Thursday, December 29, 2005

Boy, I love to fly. It's like a geography-themed rollercoaster. Shame it costs so much...

I picked up some manga I hadn't exactly been eager to read, due to this and that and the other thing. Surprisingly, none of the volumes in question were disappointing; some were actually quite promising. I suppose that's the value of low expectations.

Her Majesty's Dog's biggest problem is that the publisher, Go!Comi, has foolishly insisted on selling copies exclusively through the Waldenbooks/Borders book chain. The closest stores I've been able to find in this chain are in Allegheny County, although both my sister and the clerk in the Robinson Town Centre Borders Express both insist that there's a Borders Express somewhere within the city limits of Altoona. I suppose I'm going to have to go find it in February, because that's when the second volume of Her Majesty's Dog is due, and I don't want to have to trek out to Northway Mall on such a flimsy premise.

HMD is a pretty good book - the protagonist is a magician who derives her power from the knowledge of the true names of things, people, and identities. The dog of the title is her inugami, or dog-spirit - essentially a familiar or pet demon in the alternating forms of a lion-huge demon-dog and a teenaged bishounen. There's a lot of racy humor at the expense of the heroine, who has the blase, peculiarly innocent jadedness of the Japanese rustic. (There must be some essays out there on the distinctly Japanese inversion of the usual Western innocent country/depraved city sexual duality, but my aversion to pomo is cognitively blocking my google fu, sorry.) It was apparently written as a "horror" title, but the writer admits that she's not much for serious horror, and it plays more as slightly fantastic high-school comedy. The first chapter or so is a bit bare-boned and schematic, but the writing settles down quickly enough, and by the end I was looking forward to more.

Crossroad another shoujo from Go!Comi was less promising. Shojo Beat and various relevant websites have been full of obnoxious, dopy ads for the comic which made it sound like the most bare-boned of harem-grade "visual novel" tedium. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't nearly as precious or simple-minded as the advertising threatened. The protagonist is the daughter of a fairly worthless, aging tart who keeps accumulating children from even more worthless beaus, and generally dumping them on the doorstep of her much-put-upon mother, while "Rumiko-mama" goes charging off in search of another meal-ticket. While the protagonist is the actual body-child of the soon-absent mother, two additional step-brothers seem to have just been dumped on the family, and who knows where the second girl came from? The woman who actually kept some semblance of a family together over the years dies as the book opens, leaving the kids effectively abandoned and semi-doomed.

The heroine of Crossroad surprisingly *doesn't* rise immediately to the occasion, mostly because a lifetime of abandonment and broken promises has left her suspicious and nearly pathologically antisocial. Even better, she's not always right, or even particularly sympathetic. There's plenty of room for a lot of character arc in this one. The one big problem with the manga is that the author has a bit of a tendency to let off liberal-concerned-social-conscience steam in the form of inappropriate, doofy sermons from the heroine, and that sort of thing isn't made any more palatable by the typical Japanese insistence on bland political abstraction and airy passive-aggressive idealism. But the hysterical adoption of "no incest in the house!" as a family motto by her frazzled oldest brother makes up for one hell of a lot of preachy speechifying on the part of the protagonist.

Finally, I gave in & finally read the first volume of Nodame Cantabile, which I had been avoiding despite the near-universal positive reviews. Mostly, this had been because the art looked crude, and generally I can't stand artists, and stories about artists. If you've been reading for any particular period of time, I can't imagine that it comes as any surprise to you, dear reader, that I hold the artistic personality in the lowest of esteem, and consider such people suspicious and not to be trusted with sharp objects, responsibilities, or any semblance of authority or power. The delightful thing about Nodame Cantabile is that the author seems to be somewhat in agreement on this point, as the student-artists who populate the comic are alternatively egotistical, thieving, self-regarding, or monstrously arrogant and self-centred. The operating theme of the manga seems to be that most artists must be tricked, conned or otherwise fooled into turning into worthwhile human beings, and the few exceptions are, while essentially harmless, still and all feral & incapable of taking care of themselves or others.

The protagonist of Nodame Cantabile is a wildly talented and skilled college junior, who has grown as an artist to the point where he's essentially unteachable. He's rude and hostile to his instructors, and unapproachable & openly contemptuous of his fellow students. The text never comes out and states it baldly, but it is quite clear from the context that the school essentially gave up on trying to instruct the hero, and left him to sink or swim. I'm still not sure whether the powers that be decided to toss him in with the problem students in an attempt at reform, or whether it's all accidental, but the process seems to be that in cleaning up after his semi-feral neighbor and fellow pianist, our hero grows by irritably instructing the hopeless semi-failures among the loser set within which he's been set loose.

