Limitless: A Year On

My Limitless card is up for renewal in a few weeks and I was curious about whether it was a worthwhile investment (it was).

I wanted to document what movies I saw though this is hardly a model of the scientific method (I’m happily retired, ergo I have more time than most, and I also have access to what I’m affectionately calling the ‘CEA loophole’ where I can take in a plus one at no extra cost, again for free).

Also I’ve turned movie-going into a habit and finally gotten over my anxiety about crowded spaces. Repeat viewings are either due to boredom, someone/me wanting to go or a genuine love of the movie (Arrival, I’m looking at you because you emotionally broke me but I heart you). There were also a slew of good movies out during 2016-17 and I travelled a bit (which allowed me to see movies elsewhere, like during my trip to Bath with Shannon).

 So what did I see?

  • Doctor Strange: twice (+1 person at each showing)
  • Storks: once (+1 person)
  • Inferno: once (+1 person)
  • Nocturnal Animals: once (+1 person)
  • Arrival: twice (+1 person at each viewing)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: three times (+1 person at two of the three)
  • Allied: once
  • Moana: five times (!!!! also +1 person at two showings)
  • Rogue One: twice
  • Passengers: once
  • Assassin’s Creed: once (+1 person)
  • Sing: once (+1 person)
  • The Lego Batman Movie: once (+1 person and a student)
  • Logan: once (+ 1 person)
  • Beauty and the Beast: twice (+1 each time)
  • Life: once (+1 person)
  • Ghost in the Shell: once (+1 person)
  • Fast and the Furious 8: once (+1 person)
  • Hidden Figures: once (+1 person)
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: twice (+1 person at one showing)
  • Alien: Covenant: twice (+1 person per screening)
  • La La Land: once (+1)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: once (+1 person)
  • Wonder Woman: twice (+2 person at each showing)
  • Despicable Me 3: once (+1)
  • The Fate of the Furious: once (+1)
  • Atomic Blonde: once (+1)
  • IT: once (+1)

That’s 40 movies … wow. That’s around £800 worth of screenings for £205, definitely the gift which kept on giving.

renews for 2018

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Time For a May Update!

So it’s time for an update, it’s been a couple of weeks and I currently have a D on my foot, which means I’m stuck.

Send help and chocolate!

But, seriously, spring is … erm … springing. We have blossom and my windows are open/the Sonos are on half-pelt. Life’s okay.

My foot is going to sleep. Crap.

But, yeah, I survived London and Easter. S’all good. My mood has been relatively stable which is nice, though my anxiety remains through the roof. Not so good but it’s a work in progress. Shall we do this through the medium of bullet points, just for brevity?

 Okay then:

