‘My Neighbor Totoro’ – when a film leaks into popular culture and makes you covert a Catbus

My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 Japanese animated fantasy film produced by Studio Ghibli. It was been extremely influential in highlighting Japanese animation to a Western audience and has leaked through into popular culture around the world.

The story revolves around two girls and their encounters with wood spirits in the forest near their home in postwar rural Japan. One of which is the iconic Totoro.

my neighbour totoro

I haven’t seen My Neighbor Totoro but I am aware of it due to the sheer number of cultural leaks – and my sibling sending me pictures of real live Catbus examples from the streets of Japan.

Both Totoro and Catbus are rather distinctive – with Catbus in particular being both fantastically fun and really really scary. I’ve heard that Totora is as popular in Japan as Winnie-the-Pooh is in Great Britain but Winnie never looked like this:

my neighbour totoro catbus

I stumbled across some Totoro nail art today, when looking for Japanese nails, which were gorgeously minimalist:

stuffpoint

(Photo from Tumblr)

It made me wonder what else was out there – like cake, Catbus does look like he might want to eat your soul and somehow that makes it all the more fun!

celebrate

(Photo from CelebrateWithCake)

Or Bento lunchboxes gone wild

flickriver

(Photo from FlickRiver)

So I concluded that some days the world would be a much cooler place if only you had a Catbus

catbus

(Photo from BrickShelf)

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Move better – dealing with knee pain whilst chased by the Beast from Poltergeist II

Technically the physiotherapist has not said that I can go back to spin classes yet, strictly speaking he said this week that I could use a stationary bike at around 60 Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) with low resistance (about 5 on the exercise bike they have on their premises). For about 6 minutes!

However the week previously he’d said I could do some bike with low resistance, so I took this as a green light to go back to spinning – admittedly with zero resistance and a broad interpretation of “sprint”. I am spending half of the class watching my knee and occasionally stopping to check that it is nearly straight on the downstroke, but is mostly feel good to be doing something again.

spin

(Photo from Christine Hennessey)

Apart from the pain and the annoyance of having runner’s knee – or to give it the proper name tracking problems of the patella femoral joint (with a couple of additional complications), the bit that I am struggling with most is having patience and knowing my limitations.

Not doing anything isn’t an option, I get bored and cranky, plus the level of pain increased when I stopped doing everything for a month. So I do little bits, well I mean to do little bits but end up doing more and then regretting it.

poltergeist II

(Photo of Reverend Henry Kane in ‘Poltergeist 2’ – he is very very creepy)

For example the other day I wanted a walk, some creepy guy walking behind me inspired me to pick up my pace and soon I was stomping along – until a couple of stabs of pain made me reassess the wisdom of this. The following day my knee swelled up so I am limping again, pacing away from the creepy guy felt good at the time but next time I will stop and wait for him to pass me instead.

I think the best slogan for me right now isn’t “move more” it is “move better” – which is a challenge and might even teach me some patience!

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Japanese Monster Nails

In modern popular culture Japan has the best monsters. They even have a funky word for it “Kaiju” which has a literal translation of “strange creature” – although the English definition has been simplied to “giant monster”.

Most of these monsters are indeed giant, from Rodan (a giant pteranodon) to Mothra (a giant moth) and even a giant Frankenstein ( in the 1965 ‘Frankenstein  versus Subterranean Monster Barago’). The best known of all of them, the King of All Monsters is Godzilla.

It turns out that he looks rather good on nail art too:

godzilla iceomatic

(Photo from Iceomaticsnails)

Domo-kun is arguably more of a mascot than a monster, but due to his teeth and appearance he is a monster.

domo kan we heart it

(Photo from WeHeartIt)

Last, but not least, for today is Nyan Cat. Arguably this isn’t a monster, however I feel Nyan Cat counts as a monster because it is scary, odd and has led to a number of lawsuits and seemingly random acts of litigation.

nyan cat art-sci

(Photo from Art-Sci)

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Demonically possessed gym showers as a conversation starter

At my usual gym there are very few other people who go in the morning before work and we don’t tend to talk very much – mostly due to the antisocial hour combined with the mad rush to cram in a workout and then get clean & changed.

A grunted hello is deemed chatty and anything more is definitely over-sharing except under extraordinary circumstances.

It turns out that all the showers being replaced by new ones which consist of a box with lots of buttons on counts as extraordinary! It has been a group effort to discover how the showers work best and to learn from other peoples’ mistakes.

psycho

The fun starts when you first get in as the On button is the same as the Off button – this in itself sounds simple, but it seems to have a 30 second delay, so pressing it doesn’t get instant results and poking it repeatedly & impatiently really doesn’t work!

The pressure dial seems to be entirely for show; the pressure is always the same regardless of where the dial is moved to.

