Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goodbye and Hello

Don't You Bongo has been a great place for me to flex my writing muscles, share things I love, and present my opinions on (usually) trivial things. But it's time for a change.

My favorite things to write here are reviews, gift guides, and general endorsements of things that I love. So I'm taking that idea and making a whole new blog, one that will only feature the things that I think know that you truly need. It's called, conveniently enough, What You Need.

Go give it a look-see. I'm sure it will turn your life around.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If It's Not a Trilogy, It's Not YA Fiction

I've talked about how I have a total writer-crush on Kristin Cashore. She's the author of Graceling and Fire, two of my favorite YA books of all time. I really, really love her writing. When I found out that she's only had these two books published, I was at first really impressed (I don't think Graceling reads like a "first novel" at all), and then totally bummed (I wanted to read more and more of her writing.) If you didn't read my reviews, just re-read this paragraph and you'll see that I clearly want to get literary-married to Kristin Cashore.

Sidenote: I'm kind of digging the phrase "literary-married." Holy Moses, there are so many authors I want to literary-marry. I won't even begin to list them. That's another story for another time. 

I've been on the lookout for Kristin Cashore's next wonderful, genius book, and today I found it! Well, I found a mention of it. But that's all I need to get superpumped and proclaim to the world that THERE IS A GOD AND HE LOVES YA FICTION. 

I was browsing my library's catalog of eBooks, and I saw that they had Fire. But next to the title there was something that set my heart afire (Pun! Ha!). 


Now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense. Not because the story lends itself to a three-part series - it doesn't. The books aren't even a series, they're more like companion books, only being related because they take place in the The Seven Kingdoms (hence the trilogy title). No, it makes sense because that's just how books (mainly YA books) are published now. It seems like you can't get anything published without making it have at least three volumes. I picture a YA author submitting a manuscript and the publisher saying, "Great! What do you have planned for the next two?" One thing I really like about The Seven Kingdoms series (still getting used to calling it that) is that each of the books can stand alone and still be completely understandable and enjoyable.  

The third book will be called Bitterblue, after a character readers will remember from Graceling. The tentative release date that I found is June 2012, but there's hardly any info out there. It's not even on Amazon, and we all know Amazon list books WAY before their release date. Even though there's very little information available about Bitterblue (at least that I could find), and a frequently delayed, tentative release date, the book already has a GoodReads page. And it has reviews
At first I was upset that people were criticizing what will be in the book when they haven't even read it. It may not even be finished, for all we know. But I've had a change of heart, realizing that these people are just fans that want to talk about the books they love. Look, I'm unashamed about my love for the Twilight series, but I can go on and on about how I hated Breaking Dawn and consider it fan fiction, and how the movies are comically ridiculous and LAME. Few people love every aspect of something they're a fan of, and that's ok. Although the only complaint I can think of about the Seven Kingdoms series is that it's 3 books instead of 20.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'd Still Be Watching Entourage If There Was A Character Named Johnny KDrama

As you may have read, I recently fell in love with KDrama after watching Boys Over Flowers. I watched all 25 episodes AND the short epilogues showing the F4 five years after the end of the series. I was truly obsessed with the ridiculosity of this television masterpiece. I was kind of sad when I reached the end of the series, and I found myself thinking, "Well, what do I do with my life now?"

Answer: Watch more Korean Dramas. 

There were so many to choose from, but I chose Playful Kiss because 1) The actor (and boybander) that played Ji Hoo in BOF was the lead (It's always nice to see a familiar face) and 2) It was available on Netflix, so I wouldn't have to watch commercials (Hulu has a huge collection of KDramas, but they have ads galore). 

Playful Kiss centers on the relationship between Oh Ha Ni and Baek Seung Jo. They go to school together, but while Seung Jo is a perfect student and the star of the school, Ha Ni is in the lowest class possible. Apparently in Korean schools they will divide classes by the students' intelligence, so the smartest kids are in class 1, and the dumbest kids are in class 7, with all others falling inbetween in classes 2-6. 

