it. The red wagon, there on the sidewalk beside an old weedy path. Abandoned, along with 5 boxes of cookies. The little girl was nowhere in sight.

~~~

Jesus! the father cried. The mother screeched to a halt and flung open the car door, racing toward the wagon. The father joined her, shouting and sobbing his daughter’s name. They grabbed at eachother and followed their feet the only direction that made sense- down the overgrown path that was long forgotten before today.

The path led them to the steps of the dilapidated house. They raced to the top, hammering on the door. Nothing.

The father noticed a solitary box of cookies near his feet, and he made an inhuman sound. They beat on the door again. Still nothing.

Then the mother’s eyes met the eyes of another, peeking through the broken front window. Bulging, watery eyes, staring intensely. A crinkled nose and rotten mouth, open in a wide grimace.

The thing dangling in his arms couldn’t be their daughter. How could it be? Human bodies don’t bend that way.

CROOKED! the man screamed. ALL OF YOU!

UnSTUFF Your Life: 12 Tips from a Geek Who Read all the Books!

Books on organizing, tidying, and decluttering your home are quite popular right now. I’ve read a few such books in these last couple of years, and I’ve dedicated some pages in one of my journals where I keep track of tips and reflections on these books.

pic of my journal

I’m not chasing a minimalist or magazine sort of aesthetic- I have eclectic tastes and enjoy collecting books, figurines, and other stuff (often of clashing cute/creepy/many fandomed varieties!) However, I don’t enjoy clutter that is mindless, and I’ve learned a lot from the tidying and decluttering experts that I think can be incorporated into the lives of everyday people who are finding their stuff overwhelming. No matter the size of your space or your personal style, I think everyone can benefit from reconsidering their relationship with their things, casting out clutter, and celebrating the items that they truly love.

rillakkuma stuffies
These funny little faces give me joy every time I see them XD

Here I will share the tips that were most useful for me personally. At the end i’m including a booklist for anyone else who might be interested in reading up more in-depth on these concepts! Happy tidying 🙂 

Tips

  1. As Marie Kondo states in her bestselling books, If it doesn’t bring you joy, you might be better off without it. (Note: joy can come in many different forms, such as aesthetics, function, comfort, etc.) Another variation of this is: “If it’s not a ‘Hell Yes‘, it’s a NO!”
  2. Reflect that every time you observe or consider an item in your home that doesn’t bring you joy, you are wasting mental space and time on that item, which adds to mental clutter that can really annoy you over time!
  3. Acknowledge the privilege you have to be considering how to manage all the stuff you have- this is an opportunity to be thankful for the things you have even as you are working to lessen their hold on you.
  4. If you’re even considering whether you should let something go, that’s a sign that you probably should.
  5. Consider stores to be your own personal warehouses-if you have a hard time letting go of an item because it might become useful someday, remember if it’s that useful it will always be available later (and if it’s expensive you can likely borrow or rent it!)
  6. Think: if I lost this item or it broke, would I buy it again? If not, then you probably don’t need it or love it as much as you thought.
  7. If sentimental items are holding you back, consider taking a picture of the item. Remember, it’s the memories and intention that matter, not the item itself. 
  8. Storage solutions are not the answer- declutter everything and rely on built-in storage options in your house first. Storage solutions can often exacerbate the problem (hiding the clutter away but not truly tackling it)
  9. Don’t hold onto something just because of guilt– If it was expensive, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not what you need and you are wasting mental energy on it.
  10. If you have a hard time parting with items that were gifted to you, think: the person probably isn’t truly that emotionally invested, and likely wouldn’t want you to keep it if they knew it was not useful or wanted. 
  11. Consider if the item(s) can be donated, sold, gifted, passed down, or recycled. (One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!)
  12. Remember that someday you will be gone. Perhaps this sounds morbid, but it’s a practical consideration that can inspire you to consider what you really want in your home vs. what is there just because. Consider that every single item represents a potential judgement call that someone (a friend, family) will have to make in addressing the things you leave behind when you die. 

Books

These are the books that I’ve read so far on this topic. There are certainly more out there, so explore your options!

  • The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
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  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo 
Image result for marie kondo books
  • The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up: a Magical Story by Marie Kondo, illustrated by Yuko Uramoto
Image result for marie kondo books manga
  • Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
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  • The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson
Image result for the swedish art of death cleaning
  • Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary
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  • Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki
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  • The Art of Discarding: How to Get Rid of Clutter and Find Joy by Nagisa Tatsumi
  • Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living by Elizabeth Willard Thames
Image result for the frugalwoods book

Packing for Cosplaying at Cons: 15 Things To Bring

In a couple days I will be heading to Edmonton Comic Expo with my hubby! I’ll be cosplaying as Krul Tepes, and also presenting my panel There’s a Graphic Novel for Everyone (Yes, Even You!)

