brenantrim: Golden Pavilion, Japan, Spring 2017 (Golden Pavilion Japan)
First time posting on this platform, so pardon my screw-ups.  I can't figure out how to embed a picture behind a cut, so am simply leaving the URLs to the photos in place, until I am less tired and can hopefully figure it the heck out.

As I sit here at my exactly the right size desk in my exactly the right size hotel room in Gion, Kyoto, I think this trip will either make me or break me. My knees hurting like blazes and my tummy rumbling, I realize I like Japan , I like the Japanese, I even like walking around a town where nobody speaks my language and I can't read any of the signs... but I don’t really like Japanese food.  Everything I’ve seen is either boiled or in soup, and much of it has runny eggs on it.  At 2.50 for a dozen stick of carrots and radish, I may have scurvy before I get back home.  But hey, the Yasaka shrine is gorgeous, the Sakura blossoms are in full bloom (and really do look like snow when the wind catches them) and the kembu performance was actually well worth the wandering all over town trying to find it, the steep steps down, the over-stuffed room waiting to start, the steep steps climbing back out, and the lurching, standing bus ride back to my hotel.

[Gardens]

Got in late last night and lost a day due to time zone changes, so I was bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5:20 AM.

[Sakura trees]

Too bad almost nothing in town opens until 10 am.  Except the Yasaka Shrine that's literally across the street from the hotel, which is open always and is free (I wish they had a donation box.  I would have made one).  Sakura trees were everywhere, in full bloom, as the sun rose over the hills behind the shrine.  It was incredibly peaceful... except for the crows, who were freakin’ huge and sounded like foghorns.  Still, one of them led me to a secluded view of rocks and tumbling water and a quiet bridge and a well… and he did lead me, hopping along the fence in front of me and cawing at me until I followed him. 

[Weeping Sakura at Yasaka Shrine]

The Weeping Sakura was especially pretty.  I went back at the end of a very long day of wandering around lost, and while it was pretty with the lanterns shining brightly, it was also jam-packed with men drinking and smoking and booths full of people cooking... things (seriously, what’s the fascination with gelled food and pork?  Where's the fresh fish and veggies Japanese food is supposed to be famous for?) being fried (nearly all of it. Felt like I was back in Scotland, where they fry everything including Mars bars).  Between the smoke and the grease, the smell was bad, and the crows were long gone.  Corvids are smart.  I stayed long enough to verify that yes, Sakura petals blowing in the wind look like robust snowflakes, the wind was cold, and the shrine looked like a carnival complete with cotton candy and fatty foods.

Sunrise was much better than sunset.

Most of the rest of the day was taken up with trying to contact the local tour company to arrange for a pickup tomorrow, since I don't want to walk 40 minutes to the office.  They were supposed to be open at 8 according to their website.  Since the hotel doesn't allow calls out (even local calls) I prevailed upon the kindness of hotel staff to call for me (that entailed three trips to the desk, as the number Viator had emailed me was incorrect, so I went back up to my room on the very end of the last hallway on the top floor, fired up the free wifi, got the actual local phone number from a site in Japanese, trundled back down to the desk, bugged them again, and when they finally got through, the voicemail said the JTB/Sunrise Tours office opened at 10 am.  Website lied!

The third trip to the desk (by now all four people currently working are trying to figure out how to help me.  None of them speak English.  I speak exactly two words of Japanese - gomen and arigato.  Together we all figure out which bus I need to take to get to the mall where the tour office is.  I have the great good fortune to catch it exactly as it arrives, and a half hour later find myself back at Kyoto station.

Good news - now I don't have to pay 15.00 to take a cab back on Saturday, to catch the express train back to Kansai International. (end note: except, of course, I did catch a cab, because there was no way I was hauling all my souvenir-filled luggage onto the bus.  Side note: another new experience – hailing a cab a curbside, because as the hotel staff explained, if they called, it would be ‘long time!’)

Bad news - I wandered literally around the entire freakin’ station before I finally see the building across the street on the back end of the station... trundle over to it... and discover the office is open at 1 pm.  Voicemail lied!

Since the Samurai Kembu performance I'm heading off to see begins at 1, obviously I will be taking a bus tomorrow to get to my Nara tour.

I then wander literally for an hour trying to figure out how the heck to get back to the other side of the station without buying a ticket.  Even with the "help" of an irritated train station security officer, I can't figure it out, so I make the sad mistake of catching a cab.

18.00 later, instead of taking me to the shrine as I'd asked when the cabbie couldn't read the address and I couldn't translate it into Japanese for him (phonetics only go so far), he has a cartographic epiphany and drops me off at the Kembu theatre... two hours early.

I then spend the next two hours vainly trying to find something to eat and someplace to sit down.  After a fiasco with what I thought was a cinnamon bun this morning (no idea what it actually was, other than tossed in the trash can - my hotel room had two), I am wary.  I am also weary, and can find neither recognizable food nor a spot to perch.

Finally in desperation I approach... McDonald's.  It was bad enough that my first meal in Japan was a rice ball (thank God for onigiri, again!) I bought at 7-11 in Kyoto station because everywhere else was closed and I had to get checked in to my hotel, but McDonald's... I don't even go there at home!  I bite the bullet, and when I go in, realize their only seating is up a flight of stairs I couldn't climb even if I wasn't already too stiff and sore to move.

Needless to say, I didn't eat at McDonalds.

Happily, there was a Family Mart (sort of the Japanese version of Circle K, except they actually have Circle K, so I guess there’s no American analog) that had some kind of warm stuff on a stick that I thought was dough but turned out to be minced meat of some sort (I didn't even care by that point).  The blessing was they had a tiny counter with a chair!