Anyway, Ha Ni has been in love with Seung Jo since their freshman year of high school. Seung Jo rejects her because she's stupid. Really. All characters in the show feel perfectly comfortable mentioning how unintelligent Oh Ha Ni is. And they do this all the time. At one point she writes a love letter to Seung Jo, and he returns it with grammar corrections and a D- grade. 

Ha Ni's father owns a noodle shop, and his business becomes successful enough that they can move into a nice new house. Sadly, the house was not constructed very well, and it is the only building to collapse during a 0.2 earthquake. One of Papa Oh's old friends sees the tragedy on the news and invites  Ha Ni and her father to come live with his family while their house is being rebuilt. They agree, and when Ha Ni arrives she discovers that one of the family's sons is Seung Jo. The basic premise is: She loves him, he hates her, they live together, antics ensue. 

This show was (at least in the first half of the series) a lot more comedic than Boys Over Flowers. There are a lot of kooky characters, including Seung Jo's mother who dresses in disguises so that she can spy on her son and Ha Ni in hopes that they will fall in love. 

But, just like Boys Over Flowers, the show was packed full of crazy things that I didn't really understand (or just couldn't believe were actually happening), and loved even more because of it. 

At one point Ha Ni has her shoe stolen by a flasher, who will only give her the shoe back if she keeps her eyes open while he flashes her. Seung Jo shows up in the nick of time and turns her around, but we still get to see the flasher in all his glory. The best part is that his chest hair is shaved into a heart. 

I don't understand why, but at the end of every episode, there is a scene from that episode depicted in a teddy-bear diorama. It always reminds me of the teddy-bears-in-Rome display that was in the Las Vegas FAO Schwarz window. Anyway, they clearly put a lot of detail into these - even the bear has a chest hair heart! 

Ha Ni may have an unrequited love for Seung Jo, but she has her own unrequited lover in Bong Joon Gu. Or as I call him, Korean Danny Zuko.

One of the show's sponsors is "Hotdog Coffee." I found this funny after imagining cut up hot dogs floating in a bowl of coffee, but they go there in the show and it's just a place to get hot dogs. And I guess coffee. 

Some people are really into hot dogs. 

Speaking of food, Koreans have, in my opinion, an odd view of eating. Food is clearly important, and when anyone serves food they tell everyone to "Eat it all!" or "Eat a lot!" I get that this may just be a way of telling them to enjoy the food, but they seem really insistent on forcing food on people.  On the other hand they are also concerned with staying thin and healthy, as evidenced by this little girl who refuses a snack (a snack!).

At least they keep their food in the most AWESOME refrigerator I have EVER SEEN. 

Just in case you didn't believe me when I said that people take every chance to tell Ha Ni that she's stupid and ugly, this is what Seung Jo says to Ha Ni ON THEIR HONEYMOON. Oh, spoiler alert, they get married. And Seung Jo still treats her like shit. It's like a one-way Pride and Prejudice with a less happy ending.

Overall, I give Playful Kiss a B-. It was entertaining at first, but once the characters went to college it lost that slapstick vibe that made me like it in the first place. I'll be honest with you - I was pretty bored near the end of the series. But I'm a completist and I wanted to make sure I didn't miss any blog-worthy stuff. See what I go through for you?

One thing to note: A lot of the reviews on Netflix talk about how this show is anti-feminist because Ha Ni is shown to be completely dependent on Seung Jo, even though he's horrible to her. She's also constantly called stupid and unattractive. I call bullshit on this theory, mainly because in the same show that shows Ha Ni, a woman, in this negative light, we have Joon Gu, who is basically a male Ha Ni. Ha Ni decides to be a nurse because Seung Jo wants to be a doctor, but Joon Gu decides to train as a chef under Ha Ni's father solely to be close to Ha Ni and make her fall in love with him. So clearly male and female characters in Playful Kiss are depicted as equally stalker-ish.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Eventually, There Will Be A Pinterest Rehab Program

Have you read The Tipping Point? When I read it, I realized I'm a Maven. And, according to Malcolm Gladwell, as a Maven it is my job (or more like something I force on people) to share with the world all the great things I discover. I love doing this, as you can probably tell from my annual gift guides and, if you know me personally, my habit of telling you about the latest, greatest thing I've found out about. 

