Poetry Tuesday: Malediction

Japanese anonymous from the 12th century, for those who thought such feelings were a modern occurrence. . .

May he who bade me trust him, but did not come,
Turn into a demon with three horns on his head,
That all men fly from him!
May he become a bird of the waterfields
Where frost, snow, and hail fall,
That his feet may be frozen to ice!
Oh, may he become a weed afloat on a pond!
May he tremble as he walks with the trembling of the hare,
With the trembling of the doe!


Poetry Tuesday: From the Drimeh Kundan

According to research, this is an ancient Indian opera translated into Tibetan. Nobody knows who the original author is, and considering it’s around seven hundred years old, doubt anyone will find out now.
Basically a sweet ode about a mother realizing she had to let her son grow up and conquer the world. Appropriate for upcoming graduation and onward to college.


The Queen wept but thought: It is not appropriate to show such grief; he must go on this long journey. So she wiped away her tears.

My dearest child, now let me speak not to you but for you.
To the beings in the boundless ocean of space surrounding us,
To the conquering Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the guardians
Of all directions, please listen to my words:
This son of mine is leaving; return him with his present virtue
And in his body. May he be spared acute fatigue as he crosses
Pass and plain; when he lives in the hill Hashang may it become
Palatial; when he eats what trees and plants can give
May he taste a royal nectar; in his thirst may his water become
Forever milk; when he dresses in leaves and sleeps on moss
May he walk in the god’s five-color cloth and lie on silk.
When the wild beasts roar may he hear the music of mantra;
When the rivers roar in their beds of rock, let the sound be
Om Mani Padme Hung; may the daughters of the gods spare him
From the narrow valleys’ heat; and on frightfulness mountain
May all the Buddhas be his companions; when his body burns
With fever, may doctors, like miracles, come with medicine.
Wherever he may live, may he live in delight, may his doings
And his thoughts spread like the wish-fulfilling leaves.
May the two of us soon meet.


Book Reviews: Comic Strip Coolness

Moran Cartoons Vol 1 Sleeping Dogs
I remember The Far Side fondly. This strip might just top it.
Right from the first one, Prairie Dog School, you can tell this is both going to be smart—no lowest common denominator here—yet savage.
A high proportion of these actually made me laugh out loud. From the anteater that likes spicy food to the native dancer who prefers the macarena, these humorous illustrations take some kind of anthropological viewpoint and turn it on its head, like making me feel sorry for both Bigfoot and Littlefoot.
Other favorites: Art gallery. Terminator. Big bang theory. Right to bear arms. Bad dogs. Berserk Vikings. Cowboy biologists. Spock and Picard. Quacken! Light a cottage to Freya. The Flash and bugs. Blizzard of Oz. Flamenco dancing is in your blood. Do I come here often? The fall of the Roman Empire. Prickly Pear. Mailman training. Gone with the Wind. Sniper graduation parade.
But my absolute favorite is the metal detector.
The artwork isn’t much of a much, just sketch-like, but it hardly matters. And don’t think I didn’t notice that car with the lovely UCLA logo on it. . .

Birding Is My Favorite Video Game
A one-panel comic strip—I guess you would need at least two panels to make a strip, but whatever—concerning the animal kingdom. It sneaks up on you, but once you get over the first couple of shocks you realize this is hilarious!
Bird call mnemonics! Cool! But there’s no way I’ll remember them.
That is not the word I would use for the turkey vulture.
The three-way crash on the tree was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
A new contender for world’s smallest violin!
“Parasitism is the sincerest form of flattery.” Wow.
Snakes fall prey to talking villain syndrome.
“The blood of mighty dinosaurs courses through my veins!”
Best wedding photo ever!
Attenborough gets his table turned!
I can’t believe how many times such easy jokes made me laugh so hard! Even something as simple as Top 10 posts and dating profiles!
“Snakes are typically self-governing.” Wow again! And “Many birds do not recognize its authority.” By the way, the horny one “only thinks of you as a friend.”
What would a turtle butt selfie look like?
Species index at the end, including Reading Attenborough.

