Friday, February 25, 2011

Jeez, I've been woken at intervals all night by intermittent crashes as big curls of snow and ice come smashing down off the steel roof & gutters onto my landing & the nearby pavement. Good thing I didn't park my car in the usual nook between the neighbor's planter and my front steps, because I'd probably have a nasty series of dents in the roof of my orange clown car by now. Rain, rain, rain.

No point in going back to sleep again today.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back when I was a kid and Pittsburgh's papers used to make a fuss whenever it got named most livable city in the US (and this happened on average every two to three years), I was young and ill-informed and under the impression that this actually meant something. I wonder if Detroit was in the same position on those livable-city lists of my childhood? Were we always being made fools of, or is this a new game?

Detroit, #7 most livable city in America! If you're a twenty-something Patti Smith looking for a nicely grotty replacement for the Alphabet City of 1978, maybe. The best guess offered as to what's screwy with the metrics has to do with an inordinate weight placed on low-density housing and health services - which will tend to favor blasted industrial cities emptied out by imploded economies, yet still retaining the hospitals and alleged stocks of housing from the salad days of heavy industrialization.

h/t Instapundit. I'm starting to wonder how much he reads some of these links he's been passing along...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This is sad. Dwayne McDuffie had been for the DCAU in the Oughts what Bruce Timm had been for it in the Nineties - a centrally important writer, animator, and director. His Crisis on Two Earths was a pretty damn good OAV, he did a lot of good work on the Justice League TV series, and there's been a lot of positive buzz about his new All-Star Superman OAV which is being released this week. It's been a bad year for animation, between this and the death of Satoshi Kon.
Up until today, I had been kind of favorable-trending-towards-supportive of a Mitch Daniels presidential bid. Phlegmatic, conservative in an nonthreatening manner, exemplary experience as the governor of a middle-rank state, a real fiscal conservative - he's good on paper. Of course, he kept kicking 'own goals' by unnecessarily cheesing off the social conservatives, but I'm not a social conservative, so it wasn't a dealbreaker.

This is a dealbreaker. The proper response to an antidemocratic act full of contempt for law, order, and civility on the part of a minority is an iron-bound refusal to back down - especially when one is not in desparate straits. No lives are on the line here, just policy. There's no downside to smacking around a coterie of cowardly state legislators who've just lit out for the territories. It was a cheap and easy opportunity to show some backbone. What the hell is wrong with Daniels? It's as if he's afraid of the Overton Window shifting our way for a change.

On the plus side, Thune is bowing out of the 2012 campaign. Won't have to deal with his hypocritical High Plains embrace of the ethanol abomination.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What the heck? The Libyan regime collapsed? Overnight? And it is all over except for the bloodshed - it sounds like Gaddafi escaped a Ceaușescu fate by the skin of his teeth. If he's running for his home hamlet, he's finished. If he's using foreign mercenaries to butcher protesters, that means that he can't trust the military. You can't hire enough mercenaries, or pay them enough, to face off against your own army, unless your country's a lot poorer than Libya.

And seriously, when they're fighting pitched battles in the street with snipers and militiamen, I think it's safe to call them armed rebels rather than "protesters". Libya's a totalitarian state, if the party's lost control of their second city, then they won't take it back without a full-on Hama assault. I don't think Gaddafi's army is big enough to pull of a Hama, even if he could trust it enough to lead it into battle.

I'm not sure what to think of the politicians complaining about Gaddafi's forces' treatment of the protesters/rebels/street-fighters. What, were these people born yesterday? He's a scorpion, a bloody-handed vicious pocket Stalin. You think he was going to go "hi, sou desu ne" to street protests? Of course he'd try to slaughter them, that's what thugs like him do. What's interesting is that he tried it - and failed. Assad the Younger must be [censored] a brick right now. The Algerians must be absolutely panicked. I betcha they're cutting deals with anyone who might possibly lead a populist revolt, because Gaddafi's a heck of a negative example right now.

And before anyone gets too high on street theatre, Gaddafi's police state won't be replaced by a European social democracy. The ideas laying about prior to a crisis are what are used to resolve the crisis, and the alternative in Libya is your basic Islamic Republic toolkit. It's going to be ugly, mark my words.

I just finished reading Ending Day by Day. This is the fourth and fifth books in the Full Metal Panic light novel series which the three anime series were based on, specifically, the second Kyoto Animation series, The Second Raid.

It's a little interesting seeing what they pulled out of the book and what they added for the TV series - a little flashback during the Gauron scene got expanded into a major filler arc (if that isn't total jibberish) during the original Gonzo series, Gauron's pocket dragons got turned into women for the killer-moe factor, and an entire mini-arc complete with additional missions and underground firefights were inserted into the middle of the story to fill out the anime version of The Second Raid. The books flow more organically and make a more perfect whole, but I can see how a TV series can't back-load the majority of the fight scenes in the last five-ten minutes of the production. You could say that the structure of light novels lends itself to one big fight every two hundred pages, whereas a TV series better have some action every two to three episodes before the sponsors and the fans go postal.

We were lucky to get these two volumes in North American publication at all, as the series was canceled by TokyoPop the other year, and then tenatively revived. Light novels don't sell for peanuts in the American market - they're too fanboy and short for the mass paperback market, and too wordy and ancillary for the otaku market. But I do know that I'm eager for the next book in the series. We didn't get anything more from the animation studios, and word is that at least one reason is that the novels go off on a somewhat grim and gloomy tangent which could alienate the anime audience.

Nevertheless, I want to read Dancing Very Merry Christmas, as Japlish and goofy a title as that may be. Hold it together, TokyoPop! Keep on publishing!

Friday, February 11, 2011

I gotta wonder if meme-humor is what is left when postmodernism finishes the generational, Nietzschean work of killing God. No, seriously. Nietzsche originally started out railing against pietism, and a core element of that was encoded art - artwork built around shared cultural, ideological cues. A lot of classical art is mildly opaque to a modern audience, and it has to be explained because all of the biblical, allegorical, or pagan references assume a belief and education context which isn't present in the viewing audience.

When did "art appreciation" become a goal of education? Sometime in Victorian times? Dimitri Rotov used to go off on rants about the kitschy folk-music krep which reinactors and documentarians like to use to "signify" the ACW period; he insisted that the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac were highly cultured, and fond of highbrow opera music as a matter of course. It wasn't opaque, it wasn't difficult, it was popular culture, because everybody shared the right set of references, mostly religious.

The early Twentieth Century, all those religious references fell out of high-culture favor in the west, and were replaced by first Marxist, then Freudian signifiers. Those both burned out by the Seventies, although Freudian lasted longer in culture than Marxism, far as I can tell.

But people want and need signifiers, meta-content. To a certain extent, it's a need for meaning, no matter how nonsensical. Once you as a culture accept absurdity, madness becomes your meaning. Thus, Mario in a stained glass window.

[Deleted and re-posted after I discovered the purpose of that "harmless" comment spam - I'm pretty sure now that it's a marker for spambots to discover active blog comment sections. Pests.]