  • London was awesome. I really enjoyed it. I’m still paying it off but it was worth it.
  • Hidden Figures is even more awesome in the cinema. Bonus for having an actual American with me who can explain the whole political mess around it and the Space Race. Also, it makes me want to go back to my Space Race on an alien planet novella.
  • I am writing. My current focus is still on the Atridia books, specifically on a short story I’m calling “Bindings, Seen and Not” about a neutral gender bookbinder living in a city under state-sanctioned non-binary gender oppression.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale was amazing … and severely triggering. I want to watch the rest of it (I think there are like ten episodes). I’m not sure I’ll be able to though, it’s horrifically foretelling but incredibly relevant. I know a lot of people are noping out purely because of anxiety issues with the content.
  • In election news, I’m noping out. Due to a bureaucratic cock-up relating to the Great Name Change, I’ve been kicked off the electoral roll and won’t be back on it time for the local election. I’m very angry about this but also glad I caught it as I do want to vote in the general election next month. I just don’t want to have to listen to the election kerfuffle until then. Aside: I know it’s a cock-up because they have ZERO records of me under Old Name either and I’ve lived here for a decade and voted, both in person and postal. They also have no problems sending me Council Tax bills in my new name. It’s a work in progress but I don’t expect it to be resolved in time to vote locally (I have re-registered to vote and intend to give someone at Electoral a serious talking to about the legalities of this, I’m registered as a head of household and am not dependent of anyone else so there’s no reason for me to have been removed).
  • There’s no ETA on the guide dog front either. Sigh. The cats are picking up the slack though. Bramble and Gismo hugs are also helping.
  • I got an update on Uni’s progress and she’s doing so well. She’s happy and has a beach. That’s all I can ask for.
  • My mood has been yoyoing but nothing too hard-core though I managed to really trigger myself last weekend. It was unpleasant. Oh and I’ve been obsessing again, mainly on buying things, Field Notes and food. Oh and Midori, of course. But I’m starting to argue out reasons why I should wait (example: my phone is due an upgrade but, instead, I’m going to go sim-only for a few months/til the end of the year as it’s cheaper).
  • Money-wise, I sat down and worked out my income and did a spreadsheet. I’ve worked out a rough, date by date, payment plan and should be debt free just after my birthday. I even budgeted in a new Limitless card and my rent. 2018 should start out with a nice, clean, slate. If I can restrain myself and focus on the Big Picture.
  • At some point, I’m going to write that book on bipolar or, at least, how to manage things like money while dealing with the mood swings.
  • I’ve decided to teach myself bookbinding (I started learning it a couple of years ago), thanks to the help of YouTube. Actually, I’ve been a lot more crafty of late; mostly laminating stuff and experimenting with little things like making postcard-sized pictures for my fridge (mostly of upcoming movie posters and inspirational quotes) or laminating stuff for friends. I am now the proud owner of an awl, a craft knife, cutting map, guillotine and haven’t yet done myself any serious damage. Go me. My task for this week is to learn to saddle stitch and learn how to bind my own notebooks for my wallet (there’s more variety in terms of paper and cover colour). Plus it keeps my brain quiet which is the biggest thing.

  • I cancelled my gym membership. The pressure of attendance (I’m not an evening person, especially not when I ‘have’ to do something I don’t want to do) and my continuing plantar fasciitis had been driving me nuts. Said PF was getting better, then I went to London. Sigh. On the upside, I’m not missing the place and much prefer walking around Eaton Park with my guide dog owner friends and their hounds.
  • I’m eating better food. Simple meals which are easy to cook and fast (or involve the minimum amount of prep). This week it’s garlic and bacon pasta with chorizo and lots of herbs. Healthy and tasty.
  • My faux Midori wallet is working beautifully, as is the free diary I got from JP Books (though it runs out in September and I kinda want a dated one. Dates are hard.). I’ve been playing with the inserts and now have a zipper pouch, a kraft folder and a notebook inside each other on the first string and my diary and expenses ledger held together with a band on the second. It works perfectly. Oh, I added a Neo Queen Serenity tiara charm onto the string and it sits beautifully on my yen coin.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is freaking awesome. End of. I didn’t look at my watch once AND I’m going back tomorrow.
  • I’m looking forward to so much TV and so many movies. I have tickets to Alien: Covenant and Wonder Woman already. I’m actually going to the cinema physically and ordering in bulb because the Odeon site only lets me book two performances ahead online (in person I can book loads). It’s annoying and cramping my social life.
  • Doctor Who is actually kinda good this season.
  • American Gods starts tomorrow. YAY!!!!
  • I’m managed to keep on top of household stuff, though I’m yet to put my washing away. Small steps, Asha, small steps.
  • I’m back in therapy and it’s helping. Reddit is helping more in terms of a support group which is just odd but so welcome. Ditto my very closest chosen family.
  • Ramen is still awesome.
  • I finally got my hands on a Lindt 1kg Gold Bunny in the post-Easter sales and I don’t regret it. Not for one second. 😀
  • We are Groot, people!
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Limitless: Yeah, Odeon Were Serious

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For the Day of Which We Do Not Speak (aka my birthday), I got a Limitless Card. Odeon introduced the scheme earlier this year and I’ve always loved movies. There was a period where I didn’t go in cinemas due to an anxiety trigger relating to a specific person and how they treated Uni (Guide Dogs do not, for some reason, include ‘how to take dogs into the cinema’ as part of advanced training). But, thanks to various friends over the years, as well as Bramble and Gismo, Uni got to the point where she just saw the place as a chance for a two hour nap.

