Categories
Books

Books Read in 2019

At the start of last year I wrote a post about wanting to read more books. As I wrote at the time, although I do a lot of reading, when it comes to getting through books proper, that was something I found myself not doing much of anymore. So I gave myself a pretty ambitious goal of getting through a couple of books a month, which I also set in my Goodreads account. Did I make it? No, but I’m still quite happy at how many books I did read (11, about to finish a 12th one as the year ended), which for me not only made me feel good about doing what I set out to do, but more importantly, also got me back in a book reading groove.

I’ll also say that I probably would have gotten closer to my goal if I hadn’t hit a couple of books that slowed me down (and that I ended up putting down) in the summer, as it then took months to get back “on the wagon.”

So what’s my goal for 2020? I’ve set it to 18, which I think is very doable — it’s just 6 more than last year, and I’m already about to finish my 2nd book this year (L.E. Hall’s book about Katamari Damacy, following Ian Fleming’s Moonraker). I also think that my plan to mostly alternate between fiction and non-fiction worked well, and so I’ll probably continue to do that.

Below, a list of the books I read in 2019, with a short write-up.

Forever and a Day (Anthony Horowitz)
This was the Bond novel I was reading as the year started, telling the story of a young Bond as he becomes a 00 agent, and it was quite a good read. As with other recent Bond novels, I like that they are set in the years that Fleming wrote the original Bond novels, instead of just a modern take (which I already get out of the film series).

Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games (Walt Williams)
This was quite an enjoyable — despite the frustrating situations that come up throughout — and definitely gives you a good idea of how things are done (or can be done) in the games industry. Sure, it’s not always like this, but I definitely found myself understanding what the author was going through.

Maigret et le corps sans tête (Georges Simenon)
I quite like murder mysteries, and it’s a genre you’ll see me revisit a lot, but I had never read a Maigret novel, and so figured it was finally time to do so. I really enjoyed this, and I like that it’s a quick read, which was good for me while I was trying to get back into the habit of reading. I definitely plan on reading another one this year, if not more. I read it in French, but I’m sure there are English translations.

Peyo l’Enchanteur (Hugues Dayez)
This is a biography of Peyo, the creator of the Smurfs, and I found it to be a fascinating chronicle of his life/career. I’m sure I’ve read pretty much all of the series he’s created, but I liked finding out more about the context of when these were created. Again, this was a book I read in French, and I don’t know if it’s available in English.

The Moai Island Puzzle (Alice Arisugawa)
This is one of my wife’s favorite Japanese mystery authors (and one of her favorite novels), and I’ll say that I enjoyed it immensely as well. Highly recommended if you like “closed room” mysteries — and I also enjoy the strong meta feel of the book (lots of references to the genre). One of the best mystery novels I’ve read.

Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate (Zoe Quinn)
This is a story that most people who work in or follow the games industry knows about, but I found it good to really dig into all of the details of what happened, as well as the timeline.

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (Soji Shimada)
Another Japanese mystery novel, by an author who marked a big shift in the genre in Japan at the start of the eighties (he writes a great intro for The Moai Island Puzzle, in which he talks about this shift). I read a French translation, but it’s also available in English. I enjoyed Moai more, but this is still a fantastic read, and a fascinating puzzle to get though.

Final Fantasy V (Chris Kohler)
I quite like the Boss Fight Books series, and have already read quite a few of them (and as I mentioned earlier, I’m currently in the middle of the Katamari Damacy one). Chris is a great writer, and this is a fantastic look at a game I’ve never played, but a series I know of-so-well.

Good Luck Have Fun: The Rise of Esports (Roland Li)
I read this around the time I took on my new role at Ubisoft, and found it to be a great read on how we’ve gotten to what we have now when it comes to the world of esports. A good read if you want to know more about competitive gaming, and the major players (not necessarily current major players, but the people who helped define the scene).

Live and Let Die (Ian Fleming)
About a year ago I picked up what I think is the entire Bond series in paperback form through a sale (except for Casino Royale, which wasn’t available anymore), as I figured that it’s about time I read all of these books. Yes, as much a Bond fanatic that I am, that’s always been on the movie side, and I’ve only read a few of the books over the years. So I’m reading them in chronological order, with Live and Let Die being the second Bond novel. It’s of course quite different from what we got in the movie, and there is a lot of unfortunate vocabulary that is used that certainly hasn’t aged well, but I still found myself enjoying it.