The art's still crude and uninspiring, but I expect I'll still go & pick up the next two volumes this afternoon anyways. Got to do something with this money burning a hole in my pocket.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I'm down in Florida for the holidays with the folks, will be down here for about a week, due to an excess of days off and a shortage of cheap airfare closer to Christmas. Helped my dad clean out his garage yesterday. Lord what a lot of stuff. We found a case of several-years-old Coors Light, well past its drink-by date. They must have gotten it for hypothetical guests, because neither of them can drink due to various minor medical concerns, and I'm definitely not a beer-and-pretzels kind of guy. We stood there in the garage and opened each can & inverted 'em over the drain. Smelled like a barfly convention by the time we were done emptying and recycling.

Got a little lost on a long walk around the housing development. I ended up even more lost trying to navigate by the position of the sun, and eventually returned by finding the main drag and tromping along until I came back in via the community entrance. Not only does every house look alike, but the roads are confusingly named - there's a "96th SE Avenue" one block away from "96th SE Circle", for instance - and they aren't laid out in simple grids or contour-lines. Grids would be hard to navigate, but at least you could use the "position of the sun" method. Contour-lines would give you geographic clues as to how the roads ought to lay; but since central Florida doesn't really have any real contour lines except those imposed by developers, you can't rely on those. There's a neighborhood here called "Highland Falls" which is built around a wide, artificial set of falls crafted to flow off of the artificial hillock built around a tall retaining wall for the neighboring "Richmond Hills". Even the lakes are drainage-project remnants of the original trackless swampland of the region.

About the only genuine geographical features of this country are the springs, from which they've constructed at least two modest amusement parks in the area. One of them, northeast of Ocala, holds a holiday illumination event, which we visited the other night. Live oaks and palm trees swathed in Christmas lights glowed in the midst of what was essentially a well-manicured swamp, while a rather chilly-looking giraffe belonging to the park menagerie ambled through the night, and a deep, clear, huge spring five times the size and volume of Bellefonte's Big Spring steamed around the little tour-boats paddling overhead.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Peter Jackson needs an editor, badly. The Lord of the Rings movies might have permanently broken him. King Kong is about nine-sevenths of a great movie. There are great bits of action, characterization, comedy, drama and romance. There is also far too much gross-out nastiness, CGI-action overkill, and wildly tone-inappropriate material which breaks up the narrative at crucial moments. It's as if Jackson filmed a bunch of material destined for an intended "extended version" and then just forgot to purge the extra footage from the delivered movie.

There's a light-hearted bit on a frozen lake in Central Park which is a grand example of what I'm talking about, here. As a scene on its own isolated merits, it's delightful. Sweet, cheerful, happy. Nice. Except it's sandwiched in between scenes of breakneck violence, death, carnage, and high tragedy. This light romantic comedy moment is in the exact wrong place. It comes across as hallucination, or worse, satire. My god, how much did that scene need to get axed?

There's been a good deal of yammer about the interspecies romantic element in the new version. It kind of works, for the most part. The only real problem I had with it was how Ann Darrow's Ape Rochester is apparently a man-eater, as he BITES A MAN'S HEAD OFF RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER. Our starry-eyed heroine apparently goes for the serial-killer type.

She's a remarkably tough heroine, though. She spends a good chunk of the movie running through some of the most hostile jungle terrain imaginable in bare feet and a borrowed silk nightgown, then again climbs several hundred feet of iron ladder at the top of the tallest sky-scrapper in the world in the predawn hours of what looks like a bitter cold New York winter. Tough, hell, she must be made of tenpenny nails. I half-way imagined one of those dinosaurs actually biting down on her, then pulling back a maw of broken teeth, shattered from attempting to chew on the protagonist equivalent of blue-steel feminine indominability.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ended up with another t-shirt at last night's game at HiWay Pizza. Between shirts for staffing at conventions, and freebie shirts from these free poker tournaments, I'm going to have half a wardrobe in gimmes by this time next year. Word is that HiWay is shifting its poker night to Wednesdays, which I'm all in favor of, really. Having three tournaments in a night has really played havoc with my playing style. I need to be tighter, not looser, but the temptation to play deep & go out in a blaze of stupid glory is attractive when there's another game coming in less than an hour.
I can be such a hypocrite. Not three weeks after trashing the heck out of ADV, here I am, hat in hand, for the next fire sale. They must really need those warehouses emptied. Think they're in very short-term, very expensive storage? Deep discounting from the Texas anime & stuff company, until Dec. 23rd.
Having read the first half of Bernanke's book on the Great Depression - the part about banking, labor economics not really holding a lot of interest to me - this post about the intentional, planned, and deliberate recessionary policies of three of Europe's largest countries for the next few years is inducing a severe case of deja vu in yours truly. We have a multinational monetary union of sorts - the interwar gold standard in Bernanke's text, the European Money Union in the contemporary case - whose internal logic is absolute insanity viewed from ground level. Any American public official who stated that they were planning to induce a severe recession, for any reason, would be figuratively and quite possibly literally lynched by the general public.