I officially registered for the card just so I could see Doctor Strange on the day of release (28/10/16) and the rules say I can see any 2D movie, regardless of day and time, for free at any Odeon in the country (excluding the inner London ones). I can go into the Gallery as it costs extra and, frankly, most of those movies are too late for me to get home. Since signing up for the card I’ve seen

  • Doctor Strange (x2 with at least another viewing coming. Iron Man reskinned but OMG the graphics and the Inceptionness!)
  • Storks (Amazon pastiche that completely ignores sex. Also animated.)
  • Inferno (I wouldn’t have paid to see it, frankly. But I know BFF did and it wasn’t that bad.)
  • Nocturnal Animals (Freaky and weird but also compelling and will appeal to authors on a narrative bent. Should have been an 18)
  • Arrival (x2. Gorgeous.)
  • Next week I’ll be seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at least twice.

Oh and that’s not even going into the long list of films which are coming out in December: Moana. Rogue One. Passengers. Next year has Assassin’s Creed, Rings, Ghost in the Shell, at least three Marvel movies and some DC ones … you get the point.

I paid upfront and, assuming I pay £9.75 for a movie this means I need to see 22 movies to cover the cost. Assuming the cost is higher, for newer films (£12.95): it’s 15 movies. Assuming I go with someone else and use my CEA card to get them in, well I’ve basically justified the card now. In less than two weeks.

The weird part is I find it calming. I can book for myself via the app, on the way to the cinema. I can book for me plus someone else on the website. I can sit in the Costa AT the cinema and book tickets. It’s remarkably freeing, especially when you add in my obvious autistic traits of liking dark large spaces that are quiet and my love of repetition. If I’m with another friend, we’ll use Audio Description and sit up the back at the cinema but, usually on a second screening, I like to sit in the disabled seats right at the front (with bonus bag and dog room). I like to feel like I’m in the movie and being so close, it means I can compensate for my crap vision. I can actually see what’s going on.

The best part is, being chronically ill and disabled actually plays in my favour, I can see movies when I want to. In cinemas with perhaps five other people. I can see what I want when I want, especially on Saturdays when it’s possible to get in early and watch several movies. I miss doing that and it wasn’t something I could afford. Also I’m seeing movies that, if I was paying, I’d never normally consider which is introducing me to some really interesting movies.

There is a line through and that is Trolls. And the Smurfs.

In this case though, it’s not about the money (though the monthly DD option was a nice addition). It’s about the freedom and frankly the timing was perfect: what else am I going to do during a long, cold winter without a dog? I don’t have to worry about anyone but me and I need to be selfish in some ways, it’s part of the interim phrase before New Dog coms along, especially with the name change and whatnot. Plus it’s a gift I can share as I have a bunch of friends who love movies as much as I do and, while I do prefer the watch at home with a pause button option, nothing beats the big screen.

The best thing it’s nice to have gift I can use and (hell) abuse. Most people work, I don’t and the cinema is an hour away with a bus which deposits me a few minutes away. Bonus points go to Morrisions being just around the corner for on the way home shopping and a choice of places to eat. Riverside is also the ‘quieter’ part of Norwich, at least on every day when Norwich isn’t playing at home.

Yes, I think, I chose wisely.

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The Ultimate J-Horror Showdown: Sadako vs. Kayako (貞子 vs. 伽椰子)

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Mainly because of my love of Japan, I watched a lot of J-Horror when it was originally a thing. This was back in the early 2000s when Ring was, literally, the scariest movie out there. I remember watching it on a VHS (oh the irony) that I’d rented from Blockbuster, engrained subtitles etched into the bottom of the screen. I devoured movies like Dark Water, Tomie and, later, Juon (both the TV and movie forms) and One Missed Call. As well as any anime which even looked like it might retell classic horror stories like Kaidan.

