Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Some dumbshit released the internal numbers on preregistration and projected (lowballed) membership for the convention I help run to the lackwits at Anime News Network, who, being lackwitted, promptly published them as if they were news. Now, while we indulge in all sorts of stupid ego games involving competition over "my con is bigger and better than your con", this is not the face one wants to present to the general public. Not only is it crass and self-aggrandizing, it makes one look the tool when the projections don't come true. The projected numbers are just that, projections. Hell, even the prereg numbers don't take into account no-shows and eventual refunds. It was a stupid thing to put into public circulation. If somebody leaked it, that somebody was a damned fool. If somebody sent out an actual press release, that person is worse than a damned fool.

On the plus side, if this repels a significant number of would-be members who wouldn't want to be associated with such a bunch of arrogant, self-involved fanboys, this mess might stave off our inevitable collision with fire-code regulation and death by overcrowding.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

You know, if the Democrats didn't have MoveOn and a hundred other "un-coordinated" attack-groups and 527s swarming the field like so many disease-carrying vermin, this shit might actually piss me off. "Club for Growth" my ass. "This Is Not The RNC, Really" is more like it. If the MoveOn toads weren't doing the exact same fucking thing, I'd have some really choice words on the subject of "coordination". Mitch McConnell was right - money flows to find the cracks in politics, regardless of the intent of the law.

So much for McCain/Feingold. I was a damned fool for supporting it.
Am I going to have to see that piece of shit, Fahrenheit 9/11, in order to be credible in arguments about it? I mean, it rather feels like having to have read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in order to be able to denounce it in conversation as a forgery. But I just had a conversation with the office manager where he was going on about how much he liked the movie, and about some conservative woman who had gone on about how horrible it was without having seen it. We got into an argument ourselves, and he wrapped it up by telling me to go read my blogs. I told him to go believe his eyes if he wanted to.

Am I going to have to go watch two hours of angry, smartass lies in order to credibly denounce them as such?

I guess I could sneak in or something, deny that fat paranoia tick his five bucks...
Andrew Sullivan has lost his mind. Talk about self-hypnosis. Somebody let me know when he comes back from his little trip to Egypt. If they don't stone him to death in the meantime...

Monday, July 26, 2004

Dean Esmay asks conservatives to take a patriotic oath - to promise before the election to rally behind the president, even if it's that worthless sack of shit, John Kerry. I think I can get behind that. I'm a lot like the voters of West Virginia in that regard - in general, I tend to respect figures of authority. Call me an authoritarian if you must, but the country's bigger than the president, and after another four years of whoever the hell the voters elect, I'll either be American, or dead. Regardless of which scion of New England patriarchal privilege happens to have been keeping the chair in the Oval Office warm.

Via the Allahpundit.
Mo Rocca of the Daily Show was hired by CNN to work the convention floor at the Democratic Convention in Boston. For those of you following at home, Mo Rocca isn't a journalist. He isn't even a talking head. He's a nasty parody of a television journalist - a literal mockery of the real thing. Now, I'm no fan of CNN, myself, but I found myself cringing as I watched Rocca gambol about the empty floor, behaving for all the world like a spoiled lap dog, and the esteemed former senators and actual talking heads did their best to keep the disgust off their collective faces while Rocca did the journalistic equivalent of pissing on all the good furniture and humping Larry King's shin.

Meanwhile, of course, NPR did its best to prepare the battlefield for the Kerry convention. Lord knows, le Dauphin needs one hell of a lot of preparation; just as a brigade of shaky, green infantry might need five times as much artillery preparation in advance of an assault on a position which a veteran unit might take "on the bounce", Kerry requires all the support the media can muster. Let the taxpayer take the hill - or in this case, the interested media.

Friday, July 23, 2004

I'm trolling yet again for a decent set of anime/manga blogs. I hit this links page, but the pages are uniformly headache-inducing, when they're anything at all. Seems to mostly be a series of failed experiments in layout design. If anyone has any decent recommendations for text-oriented journals or blogs on the theme of anime and/or manga, please let me know in the comments. Thanks.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Meanwhile, some clown of a Turk blurts out in the middle of a routine inspection of his ship prior to entering the port of Philadelphia that he has a bomb on board. He quickly changed his tune, but they've sent him back out to sea and are in the process of tearing his ship down to the keel as we speak. I have the nastiest suspicion that this is a "crybaby", a first-class diversion from an actual smuggling attempt of some sort. High-value one, at that, if they're willing to get their accomplice jailed for a false report. Hope everybody has their eyes peeled. Especially in Philadelphia.

