Ainori Love Wagon

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO1600
“Ainori” Cedar Park, 2020

Over the past week, I binge-watched Ainori Love Wagon: Asian Journey Seasons 1 and 2, and African Journey Season 1. I loved them! If you don’t know about these shows, they are Japanese reality television shows, where several single people travel to different countries hoping to find a love partner within their group. It’s a lot of fun, and I since I love travel shows, I find each episode very interesting. The relationships are fun to watch develop, but I think if there was no travel element, it wouldn’t be nearly as good.

In my opinion, the African Journey is the best of the bunch because of the friendly group dynamic. I found the two Asian seasons had a bit too much tension (because of one particular traveler), and while some people love that kind of drama, I’m not a huge fan. I’m looking forward to Africa Season 2, but I’m disappointed because the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have put the series on hold… although they might have finished filming Season 2 before lock-down.

In the meantime, two of my favorite travelers, “Kou” and “Husky”, had an Instagram Live session today which was fun (from what I could understand). It’s neat joining Instagram Live streams since they often interact with the text chat. I remember Crystal Kay responded to a few things I commented on, and in today’s chat, Kou returned my “cheers” by raising her non-alcoholic beer and saying “Texas Chili! Cheers!” lol. 🤣

Anyways, if you like these kinds of shows, and have Netflix US, give it a try.

I hope you had a good day!

Eleanor & Park (2012) – Book Review

I finished reading (audiobook) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I was captivated by this YA novel from beginning to end. Set in Omaha, Nebraska, it’s about two high school students’ relationship. The year is 1986, which was the year I graduated, so the references to popular culture were familiar to me. I normally am put off by too many references in books, but I enjoyed the ones in Eleanor & Park. Some were pretty obscure, like the Prefab Sprout t-shirt towards the end of the book, which I really appreciated. I feel like only a certain 80s subculture, like the one my friends and I were part of, would recognize many of the references. But others, such as Totino’s Party Pizzas (we used to eat them all the time!) are common but add a lot of context to the times.

The love story is a simple one but the details and characters were very interesting. Eleanor is a misfit, Park is half-Asian, Eleanor has a large family with an abusive stepfather, while Park’s lives in a typical household. While it’s mainly a teen romance, subjects of bullying, domestic abuse, inter-racial relationships, and racism are also talked about, but not too deeply, which is kind of a shame and I think a little bit of a missed opportunity. However, the pace of the story moves along nicely and maybe it was just the right amount of lightly touching on those heavy subjects.

One thing to note is that some of the East-Asian stereotypes can be a bit “cringey” and reading them left me a little uncomfortable, but if I think about the setting of the story, it kind of makes sense. I don’t know if the author was intentionally describing Park like that to point out the stereotyped mindset of the time, but she could have been clearer. And I have never heard of “Park” as a first name (it is a common Korean surname).

I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that I thought it was excellent and I (unlike many other readers) was satisfied. That final chapter brought a big smile to my face and a little tear to my eye. 😊 Give it a read if you haven’t already!

Note: Book cover design by Olga Grlic and illustration by Harriet Russell

******** SPOILER ALERT *********

About the ending… it reminded me of the ending to Monsters Inc. It’s that same feeling.

By the way, I made a little sketch of Eleanor wearing Park’s Prefab Sprout t-shirt::

“Eleanor”


The Empire Strikes Back (Trailers)

We’re coming up on the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and Youtuber AD_Edits created a modern-style trailer for it. I think it’s okay, but a bit boring and drawn out. Here it is below:

I much prefer this old trailer (below), especially the cool transitions that each of the major character’s still get. Luke’s portrait appearing when the Imperial March is playing is pretty awesome! This is a trailer that gets you so pumped to see it that you pre-order tickets asap, whereas the modern trailer is more like “I’ll wait until the reviews are in before I commit to a full-priced ticket”. YMMV of course.

May the Force be with you!

Still in Love (With My Car)

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2, 1/18 sec, ISO3200
“Crosstreks” Austin, 2020

I’ve loved the design of the Subaru XV Crosstrek ever since I first saw it years ago, and since I’ve bought one, I love it even more. It seems I’m not the only one who does, as there are plenty of Crosstreks on the road here in Austin.

This photo was taken in the parking lot at BookPeople/REI (my Crosstrek is the blue one in the background). After dropping off Koa at rehearsal, I’ll often browse the camping gear and then read while sipping a coffee at the bookstore. Always a relaxing evening. 😊

New Gloves

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.6, 1/80 sec, ISO3200
“Gloves/Mittens” Cedar Park, 2020

I bought a pair of new gloves the other day, and I love them! It’s going to be chilly while camping and I was planning on bringing some fleece gloves that I bought at REI, and although they are warm, they don’t “spark joy”. However, these new ones are really fun and functional. They are a blend or wool and synthetic material so they are comfy and warm, but the really neat thing is that there’s a finger cover that you can flip down which turns these finger-less gloves into mittens. It’ll be great for sitting around a chilly campsite.

We’ve been watching the dorama Yurukyan ゆるキャン△, and I noticed that the main character also has a pair of gloves like these. But her’s are superior in that the thumb also has a tiny cover, which mine does not. Oh well, for the price I paid, I can’t complain. Plus, the multicolored fingers are awesome!