Europe is such a strange continent...
Wow, that was a tiring night. The monster storm of 18 inches and ice and sleet deflated hour by hour until it turned into about three inches and a hell of a lot of sleet & maybe a quarter-inch of ice. Still a trip to drive through coming back from State College, though.

I noticed that they had a new line of Korean manga at the bookstore at the mall. In general I'm not a huge fan of Korean manga/comics/whatever, but one of them looked better than average - sharp art, tomboyish heroine, light comedy angle. The title was Bring It On, although since it doesn't seem to be about cheer-leaders, I suppose they'll probably avoid the lawsuit.

Of course I managed to drop it in the slush while de-icing my car this morning. Pffbt. Not a total loss, I suppose, but it's definitely gone wobbly, which is a shame, because Danbei's quality standards appear better than the industry average.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Well, this is just bloody wonderful. Electronic voting booth technologies, and they're just looking at them *now*. Think they'll get the kinks worked out by the primaries?

Oh, well. The old punch-card system was murder on the election ladies.
The WogBlogger sums up the Sydney beach riots from her point of view. Not a good couple days for humanity in general, I'm afraid.

Link via Pixy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I bought the first volume of the manga Eden on online recommendations and raves. It didn't quite live up to expectations. For one thing, I can't fathom why it was "mature-audience" shrinkwrapped - there's hardly any sexual material whatsoever, and the bits of graphic violence and gore are positively tame in comparison with Dark Horse's other titles - Hellsing, which is intentionally ultra-violent and positively painted in bits of brains and blood and gore, has never been shrink-wrapped. I guess Dark Horse wanted to highlight the "maturity" level of this veddy, veddy serious post-pandemic prestige piece. Well, whoop-de-sodding-doo. Essentially, what you have here is a biohazard variant on the old Appleseed canard, without any of the action, humor, and pulp enthusiasm that the early Shirow brought to that whole pretentious, overwritten project.

Eden's characters are either total sociopaths, nihilistic jackasses, self-consciously "cruel" mass murderers, or basic ciphers. The characters mouth a lot of vaguely biblical profundity which might have appeared interesting or special in the Japanese context, but reads as trite and miserably dull to anyone who actually grew up reading Christian scripture. The ecological nihilism and reflexive anti-American-military bushwalla is equally tedious and trite, and I nearly stopped reading the damnable thing some twenty pages in. But, in the end, I did read it to the end, and... eh. It's not outright obnoxious, despite the politics.

Once all the contemporaries of the pandemic are killed off, the reader is spared all the miserable half-witted pontificating, and it turns into a more comfortably "Japanese" postapocalyptic jaunt. Which means, of course, that we get introduced to a character who has supposedly been raised in a Hobbesian dystopic nightmare, and yet has all of the qualms and misapprehensions of an urban Japanese teen nature-isolate, as if he was just then as we encountered him seeing the world he'd been living in all his life right then, at the age of sixteen or seventeen or something like that.

Augh. This is the sort of book which leaves me hanging angrily on the fence, drawn both towards getting the next volume and tossing it all as a waste of my money and attention.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Last spring, I mentioned Michael Holt, political historian and Whig specialist, and his explicit comparison of his own political party, the Democratic, with his subject of study, the American Whigs. Holt felt that the two parties' shared elitism, fondness for activist, technocratic government prescriptions, and essential pacifism linked the two across centuries and the nominal lines of political descent. While I dislike Holt's contemporary politics quite a bit, and recognize that the central problem of Whiggish evangelicalism makes hash of his argument on at least one front, in the main I have to concur with his general idea. It has the virtues of elegance and counter-intuition, and great predictive power in both parties' increasing proclivity towards false-banner military candidates - Taylor, Scott and Harrison in the Whiggish case, and Clark & Kerry in the latter-day Democratic Party.