Via the irreplaceable Rantburg.
It's been a good week for a blogger of pro-Bush sympathies. Tom Maguire has been all over Sandy Berger and the Joe Wilson Implosion. (They're right - that does have all the trappings of a first-rate B-movie title, or a second-rate college-circuit party band.) What few comments I have on the rolling thunder on the left has been in his comments section. Meanwhile, the 9/11 Commission Report fails to call for the head of the chimp, thus busting that meme open like a donkey-shaped piƱata.
A column from Jewish World Review declares victory in the second intifada, as a low-grade civil war burns Gaza and Israel's economy gets back on its feet, with foreign workers replacing the absent Palestinians. Good for them if it holds, but it's been a bad couple of years for premature declarations of victory. I don't think I'll join in with the cheers before a successful withdrawal behind the Gaza and West Bank walls.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

It's summer in Japan, which means it's magical girlfriend time on-air. There are three different magical-girlfriend shows making the digisub rounds - Hani Hani Operation Sanctuary, Girls Bravo, and DearS.

Hani Hani - the full title is something like The Sun in the East, the Moon in the West, which sounds vaguely Celtic, but it's abbreviated to Hani Hani in the title sequence - is remarkably forgettable, even for a twelve-minute episode series. There's something about a post-apocalyptic world, and magic, and bishoujo falling from the skies, but all in all, I could care less about where-ever it is that the show is planning on going. About the only really entertaining thing about the digisub was the fansub group's insistence on color-coding the characters' dialog according to their hair color. I found myself more interested in the colors than the text.

Girls Bravo is yet another example of TV anime's new-found infatuation with petty self-censorship. Japanese fans are allegedly calling it "Steam Girls" because of the omnipresent, obliterating clouds of mist and steam whiting out the screen whenever the for-video-release nudity is present. It goes beyond just modesty-blanking, and makes the scenes unviewable - whiting out the entire third, or half, or two-thirds of the screen containing the naughty bits. If you're lucky, you'll get a good view of the girl's eyes; otherwise, you'll have to rely on the particular combination of knots and loops in each girl's distinctive hairstyle in order to identify who's who. Girls Bravo isn't nearly as faceless as Hani Hani, but it plays like a distillation of Hanaukyo Mai Tai and Love Hina. Our protagonist is a feeble little dwarf with an allergic reaction to women, who bully him unmercifully. I mean bully, as in blood flying, head-crushing, shockingly violent abuse. He's lucky that he's made of undestructinium, because no mere mortal would survive five minutes with the female savages that populate Girls Bravo. His best friend regularly beats him to a pulp. He's such a sad sack that I can't help but root for him when he acquires a kindly, likeable magical girlfriend who's always intent on bathing with others. The fact that she's a bottomless maw of appetite and likely to eat him out of house and home only adds to the charm of a slight but amiable show. As galfelch goes, it's amusing.

DearS, on the other hand, is a fucking riot. If you're not big on B&D fetishism, you're going to hate it with a passion. The opening theme song's refrain is, in English, "I'm your slave". It's full of cute alien girls in dog collars. A high school teacher lounges about in class in her underwear, while her class begs her to put her clothes back on; she insists on teaching English from pornographic pamphlets. (Aside from one of the students: "Why hasn't she been fired yet?") The vaguely appalled, bored looks on the faces of the female students are worth the price of admission in and of themselves. The plot, thinly and basically, is that a spaceship full of cute alien-girls crashes in Japan, and they get adopted by the Japanese when they admit that they can't fix their ship. (The notion that the Japanese would allow anybody to become Japanese, let alone aliens, is the single most unbelievable element of this whole wish-fulfillment fantasy.) Our protagonist is convinced that it's all an evil, alien plot to take over the world, and he entertains paranoid fantasies straight out of that old mini-series, V, of lizard-people hiding behind flesh-masks. He continues to fulminate about the alien plot even after he accidentally saves one of the aliens, who fixates on him due to the usual wacky series of misunderstandings, and insists on calling him "Master" where other people can hear and snicker knowingly at the pervert who makes his girlfriend wear a dog collar.

The suggestion seems to be that the aliens - called, annoyingly, "DearS" - are manufactured, natural slaves, prone to become psychologically bound to masters. I'm guessing that prior to such bondage, they're not particularly eager to have it happen, and are doing their best to hide this fact. But that's all just a guess based on the first two episodes. All, in all, it's looking like slick, irredeemable fun.
Fred Ramsey has a webpage up for the Spring Creek Slammers, announcing their first slam of the season on Sunday, August 1st at 5 PM in Zeno's. I can't make it, on account of that being the weekend of my convention, but there you go.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The political blogs are full of the Sandy Berger classified documents scandal, so I think we can now say with a great deal of confidence what kind of clowns Kerry has advising him on foreign policy - the baggy-pantsed kind.

