Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kon's last testament, posted by his family and friends to his website. It sounds very much like his interviews in happier days, it sounds like him.

I will say this: by his own testimony, he was apparently going to an acupuncturist and a chiropractor for his pains, and it sounds (although he does not come out and say it) that he got to a doctor too late for a saving diagnosis. Did alternative medicine's quacks kill him by neglect? Maybe not, apparently pancreatic cancer is so deadly because it produces no early symptoms, and is very difficult to diagnose in time to keep it from going metastatic. By the time Kon was going to a chiropractor for bone pain, it was probably already too late. But the chiropractor was definitely the wrong choice. Doctors, drugs, chemotherapy and surgery done six months earlier might have given him at least a little more time.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh, man, this is a catastrophe for anime. Satoshi Kon was one of the real greats working in theatrical animation, fearless, brilliant and warm-hearted. It came out of nowhere, too - he was apparently diagnosed with cancer in *May*. He was so young...

He never made a bad film, or a boring one. He should have had twenty more years of great art ahead of him.

He was so *good*. The field is full of erratic geniuses, flakes and competent hacks - Kon was one of the few truly balanced, brilliant animators. He was too damn young to be taken like this.

He should have had productive decades of real greatness ahead of him. This makes Millennium Actress suddenly very... poignant. Like he had been trying to make the dozen films he somehow instinctively knew he'd never have time to finish.

And Paprika, and Paranoia Agent... so many of his anime were such headlong, desperately crowded races against the clock, filling every unforgiving minute with sixty seconds dreamt.

Monday, August 23, 2010

So, a fairly active weekend, at least for me. My Uncle Ron dropped by for lunch Saturday on his way back to Ohio from a meeting outside of Scranton, and I showed him around Bellefonte. It's been a couple years since I last saw him, and he looks good - retirement's been agreeing with him so far.

Sunday, Jason and Tristana held a garden party at their place out on Airport Road, and we got sozzled on mint juleps & played croquet on their vast half-acre lawn. There was a crowd of over a dozen, and only one person remembered the rules. We ended up playing well into the twilight, shifting the course under the flood lights out front by the garage in the early evening. I made a variant on my usual stir-fry, a mush of spinach, mushrooms, bean sprouts and pasta, *heavily* seasoned with a lot of garlic & rosemary, with just enough fish to keep it from being a vegetarian dish. It seems to have gone over well, so that worked out nicely. Mint juleps are a murderous beverage, by the way - one glass contained two to three shots of bourbon with a little water & some mint and sugar to flavor the mix. A glass and a half and I was quite wobbly for a while there.

This morning I went to pay my utilities, and discovered that it had been due a full week before they *mailed* the bill. The secretary down at the borough business office was quite resigned, and accepted payment with an apology - all the bills this quarter were issued with the same typo. Oops.

Saw someone run the railroad crossing on Water Street, just before a gravel train with *three* engines came rumbling across the tracks, while I waited in traffic, on my way to work just now. I've never seen a load that heavy come out of the Pleasant Gap quarries - they must have had a sudden upsurge in orders. But seriously, people. Don't run the railroad crossings like that. It ain't safe. If he had waited to do that fifteen seconds later, they would have been pulling his crossover out of Spring Creek with a crane.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

So I played tour guide for the folks at Gettysburg last weekend. A co-worker who does reenacting occasionally recommended a tower on the south end of the field that I hadn't remembered. When we got there, I realized why - it was over seventy feet tall, and I'm more than a little acrophobic. So's my father, when it comes down to it. Add in my mother's issues with stairs, and it was kind of a stretch. I gave my description of Sickles' salient & the Longstreet assault at the top of that tower with my hands firmly vacuum-sealed to the railing, and we got down as soon as we could. Great view, though.

I apparently annoyed a Gouverneur Warren fan with my short-hand summation of his career while we visited Little Round Top. He turned around and gave us a Look. The next morning, I talked to someone at our hotel who apparently had been standing nearby with his family during the incident & had appreciated my gloss on the events. His daughter apparently wants to take a degree in history, and I explained the possible career-paths, or lack thereof, available for people who choose that particular major. The short-hand is "lawyer, history professor, or well-educated member of the general public". It really isn't a "technical training" degree. At best, it gives you some experience in writing and structured research.