Sean Wilentz, a historian and, incidentally, one of the New Republic's small horde of editors, has written a book on the antebellum rise of "democracy" which argues the opposite case. The reviewer, Fred Siegel, sums up exactly the basic problem with both, opposing arguments:

In his Times piece, Wilentz seems to suggest that there are historical plumb lines that, when dropped into the past, can place all that is admirable along a single alignment.

Now, in Wilentz's defense, Siegel seems on a second reading to be conflating a number of articles written by Wilentz with the argument of the book reviewed, such that an injustice may have been done to the historian. I've never been all that interested in "democratic" political histories, as they tend to reduce strong and stirring political conflict and chaos into annotated phone-books with the thin consistency of under-cooked oatmeal, so there was never really a chance that I'd read Wilentz's book on my own hook. I don't know, I might borrow a copy from the library if I have the time next year, just to see how much of this "lineage of descent" argument is in the book, and how much has been ported into the review from political articles of punditry, Cleopatra-like, enrolled in a rug.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A fascinating, radical prediction: we will see the functional extinction of the major Indian regional languages in the near future, as India shifts from an English-speaking elite over regional-language-speaking masses, to a mass middle-class society speaking English as a primary language, with the regionals becoming linguistic relics like Breton, Welsh, Scots, and Gaelic, or like the home-environments of second or third-generation American immigrant families from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Via Albion's Seedlings.
My quantum-fu is weak, so I might be wrong, but isn't this more news that the FTL ansible is an actual possibility of sorts? I mean, it's information transfer at a distance; the article isn't clear on whether it's *instantaneous* information transfer at a distance or not. Tom McMullen tried to explain to me why this was prima facie impossible once, but the explanation didn't stick, just how emphatic he was on the subject.

Via Nick Danger at Red Hot.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Big Dave was telling me that if I'd liked Tenshi Ja Nai, I should probably check out Ouran High School Host Club. I'd seen the title, but since said title reminded me of some deeply silly stuff I'd seen in other shoujo, I had passed on it as silly girlporn, about the level of those notably Sunako-less parts of the Wallflower. I suppose that was a mistake, because mangaka Bisco Hatori is much, much better at light comedy & quick characterization than the Wallflower's author Tomoko Hayakawa.

The protagonist, a rather androgynous student named Haruhi, is easily the poorest and least-well-born member of hoity-toity Ouran Academy, full to the brim with the spawn of Japan's best and richest. Haruhi stumbles on the open secret of the school, which is a school "club" operating out of one of the music rooms, a "host club" which could easily be translated as "gigolo salon" if you were in an unkind mood. Haruhi, in the process of this stumbling, accidentally breaks the usual horribly expensive vase inexplicably present in these sorts of situations, and is drafted as the high-tone host club's "dogsbody". Haruhi turns out to clean up pretty well, and becomes the latest member of the host club's stable of bishounen. At the end of the first episode, *after* they've introduced Haruhi to their clientele, the rest of the club realizes that Haruhi, who was too poor to afford a school uniform or get a proper haircut, is actually a "she". It hadn't occurred to them to notice or ask. Whoops.

In other hands, this would be a situation ripe for melodrama and high angst, and it's a sign of Hatori's impishness that she quickly introduces a character who's deeply offended that events have *not* proceeded in the typical high-drama shoujo manner, and officiously attempts to direct matters in the literal manner of a film-maker, complete with major character-revisions and copious scripting.

In effect, this is a girl's-harem manga, with a cross-dressing twist. Haruhi and her bishounen are all marvels of efficient character design. She's self-confessedly uninterested in the difference between men and women, and no great surprise there - she's been raised by her father, a deeply indebted employee of a cross-dressing gay bar. Cross-dressing runs in the family, as it were. The other members of the host club are charmingly naive and intrigued by the trappings of poverty, indulging in seminars on the uses and charms of such prole standards as instant coffee and cup ramen. The "King" of the club, Tamaki, is a giddy, monstrously egotistical narcissist, who's nevertheless deeply sincere and vulnerably borders on the bi-polar. The other members tend to represent, embody, or impersonate various girl-lust archetypes, such as the shota (or as the translation oddly puts it, "boy Lolita"), the tall, dark silent boy, the sly, always-smiling dark-haired "megane" vice-president, and the twins, who specialize in the high art of incestuous flirting.