I will further note that one of the most common complaints about the Bush/Cheney administration from the centre-left and dissenting centre-right has been their alleged obsession with secrecy and excessive care in maintaining classification standards. One might almost think, in light of Berger's recent oops, and Clinton officialdom's history of similar oopsies, that this whinging about excessive secrecy might almost be the lowing of a gored ox.

Sounds like it's time for a new campaign ad:

"The Bush Administration keeps too many secrets, hides too much from the American Public. Vote Kerry/Edwards. You can't hide what you can't keep."

Monday, July 19, 2004

One of our growers out in Central Illinois turned a field into an "Abe Lincoln" corn maze for the tourist trade this year. They drew a bust of Lincoln with AgLeader GIS software, and fed the result into a navigation file for their GPS equipment mounted on a four-wheeler with a spray rig. They killed the (non-Roundup Ready) corn with a Roundup application, and then mowed the results. I've got a dead trees newsletter with a photograph of the results; can't find anything online about it yet, sorry...

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Frank Gehry proves once again, that his work is an illustration and demonstration of the thesis that there is a terrible and malignant cancer at the heart of modern liberalism. Notice how the beautiful open-air trellis's symmetry and balance is betrayed and mocked by the deliberate ruin of the uncontrolled, monstrous proscenium. It's the usual violent, steely explosion of Gehric, Western self-hate. What a miserable testament to the worthlessness of post-Cold-War architecture. Dan Drezner is right - Kashpoor's Cloud Gate sculpture is infinitely superior - an expression of the hopefulness and optimism that represents all that is good in modernity and liberal ambition.
I woke up Saturday morning to the smell of cherry smoke, like a smokehouse had set up next door. I assumed it was just the stench of the Academy fire still hovering in town. Later on, Ben opined that the ruins were smoldering, or had started up again. I don't know... it's raining this morning. You can't smell anything but the rain.

We went down to the panic meeting in Baltimore. Dave Asher drives like a maniac, but Ben is even worse when you put him behind the wheel of a big automatic. My stomach is still a little unsettled from all the swerving and jostling. The lot at the Holiday Inn in Baltimore was curb-to-curb SUVs and emergency vehicles - the firefighters convention was in town. There's nothing quite so intimidating as being the sole sedan in a sea of SUVs.

Some idiot was mocking the inclusion of a seminar on dealing with suicide-belt bombers in a found copy of the firefighter's convention program book. "It's never happened here - it never will!" By that logic, I'm going to live forever, because statistically, I, personally, have never died even once in the history of existence!

Speaking of idiots, a big fat fool whose MoveOn politics have pissed me off in the past was opining in my hearing on other, nominally non-political subjects. He was spinning off conspiratorial theories about our convention competitors' radical highballing of their numbers, and ranting about how their con chairs ought to be arrested for embezzlement and so on. Not much different from his politics, come to think on it. He also was raving about how the producers of the recent Battlestar Galactica had "no respect for the fans who kept the franchise alive for twenty-five years", and offered as an example of squalid betrayal that they re-named a poker-type-game from "pyramid" to "triangle", and got all the rules wrong. Words fail me.

Another individual, when I mentioned that some low-level news about commotions on airliners and such were getting me worried, assured me that it was all propaganda and misinformation by the evil administration designed to get us all scared and make us vote for Republicans. Nice to know that some folks' politics are driven by ostrich impulses, primitive political paranoia, and what I can only describe as a problem with authority that amounts to a daddy-complex.

I don't know, some of these people are friends of friends, and I ought to be kinder. But it sometimes seems as if my generation is no more willing to grow up and take responsibility than the last. It's as if we were the long hangover left over from last night's epic, orgiastic party.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Well, the Academy is one with the ages. The north wing and the main hall are nothing but walls and columns, while the south wing is a gutted ruin. Surprisingly enough, the headmaster's cottage was undamaged, at least to outside observation. A few years ago, the cottage was the one that burned, and the Academy building proper was the one which was untouched. All the buildings along the foot of the bluff seemed to be unaffected, at least to judge from the disinterested calm of the few emergency personnel posted along Water Street. The streets, as expected, were full of the displaced - young, tattooed, and impoverished. These are the folks my Roman History professor used to make Bellefonte jokes about back in the day. I came across a group of people putting up large tents on the lawn in Tallyrand Park, and I thought maybe they were erecting temporary shelters. No such altruism - it was for a celebration scheduled for the next day.