The temperature dial is more of a general indicator of the average water temperature if you were to spend an hour or more in the shower. You think that you’ve got it just right so step under the water just in time for it to change! The actual water temperature that you experience fluxuates between far too hot and horribly too cold without the dial having been touched.

bathtub

The best that you can hope for is getting it slightly too cold for most of the shower and then you won’t get scalded when the temperature randomly skyrockets. So far these showers are proving more effective at raising heart rates than the recommended workouts that the gym staff sporadically posts on the pin board.

There are a few other buttons and lights on the shower box, but we haven’t yet worked out what those do and given the basic tendency of the shower is suggestive of demonic possession I am in no great hurry to press them.

As for the increased communication with the other people in the gym that isn’t going well, a lady proudly told me that she’d got one particular shower cubicle “just right” and that I should use that one. This reminded me vividly of  Roald Dahl’s descriptions of warming the toilet seats for the older boys during his time at Repton.

I don’t remember much else from ‘Boy’ but that is now ingrained on my memory, so now I can’t look this well-intentioned woman in the eye let along manage a conversation.

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Book – Hex and the Single Girl – a hex on all your houses

It was pretty obvious that a book published by ‘Little Black Dress’ books was probably going to be chick lit but for 50 pence I was willing to try  ‘Hex and the Single Girl’ by Valerie Frankel.

The premise of the book sounded rather funky, a lady called Emma Hutch lives in Manhattan and is a matchmaker – although not in the conventional way.

hex

Emma is a telepath who can project images, so woman pay her to touch men they like and project a saucy image of them into the man’s head.

This actually sounds rather creepy when I put it that way…

She calls herself the Good Witch and is pretty doozy! On her latest assignment, which she really needs to go well or she will lose her apartment, things go very wrong. Predictably so.

There are a number of random subplots and characters, unfortunately there are too many of these and most of the backstories are dull. So the book gets a bit lost and any momentum or pace gets lot.

glinda

(This trampy witch costume would fit in very well with the book)

There aren’t really any spoilers to give away, it is chick-lit so a happy ending is certain – in this case it is a happy ending for everyone no matter how unlikely or far-fetched.

There is no hexing, no magic and no real point to the book – although it is so disposable that once read you can dump it anywhere guilt-free the minute that you are done with it!

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Book – ‘Circle of Fire’ – wet hen looking for a sexist pig

Keri Arthur’s ‘Riley Jenson Guardian’ series is rather too smutty to count as romance or adventure, there is a plot but over the course of the nine books (Full Moon Rising, Kissing Sin, Tempting Evil, Dangerous Games, Embraced by Darkness, The Darkest Kiss, Deadly Desire, Bound to Shadows and Moon Sworn) the plot got a little farfetched – which is saying something given Riley is a vampire/werewolf hybrid who lives in a world where there is “moon heat”, where the week before the full moon all werewolves need to bonk A LOT.

full moon rising

(Photo from the internet – this cover is the one that I have and it really doesn’t give away the amount of bonking that goes on! So I was a bit surprise when it happened again and again and again…)

Frequently Riley did resort to bonking seemingly anything male that moved regardless of the time of the month, including a horse shape-shifter, although she did decline to do the dirty with a cat shape-shifter who had a barbed (censored). Sometimes there was a vaguely plot-related reason for the bonking, other times she bonked and THEN found a plot-related reason!

None of the characters in the series were particularly likeable and Riley was occasionally a really doozy cow who, frankly, could have done more to avoid getting into certain situations which oh-so-surprisingly turned out very badly.

keriarthurboundtoshadow

(Photo from the internet – If I had seen this cover then the sheer number of bonking partners wouldn’t have been such a shock!)

However the series was perfectly readable in non-taxing more-than-slightly-trashy way, so when I found a non-Riley Jenson Keri Arthur book in a bargain bin I thought I knew what I was getting into!

The book in question was ‘Circle of Fire’ and the back-blurb sounded like a slightly tamer version of Riley.

Maddie Smith is a recluse who has psychic abilities and is scared of her own shadow, but she is forced to come out of hiding when her nephew goes missing. There have been sixteen teenagers who have gone missing and eleven bodies found – without a drop of blood.

circle-of-fire

(Photo from the internet – the cover is much better than the rest of the book)

Jon Barnett works for some group of paranormal investigators known as the Damask Circle, in a private detective sort of capacity and is a shape-shifter. He and Maddie join forces after a slow and contrived series of events and things muddle along from there.

The main trouble is Maddie is a wet hen with no common sense and no discernible personality. Jon’s backstory is vague and he comes over as a misogynist, which makes him rather dull and very unlikeable. There is no spark between Maddie and Jon, you could probably soak them in petrol and stick them near an open fire with no risk of spark, flames or anything much except Maddie having a whine.