Ménage à 3 Volume 1
Guy in Montreal comes home from work to find his two roommates doing each other, and more importantly about to move out, leaving him with no way to pay the rent alone. But don’t worry, they put out an ad for him, highlighting the need for applicants to have cute butts. That sets the tone for the shenanigans in the rest of this pretty huge volume.
Cute girl gets her face stuck in new girl’s cleavage. No better way to introduce a character. I don’t think it’s going to matter how cute her butt is.
“Less talk, more waffle.”
Generally I hate tats, but that Canadian beaver is awesome. So’s the anger thermometer.
Don’t hug a new desk until you know where it’s been.
It’s good to be bi. . .
Of the three in bed, the cat looks the most surprised to be caught.
“Don’t worry your tight little buns about that.” Not the character I expected to say that. . . no, never mind, just not the one I wanted to.
Zii’s makeout warmups are hilarious.
Smartest stripper ever!
Ah, that proctologist excuse. . .
Of all the musical acts in the world, Red Hot Chili Peppers having a wardrobe malfunction would be the last choice. . . except for maybe the Red Hot Chili Pipers.
Wow, that Charlie Brown parody. . . no words.
“Didi’s not in this? Bah, I’ll come back when you’re done.” Get out of my mind, dude.
Over three hundred pages, all those opportunities, all those girls. . . and he still can’t get laid. . .

Little Moments of Love
A tiny girl is in love with a bearded man who towers above her. Thankfully he loves her too, enough to put up with her occasionally over-the-top weirdness. How small is she? She’s so tiny she fits in his hoodie. . . while he’s wearing it.
Each page is in the standard four-panel comic strip format, and there’s rarely any dialogue, but they are superb in showing the little things in relationships that make humans fall in love, or stay in love, despite obstacles. It’s sweet and charming and most of all hilarious.
The one that really got to me was when she says she remembered everything. . . while he waits for her to come back for her purse. The almost-embarrassed smile is just perfect, especially considering how broad the artwork is.
Sometimes she’s a little mean and tries to pass it off as endearing, like putting her cold hands on him, or zip-tying him to a chair. I don’t know if her fetish is his butt or his beard. . . though I suppose it could be both. I definitely don’t want to spend hump days with her. Thankfully the cuteness outweighs those moments, like the “It’s my lips!” routine. There are tiny touches throughout that makes this all the more special, like when she grabs onto the edge of the panel with her tiny adorable hands. His best moment is showing off his kissing-forehead magic to his friend; his thumb is the perfect capper.
“Nope. Never letting go.”
The quick shower thing was right on the mark; at least the author can make fun of herself.
And that’s probably the cutest author pic ever. . .

Buni: Happiness Is a State of Mind
The first image you see, besides the cover, is this strange bunny-like creature rocking out with headphones; it looks incredibly awesome. But let’s face it, this comic strip is where optimism goes to die. The pseudo-bunny starts each page happy, but just a few panels later something horrible has happened to him. . . and it’s hilarious.
Some of my faves to look out for:
Sushi and hugs: both so wrong. . .
I will never forgive this author for what he did to the redheaded mermaid!
Christmas delusion. . .
Cupid’s arrow doesn’t work on squirrels.
Easter Bunny has quite a racket.
This is the first person/animal/fictional creature I’ve seen who can have just as much fun playing with a popped balloon.
Books attacking TVs could become a thing.
Sharks are dangerous out of water too.
If T. Rexes had keytars, they would not have gone extinct.
Tinder is great for pollination.


UCLA Beach Volleyball: Court 1

Can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I went down to Santa Monica for UCLA Beach Volleyball; I remember it was on St. Paddy’s Day, and luckily I did not get pinched. Took over a thousand shots, and plenty of them were just too good not to share, so I organized it by court, and even then I’ll have separate categories, like serving and funny hair and such.
But for now let’s start where it always starts, on Court 1 with Nicole and Megan McNamara. Since you’ll likely need help telling them apart, Nicole is the lefty—making her my fave—wearing #13, and Megan is obviously the righty sporting #31. If they’re not wearing their numbers and not hitting a ball, I don’t even try to tell them apart. . .