The old Cyclorama building has become a real disgrace - not only do they have it sealed away behind a decrepit chain-link fence, but they've let all the lawn within a hundred yards of it go to wrack and ruin. This would be fine and all if it were in some distant field, but we're talking about four hundred yards from the Angle and right up against Ziegler's Grove. There are a dozen regimental monuments standing forelorn among the weeds and overgrown grass, and it looks like hell. I wouldn't object to them tearing down the Cyclorama building - it is a dump and all - but they ought to do something about the seediness of the immediate environs.
Hmmm. This sounds pretty important, and it maps to what I understand about the thought-processes of Europeans and Israelis (and, notably, which the writer doesn't address, why non-post-nationalist Americans are so much more likely to be pro-Israeli, for that matter).

The writer thinks in terms of Israel vs. the European Union model, but what immediately occurred to me is the collapse of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was a multi-national empire, not a nation-state, but what impressed the European (and American!) by-standers was the racial-nationalist element of the borderline-genocidal fight between the Croats and the Serbs, both against the Bosniak Muslims, and the Serbs against the Kosovar Albanians. Where Americans saw *tribalism*, Europeans saw *nationalism* as the operative evil at work. The American solution was carving out viable nation-states for the various sides to transfer their tribal impulses into adherence to beneficial nation-state patriotism; the European impulse is to "enlarge the problem" by replacing the old multi-national empire of Yugoslavia with a south-eastern extension of the new multi-national imperium, the European Union.

Hey, we're all Spartacus Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit now!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is it just me, or is Glenn Reynolds starting to sound positively pissed-off about something? He doesn't sound quite like his usual "happy warrior" easy-going self. That bit's more of a bitter Lewis Black jab than the usual gentle Instapundit jibe.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jason at Blogsuki summed up the knotted, spiked half-comedy and half-tragedy wonder of Clannad much better than I could. Even if he was a Kyou-fixated Obama-voting doofus.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I've been enjoying Clannad After Story an awful lot. I wouldn't have imagined that an animation team would take the after-the-resolution of a dating sim & make a family drama of it. The whole show is basically post-climax, except they're not treating it that way. The heroine is sickly, so she ends up repeating her senior year - again! She's actually a year older than the protagonist, because they met on her second go round at trying to graduate. He was a goof-off during high school - a self-described "delinquent" - so he ends up getting work where he can, and ends up becoming an apprentice electrician with a small local contractor. The show spends two-three episodes with the protagonist as he works his way into the honest-to-god Japanese blue-collar lifestyle.

The above was written before I watched the second half of the second season. Wow, what a series of gut-punches. The entire series, both seasons, are in retrospect *not* dating-sim stuff, but rather a rather sharp-edged family drama with magical realist overtones that just uses the *furniture* of moe dating sims. I can't believe I once dismissed this series as "retard moe". Sorry, Kyoto.

I still think K-On! is stupid, though.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life and work on Cicero Street's "raper's row" in the Seventies. I'd never heard the term before, apparently it's Mametesque slang for a very Mametesque place, a no-hope used-car strip. The place the writer describes makes the dealership in Used Cars seem positively idyllic and idealistic by comparison. *Everybody* at this place was screwing everybody, and it worked, until the guy running it learned about the scams which affected him, and failed to roll with the revelations.


Friday, August 06, 2010

So TRSI cancelled my order for the latest Nodame Cantabile volume, and I hear they canceled a pile of other Del Rey titles. My newer order of Del Rey stuff - mostly Zetsubou Sensei, XXXHolic, and School Rumble books - is still active, and it looks like some of it is waiting on the next ship cycle to drop in the mail, so Del Rey isn't completely gone, yet. Heck, I'm not even all that upset about not getting the new Nodame, it hasn't really gone anywhere in the last three volumes at least, the mangaka's been treading water ever since she shipped all the characters off to Paris. It really ought to have wrapped up when the protagonist conquered his airplane phobia, the rest of it's just inertia and the attractions of a steady readership draw for the editors-in-chief.