So I sat and ate my minced fried meat and rested until it was time to brave the stairs at the Kembu theatre.

Not even going to go into the rude Spanish couple with their kids, or the bitchy Australian quintet, or the French woman who wouldn't sit still - because the performance Was Amazing.

50 minutes of short tales, in the traditional and modern styles, with swords and fans and acting and samurai and ninjas and regal ladies and funny bits and sad bits and romantic bits, and in the end there were pictures.  SO MUCH FUN. There was the Master, who looked a tiny bit chunky but could move like a bird, a tall lady who was sad that we didn’t laugh at her jokes (I did!) but did some amazing work with both fans and swords, a tall man who seemed solemn but played a crazy Ninja, a shorter lady who was the romantic lead, and a younger man who was the romantic lead but looked like he had a tummy ache (didn’t stop some amazing moves with the sword, though).  They explained as they went, complete with a slide presentation on a tv, and it really, really worked.  As we were leaving they gave everyone a complimentary scarf that reminded me a lot of the flight scarves my pilots wore a quarter century ago in the USAF.  I accepted one with cats on it (of course).

Then I found another bus, got back to the hotel with a short stop at the mini grocer (Lawson's, of all things) for some actual vegetables to eat, then flopped on the bed for an hour and read Le Carre's new bio.

When my ankles were back down from major balloons to where I could rotate them again, I wandered back out, found some souvenirs, found no edible food, and trundled back up more stairs to the shrine.  See above for how that turned out.

Tomorrow - Nara! Deer! And according to the forecast, rain.  Ha.

Second full day in, and I remember why I have so much fun traveling.

Yesterday was a pain in the tail feathers, because I did all the stuff I needed to do to make sure today went well.

It did.

4:30 this morning, wide awake because I'm not caught up from the time change, and I surf the net to find an anime shop in Kyoto.  Not only are there two, but one is in the same building as the tour operators I'll use for most of my tours.

So that was this morning.  Caved and went to the western style coffee shop for French toast that was more like cake with syrup and a hot milky tea that was basically tea latte (yum).  The resultant sugar high kept me bouncing most of the day, but it was okay, because I needed the energy.

Animate in the Avanti mall had a small bonanza in Yuri on Ice merchandise, an unexpected treasure trove for Servamp, very little on D-gray man and nothing for Bleach or Black Butler (what can I say, I'm anime old-school).  Though it was pretty funny seeing the expression on the very helpful clerk's face when I asked if she had anything for Kiss Him Not Me (snicker). (side note: it was even funnier when I got to the main Animate Kyoto store and the very first section was All Yaoi).

Happily, they accepted Amex, because I went a little crazy.  But hey, if ya can't go a little nutty happy when in Japan buying anime memorabilia, when can you?

Then I wandered around, picked up a pork cutlet sandwich to go with the veggies I got at Lawson's and called it lunch.  Kyoto is interesting.  It is incredibly clean, with no graffiti anywhere, but there are NO trash cans.  Anywhere.  Bizarre. I guess they just have a lot of garbage collectors or maybe brownies or something, because it has to go somewhere.  (side note: tour guide on Friday mentioned that everyone is expected to take their trash home and throw it away there.  To my intense surprise, they actually DO.)

1:30 rolled around, and we boarded one of 5 buses headed to Nara (yay, deer!) I don't know why they don't start these things earlier (I had the same complaint in the Netherlands). By the time we got there it was 2:30, sunset is at 6:30, and we had to fly through the truly incredible Buddhist temple. I didn't even get a chance to feed the deer.  Although I was amused and impressed when a half dozen of them staged a raid on the little stand selling deer pancakes and made off with a whole bag.  Not so good for the old lady running the stand, but good for the bandit deer.

[A Friendly, Hungry Nara Deer]

Still, the temple was very impressive.  Originally built about 1400 years ago, with a 150 foot high Buddha in it, the building was burned down twice in civil wars and the Buddha was slightly melted but fixed after.  I wandered around after giving up on trying to hear our wonderful tour guide (name, not kidding, Psycho :) – probably spelled Tsaiko) who was actually very sweet and funny.  I picked up a few nice souvenirs - hope the funds go to support the temple and help keep it up. The flowers, the statues, the amazing wooden architecture - all quite grand and very beautiful.

We had very little free time, but that was better than the next stop - where we had none.  The Shinto Kasuga Shrine was eerily lovely, lined with stone lanterns past the bright orange gate (a lucky color).  People were giving prayers, in amongst the crowds of tourists.  I felt a little like we were partying in somebody's church during services.  The line of brass lanterns was also gorgeous. The old buildings dotted along the path were lovely too.  I wish I could have had the time to actually look at them, but other than snapping a few desperate pictures, I spent all my energy trying not to slip on wet stone and gravel while running after the guide.  Yes, we toured the whole Shrine in thirty minutes.

[Shinto Shrine]

In the rain.

[Shinto Shrine, another view]

A bit treacherous, but still amazing.  It felt a bit like Delphi.  You could tell it was an active place of worship that had been so for generations.  It was in the stones.

[And another...]

There was one more stop but I didn't bother getting off the bus.  It was supposedly to shop and for a bathroom break, but they gave us literally less than fifteen minutes.  Wasn't worth getting off the bus because I couldn't walk over there and back in that short time, much less get any souvenirs.  Seriously, they need to start earlier in the day, and allow enough time for people to actually enjoy the sights!