One of my obsessions from the past six months or so is Pinterest. If you're not familiar with Pinterest, it's a site where you can "pin" things you like all over the internet, and then post them to your Pinterest account, which is then shared with the Pinterest community. Other users can then see what's being posted and, if they like it too, "repin" it to their own boards. Pinterest is great for Mavens because they can show off all their latest discoveries, and it's great for everyone else because IT'S SO GOSHDARNED ADDICTIVE.

Seriously. I pin shit all over the internets.

When you're all up on Pinterest as much as I am, you start to see the patterns that develop among pinners. There are a few main themes that show up again and again...

Those who pin future wedding plans, but are not engaged, and sometimes don't seem to have a significant other in the first place. (I fantasy-decorate my future house, so maybe I shouldn't judge, but to me this not-real-wedding stuff seems straight up weird.)

Homemade versions of foods you could easily buy at the fucking grocery store. Sometimes they're trying to use less sugar, or make it vegan, but most of the time they are just masochists with a whole lot of time on their hands. Who is this person, making homemade Snickers bars? WHO?!

Outfit mood boards. I actually really like this idea, and was always like, "Where do they find these?!" Then after months of seeing them, I got some smarts and actually clicked on one, and found out they make them on Polyvore. Now I'm addicted to that, too. 

There are many other subjects heavily represented (like, say, pictures of your boyfriends), but the ones that actually drives me absolutely batshit crazy are the pro-ana, obsessive workout, body slamming "motivational" pins. 

That last one really gets me, and it's a common trend: Using pictures of celebrities and then smacking some self-hating message on it. As though Emily from Pretty Little Liars is like, "Hey, Cupcake Breath! Don't be a Hefty Hanna!" 

Listen, I'm all for being healthy and taking care of your body, but I'm wholly against belittling yourself into becoming motivated to do so. I have yet to see an inspirational message like, "You're so happy after a run!" or, "It's a gorgeous day! Go for a walk!" 

So, I highly recommend you start using Pinterest. But remember: When a pin encourages you to throw up your homemade Nutella, just say NO FUCKING WAY. 

And don't forget to send me a save the date for your fake wedding. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In Case You Need A Hero Break

I often take a Hero break during the day. As we all know, life is sometimes difficult and frustrating. It's nice to look at an adorable dog for a minute and remember the good things in life. Hero is definitely a good thing.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's So Ridiculous And Wonderful I Can't Come Up With A Worthy Title

I've recently gotten totally sucked into the world of KDrama, specifically Boys Over Flowers. I had heard of KDrama before - it's gaining more and more popularity internationally - but I wasn't really interested in taking part in the trend. I have an admitted addiction to teen/20something-centric, soapy TV shows, which many KDramas are, but I wasn't sure Korean shows could live up to the scandalous, melodramatic story lines I crave. But I saw Boys Over Flowers was now on Netflix Instant and I decided to give it a shot.

Oh. My. God. Koreans know their melodrama. AND HOW.

I thought the cultural differences between America and Korea would make KDrama difficult to get sucked in to, but in fact, those differences are the things I'm kvelling over the most. Allow me to share my obsession with you.

Boys Over Flowers has everything I want in a melodrama. There's a Cinderella story, a love triangle, forbidden romances, crazy plot twists (including multiple kidnappings), and good looking people. The main protagonist is Geum Jan Di, the lower-class daughter of a dry cleaner. Her adversaries (but eventual friends) and the other protagonists are F4, or the Flower 4 (Why they are called The Flower 4 is never explained. I think if I were Korean I would understand. Sadly, I am white and I don't get it). They are all very powerful and popular. When the F4 walk down the street, girls run after them crying like they're The Beatles.
Each episode is a little over an hour long, and they cram so much complicated story into that 63 or so minutes that it feels like you just watched a miniseries. You know how most shows have an A, B, and sometimes C storyline? This show has storylines A through G. Plus, the stories are CRAZY.