When the bad guys do bother turning up to relieve the boredom they are clichéd to the extent that they would be rejected as vintage Bond villains.

I think there was a sex scene but it was forgettable and badly written, just like the rest of the book.

There is a spoiler below the picture

Bear-Mace-Can

After the boring conclusion of the book (where the bad guys proved that talking too much isn’t a good tactic!) Jon lets Maddie walk away. Then in an epilogue set 18 months later he turns up and says how much he loves her.

18 months with no contact at all?!? I know exactly where a self-respecting woman should be tempted to tell him to go after that period of time! Plus it transpires that she sold her house (as she couldn’t afford the upkeep on her own) to his boss, who bought the house on Jon’s behalf and “it belongs to us, and our children.”

Which isn’t creepy and stalker-behaviour at all. Gosh I want to spray Jon in the face with mace so much. Even Riley’s horribly graphic encounter with the horse shape-shifter was more romantic that this drivel.

Zombie nails – how to look good and annoy my boss

After a day at work which felt like a living nightmare it sounds most therapeutic to have zombie themed nails.

The catch is unless it is the weekend I probably can’t go too extreme or gore-covered.

Fortunately the internet has a fair number of happy looking or comical zombie nails.

These little fellows look sort of like grumpy little barnacles, which isn’t overly what I’d want to wear. The one with a big smile covered in blood and cross eyes is a bit too sinister for work – I think I’d find myself escorted from the premises…

did my nails

(Photo from DidMyNails)

Neon green is a hard colour to pull off, but somehow these nails work really well, the lack of eyes is a huge plus! The cute little stitches are a nice touch! Although I am not entirely sure what the red bits are…

dtartjpg

(Photo from some TArt)

These are uber-creepy and very well done, but they remind me of the artwork for the film ‘Identity’ – the one with John Cusack and all the people stuck at the motel who get killed one by one… so I can see work’s rent-a-cops security guards featuring in my life with these nails too.

overpolished

(Photo from Overpolished)

Duel purpose nails are fab, this way I can have zombie-themed nails AND gesture to my co-workers “fellow shareholders” to get some darn brains by using a hand-sign that isn’t technically offense!

girls night

(Photo from Girlsnightcreativity)

Gosh I do hope that it is the small and fat security guard working tomorrow, I can outrun her even with my borked knee!

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Film: Dean Koontz’s Phantoms – a giant butterfly just ate your face

It is never a good sign when you are absolutely convinced that a film is far longer than it actually is; case in point being ‘Phantoms’ – based on the book by Dean Koontz (who also wrote the screenplay),it is 92 minutes long but feels like over 2 hours.

Koontz publically detested the film version of ‘Hideaway’ and reportedly kept the adaption of ‘Phantoms’ on a very short leash. Despite this ‘Hideaway’ made twice at much at the box office and both films had pretty similarly awful reviews.

Phantomsposter

For reasons that I can’t recall I have both films and ‘Phantoms’ is definitely the better of the two but that isn’t saying a great deal as I can’t remember that last time I actually got to the end of ‘Hideaway’. ‘Phantoms’ I have watched to the end at least a couple of times.

‘Phantoms’ starts with two sisters driving into a pretty town surrounded by snow and find that the town deserted – apart from a couple of dead bodies. The younger sister is played by Rose McGowan and the other one is played by an actress who later went on to be in ‘Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House.’ They then find Deputy Ben Affleck, an uber-creepy Liev Schreiber as his deputy and one other disposable policeman.

Together they find more dead bodies and call in the army – plus a Professor who happens to be an expert on “The Ancient Enemy” who is apparently responsible for mass disappearances of humanity (and the dinosaurs) all over history.

With a threat seemingly that big it sort of feels like Doctor Who should appear and save the day, but he doesn’t, instead there are creepy wanderings around in the dark… and after the below picture are SPOILERS!

Phantoms_by_EvanCampbell

(Photo from Evan Campbell – who sculpted for the movie!)

The Phantoms are the monster’s converted drones who wander around in the form of some of the people and animals that it has eaten. These Phantoms seem to pop up out of nowhere, as long as there is a drain – which isn’t as close to ‘IT’ as it sounds!

Liev’s character gets his face entirely chewed off by a giant butterfly that comes out of the dark – although that doesn’t stop him coming back as a Phantom and being creepy! The film doesn’t really explain the giant face-eating butterfly so I might need to track down a copy of the book. A cute dog in a church turns out to be a manifestation of the creature and kills a group of commandos, before stalking Ben Affleck.