Still, it was an excellent experience.  Afterward, I stayed at Kyoto Station and gave in to hunger... for my first truly Japanese meal, I had miso ramen with pork and what looked an awful lot like dango in sweet brown sauce.  Slurping up the noodles with chopsticks was easier than I expected it to be, and thankfully they gave me a ladle (too big to call it a spoon) so I didn't have to pick up the bowl and drink from it.  I'd've probably dumped it all over myself, I was that tired.

But it was a good tired!  And I managed to find the correct platform just as a bus was coming in to take me back to Gion.  It's reassuring to know I can navigate at least half of the city on buses and not get lost!

Tomorrow... palaces and castles! If I don't oversleep, because along with not allowing any phone calls and not actually speaking any English, the hotel staff also do not make wake-up calls, and the clock is all in Japanese so I can't figure out how to set it.

On the plus side, even though the hotel is on the busiest street in Gion, my room is VERY quiet.  And the bathroom is like a single modular mini-suite with a self-contained shower, sink, and western style toilet!  Which, if you know what a traditional eastern toilet is like, is a very good thing.  Plus, it's very neat and tidy.  I want one.  I just need to remember the five inch drop as I step into the room, before I break an ankle.

Just came in from one of the MOST fun things to do when traveling... wander around after dark, get totally lost, discover cool little shops, watch people, find a tributary of a river lined with blossoming Sakura trees and follow along it until finally asking sweet-faced sharp-dressed probable-gangsters how to get back to the shrine next to the hotel.  Heh.  Substitute museum and bus station for shrine and that worked in Amsterdam, Inverness, and now Kyoto.

The night was gorgeous.  The people were adorable - especially the boys and girls in traditional dress out on dates looking at the Sakura trees and blushing a lot. I wandered until I found a restaurant in a department store, of all places, that had a wonderful pork cutlet (yes, it's a theme, but at least it's cooked - the sheer amount of half-raw egg and nearly-raw meat and fish on the food here is astonishing).  Along with the cutlet came four kinds of pickled veggies, of which two were yummy, one was okay, and one looked like it had a runny nose so I didn't even try it.  Then pork miso soup (managed to drink from the bowl without wearing it), shredded cabbage with this really interesting creamy sauce, and the ubiquitous white rice, all of which I nearly successfully ate with chopsticks.

Nearly, because I got distracted watching a lovely lady in a full formal kimono walk by (did I mention my hotel is in the geisha district?) and dripped sauce from a piece of cutlet onto my shirt.  I did not, however, drop the pork, so that was a plus.

I then wandered back in the general direction of my hotel, taking a left on a whim down a VERY long alley lit with red lanterns (hey, it worked in Amsterdam).  While there were no lightly-clad ladies in windows here, there were a ton of restaurants, bars, and one very cool little souvenir shop called the Kage shop where I found my souvenir chopsticks (so pretty) and some gifts for friends.

Wandering back there was a long walk along a narrow river, with lots of sweeping Sakura trees lining it, and lots of people wandering around just like me.  There was a trio of boys (two of them wearing strange headgear that might have been bird or rabbit ears) singing outside the Disney shop.  They were quite good, but I think I recognize the tune, and I'm pretty sure they were singing the Princess parts.  I hope they changed the words.

Nearly back to the hotel, and I have to grin, because a trio of street musicians in their mid-fifties are playing spirited Dixieland jazz - all about Bourbon street in New Orleans.  Damn good job too, but obviously aimed at the tourists.  Would have loved to hear some music in Kyoto that wasn't from the US.  Just a thought.

So the evening was a win.  The day was mostly a win, too, if a very tiring one.  I went on a whirlwind tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, where the last Shogun signed over power to the Emperor, then on to a hike up to the Golden Pavilion, which was magnificent in its reflecting pool, then a quick hike around Nijo Castle, that had a beautiful garden.

[A different angle of the Golden Pavilion]

The Imperial Palace and its garden were gorgeous in an understated way.  The Palace had nightingale floors (now I know what all those Bleach stories were talking about when Ichigo was training to be a ninja). Air in the nail holes under the wooden floors work as a warning system because they make a chittering sound like a bird when you step on them.  They're called nightingale floors because those birds only cry at night.  Cool!  (note: no pictures allowed inside the Palace, to protect the ancient paintings)  There were amazing refurbished paintings of pine trees and tigers - one with six legs, if I heard correctly, because there were no tigers in Japan, so the artist was working off reports from visitors.  Apparently some visitor saw a mutant tiger.  There were also cranes and ducks and mountains painted on the walls, plus gorgeous painted carvings on the ceilings, and truly amazing carvings along the top of some rooms (in one, a peacock's head was actually coming out of the carving to stare out into the hallway).  The gardens, that we essentially ran to then got a few minutes to breathe and take pictures, were absolutely gorgeous, serene and peaceful even with the hordes of tourists.

The Golden Pavilion was exactly that, and I wish we hadn't been so rushed, because if I hadn't had to spend so much time watching my feet to make sure I didn't skid on the loose gravel, I'm sure there would have been some lovely scenery.

[Another view of the Pavilion]

We didn't go into Nijo Castle but we went  all the way around it.  The buildings were interesting and historical and again we were rushed through.  I did meet some very nice photo buddies, and we took turns taking shots for each other.  That's the best part of a tour - fellow travelers who share enthusiasm and enjoyment of the gorgeous scenery and are happy to help with picture taking.  Because let's face it, selfies suck.

