Friday, August 31, 2012

Countless Characters and Plotting Princes(ses)

A few weeks ago, my husband and I read Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. He read the entire thing out loud to me while I would nurse Sophie--at 20-50 minutes 5-7 times a day, it took us a little over a week to get through the whole book. I think my husband found it tedious at times. I ate the whole thing up. In my most recent post on Jane Austin I mentioned that I adore character driven stories. I'm also a real sucker for political dramas--I'll probably mention this again in my review of Code Geass. Game of Thrones's entire existence is the embodiment of political drama; needless to say, I was in my element.

The plot was complicated primarily because of the number of characters. I'm not sure I could even give a basic summary without writing pages describing the characters involved because everyone and everything that happens is so well intertwined. I'm going to share some of my favorite characters and moments for those familiar with the story. For those who aren't... well... go fix that. =P Read it. It is fairly well written. The book may have a humongous cast of characters, but they're all very unique. In fact, that is one of my favorite aspects of this story. Each character feels human in their own way. No one in this world is perfect.

My favorite characters were Daenerys and Jon Snow. I also really liked Arya's water dancer instructor (even though he was a very minor character). My husband and I both generally enjoyed Tyrion's chapters--those were usually worth a couple of good laughs, and if you can't tell yet, that's one of our favorite things to do. Neither of us really cared a whole lot for Sansa's chapters; we both thought she was a bit of a airhead.

My most favorite chapter in the whole book belonged to Catelyn--the one near the end where she goes to negotiate with Waldor Frey. I think a large part of this is due to my husband's brilliance when reading aloud. He read Frey's dialogue with a Grandpa Simpson style voice. If I could figure out how to pull it off, I'd seriously love to post an excerpt from that chapter read by him here. It had me in absolute stitches.

We just heard from the library that book 2 is in, and I'm excited about getting to read it. I'm really looking forward to seeing where things go. There were hints of a much broader entity (person or group or whatever, not sure) manipulating things behind the scenes that no one person is aware of. I am glad for that though. Initially Martin seemed to be setting the Lanisters up to be the bad guys, but they were coming across as almost cliche in their villainy. They may be clever and vicious and capable of creating trouble and suffering for the good guys (early on in the book, it looked like the Starks would take this role), but I think it would have left the story a little flat. Thankfully it has moved beyond that. I love stories like this where there are no real clear good or bad guys.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Chi: Addictively Cute

This week's review... you know, when I started this blog, I thought I'd maybe write the occasional review; I never intended them to become weekly. I planned on writing reviews after I watched, read, or played something I felt like sharing about. The weird thing is, I really have been watching this much anime lately. It really isn't normal for me. There will come a point--probably in the next month or so where I will catch up with all the stuff I have to review and I can go back to my usual unplanned randomness.

XD Alright, I'm finished with that tangent. Back to today's topic.

This week's review is about an anime called Chi's Sweet Home. I found this anime randomly poking around Crunchyroll while feeding Sophie one afternoon. The first thing to note about the episodes is that they are short. Very short. Each one is 2:54, so less than 3 minutes. There are a little over 100 episodes, and although that sounds like a lot, that's only a little over 5 hours. To put that in perspective, that's only about 60% of the length of most 26-episode series (don't quote me on that math; it's very approximate. =P).

The second thing to note about Chi's Sweet Home is that's cute, almost sickeningly so. Each 3 minute episodes follows a small segment of the life a a little gray kitten, Chi. The episodes are roughly sequential. Things that happen in one episode will sometimes be referenced in later episodes, but the connections are loose. I wouldn't say there is much of an overarching plot, so you could really pick the series up at any episode. The story, such as it is, is told from Chi's perspective, which means the series is characterized by short, fairly spastic episodes filled with an obscene amount cuteness. You'd think I would have found this irritating. Far from it. I have found this show strangely addictive. I turn it on, and it's like I can't stop clicking "next" at the end of each episode. My kids and I have worked through about 85 episodes as of this afternoon. @_@ I find Chi funny--maybe because she reminds me of a certain gray kitten (well not kitten anymore) we have named Kisa. Maybe it's just because I'm a cat owner, and at some point in time, one of our cats has behaved much like Chi does. In any case, if you're ever looking for something light-hearted and can handle the cute-factor, then this would be a good series to pick up. =)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Now For Something Different

It's been a little while since I've gone into any detail on any of my current projects. I've also never posted anything about quilting here--probably because I haven't actually done any quilting since several years before I started this blog. XD Clearly that's been an oversight on my part. Anyone who follows me here, on Twitter, on Facebook, or wherever should know that I usually only feel content when I'm buried under more projects than I can possibly handle. If quilting was missing from my list of projects, it wasn't from any sane thought on my part, I promise.