But I don't like where this is going with Del Rey. They got the ground cut out from underneath them by Kadokawa, who hasn't really bothered to follow up with any significant new or active titles from their in-house label. It's been all back-catalog omnibuses and license recycling. Meanwhile, the companies which are increasingly uninterested in *selling* us manga have been cracking down on the pirate sites from whom folks can *steal* manga. I'm not really clear on what the financial advantage of suing pirates out of existence *is* if you aren't willing to provide the service being pirated.

All I know right now is that I'd kind of like to read the next volumes of Nodame or Kurohime, and nobody will sell either to me.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

I believe for now I'll follow GayPatriot's line on the whole overturn-of-Prop 8 thing.

Personally, I'm thinking that gay marriage is a social experiment, and I prefer social experiments to be undertaken under controlled, limited, and voluntary conditions. If there were some way to break off the Bay Area into its own little administrative region, I'm sure that the locals would be happy to have their experiment - even the local conservatives have by and large made their peace with the San Francisco spirit, and those few hold-outs like Michael Savage seem to thrive off of being the counter-culture to the counter-culture anyways. But California is a bigger place than just the Bay, and apparently the majority of the state's voters don't want to be caught up in yet another state-wide social experiment. This idiot judge, by tying the rejection of Prop 8 into specious constitutional arguments, is threatening to produce a *national-level* social experiment. That's the opposite of controlled & limited, and by striking down all the extant laws, voluntary as well.

I don't know, maybe all this crap is for the best. Maybe it'll result in a Great Divorce of the state and marriage, sever the apparatus of no-fault divorces, tax status, "starter marriages", and all the rest of it from the serious social business of family formation. But the last time the social elites went off on one of these lets-meddle-with-divorce tears, the result was the Long Sixties, and I don't think I want to see that on a national scale. I kind of want to see what it does to a liberal city like San Francisco over a fifteen-year period, before I'll agree to subject the whole country to that sort of blind fiddling about.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I was wondering if G.T. was running opposed this year for the 5th Congressional District. Apparently not. The Democrats somehow managed to nominate an assistant manager at the State College Five Guys burger joint for our congressional district. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm sure Michael Pipes is a great guy and all, but is he even old enough to run? A college freshman in 2004... hrm, it's probably pretty close.

I guess we don't get to make fun of South Carolina and Alvin Greene any more. What, there wasn't a wild-eyed university professor they could have sprayed down, shaved, and stuffed into a cheap suit?
This is ironic, as I've been thinking recently that I can't get excited about Corbett, but I kind of want to do something to help Toomey. Corbett's foot-fault with the libertarians over pestering Twitter over some anonymous messages didn't really set right with me, and although I will vote for him, I just can't see clear to stumping for him. But yeah, I'll vote against a tax-crazed Democrat any day, especially if he's stupid enough to tax yunzers' Arn.

Toomey, on the other hand, is a solid Club for Growth fiscal conservative, and we need him in the Senate. Sestak seems to be dumber than Casey Junior, and I wasn't sure if that was possible. The only question, is how to help. My experience in 2008 left me feeling like all that cold-calling just alienated people & drove people away from the ticket. 2004 frankly felt kind of similar, although I mostly did door-to-door that year. Toomey seems to have enough money, and sometimes it seems as if political donations just get siphoned off by the campaign consultancy and other parasites.
Some leftist tool is apparently plotting to burn a confederate battle flag in front of a tea party rally.

As the transparently obvious goal is to call tea partiers racists by insinuation, I suppose the platonically proper response would be to put the fire out by pissing on the burning rag, and then curb-stomp the prick for his insinuated insult to the crowd.

But since tea party crowds are by and large older, nonviolent, and more even-tempered than I, I imagine that the most that will happen is that he gets arrested on some sort of fire-code violation.

Monday, August 02, 2010

So I finally installed the window air-conditioner last night, with help from Jason. Maybe I should get a unit that I can actually install without help, but it came with the house, and it still functions. It turns out that a dehumidifier sucks up about half as much electricity as a functioning air conditioner, and produces waste-heat to boot, so there's no significant advantage in going without air conditioning. If I lived in the arid West it might make sense, but the house tends towards the humid even on the driest of days.
I was thinking about the history taught in school when I was a kid, back in the '80s. I can't imagine it's improved much at all since then, but from my limited vantage-point, it's become more intensely itself, which is a bad thing.