At the end of the tour, we were at the Kyoto Handicraft Center, where I found more gifts, then went next door and spend a relatively obscene amount of money on a porcelain doll that will be shipped to me for even more money.  That was my Big Spend, and it was completely worth it.

All day long, I was impressed with how genuinely nice the Japanese people are - this is another trend, as I've been similarly impressed with the Dutch and the Greeks. The thing that surprised me is how many jokes they've told, all with a straight face, and looking so tickled when you laugh. Now I just need to get used to some of the cultural differences, like no paper towels in the public bathrooms and no trash cans anywhere... on the up side, the hotel bathroom amenities are amazing.  Prepackaged toothbrushes with tiny tubes of paste, razors, hair ties, you name it.

Plus, the little cinnamon crackers Kyoto has been famous for since 1689 are absolutely DELICIOUS.

Tomorrow - racing through more shrines and temples. I'm going to the National Museum on my own!  (end note:  yeah, that didn’t happen).  Note: Shrines are Shinto and Temples are Buddhist, separated by Imperial Decree in the late 1870s because Shinto is the native Japanese religion and Buddhism came over from China.  Funnily enough, the several hundred years of co-belief haven't been changed in practice, proving once again that law doesn't necessarily make difference in real life.

[Shrine Art, Kyoto]

Day four is done - started with fan frustration and ended with an unexpected night tour via the wrong bus that netted a meeting with Jess, a fun young ex-pat living in Thailand who also got on the wrong bus.

The morning was spent wandering, taking pictures, trying to find postcards (a near impossible task), having my credit card declined even with a pre-authorization because the merchant's machine didn't like my card (seriously. It actually charged me three times, and all three times got an immediate, merchant-initiated refund. Sometimes technology can be a real downer). Turned out all right in the end, though, because I found much cuter fans at the end of the day.

Lunch was at Kyoto Station waiting for my tour to start (third time with that refrain). This time I was seduced into Konoha don because of the name (thank you, Naruto), so I have no idea what I ate, but it was tasty and the miso soup was yummy.  Mine was the only white face in the Japanese crowd, so that's always a sign it's real Japanese food.  Most of it looked unappetizing because, again, too many runny eggs, but the don was tasty.

Then on to the tour, where once again we ran through temples and shrines like it was a marathon. By the third one, I gave up - not worth taking my shoes off for five minutes running through the temple after ten minutes hiking up the hill in the middle of a rugby scrum - er, incredible crowd of tourists, mostly native or Chinese. The walk down was full of amazing shops, and I found the perfect fan as well as sharing cat photos with the shop clerk (for kitty love IS universal).

[Bengal kitty]

The highlight of the tour was the incredible statues in the Sanjusangen-do temple.  True, the hundreds of statues of Kannon (the god behind the name chosen by the Cannon corp for their cameras, as one of his powers is the ability to see far distances) were cool, but the real stars were the various guardian gods.  WOW.  Visceral, terrifying, beautiful.  And apparently, while the Japanese got Buddhism from China, the Chinese got their gods from India, because analogs abounded.  Kind of like how the Romans got their gods from the Greeks.  Still, so very cool.

Dinner was fish and chips with a half Caesar salad at a western-style sports bar at Kyoto Station, because I was gasping for veggies that weren't pickled or boiled or part of a soup.  Sadly, while the fish was tasty, it was fried with the skin still on, which grossed me out, and confused the waitress when she picked up the plate and found a pile of scraped-off breaded fried fish skin.

Then, as mentioned, I mistook the 208 for the 203 and took a long night tour of working-class Kyoto.  Jess was also trying to find Gion, and after we wended our way all the way around the bus route back to Kyoto station and saw the line waiting to fill up the next four buses, gave it up and shared a taxi.

Picked up onigiri and cold tea for breakfast since I'll be awake three hours before anything opens to buy breakfast, stopped by Starbucks for the local black tea to end the night, and here we are.

Tomorrow, last day! Anime and the National Museum and dinner with a performance by a Maiko (lady in training to be a geiko – not a geisha – geiko are performers who sing and dance at private dinners).  Looking forward to it, and also am very sad that it's coming to a close.

Friday started out with onigiri and bottled ice tea, at 5:30 am, because time change ack.  Fell back asleep for a couple hours, because nothing was open and my feet weren’t up to hiking to another temple.

After that, an amazing day began.  I didn't get to the National Museum, because after finally finding some postcards at Kyoto Station yesterday (none of the shops had any!) I walked to the Takashimaya department store where they have both an international ATM and a post office.  Sent off the postcards and on a whim walked up around the corner to Kyoto Animate.

Am I ever glad I did!  Not just because they had a much better selection than Avanti Animate, and I scored big time not only on Yuri on Ice stuff but also D. Gray-man Masquerade which isn't even out in the US yet, but because going to Kyoto Animate led me down into the wonders of the Shin-Kyogoku and Compasso Termachi shopping arcades.

[Bengal Cat Cafe]

Which is why I didn't make it to the museum.

Because... stuff!  Cool stuff, like entire shops for different kinds of chopsticks, cats, owls, finally finding a canvas Kyoto bag, munching on a fish shaped red bean paste stuffed crisp cake (taiyaki) bought from a street vendor (ohmylord, yum), smiling at a gorgeous little Shinto shrine sharing walls on both sides with shops, and having lunch upstairs of a movie theater where, yes, half the movies were anime and two others were the latest Furious movie and White Man on the Wall or whatever the movie is with Matt Damon saving China.  Anyway, it was an 'American Cafe' in much the same way tacos are Mexican food - as in Not, but still delicious.  I had a 'burger' of a tempura diced shrimp with tartar sauce and shredded cabbage that was fantastic.