This is my current quilting project:
For those of you unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy game series, this is a moogle. When I drew this particular moogle, I was referencing Mog from Final Fantasy VI. This was one of many things where I declared that it would be the most awesomest thing ever if I made a quilt with a moogle on it, and not just a moogle appliqued on it, but a moogle built into the quilt itself. My husband gave me that look (I get it a lot, but that should be no surprise). I squeed, made a pattern, bought fabric, cut up fabric, and assembled the quilt face. All that took only about 2 weeks (surprisingly... of course, I wasn't doing much else during those 2 weeks). Then I added the batting and the back (plain solid black). Then, I packed it in a box and we moved. This was back in the summer of 2010. It stayed in a box until 3 moves and a few months later when I thought, OMG wouldn't it be the most awesomest thing ever if I actually finished that quilt. XD The above picture is the quilt spread out on the floor of the hallway outside my Craft Room. It is big enough to fit a twin-size bed.

Now, onto the details. Most of you are familiar with excited fangirlish type squeals so I don't need to go into the squee-ing part. =P For the pattern, I used an existing quilt pattern (that I have since lost and no longer remember the name of... failsauce)--the same pattern I'd used to make a quilt for my 3rd son's crib only made larger. Normally the next step is to select fabric, cut said fabric, and  assemble the cut fabric into blocks. Then you would lay out those blocks and arrange them until happy with the overall effect. In this case, I started by sketching my moogle on graph paper with lines marked off to represent the size of the quilt I intended to make. I then divided the graph paper into blocks and assigned a specific block to each space--this particular pattern had 3 different block designs. Next I cut squares out of poster board measured to the size of the block. Then I transferred my moogle sketch onto the blocks, cut the blocks and labeled which side belonged to the moogle and which side belonged to the background. After all that, I determined how much of each color fabric I'd need and approximately how many different prints I wanted for each color. Only then did I actually go to the fabric store and buy the fabric. I think the most difficult part was finding white printed fabric that would still look white when pieced into the quilt and also look distinct from the other pieces of white fabric in the quilt. I chose a deep primary green for the background because I thought it went well with the whites, golds, and reds I was using for the moogle and would really make the moogle stand out.

The next big thing with this quilt was piecing together all the squares. I designed the quilt so that the overall pattern (at least as much as I possibly could) of each block stayed continuous.
If you look at the lines I drew on the quilt above, you can see the blocks, and where I tried to keep the pattern the same even when I changed colors. For me, this was the really fun part of the project.

Right now, all that I really have left to do is quilting. The thing is way too big to run through my poor little old sewing machine, so I am hand-quilting the whole thing. Most of the quilting is going to be stitching in the outline of the moogle and the lines for his arms and legs and such. In the green background, I am going to stitch a leaf pattern--keeping it fairly simple. Below is a picture of one of the quilted leaves and a picture of where I'm quilting right now.

This has overall been a fun project. I look forward to seeing it finished. I am considering making more of those, although much smaller. I'd love to do a Full Metal Alchemist one. A lot will depend on interest in these. =)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Samurai Kings

You may have noticed that I've been watching a lot more anime than usual lately--evident by the increased number of anime reviews (if you can really call them that) I've been posting. This is because I like either reading or watching something while I'm feeding Sophie. There will be more of this, I'm sure, in the weeks and months to come. At the very lease look for Code Geass, Durarara, Game of Thrones (the book, not HBO series), and Tsubasa Chronicles (2nd season). On that note, I'm always open to suggestions for new things to watch (if it's on Crunchyroll, that's a plus).

Anyways, onto today's topic. A few weeks ago now, I borrowed a series from my best friend and the supplier for most of the anime I get to watch (that's not on Cruchyroll), called Sengoku Basara, or Samurai Kings. This anime is very much like watching one of the Dynasty Warriors games only much more ridiculous. In fact, I believe there is a game much like that based off of this anime; believe me, it wouldn't be a stretch. It's been at least 2 weeks since we finished this series, and I'm still trying to decide whether I liked it or was horrified by it. XD I have developed a somewhat morbid fascination with this series; I even kind of want to draw it. I might draw it anyways, simply in the name of procrastinating on other stuff that I should be trying to finish (I could always use another project, right?).

The plot is mediocre, at best. It's one of many anime that take place in a vaguely historical setting where forces of good (in this case overpowered samurai and a couple of ninjas) take on the ever popular villain Oda Nobunaga. That is hardly an original story there. The story follows several factions each led by a named samurai lord. As in most of these stories the soldiers under the leaders are hardly worth mentioning and die by the thousands (remember that Dynasty Warriors reference). The named characters are all significantly overpowered compared to the average soldiers so much that a single blow from their sword (or spear or scythe or whatever weapon they wield) sends soldiers flying by the dozens--admittedly this was pretty funny the first couple of times it happened. Again, remember the Dynasty Warriors reference. Watching the battles in Sengoku Basara is pretty much like watching that game.

So, what makes this anime worth watching? I would say it's the characters. Their fighting powers are over the top, and they all have personalities to match. The storytelling style used in this anime is also rather over the top. It's really hard to describe, honestly. This series takes everything at least one step further. For instance, why have your samurai lord ride just a plain old horse? Give that horse armor... but even that's too mundane. Instead of reins, attach motorcycle style handlebars and that's more like it. XD I'm still not sure if I should be frightened or amused. It's worth a laugh or two at the very least; I'd recommend catching the first episode or so for that reason alone.