Where’s My Vacation?

Last weekend, I took my niece and nephew to see Toy Story 4 and pizzas afterward. It was kind of a reward for the kids and for myself too, because I’ve been too busy to take them on our annual trip, and with less than a month left before the new semester, it looks like I’m not going to have the time after all. I know, I know, it’s totally a #firstworldproblem, not having a vacation. At least it was nice to have one day when I didn’t have to worry about scripts or books or deadlines. And even if I’m not on vacation, I could still dress like I was!

As for the movie – I enjoyed it but found it rather sad. Not even sad in a moving way like Toy Story 3; just sad. Like, the entire Toy Story franchise has always been about how a toy should always be there for their kid, but this… (mild spoiler) it didn’t go against that theme exactly, it just took it in a different direction that I’m not sure I like. Toy Story 3 is the perfect ending already, they should’ve stopped at that. But I guess the calling of the $$$ is too strong to resist, even for Pixar.

Weekly Capsule 33.1 & Book Review: Apocalypse Now Now

white button-up boyfriend jeans black oxfords by 14 shades of grey

I try to keep a schedule for the book reviews, but the books I read last month are either not interesting enough, or do not lend themselves well to any sartorial interpretation, so the review has to wait until now, when I finally read something that I can talk about (it doesn’t necessarily mean that I like it though – more on that in a minute). And that book is “Apocalypse Now Now” by Charlie Human.

I first heard about this when I learned that the writer of District 9 is adapting it. It’s a YA fantasy novel set in Cape Town and described as “Tarantino meets Gaiman”, so naturally I was interested. The main character, Baxter, is a self-proclaimed teenage Machiavelli, a dealer of pornography and the leader of his gang, the Spider. He is willing to do anything necessary to ensure that the Spider survives the brutal world of high school, but this all changes when his girlfriend, Esme, disappears. Soon Baxter finds himself teaming up with a supernatural bounty hunter, Jackson Ronin, as they make their way through the underworld of Cape Town to bring Esme back and prevent the apocalypse along the way.

I myself have wanted to write an urban fantasy version of the Orpheus myth, so this is right up my alley. The setting is unique, and Baxter promises to be a great anti-hero. However, I was disappointed. The supernatural world is a bit of a mess – I’m not familiar with Afrikaan myths, but here it seems the author just dumps in random elements and adds some sex and violence on top of them. I don’t like Baxter either. He talks a lot about what a manipulative bastard he is and we don’t actually see much of that on display.

What annoys me the most, though, is how Esme is treated. She is a prime example of the “fridged girlfriend” trope – she is harmed to motivate Baxter, and then that storyline (mild spoiler) is hastily and lazily resolved to make way for Baxter’s heroic quest. I don’t mind this trope when it’s done well (Laura in American Gods comes to mind), but Esme is so one-dimensional (her sole defining trait is that she is a klepto, which, OMG, so edgy) and Baxter’s proclamation of love for her is so unconvincing (because what do they have in common?) that it makes me really angry. I mean, it’s the 21st century. There is no excuse to write a female character like that.

2/5 stars, and that’s only because I think it would make a better comic book than a novel.

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As for the outfit, I thought long and hard about how best to interpret the book, and finally settled on something Baxter might wear, like on the book’s covers – the shirt and oxfords are to mimic his school uniform, the jeans are to add some edge, the glasses are obvious, and the necklace is to represent the Knowing Eye, an important plot point. It’s simple, but I like it.

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Shirt: local shop, Jeans: Zara, Oxfords: Vagabond, Necklace: Lia Sophia

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

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If I have to describe this using books I’ve read, I would say it’s Cory Doctorov’s Little Brother meets Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. That may sound weird, but considering this book is about a group of nerds using 21st century technology to uncover the truth behind a centuries-old book cult, that’s the closest comparison I can find for it.

The beginning of the book is awesome. It starts when Clay, our narrator, loses his job as a web designer due to the recession, so he applies for a job as a night clerk at a 24-hour bookstore just to have something to do. His interest is soon piqued by the store’s strange clientele, and using his skills (or, rather, borrowing his friends’ skills) to look into it, Clay gets much more than he expected.

blue gingham shirt by 14 shades of grey

The thing is, this secret of the bookstore only takes up a third of the book. Once this secret is uncovered, the story gets a bit less awesome. There is no sense of urgency anymore. This is unlike in Little Brother where the characters have to fight for their privacy and even their lives, or in The Shadow of the Wind where the main secret also threatens a lot of lives. Here, the worst thing that can happen if Clay and his friends fail in their quest is, to avoid spoiling it, disappointment. That’s it. Some people may lose their legacy, but nothing worse will happen. And that’s my biggest problem with this book: the mystery is cool, but the stakes are not high enough, so as you read on, you find it harder and harder to care. I’m not saying lives have to be endangered for me to care, but the characters need to have more to lose or gain than this.