Poetry Tuesday: Tantalos

By Paulus Silentiarius, back in the sixth century. (If that translates to Paul Silent, I’m in trouble. . .)

Mouth to mouth joined we lie,
Her naked breasts curved to my fingers,
My fury grazing deep on the silver plain of her throat.
And then, no more.
She denies me her bed.
Half of her body to Love she has given,
Half to Prudence.
I die between.


Book Reviews: Erotic Hacks, Dragons, and Chateaus

X Marks the Spot
A woman wants to move on, but her husband won’t let her. She’s interested in a guy from her past, but some well-meaning shenanigans by friends make for a huge misunderstanding, and now she’s not sure which one she wants.
I almost gave up on this, as I found the writing style boring from the beginning. But then. . . I want to hate the author for that big twist, and what it does to Abi, but it’s actually kinda brilliant. On the other hand, I can’t stand that this genre is seemingly required to make so many characters real assholes, but Liam is particularly gifted in that regard.
When I got through the first half I didn’t think I would enjoy this as much as I eventually did. The writing got better, the characters became smarter and kinder, and even the supposed bad guy grew into something better. I pretty much guessed where the sex would end up going, and that was done well too. Thoroughly pleasantly surprised after muddling through that annoying start.

Sister In Law
An abused child grows into a beautiful woman, but burning with an obsession for revenge on all men. She uses her beauty to get what she wants, without a care to anyone else’s feelings, usually. She’s recruited into a sinister plan to take down the President of the United States by the {NRA}, but finds herself falling in love.
Speaking in digital terms, the first 10% of this story is just setup; takes that long for the protagonist to be introduced. It’s followed by a long description of the physical and psychological problems she faced growing up. It’s a long flashback to the present, which basically explains her approach to sex and business once we get there. This lasts till 27%, which means it’s over a ¼ done before the story actually starts.
I liked the writing, with plenty of funny stuff. The problem is the pacing; almost halfway through and it’s still not at the main plot so glaringly told in the publicity blurb. Not that her life story is boring, but every once in a while I wish it’d moved on. If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the writing, it’s the clunky foreshadowing at the end of each chapter; not necessary.
The thing with Craig was a little obvious, but a good touch, not unexpected considering the people she was dealing with. I didn’t think I would like the letters to her BFF, but they really helped to make her sympathetic. After starting as a woman intent on revenge, she mellowed nicely, coming across as more human.
The book takes quite an unexpected turn right before the end, something I would have never imagined from the main character. I’m not sure I’d call it believable, but it was well done. But right after that there’s another twist, and I found her decision on that one not credible at all. I have no idea how I feel about the ending and its aftermath, at once noble and yet all the more upsetting. I have some sympathy for her, but not as much as her story would want from me. Also, I am officially saying this is not an erotica as advertised. The sex scenes are truncated, hardly even foreplay.
Although it was for the most part nicely written, as mentioned above, there were moments when I felt like this was a beginning writer, and in the author page I saw I was right. A great first effort, but not as great as it could have been.

Dragon’s Bride: Monster Ball
In this short novel—I read it in about two hours—a female dragon shapeshifter is basically forced by “The Elders” to mate with a seemingly emotionless leader, held captive until she comes into heat. And when she does. . . does she ever! Of course his cousin and her sister are involved, and there’s all kinds of secret relationships that that are bursting to unsecret themselves.
Eh. . .
At the heart of most romances, even paranormal, is a lack of communication, but this book ups that factor by a few levels. Even the thing with the supposed bad guys would have worked out if only these people talked to each other. It’s all supposed to come off as “love is inevitable” with a touch of “all’s well that ends well,” but it’s really more frustrating than anything else, and the sex scenes don’t have enough to make up for it.