There were rumors that the firefighters clustered too close to the building, and were driven back in disarray when the fire blew up in their faces. I don't know - sounds like classic blame-the-Samaritan sour grapes. Word on the picket line was that they thought that everybody got out, but there are so many transients that move in and out of the Academy that no-one could get an accurate headcount, or even figure out what it should be.

There were two camera teams set up in the alley between the Dollar General and the NAPA auto parts store, updating on previous news reports. Most of the photographs and footage looks to be from that vantage point, as it's the most striking view of the wreck. It looks like Sherman's March to the Sea, or that famous series of photographs of burned Richmond - massive masonry pillars jutting like tusks from the rubble and ashes, and the shell of the heavy outer walls mostly standing. From most other parts of town, the Academy is just gone - a bunch of trees where there used to be a big white building.

Here's the CDT writeup. I'll be damned. It's privately owned. I had always thought that it was owned by the borough or the state. They were putting up the residents in the elementary school over on Linn Street last night.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Uh-oh. The con I help run is creeping towards the upper limit of the carrying capacity of its facilities, the Baltimore Convention Center. That news item about Anime Expo, our largest national competitor, suddenly ballooning up over 25,000, is a worrying indication that we might see similar numbers. The fire code limitations on the BCC is, max, 25,000. Now, AX always has better guests and industry support, so maybe we'll get lucky and not see quite such a crowd. The prereg numbers - about 10,000 - suggested that we *won't* see such an increase.

Some folks were convinced that the L'Arc en Ciel concert would bring in great droves of J-Pop fans. I somehow doubt this, but then, I had thought that there would be crickets chirping at last year's TM Revolution concert, so what the hell do I know?

All I know is that I'm registration, which means I'm on the front lines if we get bowled over with an unexpectedly large crowd. Admittedly, I'm *night* registration, which means except for helping on Thursday night, I'm not going to be underfoot for the really big rushes.

If we're lucky, we won't be the biggest anime con in the country for a second year. If we're not lucky, we can just hope that the fire marshall doesn't go too nuts about enforcing fire codes.

If we're really not lucky, we'll have some sort of crowd-related accident. That would suck.
Well, hell. Not fifteen minutes after I start making noise about the FMA vote, it gets tabled for the session. False alarm, folks.

Hrm. Specter voted for cloture, which means he was voting for the debate, and presumably the vote on the amendment, to go forward. I'm going to have to think hard about that one. I usually like to split my vote in Presidential years - one party for president, the other for the senate. I may end up doing so again.
The Academy is burning. The guys in the part of the building facing out over the town tell me it's been on fire for the better part of two hours, which is quite a feat given the intermittent downpours we've been getting all day, and the two fire stations within two and three blocks respectively of the Academy. But, considering that the last building in Bellefonte to burn to the ground was exactly a block from both stations, I suppose that isn't necessarily a factor, is it?

The Academy is an old, massive pile of neoclassical architecture on Spring Street that, in its better days, housed an orphan's school. The last few decades, it's been in use as subsidized public housing, and it shows. That part of town is about as close as Central Pennsylvania gets to true slums. The wiring in the building can't be good - a secondary building on the grounds of the Academy lost its third floor a few years ago to a previous fire.

I can't say I'd be sorry to see the old blight go away, but I hope that everybody got out in time. It'll certainly change the face of the town - the Academy squatted on top of its bluff overlooking Tallyrand, the Big Spring, and the southern approaches to the town along Route 150.
The Federal Marriage Amendment is coming up for debate in the Senate. I am largely in Andrew Sullivan's camp on this one, although I do not share his willingness to threaten a Kerry vote over the ill-considered and narrow decision to push this crap for the sake of a bigoted base. As little as I love the FMA, I value the prospect of a second Bush administration, and a hard war more.

I am, however, quite willing to vote against my Senators. They're disposable. Help me remind them of this political fact by emailing Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum.

Yes, I recognize the futility of appealing to Santorum's federalist principles, but there is a virtue in following the proper forms, regardless of their likely outcome. Specter, on the other hand, is truly on the fence on the matter. He just went through a bruising fight with a hard social conservative over this very sort of issue, and might be tempted to play up to us here in "Alabama". (I know social conservatives who are threatening to vote for his Democratic opponent because they're still pissed about the primary.) The more emails he gets with a strong message of how much that might hurt him from the heart of "Alabama", the less likely it is that he'll tack right with a "harmless" yes vote on this abomination.

Monday, July 12, 2004

I went on a movie-watching binge this weekend past. Spiderman 2 on Friday, and King Arthur Saturday. It's nice to not be disappointed in a summer blockbuster, let alone two in a single weekend.