[Another view of the cat cafe]

In the middle of it all was Bengal Cat cafe Kyoto, and I sat for a half hour while an adorable bengal kitty fell asleep on my lap. SO cute.  Then it was upstairs to the Owl Forest, which was at once fascinating and sad. It was amazing to see the various kinds of owls up close, and gently pet a couple, and share blinks with a snowy who was a ringer for Hedwig, but also sad that they were tethered to branches with no room to stretch their wings.  I hope they got some flight time during off hours (being nocturnal, that would work with the daytime job) but the language barrier stopped me from asking.

[little owl]

Then more shopping, and after five days cumulative walking and six hours specifically today, I was wiped. went back to the hotel for a short nap, then bounced over to Gion Hatanaka restaurant and ryokan for a lovely and very fun evening. 

[Maiko and Geiko and me]

Getting lost, as I always do, just made for more fun exploration of side streets. Tiny window shrines and red lanterns and vertical wooden slats shading windows… very glad I gave myself the extra hour I always do because I am slow and I wander.  Eventually I found the place, and everyone was SO nice.

I shared a table with Jerry from San Francisco and a nice couple from Bulgaria by way of Nairobi.  There was a multi course Kaiseki dinner (Kyoto cuisine), about half of which I could eat, then a great performance by a young Maiko (geiko in training) and her nee-chan, a Geiko plus a Geiko playing the shamisen. (not Gieco nor gecko, not the lizard in the insurance commercial but a singer/dancer in the traditional style).  There was dancing, there was singing, there was conversation via an interpreter with the absolutely adorable Maiko, there were even drinking games, and I won one! The game was kind of like rock-paper-scissors, only with the characters of tiger, samurai, old lady.  Samurai beats Tiger who beats Old Lady who beats Samurai (because she's his mom :)). The man I was playing against, on advice from his geiko, played against type as an old lady, but I chose the character of the tiger (because I will ALWAYS choose the tiger) so I won a lovely pair of chopsticks and didn't have to drink any beer (yay!).

Then it was one last walk through the Yasaka Shrine, admiring the lighted lanterns and the bright gates while trying to ignore the food stalls, before back to the hotel.  So my stay in Kyoto ends the way it began, with a walk through the Gion shrine, admiring the beauty and ignoring the food!

Tomorrow, packing, then train back to the airport.  Funnily enough, I will arrive in LA before I leave Osaka Kansai.  The wonders of traveling through time zones - a unique kind of time travel.

Ending with a sincere Japan ROCKS!

brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Holland)
Tiptoeing through tulips, getting lost in back alleys, criss-crossing canals...It's the Netherlands! )
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Thranduil)
Not what I was hoping for.
disappointment )
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Zeus)
also, if anyone's still reading this... I've got a new Grimm story up at http://www.castleskeep.net/Alchemy1.htm or at
http://archiveofourown.org/works/676179, whichever's up...
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Zeus)
So.  Now I'm fifty.  Given that this is the age at which I may go adventuring with wizards (according to friends who have more understanding of Tolkien than I do by far), I decided to skip the wizards and go straight to the Gods.

The Old Gods, at that.

Journal of travels in Greece... )
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (danny)
given that I drive a 2004 Prius and would vote Green if there was a chance in hell of winning...

Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are an Eco-Avenger, also known as an environmentalist or tree hugger. You believe in saving the planet from the clutches of air-fouling, oil-drilling, earth-raping conservative fossil fools.



Found by[livejournal.com profile] ann_tara
and cribbed by me...
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (lex)
Things I loved enough about the Avengers:

1.  Equal Opportunity Ogling:  The long slow slide of the camera lens up the lovely back view of Chris Evans (magnificent legs, ass, back and shoulders) was matched by the long slow slide of the camera lens up the lovely back view of Scarlett Johansson (equally magnificent legs, ass, back and shoulders.  Usually it's just the woman who gets ogled in superhero movies.  Captain America was a treat!

2.  Loki flirting with Stark (and vice versa).

3.  Cap telling Hulk he could smash.

4.  Hulk smashing.  Enemies.  Aliens.  Allies.  Out of the blue.  Freakin' hilarious.

5.  Loki as Hulk's rag doll.  Loki-whumping in general.

6.  Ironman as Hulk's rescue-cuddle doll.

7.  Thor as Hulk's Weeble (weebles wobble but they don't fall down).  Thor-whumping in general.

8.  Hawkeye, defining awesome.

9.  Natasha getting the drop on Loki... then thanking him for it.

10.  All the times Thor grabbed Loki by the back of the neck and reaffirmed my impression from Thor's earlier movie that it's a good thing they're adopted siblings, cuz if they're NOT doing it, then they soooo should be.

Also, don't leave before the credits roll...

It was so very good I didn't even mind the headache I got from the two crazy homeless people sitting in front of me (yelping all the way through it, and yes, smelling very badly) or the hyperactive teen sitting on one side of me dripping ice cream on my jeans, or hour I waited in line (and I was the first one there, you betcha!), or the latecomer that shoe-horned himself into the seat on the other side of me.  Didn't care.  It was great.  I want to see it again to hear all the dialog I missed, but ooooh, mercy.  It was WORTH it.  The reviewers may be right, it was indeed the best superhero movie I've ever seen.