The Chateau
A man whore/secret agent assassin takes his next unofficial assignment enthusiastically, infiltrating a sex cult. . . though it’s not really infiltrating if you tell the target what you’re doing. He’s there to “save” a relative of his chief from the dastardly “clutches” of the woman in charge, but of course things are never as they seem.
This author writes “bigger” than most erotica. This is my second book by her, and like that other one, it feels like an esoteric literary fiction with some sex scenes.
I always find myself thinking ahead, guessing at what twists might be coming up, and this one had a couple. For instance, I thought it would be amazing if the least likely of all characters—and it’s obvious who I mean if you’ve read this—is the mole. Looks like I might be right, but it’s left ambiguous. At least my guess about her ex-husband was spot on.
By far my least favorite part. . . it’s fine to say that he wants everything that’s happening to him, and she loves giving it to him, but that mind fuck about Colette and Soren. . . there’s no coming back from that. It’s just evil. I don’t care why she did it, I lost all sympathy for her there. He simply didn’t deserve that, as it’s not the kind of pain he’s into; no one does.
According to the small interview at the end, this book is a bit of a prequel, set in a universe where a lot of things, especially with this character, have already happened. If I wasn’t still annoyed by that twist I might have felt like reading those others.

Love Hack
A nerdy computer geek and a beautiful lady at a tech firm meet and get instantly hot for each other. . . of course. She’s got an annoying ex, and in what was probably an earlier entry in what feels like a series, there was a major computer intrusion that the company is still recovering from.
There’s some excellent writing here. During a scene where they’re making love by a fire, the paragraph about their shadows joining in was superb.
The plot was relatively simple, the ending obvious, but it doesn’t matter when the characters are both relatable and special, and the writing this much fun. . . at least that’s how I felt before the last twist, which was completely out of character and forced, just for the sake of. . . I don’t know why. It was the very textbook definition of anticlimactic. Perhaps there’s some blueprint, some book on writing these types of novels, that says they can’t live happily ever after just yet; there must be some other obstacle to overcome, after one or both act stupidly in some manner. That probably cost what was otherwise an excellent book a higher score.
Fun note: I think this author is a Judy Greer fan. First there’s the “Hi-Lo” line from The Big Bang Theory—which could also be an Evanescence/Lindsey Stirling shoutout—and then there’s the huge planner/organizer right out of 27 Dresses.


Book Reviews: Kids Read the Darnedest Things

Creature Files: Sharks
Right off we start with close-ups of the different kinds of teeth sharks can have, as well as the fact that when one falls off there’s always another in line waiting to take its place. Can’t help but picture the mechanism of a vending machine. . .
There’s a brief chapter of just about every shark imaginable, including the cookiecutter; and you thought the hammerhead and its buddy the saw were weirdos. And don’t even try to figure out the frilled. The wobbegong took a wrong turn on the evolutionary road; makes the goblin shark look like a tuna in comparison. But hey, Megamouth made the list!
Each page gives length, weight, and location, as well as a close-up terrifying photo.

The Ghost, The Owl
A dancing girl ghost appears in a swamp, to the consternation of the animals. The owl is the only one who talks to her, asking why she suddenly appeared. She’s confused as to why the owl wants to help her, only to find he’s a pay-it-forward type. A mystery revolves around a house in the woods and the free spirit who lives there.
Owl breaks the animal Prime Directive for a good cause, and must go before the “Parliament of Owls.” Funny. And it’s so cute that she calls the animals “Mr. Owl” and “Mr. Crow.” But it feels like there’s a missing part to this: what’s the bad guy’s motivation for wanting the land to such an extent?
The artwork is “heavy,” for lack of a better term, in that it fills the page and doesn’t allow your eyes any rest, but at the same time it looks light and fluffy.

Officer Pete
The main character’s hat is stolen, so he takes his K-9 partner and goes to find the thief, ignoring the secret mission his boss gave him, going as far as commandeering the chopper in search of what’s probably the cheapest part of a cop’s uniform. And did I mention all the cops—and everyone in town, really—look like kids?
While I get the story, it seems like his buddies put him through a lot of hardship and worry for what is really a small payoff. Most inquisitive kids would wonder why they would do something that, if looked at in black and white, seems so mean.
As you can tell, I didn’t really like it. There’s some good police procedural stuff—for kid level anyway—and the artwork is cute, but the main story was a fail for me.