Spiderman 2 is a considerably better movie than the first one. Sam Raimi started off as a really good horror movie director, and he finally was willing to let it show in the second movie. Doc Ock's monstrous surgery-room freakout is highly reminiscent of the Evil Dead movies, complete with chainsaw. I loved it. Sometimes I wish that Raimi wasn't such a big deal anymore, so's he could keep making trashy, pulpy, great crap like Darkman and The Quick and the Dead. But, at least we get decent blockbusters like Spiderman 2 in return.

The CGI is much less distracting. The fight scenes are organic, they flow, and they rocket along in a way that got me excited. It's rare that action scenes do that for me any more - I'm starting to get a bit insensitate to that sort of twelve-year-old enthusiasm for flying fists, I fear. The script is absolutely beautiful. I had heard that Michael Chabon wrote the script, but when I saw that Gough and Millar (of Smallville infamy) were co-writers, I was kind of uneasy. I shouldn't have been so skittish. It works. It works like a sonofabitch. It's at least twice as good as a superhero movie ought to be.

It's better than either of the X-Men movies, but then, so was the original Spiderman. The X-Men franchise has a certain structural problem, that guarantees mediocre movies - diffusion of focus. There's just too many people in these enormous superhero-team stories. Movies have to have a rock-solid, streamlined structure. You just don't have enough space in a two or three hour film to have a dozen protagonists. I'm not entirely convinced that there's enough room in a TV series for that many primary figures.

Anyways, what I'm getting at is that the best superhero movies have been singular lone-hero films. The Eighties, Robinless Batman. The Seventies Superman. Hell, even the early, lone-wolf Paul Dini Batman cartoons were better than the later seasons, crowded with sidekicks.

King Arthur is a superhero movie of a different calibre. I do wish they hadn't pretended that it was archeologically supported history - it certainly is not. But as historically-inspired fantasy, you could do a hell of a lot worse than King Arthur. Everything is compressed down into an area around Hadrian's Wall, and telescoped temporally, so that the second-century Artorus Castor and his Samaritans end up fighting the fifth-century battle of Baden's Hill some three hundred miles north of where it occurred, while Artorus is enraged to find out that his good friend and religious mentor, the heretic Pelegius, has been killed by the Roman Church - some forty years after his actual death. So don't take your history from the movie, but I suppose that's something of a truism. Filmmakers aren't historians, a fact of which I have to remind myself constantly, when confronted with propagandists like Michael Moore.

Anyways, King Arthur is a solid goddamn movie. It's essentially a remake of Fuqua's last movie, Tears of the Sun, transposed into the fifth century, with Saxons and Celts instead of rampaging soldiers and Nigerian peasants. The anti-Christian tone is somewhat off-putting - there are some torture-happy priests who are walled up in a prison three times by three different warlords - but expected given the time-frame, and the usual Hollywood set of biases. Arthur himself is portrayed as a pious but heretical follower of Pelegius, an advocate of free-will, equality, and the denial of original sin whose doctrines are palatable to modern politically-correct sensibilities.

The central set-piece that really resonated with me was an elaborate skirmish on the uncertain ice of a frozen lake in mountains north of Hadrian's Wall, a delaying-action covering a retreating column of refugees from rampaging Saxons. The premise is faintly ludicrous - why is a road interrupted by a lake? How do people cross the lake in the summer? (Since it seems to become summer again once they descend out of the mountains, I suppose the answer is "it's always winter in that part of the country".) But, failures of logic aside, it's a striking scene, archers goading a small army into charging across weakened and treacherous ice, until a berserk knight charges forth to literally start chopping the ice out from under the advancing Saxons with an axe.

Update: great set of links and thoughts on Spiderman 2, considered as the second part of a trilogy from Jim Henley.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Between family stuff, a pile of new DVDs and manga, and a new soul-sucking obsession called "Advance Wars 2", I have not exactly been my usual, terse self. In fact, as you might have noticed, I've been positively Coolidge recently. I can't say I'm sorry, but I regret the lack of entertainment value.

Pittsburgh is still Pittsburgh, Bellefonte is still Bellefonte, and they tell me that the Arts Fest is on in that blot on the landscape known as State College. I suppose I ought to mosey on over and look at all the yuppies pawing through the ceramic cows and seascapes. It's a tradition, of sorts.

Maybe I'll catch the traditional Saturday riot. Or at least, amuse myself by hunting down the jackbooted riot police that have been stationed in expectation of said riots every year since the initial rash of violence. One year, they had horses. Very Napoleonic man-on-a-horse authoritarian. I was impressed.