One thing this KDrama is missing is sex. There's not really even kissing. They kiss like cartoons, where they put their closed mouths together and don't move. Why is this? I don't know. I haven't googled it yet. Even without hot smooching action, I've become completely invested in Jan Di and Jun Pyo's love story. Jun Pyo essentially kidnaps Jan Di multiple times, and he's a whiny, spoiled baby, yet I want them to be in love and together forever. Jun Pyo is basically a whinier Logan Echolls - he's a jerk, but he has a sensitive side that he only shows Jan Di. But they've only kissed (cartoon kissed) like five times over the course of over 20 episodes. At one point Jun Pyo shows up at Jan Di's house, spends the night sleeping on the floor with her whole family, then goes to the public bathhouse with her dad and brother. That's pretty up close and personal considering at that point he hadn't even kissed her ONCE.
Jan Di has odd courtship methods as well. She makes multiple presents for Jun Pyo, and all of them are some depiction of his face. HIS FACE.
Maybe these two things are on the up and up in Korea. I admittedly know nothing about Korean culture.  Since I've never watched any other KDramas, I frequently have no idea whether this show is being normal or wackadoo. It's also interesting that the main feature that makes Jan Di's creations resemble Jun Pyo is the curly hair. They make a big deal about his curly hair, but to me it looks like they curled his hair with a curling iron and didn't bother to shake out the curls to make them look remotely natural. Even so, he's still super attractive (and apparently a Ghetto Hunk).

There's also a great scene where Yi Jung comforts/flirts with Ga Eul by (completely out of the blue, mind you) going onstage at a nightclub and playing a smooth jazz saxophone solo. Naturally this made me do a spit-take, fall over, and proceed to lose my mind. This has to be universally cornball, no matter what country you're from, right?
So three members of F4 have love interests (Ji Hoo is also in love with Jan Di, because no drama is complete without a love triangle), but what about the fourth member, Woo Bin? He has no storyline, really. BUT he has a habit of using English words like "Yo" and "bro" in a pretty thick accent. (This video calls it Engrish, but since he's pronouncing everything properly I have to disagree with them.)It always sounds odd and out of place and I cannot possibly get enough of it.

Another thing that I find a bit confusing is the sexual orientation of the "master" of the porridge shop Jan Di and Ga Eul work in. Every time I see him I think, "Is he supposed to be a kooky gay guy, or is he just part of some cultural subset that to me seems kinda gay?" Later in the series he calls himself a "flower boy" and hits on Ji Hoo, so I'm pretty sure he's straight up gay.
And really, it's the hetero F4 boys that dress like high fashion homosexuals.
Oh, does that background look familiar? It's because it's an EXACT replica of The Venetian in Las Vegas. I knew there was a Venetian in Macau, but I was not prepared for this. This totally weirded me out at first, but really, why wouldn't they just build the same resort on the other side of the world? That's just good business.

Speaking of things that are exactly the same, the soundtrack of the show is five songs that they use over and over again. They get stuck in your head so fast that before you know it you're downloading all the songs and listening to them and singing along, even though you only know the few words in each song that are in English.

Not that I did that or anything.

At least one of the songs is performed by SS501, a Korean boy band fronted by Kim Hyun Joong, who plays Ji Hoo. That's right, the Korean Justin Timberlake is one of the F4. I have no idea if that's a valid comparison, but in my imagination it totally is. Naturally, I looked into SS501, and what I found was almost as fantastic as Boys Over Flowers itself. SS501 is pronounced "double S five oh one" and stands for Super Star, Singer, and the five band members uniting as one. And that's just scratching the surface. The SS501 Wikipedia page is so full of fantastic facts, I could write a whole post on it alone. (Like how they have a music video that is an exact reenactment of The Backstreet Boys' "As Long As You Love Me" video.)