And I want to take Loki home and chain him to my bed.  With Thor.  And Cap,

Whooooo.

brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
and all is well...
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
1.  It's mine.  No more random rent increases flung at me every time I turn around, and now when I fix the crap that breaks, I'm improving my own place and not someone else's 'retirement nest egg'.
2.  The pool.  I'm up to 40 laps, five days a week.  I LOVE IT.
3.  The rec room is a polling place.  Yup, I can come home from work, vote without having to wander the neighborhood looking for whatever obscure church is housing the election, then go for a swim afterward, before walking back to my condo.
4.  24 hour security.  'Nuff said.
5.  I don't have to do yard work, and the place looks great.
6.  Just got confirmation from the state that I did qualify for the tax credit - $10,000 over 3 years.  Add the federal tax break, and I have enough coming back to pay for any repairs or upgrades I need to do without breaking my tiny piggy bank.  WooT!
7.  Well worth using the VA benefit for it...

Why didn't I do this sooner?  This rocks!

snicker

Feb. 13th, 2010 09:25 am
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
A couple weeks ago my landlady put a bird feeder up in the sole tree on the grounds - directly in front of my door, about 15 feet away.  The birds have now discovered this buffet.  A power line runs behind the tree, and the birds line up on the line to await their turn at the seed bar.  Several times every morning, a few get pushy and a food fight breaks out.

Cats find few things funnier than a bird fight.  My tribe is enthralled, and I can't stop snickering.
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (lex)
What a week for eye candy in (un)expected places.  Watched Smallville for the first time since Lex left, to see Michael Shanks as Hawkman - did a credible job with a sad script, and was worth sitting through the convoluted plot and less-than-stellar dialog.  He brought pain and anger in by the truckload, and got a little crushed on by Green Arrow and Clark, so worth the watch.  But then more eye candy came - Paul Blackthorne showed up as the shadowy bad guy on Leverage (and will be back next week to finish the finale) - good to see ol' Dresden again, even if it wasn't much screen time.  The fact he was playing opposite Al Molina (Doc Oc in Spidey 3, and a bajillion other roles) made it meaty as well as pretty.  Then a double helping of sweet - Dylan Neal (Mike Celluci in Blood Ties, plus a hundred other roles, including a Ranger on B5) showed up as the bad cop on Human Target (and got to chew quite a bit of scenery - a good showing!), then again in a surprise (to me) as Hermes in the Percy Jackson movie!  Looking kinda sheepish 'cuz his kid was the lightning thief, not Percy.  Lovely!

Speaking of Percy - I love Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books.  I've read all five, and they're a splendid mix of ancient Greek mythology, urban myth, adventure story, and coming-of-age with a young hero who actually matures and 'comes into his own' through the five books, an interesting ensemble with strong supporting characters, and plot lines that carry the suspense and humor all the way through (both each book and the series as a whole).  I hope the movie brings in more readers - I know the books brought in viewers, because I went to the first showing this morning, on a weekday, and saw three class groups ranging in age from grade school (boys) to high school (girls), as well as grandmothers with grandkids, single men and women from their twenties into their sixties, and at least one date couple.  At ten thirty in the morning on a Thursday.  Good crowd.  Perhaps more importantly, Chris Columbus did a great job with it, given the drawbacks of any adaptation from a jam-packed novel to a two hour script, and a better one than he did of the first Potter film.

Regarding that - I think the critics wanted Potter version 2, and were pissy because they didn't get it.  Too bad for them.  Having read the Percy Jackson book series, the Harry Potter book series, and the Twilight series, I can confidently say the Percy Jackson series is the best of the bunch.  In Twilight, Bella never matured past the emotional age of thirteen, and there wasn't much in the way of universe-building.  In the Potter books, there was a fascinating universe built, but Harry actually regressed in the last two books, and never fulfilled any great potential - when the lesson he learned was to be willing to commit suicide, I can't really count that as great character development.  Also, Rowling lost the plot in the last two books - perhaps three - as some characters were so outre (Umbridge, the Carrows) that I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to accept them, and read despite their presence in the stories (not to mention the camping trip that gave me flashes of a second-rate Tolkien having his fellowship wander for years so he could describe the landscape).  By the time I finished the Potter series I felt relief, and honestly finished the last one more for completist determination than literary desire.

In contrast, the Percy Jackson books are strong from start to finish.  Each book has a self-contained quest, in essence, and the series has an over-arching quest.  Percy himself is likable, a hero despite himself, modest, brave, and protective.  Grover grows the most of any character in the series, fitting for a sidekick as unique as he.  Annabeth has her own journey and I rooted for her all the way, too.  Nico and Bianca were heartbreaking and hopeful without ever being sappy.  Sally reminded me of my own Mom, and that's a good thing.  The gods were drawn very much the way they were in Greek mythology, with all their faults as imposing as they were.  The entire pantheon were brought into the picture, along with the Titans, various monsters and creatures, and all seamlessly, and with purpose.  All whilst keeping a flow of action across the United States and into Olympus.  I would recommend these books to anyone.

The movie did an excellent job of getting the high points across without sacrificing the characters or the quest.  Some of the details were different (like how Percy found out who his father was, or how the battle of the flag ended, etc) but were necessary for the script to flow.  It still set out everything it needed to begin a series, bring in neophytes and satisfy fans of the books.  One warning - EXTRA SCENE during the credits - stick around for it.  It plays out differently than in the book, but it was perfect for the movie.  Great stuff!

Woah.

Jan. 24th, 2010 01:55 pm
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
Heya. For those who haven't seen my incarnation as [livejournal.com profile] glacis here on LJ, I have to share.  Getting stuff ready for uploading to Archive of our Own has forced me to organize the Keep for the first time in... awhile... and I discovered I'd hit a milestone of sorts.