The A.B.C. Murders (Agatha Christie)
Even though I haven’t read many books in recent years, I have read a few Agatha Christie novels here and there, as I discovered that I quite enjoy them. I pretty much just jump around when it comes to the one I’ll read next, selecting the ones that are considered her best. This was indeed a great read, with a great ending.

Categories
Debaser Film

Licence to Kill

I don’t usually include Bond films in the year-based movie marathons I do (since I tend to marathon Bond films separately), but I made an exception this time because I was in the mood to watch one, and since I’m going through 1989, Licence to Kill was a good candidate. It isn’t one of my favorite 007 films, but I do like Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights definitely is one of my favorites), and it does have its moments, with a pretty great cast. Using a drug lord as a Bond villain is just a bit too simple though — come on, we need some world domination to raise the stakes.

Categories
Film

Bond 25

I am indeed a huge Bond fan, have been one my whole life, so you can imagine my excitement this week when I learned that they were going to have a live stream to announce details about the upcoming Bond film, 25th in the series. It’s something they also did for the previous film, Spectre, and it was indeed exciting to not only find out that S.P.E.C.T.R.E. was finally coming back to the films, but also that Monica Bellucci was going to make an appearance.

What did we did we find out Bond 25? Well, I was really hoping we were going to get the proper title, but alas, it seems like it hasn’t been finalized yet. The cast is looking quite good though, with pretty much all of the regulars returning (including the return of Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, which I’m very happy about), and I think Rami Malek has the potential to be a deliciously cruel villain. Doing the stream at GoldenEye, Ian Fleming’s private estate in Jamaica and the place where he created James Bond, was a nice touch, as it is to hear that Jamaica will feature as a location in the upcoming film.

We’re still a ways off until the release (Spring of 2020), but I’m already pretty hyped for it.

Categories
Film

The Story Behind You Only Live Twice

Bond fanatic that I am, seeing this article in the Japan Times about the making of You Only Live Twice sure put a big smile on my face — it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the film’s release in Japan. Makes me want to watch it yet again (even though I re-watched it last year).

Categories
Film

Never Say Never Again

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I’m a huge Bond fanatic, but I had somehow missed the fact that today is apparently considered Bond Day, marking the anniversary of Dr. No, released on October 5, 1962. Even though I’ve watched each Bond film dozens of times, I keep watching them, and recently I’ve been on a new viewing run, watching them all in order, usually on Sunday nights. To mark the anniversary I’m watching one tonight, and it’s Never Say Never Again, the black sheep of the bunch, as it wasn’t produced by the Broccolis. I’ve always liked it though — it was definitely a better film than Octopussy (released the same year, in 1983), and hey, it’s the only Bond film in which he plays a video game.

Categories
Art Design Events

Spectral Pot

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The ceramic tea bowl pictured is by Shohei Fujita, and is part of his “Pots on the Wall” exhibition, taking place at Shibuya Hikarie 8 (October 12 to November 3). I share it because, as a Bond fanatic, to me it looks like it was created for SPECTRE.

Categories
Music Stores

Waltz

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A shop that specializes in cassette tapes? Of course there’s one in Tokyo — uncover more about Waltz (located in Nakameguro) in this Spoon & Tamago post. Gotta love that wall of boomboxes to the side. I think the cassette I listened to the most — to the point of breaking it — was the James Bond: 13 Original Themes tape (this one).

Categories
Debaser Uncategorized

The Spy Who Loved Me

I don’t usually mention here when I re-watch Bond films, because I do it all the time, but on my recent flight from Japan to Canada I only watched one movie, and it was The Spy Who Loved Me – don’t know why, but they had it as part of the selection in the flight entertainment system. When I re-watch Bond movies it’s usually the early ones, and I haven’t really revisited the Moore ones a lot in recent years, so it felt slightly fresh, and was good fun. Yeah, the Moore ones can be too cheesy at times, but they are still the ones I grew up watching and enjoying as a kid, and some of them are still pretty good (Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only).

Categories
Debaser Uncategorized

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

First of all, why the fuck did they have to put Jack Ryan in the title of the movie? James Bond: Skyfall would be just as dumb. But I do like seeing spy/international intrigue movies – which we don’t get much of – and so I was actually looking forward to watching this. I quite like the other Ryan movies, and although I don’t think this is better than the Ford ones or Red October, it’s probably better than the Affleck one (I honestly don’t remember much about that one, which is probably a sign I didn’t like it that much). There was some exciting stuff to watch here, and the cast is pretty good, except for Keira Knightley, whose American accent just always felt a bit off, and so it was distracting.