If you watch the show (which obviously you should), you'll soon realize that I'm barely scratching the surface with these observations. So many things happen in just one episode, and this long-ass post is my edited version. I didn't even mention the (comically) elaborate plot to kidnap Jan Di, or how the ShinHwa students once knocked Jan Di off her bike and then set her bike on fire. I only have three episodes of the show left, and I'm already in mourning. But I guess that just means that I'll have to move on to the next KDrama, and you can bet if it's as bananas as Boys Over Flowers I'm not going to be able to shut up about it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gotta G-g-g-get That That That

It's hot. It's so hot that I think I may have caused water damage to my phone by holding it in my hand while walking outside. Because of the sweatiness. Because I am a sweatmonster.

I've managed to make my bedroom a tolerable temperature by blasting the A/C and running both a ceiling fan and a table fan. The table fan is sitting on my desk, blowing across the room to circulate some air, but I've started sitting at my desk (less than a foot away from the fan) and letting it bombard my face with icy coolness until my eyes dry out.  Desperate times, you guys, desperate times.

So I'm relatively cool and comfortable, but I can't hear a fucking thing because this fan is louder than anything. Make a "Shhhhhh" noise as loud as you can. Now imagine it twice as loud. See, you may be doing what I ask, but I can't hear you because OH MY GOD THIS FAN. Also because you and I are in completely different places, but I consider that irrelevant.

Everybody knows the best thing to do when the outside is like the surface of the sun (covered in lava and then set on fire) is watch movies and TV on your laptop. But with that damned fan running how can you or I hear any sound coming from your tiny laptop speakers? We can't. And that's why we need Boom.
Boom is an app available for Macs that significantly improves your computer's sound volume and quality. I downloaded the weeklong trial, but I bought the full app after only one day of using it - it was that great. The price seems to fluctuate (the listed regular price is $8.99, when I look at the site now it's $6.99, and I bought it a few weeks ago for $4.99), but at any price it's worth it. I initially bought the app so I could watch volume-challenged videos without needing to wear headphones, but now I run the app constantly. You can customize the settings, but I'm not too savvy or particular about my sound (I just want to hear it). If you want the app to be louder for music than movies, or whatever, you can set that up pretty easily.

PS: I have no ulterior motive for convincing you to buy Boom. It has exponentially improved my quality of life  and I want to tell everyone about it. That's not to say that I would turn down any compensation for my glowing review, I'm just not getting money or a Boom USB drive and a set of Boom golfballs.

PPS: I'd also like to add that I found out about this amazing app from the Tumblr Netflix Movies That Don't Suck, which is a great resource when you're looking for a non-shitty movie to stream.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An Adorable Murderer

Hero got a new toy yesterday. He can't have any toys that have stuffing or are easily ripped apart. This is because his favorite game is "murder." Seriously, he's a maniac. I have to get him toys made for labradors and mastiffs. He weighs less than some cats, assuming that there are cats that weigh more than 25 pounds.

Small dogs like Hero can't play with tennis balls or frisbees too easily. They're pretty much expected to play with stuffed animals. There are all these great toys like a stuffed iPhone (sorry, iBone), or a Mr. Hanky (sorry again, Mr. Poops), you know, toys you wouldn't mind having strewn across your house. But NO. Since I don't want my darling doggie to die of a belly full of fluff, I have to get him weasels.

What is a weasel, you ask?
It's a stuffing-free toy that comes in many delightful breeds such as skunk (shown above), fox, pheasant, raccoon, and sometimes an unidentifiable creature. Hero once had a toy that fell in this last category, and I started calling it the weasel. The name stuck and now each new stuffing-free furry tube sock toy is known as a weasel. Even when it's clearly an elephant.

They get pretty disgusting, these weasels. That one in the picture? That's brand new. It hasn't yet been tainted by dog saliva, been dragged across the floor, or been murdered countless times. And even in mint condition, it still looks pretty nasty. It's only downhill from there.

But you guys, Hero loves weasels. And I love Hero. So weasels he shall have.