Prior to printing out my 'stories to format' sheet(s), I'd guessed I'd written a couple hundred stories in thirty or so fandoms.  Hah.

My fan writing life:  18 years.  58 fandoms.  345 stories.

I feel like I'm in a Numb3rs ep.  Splayed out on the pavement with chalk outlining me.

I'm going to spend the next couple months formatting... gulp.

OWLish

Oct. 17th, 2009 04:41 pm
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
it was funny enough to wade through all the advertising crap to get to it...

Harry Potter Quiz





Yeesh.

Jul. 7th, 2009 04:24 pm
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
Iran is roiling with political protest.
A major offensive in Afghanistan is putting more US troops in danger than ever.
An area in China that's three times the size of Texas is convulsing with ethnic/religious violence.
Honduras just had a coup.
Obama is having historic meetings with Russian leaders to bring us out of the second cold war.
The pope wants to consolidate the global economy (like it's not, already).
Benin and Brazil are about to be flooded off the map.
Koalas are drinking from bikers' water bottles (and if that isn't a sign of the apocalypse... okay, at least it's REALLY rare).
And what do we get on the news?

Eight solid days of Michael Jackson.

RIDICULOUS.  It's no wonder the rest of the world laughs at us as ignoramuses.

Contacts

Jul. 6th, 2009 09:56 pm
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
Hm, who knew.  Just the other day (May 13th, in fact, as it's his birthday) I was wondering what ever happened to my brother Bobby.  Then, hey, he contacted me.  Through LJ.  Guess I should update more than every six months, eh?  And hey, his son Patrick, that angelic little blond toddler I remember, is all grown up and looking amazingly like my uncle Vince.  And on his facebook photo, he's holding an angelic little blond toddler that looks a heck of a lot like he did over twenty years ago.

I am getting so. freaking. old.

Still, it's nice to make contact with family.  A little unnerving, given that my family history has been anything but sunshine and roses, but really kind of nice.  The strange thing?  My nephew's living in the same town where I was offered a job in 1995.  So we might have made contact then if I hadn't taken the job in Texas instead.  See what happens when you try to avoid rainy weather and opt for sunshine?  An extra decade and a half goes by before contact is once again made.  Huh!  The even stranger thing?  My brother sounds so much like he did in 1986 that it's freaky.  I can hear his voice in his email.

Little bemused now.  Feeling hopeful and hesitant and happy all at the same time.
Bren, wandering away again

family

Jun. 23rd, 2009 07:31 pm
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (mom)
Bobby - in case you haven't got your settings set up to alert you to responses, check you inbox - I sent a long rambling answer to your message, but I didn't send it to your email, I just responded to what you sent.  Good to hear from you!
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
Clawing my way out of the black hole (not caused by Red Matter, but by brain matter), I wave at you.  And burble.

New!Trek:  The way Quinto inserted 'Fascinating' and Urban inserted "I'm a doctor not a..." and Pine didn't believe in no-win scenarios.  I think they really got the casting right.  Quinto gave me flashbacks to first season Spock, before the lid was clamped down.  Pine may look nothing like Shatner, but he has Young and Restless written all over him (in a good way).  Urban is eerily reminiscent of DeForrest Kelley, more in the way he moves than anything else (although the voice is GREAT).  Saldana did her best, but she was a little weak in the roll - I like take-no-nonsense Uhura, but the actress didn't quite carry if off.  Cho didn't quite sell me on Sulu, either.  But overall, it worked well.  The plot was an excellent way to reset the universe (and unlike most of the plot devices used in the different series, this one I actually bought).  Spock Prime rocked... Nimoy tied it all together, both with the way his character 'birthed' the friendship of Kirk and McCoy but also with his gravitas and deep emotion simmering beneath the surface.  That's another thing Quinto did well, bringing that conflict into his character.  Bana was a more sympathetic psychotic villian than I expected, and the mis-timing of his revenge as the trigger of the universal reset (creating the alternate universe) was very well executed (pun intended). 

Things that amused me: Pegg makes a better Scot than he does an Englishman.  Saldana actually looks like her Barbie doll, and Pine looks more like his Ken doll than he does the Playmates doll that was actually created with his likeness. Yelchin was an adorable Chekov.  I was a little afraid of seeing this movie, but wanted to give it a chance, and I'm glad I did.  The best way to look at it is definitely not a re-imagining of the original series, but as literally an alternate dimension, a 'what if' that takes a single character (Kirk), radically changes one element of his backstory (the fate of his father) leading to a very different character.  Following that Kirk, as he becomes a leader, and seeing how the other changes affect other characters (Spock's mother, Scotty's failed experiment), make it easy to see this as a different group, not just the same old group in younger bodies.  I look forward to the next couple movies - I think this was a great start.

Wolverine:  I can only assume that the critics who were disappointed were expecting the humor of Iron Man or the surface gloss of many 'hero' movies.  They should have looked at the title.  The movie was just what it should have been, considering the main character - grief and pain, followed by kicking ass, followed by a brief bit of happiness and even greater grief and pain, followed by major kicking ass, followed by extreme grief and pain, leading eventually to more kicking ass.  It began where it should have, with revelation and heartbreak, and ended where it needed to, with amnesiac Wolverine heading off to cage fight in Canada until Rogue comes along to pull him into the XMen saga.  The mini-mutants were well cast, Sabretooth was exceptional, Gambit ROCKED (need more Gambit!), and the story actually made sense.  Jackman was incredible, not just with the insane body building (although that made my jaw drop a few times) but also in the tender moments, and the epiphanies, and the grief-pain-heartache.  He really put his heart into this one, as well as his body, and that made the movie flow.