The monster turns out to have a similar makeup to crude oil so gets eaten by bacteria designed to combat oil spills – which was handily on the army’s mobile lab.

oil monster

(photo from Blastr)

The film has an entertaining and pretty creepy first half with a couple of very strong scenes (the oven one and the bit that starts with a noise like a steam train), but after the army arrives it starts to wanders along and not that much happens in the second half of the film which seems to drag on forever.

Like with most monster movies it is at it’s best when the protagonists don’t know what they are facing, after all it is pretty hard to be scared by an animated lake of petrol who thinks it is Satan.

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2013 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ugly cupcakes want revenge

Cupcakes (or decorated fairy cakes as they were known before it became trendy to stick a huge price tag on them) are traditionally seen as easy to make but tricky to decorate well.

I do wonder what happens to the ugly cakes that people create when they are first starting out, are they fed to the homeless, are they cut up into small free samples so you can’t see the ugly or are they thrown away and grow resentful, plotting revenge as they go stale and dry?

Of course some people fail on the making

vintage

(Would crediting the photo here count as bullying? Do let me know if you want the credit)

Others really fail on the decorating to the point where you start to wonder if it is a satirical masterpiece

cupcake-fail-1

(Crediting the photo would probably count as bullying and that would be mean – but do let me know if you want the credit…)

Others are not-conventionally pretty

Army Cupcake

(Photo from theextraordinaryartofcake)

Then there at some which are very pretty

cookie-monster-cupcake

(photo from mychocolate)

You can tell that cupcakes are currently trendy due to people getting tattoos of them – that is PEOPLE, as in plural! Suddenly ugly rejected cupcakes being out for revenge doesn’t seem so farfetched or scary…

sacred_cupcake

(Photo via GeekyTattoos)

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2013 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Borgias – Sex, Lies and Papal Bulls

I would have expected that wandering into watching ‘The Borgias’ at the start of season 3 was going to be a confusing experience, however this wasn’t the case as the main plotlines seems to consist of corruption, treachery, murder and rather a lot of sex.

The series is set approximately around the turn of the 16th Century – although there are some huge historical inconsistencies and mash-ups in order to keep the plot scandalous! The show concerns the Borgia family who are an Italian family, but not of old Italy much to the horror of many (they are originally Spanish).

playground

‘The Borgias’ is apparently based on the actual Borgia Pope’s rule, Pope Alexander VI who succeeded the cowardly cat-killer Pope Innocent VIII then went about turning the Papal State into his and his family’s personal playground.

Borgia apparently did such a good job of this – plus the corruption, mysterious deaths, infidelity, etc., that his successor Pope Julius tried to eradicate any record of the Borgia family having ever been within a million miles of Rome.

Pope Alexander VI is played by Jeremy Irons to great effect; he seems almost raving in his desire to acquire security and, above all, power for his family. Lucrezia is a wonderfully interesting character both in the series and in history: multiple husbands came and went under a variety of unfortunate circumstances – some at the steer of her family for maximum political advantage. She may have entertained an incestuous relationship with her brother Cesare – the TV show certainly has her do so.

Episode 307

She puts me in mind of a more liberated version of Emily from Revenge and I do hope that the writers for Season 3 of ‘Revenge’ have been taking notes.

Lucrezia is played by actress Holliday Grainger – who I’ve never heard of before but based on her excellent work

in this should have her pick of roles for young, pretty and untrustworthy woman.
There will be SPOILERS under this picture, so do not read unless you have seen to the end of Season 3 of ‘The Borgias’ or don’t mind SPOILERS.

THE BORGIAS

(Photo from cast photos)

I was been pleasantly surprised by how entertainingly trashy ‘The Borgias’ has been and am very sorry to hear that it was cancelled. The creator, Neil Jordan, has planned a four season show mapping the family’s rise and fall. Instead the season was killed after three seasons and not with the big two-hour finale that has been planned.

Apparently Jordan had planned a “totally biblical ending” which would have seen the family crushed, to the point where “the Pope (is) dying and no one willing to hear his confession. When they finally find a confessor and the Pope starts to repent his sins, the confessor interrupts him, saying, ‘I’m sorry, it’s too late, you’re already dead and burning in hell.’”
So I do feel rather cheated!

However there have been some wonderful wonderful scenes and some really evil manipulations.

 

eel

(Photo from some educational site)

Possibly my favourite twisting of the knife was Lucrezia’s baby being brought to her at the funeral of King Ferdinand who had forbidden the little one from coming to Naples – and who Micheletto had murdered (by feeding to eels!) in order to reunite mother and son.

Watching self-promoting Cardinals fail was also fun, for example both the plague and Spear of Longinus were used to great effect.

Ultimately there is something that feels right about The Borgia family ending their TV run as the victors, proudly wearing their name as a byword for corruption and sin whilst their enemies crumble.

Perhaps this was the better ending after all.

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2013 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.