It's important that K-through-12 public-school kids attend "social studies" classes, rather than history. It's important because they get taught "social studies" history. American history as taught in those classes, especially in that period between the Civil War and the Great Depression, is taught according to a very rigid point of view.

Because it is taught by union fanatics, labor history of the period is presented in a very Whiggish, march-towards-the-Wagner-Act sort of melodrama, in which the literal proletariat suffers from repeated impositions of Marxist-style ideology - defined classically as a superstructure of false beliefs concocted by a dominant class to suppress the natural expression of subordinate & oppressed classes. The interests of labor and entrepreneurs and their true history is distorted through this lens of Organized Labor Triumphant, the messy details reduced to narratives of secular Crusade & martyrdom.

Large swathes of Gilded Age political history is absolutely impenetrable to struggling students, because it is taught by public servants who are more interested in their predecessors' passion play of reform and independence through civil service reform. Real and vital political struggles between interest groups - between entrepreneurs, rent-seekers, speculators, the arrogant legions of the rising professional class, and the various and diametrically opposed political machines - get washed out in a sepia blur of "reformers against the bosses". Again, a sort of reverse Whiggish progression makes incoherent characterless bosh of the events in all their true colors.

The great arguments over currency is usually repellent and confused in the classroom, because the teachers are poorly educated on the subject of economics, business, and money. The "Marxist moment" has long since passed in the training academies, but that incorrect and debunked set of doctrines haven't been replaced by anything useful or even equally false, but rather nothing at all. How can "social studies" teachers teach about the conflict over greenbacks, hard currency, and bimetallism, if they don't even really understand Gresham's Law?

Lastly, the Progressive Era is usually taught as a bloodless extension of the "Reform Era", as a culmination of "American Liberalism" and its goals, mostly because "social studies" are taught by political progressives, who were raised to believe that their ideology was something called "liberalism" and thus a descendant of nineteenth-century Liberalism and Whiggery. This means that the students are often mis-educated into the belief that the Progressives were something organic, popular, and arising from the national character, rather than a modernizing crisis of that character, and the failure of confidence in the American project. The current Beckian-Goldbergian assault upon Wilson, Croly and the Progressives is such a popular revisionist trend these days *because* of the emptiness and falsity of the narrative taught in the schools about this era and that movement. The Progressive-Whiggish myth of the era creates massive cases of cognitive dissonance when the student encounters the actual historical details later in life.

All of which, I suppose, is a lead-up to a recommendation of a pair of books I've read this summer - David Pietrusza's 1920: the Year of Six Presidents and Ken Okrent's Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition. These two books address two sides of the "Progressive Moment". 1920 does so from the angle of Wilson's harsh and disruptive totalizing rule and the step-back from the brink that took place in that election year. Last Call looks at the era from the angle of that most quintessentially American of Progressive projects, Prohibition, a conversion of the Whiggish temperance movement into a corporatist, regimented, stubbornly transformative apparat, and how that social and political movement's encounter with human nature deformed the American economy and civil society, and was defeated in the end by corruption, individual initiative, human nature, and the collapse of the technocratically managed economy.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

So, it is summer. I get kind of lethargic in summer, if y'all haven't noticed. Slow-thinking and unimaginative, uncreative even.

Which is a not-very-roundabout way of vamping for the home audience, folks. Yes, I'm still with the living, if not so much with the demonstrative interpretive dance. Originality and authenticity are equally rubbish values, anyways. Cleverness and craft takes originality and authenticity like a full house takes two pair. Especially in Omaha hold 'em.

The old home town is still there, variously seedy and newfangled-unfamiliar. There are folks who live their whole lives in the hometown, work at the same jobs their fathers and grand-fathers worked. I talked to a former neighbor-kid who's now running his grandfather's firm with his brother, for instance. Other folks, like our family, are kind of nomadic, slowly shifting stakes from one camp-ground to another, over the course of decades, sure, but still nonetheless essentially transient. We don't really *stick* for generations on one plot of land. It doesn't seem to be our nature. Strange, really, because otherwise we're pretty stolid folk.

Well, stolid for a lot of rootless gypsies, that is. ^_^