That movie gave me nightmares for two freaking weeks. I still describe myself as having Sadakophobia, though, correctly, this should be onryophobia as Sadako is a specific kind of spirit (an onryo). Even having seen dozens of black haired, white-robbed female ghosts, Sadako remains the one who scares the literal shit out of me.

This was where I learned an important kanji: 呪い. Noroi or curse.

Western curses get broken by true love’s kiss but Japanese curses, they have the endurance of a marathon runner. They don’t die, they just get worse and are more akin to viruses which are transmitted from person to person. You can neutralise them but you’ll probably die, you and all those you care about. There’s no guarantee of a happy ending and dying of fright is a common occurrence. Worse you can catch them just by passing through a place, typically the spot where someone died a violent death or a haunted house.

They kill you and everyone around you, spreading like the plague. You can’t stop them, only hope the wrath at the centre of it ever satiates a morbid hunger.

Ring was the first Japanese novel I tried to read, bought from a tiny Japanese bookshop in Colindale in London. But it was far too advanced for me, eventually I tag-teamed it with the English translation as I was able to pick out some of the kanji. The book has a totally different vibe to the movie and remains one of my favourite works of fiction, with the sequel, Rasen (らせん/Spiral) coming a close second and that was more a medical thriller whereas the first was a detective story with a supernatural twist.

By the time the … interesting American version of Juon came out (whitewashing and trying to make J-Horror accessible to Western audiences in completely the wrong way), I was riding the wave of the second anime boom and working in the industry as a journalist. I wrote several articles both on the movies, I even got my name on the box of the American remake of One Missed Call but I also wrote a lot of obligatory Halloween issue pieces about the genre.

Juon is an interesting movie, from a narrative perspective, as it’s not told in a linear fashion. Also, there have been a lot of movies. It’s told in the vignette style, jumbled up so you really have to concentrate. Whereas Ring has Sadako turn into a vengeful ghost after dying in a well, the centre of the curse in Juon is a house in Nerima, one of the wards of Tokyo. There’s a mother, Saeki Kayako, and her child, Toshio, were brutally murdered by husband and father, Takeo, who then kills himself in remorse/or was murdered by Kayako.

The non-linear story-telling was what caught my attention with Juon and held it. But, as protagonists, both Sadako and Kayako fascinate me.

Depending on whether you read the novel and watch Ring 0: Birthday, Yamamura Sadako is either a smallpox victim thrown into a well because she was a hermaphrodite or an introverted young woman with psychic abilities called nensha (inherited from her ‘mad’ mother Shizuko) whose ‘good’ incarnation was a little girl and whose ‘evil’ form is the onryo we all know and fear. I prefer the book version but let’s move on. In the movie, she psychically alters a video tape (retro!) that plays a mysterious and terrifying collection of jumbled scenes showing a well, a woman brushing her hair in a mirror and the characters for ‘mountain’ (Sadako’s last name means ‘mountain village’).

Oh and if you don’t show the video to someone else in the space of a week by either copying the tape or physically sitting them in front of a YB (thus spreading the curse), she crawls out of the well in the video, out of your TV and scares you to death.

Kayako, on the other hand, is a loving mother and a fantasist. Her fixation on her son’s school teacher ends her life when her jealous and abusive husband finds her diary. Her victims range to anyone who visits the house, some murdered by Takeo, others strangled by Kayako’s long hair. Toshio, and his cat Mar, serve as the harbingers of the curse, appearing to many of the characters dragged to their doom.

Given their popularity, a versus movie was practically ordained. Originally it was an April Fool’s joke but has since been confirmed as a real thing and it’s coming out in a matter of months, right in the middle of summer (Japan tends to celebrate ghost stories in summer because of the Obon festival).