Pip’s Big Hide-and-Seek-Book
It’s the biggest ever game of hide-and-seek, going all the way into outer space. Though the book doesn’t specifically say, you have to find all the hiding rats, which doesn’t look all that difficult, even for little kids.
Is that a smiling Darth Vader on the TV?

Alex and the Monsters: Here Comes Mr. Flat!
Kid who’s been slacking in class has to stay in his (messy) bedroom all weekend in order to catch up. While on punishment duty in the library he finds what appears to be a toy, only to have it turn into something else when he gets home to do his homework.
While his appearance certainly could be construed as monstrous—or cute, depending—Mr. Flat does not act like a monster.
“All these books that I found really boring are way more interesting that I thought.” And there’s your lesson.
This is done as prose with drawings; the dialog takes place in the artwork, which is very colorful, especially the pumpkin-colored monster. It took me till near the end of the book to realize Mr. Flat looks like a fat carrot.
Cute, but really not much to say. . .

Today I’ll Be a Unicorn
Unlike most of the Phoebe and her Unicorn books, this one is short and sweet. . . well, okay, they’re always sweet, but this one is really short. It feels more like one of the Sunday specials the strip is known for, though this one seems to be more geared for little kids.
Over the years I’ve been reading this strip, and its books, I’ve seen Phoebe dressed in all manners and styles, but even though the horn looks okay, the tail doesn’t work for me, just makes her too strange.
Excellent twist at the end, as the author is prone to doing.

Pearls for Pearl
A tiny mermaid is bored in the pet shop, so when a little girl comes in looking for a pet she turns on the charm and gets bought. She makes friends with an octopus and then is distracted by something shiny outside the tiny aquarium.
The cute artwork, especially the mermaid, will make this a hit, especially with little girls, but there isn’t much of a story here. Thankfully it’s too short to become boring, but other than her mode of transportation, not much takes place.

My Favorite Sport: Baseball
Rather than the usual kind of artwork, this book uses photographs to teach about, you guessed it, baseball.
It’s all matter-of-fact, even the quizzes. Even the glossary is incredibly simple. Definitely for younger kids, or possibly people from other countries who’ve never seen such a spectacle. Can’t imagine it took more than an hour to write, a little longer to find the photos. . . which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The Red Dots
This is the second of the “Kika’s First Books” I’ve reviewed, from a popular Italian kids’ series celebrating its fortieth anniversary.
It’s actually a cute premise. The author shows a red dot in a certain place and then reveals what it is, a simple object that can be so many different things. Everything is done with the simplicity necessary for a small child to understand. It doesn’t try to be any more than that, which works.

Discover Dogs
Geared toward the very beginning readers, this simple book tells the basics about our canine friends, such as the different breeds.
Chihuahua: a small dog with a big bark. Perfect description!
Labradoodles are actually small Wookies.
Some dogs don’t do any work at all. Poor bulldog.
Truly basic, but all the better for the little ones.

The Swallows Return
Another in the series of Italian kids’ books celebrating their fortieth anniversary.
With very simple artwork and words, this tells the story of a swallow going home, literally. Not a mission in California, but an actual home, with friends in the garden where they can have a picnic. It’s even simpler than others by this same author, and that’s saying a lot.
At the same time I’m sure the tiny tots will love it.

Olga the Cloud Goes to the Party
Olga is a cloud. She and Ugo the Bird go to a party thrown by her friend the Moon. The sun, the stars, and a comet all show up, dressed fancy. Then they have cake.
And that’s it. No attempt at a story or anything else. The last page shows more books in the series, and I wonder if they’re all this simple. If it had done some astronomical teaching, at least, I could see the point, but there’s simply no substance. The artwork isn’t special enough to keep the attention of a curious little kid.

Little White Fish and His Daddy
All the sea animals are bragging about their daddies.
Some fit perfectly, others are a stretch, but if you want to teach your little one to be proud of Daddy, this is the book to do it.

Riley Knows He Can
A young boy gets a massive case of stage fright, in rhyme.
His sister gives him a charming pep talk.
He gets over it and he and his friends put on a great show at school.
Really hope kids don’t get bored by this, as there’s not much to it.