Still, it’s a really good book, and a quick read, so definitely check it out if you’re a bookworm like me (and I assume you are, otherwise what are you doing reading a book review?)

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blue gingham shirt white jeans by 14 shades of greywhite jeans sneakers by 14 shades of grey

There are actually several outfits described in the book, from the blue striped shirt + gray cardigan combo worn by Mr. Penumbra himself, to the red graphic T-shirt that Clay’s love interest always wears, but in the end I decided to go with something less literal and more interpretive, something a nerdy, bookish hipster would wear – of course, that means my book necklace and nerd’s glasses (white sneakers would’ve been perfect, but I always hesitate to buy a pair because I know I won’t be able to keep them clean.)

Shirt: local shop, Jeans: Calvin Klein, Necklace: self-made

Virtual Halloween

In Vietnam, we don’t really celebrate Halloween (between the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Day of the Death, we have plenty of similar holidays.) That being said, I do like playing dressed up, so this year I put on not one, but two costumes, even though I don’t have any party to go to. If that makes me pathetic, so be it. And because Debbi and I tend to inadvertently make people think we’re a couple (we’re not, really), we decided to coordinate – as Sherlock and John from Sherlock, and as Moss and Roy from The IT Crowd. Both duos have been mistaken for a couple multiple times, so we thought them appropriate.

As Moss, I chose a plaid shirt, a cardigan (Moss usually wears a short-sleeved shirt, but I don’t have any short-sleeved button-up, and he does wear a cardigan in a few episodes), my mom’s pants (mine are either too long or too skinny), my dad’s tie, and my nerd glass – I admit, the idea of dressing up as Moss came to me as soon as I got them. My hair can’t be teased into Moss’ magnificent fro, so I did what Moss would’ve done if he had hair like me – part it sideways and tie it back. In the end I look more like a standard nerd than Moss, but then again Moss is a standard nerd, so mission accomplished. Debbi’s costume is easier – an ironic T-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and “tousled brown hair.”

I would make a much better Richmond though…

For Sherlock, I went a less literal route – I wore something a female Sherlock would (Debbi and I have often discussed the idea of writing a gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes, not just with one character like Elementary but with the whole cast), which means a dark button-up, black blazer & pencil skirt, boots, a long coat, and my mom’s blue scarf. And my deerstalker, of course. It was boiling with all those clothes on in 85-degree weather, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. For the sake of Halloween. As for Debbi, she chose to go with John’s plaid shirt, a military-looking jacket, jeans, and the perfect props (have you ever noticed that Martin Freeman always plays a guy who only wants a cup of tea?)

So that’s my Halloween. I hope that you guys and/or your loved ones manage to stay safe and not let the storm dampen your Halloween spirits!

From The Mall II

I feel kinda bad that since Debbi got here, the place she and I hang out at the most is actually the mall. In our excuse, the weather has been really patchy, blazing heat one day, endless rain the next, and since we were both recently sick, somewhere indoor is probably the safest place to hang out (weather-wise. I’m not quite sure about germ-wise.) Today we went to the mall again, saw a movie each (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for me and The Bourne Legacy for Debbi. Vampire Hunter is just OK, it feels oddly disjointed, like a Lincoln biopic and a vampire movie clumsily mashed into one. Bourne Legacy is apparently good), and hung out at coffee shops and bookstores.

The most sci-fi looking glass of mango juice I’ve ever seen, and a ridiculously cute lamp

Some chromatically confused coffee cups

My outfit is for this week’s Style Imitating Art, inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s “From the Plains II”:

Also, check out my new nerd glasses. I only wear glasses at the movies, so my one criteria is “frame as big as possible.” Not only do these are perfect for that, they also mean I can now dress up as Moss from The IT Crowd for Halloween.

I spilled half of my popcorn. Such a graceful creature I am

T-shirt: Old Navy, Pants: thrifted, Belt: Vietnamese shop
Shoes: thrifted via Buffalo Exchange

Don’t forget to check Thrifted Shift to see how the painting is interpreted!