From the looks of the trailer, it looks to be good and appeals to me in so many way. Not less because I’m curious how the two are going to meet (Sadako’s well is on an island and the Saeki house is in suburban Tokyo). Plus the video is cracked and knackered; who even has a VHS player these days? Hell do modern kids even know what one is?

I can’t wait to find out!

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Happy Spring!

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As the days get warmer, as the sun comes out, I inevitably start feeling better, both mentally and physically. I’m commuting most of the week and spending large amounts of time with The Naked Dog (I can’t really call her my Furball as she’s been shawn for the spring) in Starbucks working. I’m still on a short story streak (Asha really does like them) and have been working on a particularly emotional story called “Constructed Mind, Reforged Soul” that I sent off to an anthology call yesterday.

Oh and I’ve watching Dark Souls III playthroughs, doing Zumba and napping.

So, as today is Good Friday (aka the One Bank Holiday which isn’t on a Monday), I went into the city for breakfast with my BFF, Mhairi and her guide dog, Bramble (the one whose hugs are like dog valium). Then I bought a hat.

Apparently all I needed to complete my transformation into Asha was a hat. Who knew?

(BTW this is not a selfie; Mhairi took it. Not bad attempt either.)

We’d finished breakfast and were heading for coffee but, as it’s Easter, there was this market just by Cafe Rouge selling things like food, bread, jewellery, crepes (CREPES … and I had no room left). Oh and hats.

Funny story: I only found out what a milliner is a couple of months ago. I was in Mary Robinette Kowal’s class and she was brainstorming ideas. She came up with something like ‘a milliner who assassinates people with oranges’ and I was mentally going: WTF? A word I don’t know??? (and I know many just not this one). I actually had to google the definition and discovered milliners are the name for people who make hats. I related this story to Mhairi and the stall owner as I tried on hats, who reminded me of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. That bit I knew: he was a hat maker who went mad from the mercury used to make hats.

But he’s never called a milliner.

I pointed this out. Mhairi laughed at me. Nicely.

I ended up buying this rather nice hate (and mentally swearing at the expense). Lots of people have told me it suits me and I really think it does, even if it means I’m going to have to wear my hair either braided or bound back out of my face. Normally I wear headbands and those get in the way of the hat sits.

This afternoon I finally sat down and edited “One Quiet Night”. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been putting it off, apparently—regardless of my name—I still hate editing. It’s like pulling teeth and actually, I’d put it off so long I had to get the file re-sent as it had expired. That’s just embarrassing. Anyway, I cracked my knuckles, spoke to Shannon and then engaged the Kung Fu Panda 3 OST (it’s a freaking awesome movie BTW). I think it took me two hours to do and, as usual, once you start things don’t feel quite as difficult. I’m sitting on the draft overnight and will then send it off with the blurb I’ve not yet written.

Actually, let’s do that now:

It only takes one quiet night for humanity to die …

Everyone expects zombies and nuclear fire to herald the destruction of the Earth but the end, at least in this tale, comes much more quietly. Your daughter is sick, the entire world is dying, and there’s nothing you can do.

Yes, you.

Step into the shoes of a single mother whose daughter doesn’t just have a simple bug but is one of millions afflicting with a terrifying virus which is quietly decimating humanity.

And you’re not the only one watching her die.

I like it.

Also, hey, on the fly! Go me!

In other news I’ve had a couple of rejections, which is fine. I’m sending out stories as fast as I can and trying to revise the last few in my ‘to revise’ pile. I also have about five which need finishing, particularly as there are at least two anthology calls coming up I want to respond to. I’m now treating said rejections as excuses to, occasionally, rework a story and as a badge of honour, not a negative thing. Rejections make you stronger and I’m now at the point where I get to call C.C. Finlay of F&SF ‘Charlie’ after he’s rejected like four of my stories.

This is a major thing, if my other writer friends are to be believed.

And yeah, I’m still sending him stories.

One day he will accept one, I know it.

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