I’ve been packing everything up slowly but surely, and thought it would be fun to share some of my must-haves that I always bring to cons.

So, besides the obvious things to pack if you are traveling for a con (toiletries, your phone, your cosplay) here are some things that I always pack:

  1. Portable Steamer

I am such a big fan of steamers- they are so much easier and quicker for getting out wrinkles in everyday clothes or costumes than using an iron (which I have a tendency to accidentally burn my clothes with!!!)

The first con I ever went to, I hauled my gigantic stand-up steamer into the hotel room, and it was a pain in the butt, but I’ve since discovered portable steamers, and my life has never been the same. I bring this thing everywhere I travel!

2. Garment Bag

I bought this garment bag for one of my tap dance costumes, and it’s awesome for safely transporting my cosplay- I especially love the pockets in the front for storing little accessories and undergarments.

3. SFX bag

If you are doing a cosplay that involves any sort of blood, spirit gum, latex, etc. it’s good to have a separate bag for those. I always wrap up liquids because somehow they always manage to leak.

4. OH NOES pouch

My Mom bought this little pouch for me for my wedding, and it’s amazing. It has little mini versions of a bunch of items you might need in a pinch: breath drops, safety pins, deodorant, lip chap, floss, even itty-bitty containers of hairspray and clear nail polish!

A lot of cons have Cosplay Rescue/Repair booths now which may provide some similar items if you need a quick and simple fix or freshen up with your cosplay.

5. Bits and Pieces

Just to be on the safe side, I bring some extra scraps of material that match the ones I used for my cosplay- I haven’t had to use any yet, but I imagine I will be so glad I packed them if someday I get a sleeve caught on something, or bend over and hear a terrifying ripping sound!!!

6. Makeup Bag

I usually create a makeup bag specifically for the character I am portraying- it will include my basic everyday items (bb cream, powder, etc) as well as some more unique cosplay makeup like flesh colored lipstick, red eyeliner, and any other uncommon types needed for the look.

7. Hair and Wig Bag

Wigs are frustrating things, especially long ones. I’ve learned to wrap my wigs up gently, folding the hair strands into the bag. I also include detangler, a metal brush (metal won’t make your wig staticy) and gels and creams for styling, as well as wig caps, bobby pins, and other hair management stuff.

8. Tripod and Camera Accessories

Whether you are using your phone or a dedicated camera, it’s a good idea to bring a tripod, and maybe even a selfie stick- you might want to get pictures with groups who are cosplaying the same series as you, or you might find a really awesome photo location that makes you want to prop your camera up for the perfect shot.

9. Portable Charger

Portable chargers can be really useful if you will be relying on your phone for communication, transportation, information, or other ations. When I am traveling I often rely on google maps a lot to help me navigate, so I make sure to have a backup battery with me.

10. Catch-all bag

I’ve learned that, no matter how comprehensively I pack my travel bags, I like to have a giant bag to put all the smaller bags in- this is also useful if you are really busy and have to scramble to pack everything before checking out of your hotel at the end of your trip- just chuck everything into the bag and deal with it later! Winners stores as well as Ikea sell giant bags at the checkout counters that are pretty durable.

11. Shopping Bag

I always pack an extra bag to put any purchases in while i’m at the con- sometimes if you’re lucky you might get a nice bag when you check in to the con, but often bags are hard to come by and you might end up with lots of little bags from various vendors- it’s much easier to have a larger, sturdy bag to carry your goodies around in.

12. Water

A lot of cons have started offering free water from coolers, or maybe they have fountains, but some only have bottled water for sale, which is usually overpriced.

13. Ca$h Money $$$$$

While some vendors will likely have debit on demand, many will rely on cash at most cons. Right now I only have a partially ripped $20 and a few coins, but I’ll likely stop at my bank before leaving so I have cash on hand when I arrive and don’t get dinged with service fees at an ATM.

14. Business(?) Cards

Ok so these aren’t really business cards, but just cards with my social media handles on them. I usually run into a few like-minded people and it’s handy to have a card for sharing info to stay in touch!

15. Snacks

Sometimes at cons you get stuck waiting in a line for something for quite a while, or you are so active running around that you forget to take a break and eat something. In such cases, it’s very helpful to have a granola bar or some kind of snack to hold you over until you can get some proper food into your belly!

That’s all I can think of at the moment- did I miss anything? Happy con time!