And hey, next week, Angels and Demons!  I didn't see the first movie, because honestly the author is a hack, but this one has Ewan McGregor in a cassock.  There's something about Scotsmen.  Put 'em in a dress, be it a kilt or a cassock, and hoo-YAH.  I'm there.

Book bits:  just finished Carrie Fisher's autobiography (Wishful Drinking) that cheerfully illustrated that if you can't laugh at your pain, it will kill you.  To balance that out, I've been delving into Aaron Elkins' Gideon Oliver books (just finished Little Tiny Teeth) - interesting to read about crime solving from the perspective of a forensics prof (the Skeleton Detective - snicker), plus it's set in Washington State, where I went to grad school the first time, and his plots are always twisty and interesting and well-researched.  For fun, and because I'm in withdrawal, the BBC Dr Who and Torchwood books have been meeting my sexy immortals story needs.  I have carefully hoarded two Jim Butcher novels and a graphic novel, so sometime soon I'm going to take a weekend and delve into Dresden's world again. 

TV bits:  Unexpected but true - I really like Callen and Sam on NCIS OSP.  I'll watch it, because I like Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J make an outstanding partnership. On NBC, I can't believe they're dicking around with renewing Chuck - Leno has a lot to answer for, taking five hours of prime time away from scripted shows.  I always did like Letterman better than Leno, and now I wouldn't watch Leno if they paid me.  Over on CBS, the only reason I can think that they aren't moving on renewing Eleventh Hour is that some suit somewhere hates the show.  It was the second best performer of the new dramas, and the first was Mentalist, which outperformed every other new show from all the outlets, so one would think that would be enough to get Eleventh Hour renewed.  Darn it, I like that show!  It doesn't even have the excuse ABC used when they canceled Pushing Daisies (the twits!), because it's a procedural with science elements, not quirky or daring or strange - just GOOD.  Idiots.

I was looking forward to trundling out and seeing friends yesterday... then the 'dorks with tools' who call themselves plumbers who are 'working' (?) on the unit beside mine parked their truck directly in front of my garage and trapped me.  Then they disappeared.  For five hours.  I tried calling my landlady, but she didn't answer her phone.  By the time the jerks finally came back and moved their stupid truck, it was too late to go anywhere.  Late last night I heard my landlady come by and retrieve the key... maybe she's tired of them, too.  I hope.  They've been tearing things up next door since September and are not even close to finishing.  I'm just waiting for the fools to break a line or something under my living room, then I'll have to move so they can tear up this unit too.  So freakin' tired of this.

Thank God for books and movies and tv or I'd be staring at the wall wondering where I could find some scotch.  You may have noticed I didn't mention work...  trying not to think about it.  Augh.

Later, gators.

Wow!

Dec. 14th, 2008 08:27 am
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
What a difference a new modem makes!  It actually loads pictures without timing out!  And it's less than a quarter the size of the last one!  It's smaller than my little plug-in answering machine (that seldom actually works)!

Hmmm.  Perhaps the miniaturization is a clue that my old modem was, well, pretty darned old.

And maybe I should look into a new little answering machine.

But first, I must find a floor lamp, because my kitchen light is on the blink (again).  Given that my heater only works part of the time (and tries to gas me on a regular basis), my plumbing is more temperamental than a top ten diva, my oven only works when I open the broiler and blow on the tubes to make the gas ignite, my towel racks are falling off the wall, my shower leaks, my door and windows are leakier than an industrial sieve, my hard drive is close to death, I only have one jury-rigged telephone line supporting a modem, two telephones and an answering machine (splitters are my friend), and the last time I called to add a cable line, my landlady had to go to the company office with paperwork to approve the damned thing, I think I'll do my usual, and find a work-around.  If I ask for anything to be fixed, my rent will go up.  Can you tell I'm a little tired of things NOT WORKING?

Sigh.  Thank you for anyone who had the kindness (or was bored enough) to read my vent.  Feeling better now.  Off to Target, Ikea, Lamps Plus or someplace to get some light so I'm not washing dishes in the dark (again).

Happy Sunday!
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (lucius)
grokked from [livejournal.com profile] tenaya :
Which creature of the night are you?
Your Result: Sorceror
 

Control is the name of your game. You are a studied tactician and scientist and you seek a kingdom where things make sense, damn the morals, even if you have to create it. You are cold, calm and calculating.

Vampire
 
Cthulu Spawn
 
Demon
 
Werewolf
 
Incubus/Succubus
 
Ghost
 
Which creature of the night are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz
brenantrim: Yasaka Shrine Japan 2017 (Default)
Saw this, thought it was cute... wiling my lunch half-hour away...




brenda antrim's Dewey Decimal Section:

759 Historical, geographic & persons treatment

brenda antrim = 285441140893 = 285+441+140+893 = 1759


Class:
700 Arts & Recreation


Contains:
Architecture, drawing, painting, music, sports.



What it says about you:
You're creative and fun, and you're good at motivating the people around you. You're attracted to things that are visually interesting. Other people might not always understand your taste or style, but it's yours.












Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com



or maybe




brenda antrim's Dewey Decimal Section:

082 Collections in English

brenda antrim's birthday: 1/19/1963 = 119+1963 = 2082


Class:
000 Computer Science, Information & General Works


Contains:
Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.



What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.












Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com



My "own style" and "stubborn"... yeah, sounds like me... heh.
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