He was due for a fresh victim, and my mom happened to find some on sale (oh yeah, they cost like, $10 each. It doesn't even have stuffing!). Hero got a brand new "duck" weasel, which he immediately massacred while I snuck the old weasel into the trash. He's so enamored with this new toy, it's really pretty cute. He takes it everywhere, and when he's not trying to tear it to shreds he's lovingly cuddling it while he sleeps. It seems like every time I turn around there's Hero canoodling with his latest victim.
This is how I found the two of them asleep on my bed yesterday. I reached out to give Hero a little pet, and he pulled his paws in closer and hugged that weasel tight to his chest. He didn't even wake up, he just snuggled in with his toy and dreamt of all the fun they would have. It was so sweet, I bet just seeing it could have cured terrible diseases. If Helen Keller was near Hero when he hugged his weasel it would fix all that shit she had going on - it was that magical.

Then today I'm sitting in the living room watching Pretty Little Liars, and I turn around to see that Hero has made himself a little love nest.
He's lying on a pillow, using his weasel as a pillow for his head! Sometimes he's so cute I kind of can't stand it. And that? Right up there? That's why I can't stop buying him gross weasely toys, or letting him occasionally stage a weasel genocide all over my house.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Favorite of All The Bald Contestants on The Voice

I don't know how I ended up being totally sucked into The Voice. It doesn't make sense, considering I've never really been into any reality competition shows outside of Project Runway, Ru Paul's Drag Race, and The Mole (BTW, I'm ready for a reboot of The Mole. I assume the four other people who watched it are too).

So while I don't know why I started watching The Voice in the first place, but I'm so glad I did, because it became one of my latest obsessions. I've been wanting to spread the good word about The Voice, and now that we know who the winner is, I think it's time I shared what I think was the best* part about the show: Beverly McClellan
*It's probably a tie for "The Best" between Beverly and Blake Shelton. I had no idea who he was before the show, and now I think he's one of the best people ever. When he said that Dia was part of his family my hand shot up and I was like, "TEARS."

Beverly stole my heart from her very first performance during the whiplash-chair auditions. I lurved the look on Christina Aguilera's face when her chair turned around and there was a 40-something tattooed lesbian with a shaved head. The point of The Voice was that at first contestants were judged only on their vocal ability, but the judges (Christina most of all) would always, ALWAYS comment on how they wished they had turned around for a good looking person and how they were surprised when they chose a person who was not what they expected. Even though I loved judging Christina's judgements, I was first drawn to Beverly because of her voice.

The nice thing about The Voice is that there were no bad singers on the show, ever. The initial auditions took place off camera until there was a group of "some of the best singers in the country" who would then audition for the judges. This meant that even those who weren't chosen by any judge were still fun to listen to, and got nice feedback from the judges about how they could improve (or hear about how the judges wish they had turned around because the singer turned out to be good looking).

So Beverly's voice was amazing, and she was put on Christina's team because of it. The real thing that made me become a total Beverly fan, though, was her absolute joy in performing. Seriously, never has anyone (anyone!) made performing on stage look so easy and so fun. Watching Beverly perform, I would find myself thinking, "Well, I want to do that! Why am I not doing that?" Only to snap back into reality and realize that what Beverly makes look so easy is most definitely NOT easy, and I'm jealous that she's clearly having THE MOST FUN EVER HAD BY ANY PERSON.

This is my favorite performance of Beverly's, and I love it for so many reasons. I love Melissa Etheridge, I love that Beverly said this was as close as she'd get to wearing a dress, I love that you can see just how much she loves performing, but most of all, during this performance she was SICK and was starting to lose her voice, but she still knocks it out of the park. WHAT.

For the finale performances each artist was given an original song to sing, and Beverly's was the only one that I actually wanted to listen to again. I think it's partly because I liked the song, but mostly because I LOVED watching her perform it. If it were possible for Beverly to have even more fun performing, she did during the finale. Her rendition of "Beautiful" with Christina was totally tear-worthy, because it finally seemed like Christina was actually a fan of Beverly's, and they were singing about acceptance and loving yourself just as you are and well now I'm just tearing up all over again.

I loved watching The Voice's premiere season, and I'll probably watch season two, but I'm not sure anyone can live up to Beverly McClellan's enthusiasm, talent, and sheer joy at sharing her gift with others. I'll leave you with an interview Beverly did before tonight's finale that made my heart grinch. I was going to point out the highlights, but the whole thing is great. BEVERLY is great, and I can't wait to buy her album.