The translation is kind of odd, mostly because they keep tripping up on stuff like gender-specific language. Haruhi decides to use masculine language to refer to herself, and Tamaki reacts wildly and comedically to this mis-behavior. The translator, clearly boggled by the challenge, decides to render it as bolwerized profanity - %$@! - without re-writing the lines to make this fully coherent in the English context. So it reads as if Haruhi is using a cuss word as a personal pronoun. While I know there have been comedy routines built around the near-infinitely malleable nature of profanity, I can't imagine how a cuss-word could be used to refer directly to oneself, really. Not in English, anyways.

Anyways, it's all in good fun. It's the very model of a light school comedy, although you never see anyone study or even crack open a book. You do see the inside of a schoolroom once, but it's after hours for a Christmas eve love confession, so I can't imagine it could possibly count.

More: After reading part of the second volume, I now realize that the "lolita"/"shota" thing wasn't a translation issue, it was the author being really, really weird. Apparently there's some sub-classification of shota fetishism which features horridly cute little fellers, so frilly as to make little lord Faulteroy grit his teeth in masculine shame for the gender. Thus, 'boy lolita'. Right-O.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

There goes the Easter Island "ecocide", where the inhabitants deforested themselves & then wiped themselves out in a desperate, fratricidal series of wars over a decaying resource base. Instead, a rat infestation destroyed the trees and the Dutch wiped out the locals via disease and slaving.

Not exactly a conservative reason for crowing - there's those damned colonial bastards again - but it does blow up one of the central canards of the radical ecological case for doom! doom! doooooom! I wonder if they're still teaching the "Mayan civilization collapsed of resource exhaustion" line of argument which was popular when I took Anthropology 101?

Link via Iain Murray at the Corner.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

One of the problems I had with Cashill's Hoodwinked, which I forgot to really talk about, was his peculiar selection-bias insistence that falsehood and fraud was uncommon on the right, that it was a creature of the left due to ideological and intellectual structural reasons. This case of conservative fraud and academic shenanigans, is a prime example. The tool in question gallivanted about, claiming that he was being hounded out of the academy by liberals for being conservative and a decorated veteran. They never get around to the details on the being conservative end of the argument, because he was flat-out lying about the decorated veteran end of matters. He was a late-Nineties Army Reserve type, who claimed to have been a Gulf War & Bosnia veteran with a Silver Star. Classic "Stolen Valor" syndrome. Bah.

Via ye olde Instapundite
Doom, doom, dooooom.

Yeah, I'm going to take my economic punditry from a French source. After all, they must know what they're doing, our growth rate is 2/5ths of theirs! What was that, it's the other way 'round? You don't say!

Gross doesn't get around to touching, even tangentially, on the whole "destruction" half of "creative destruction" until the last paragraph. Whoop de &#$!in' doo, there are more business failures coming down the pike. Yeah, raising interest rates would tend to *do* that. We're five going on six years out from the last great entrepreneurial bust - that's given the wild men time to recoup and recover. *Something* would eventually come along to cause a fall-out. If it *didn't*, I'd be pretty damned worried that we're going down France's Eurosclerotic path o' damnation.
Amusing idea: take the first sentence in your journal from each month, and see if it makes any sort of sense as a yearly digest.

January: Thinking over the current meme, my five favorite on-going manga series would probably be, in no particular order,
February: Well, hell.
March: I've been going mad on Amazon, blowing all sorts of dosh on books.
April: I'm going to have to change credit cards.
May: Oh, for the love of Zod... George RR Martin finally finished A Feast of Crows - delayed since 2002 - but only by dicing it into character-arcs, dividing them into two piles, and publishing the ones that are finished.
June: Dave Welsh of Precocious Curmudgeon has a review of the first issue of Shojo Beat which covers much of the ground I was intending to stomp on, so I suppose that takes care of that.
July: OK, that's it.
August: On a thoroughly unserious note, apparently there was a multi-event World Cosplay Summit that Anime Expo was involved with in some fashion.
September: The exceedingly large number of manga I ended up buying at the 'Swap yesterday inspired me to finally clean up my manga and new books around the apartment.
October: I'm going over next week's ballot to see if there's any issues I ought to be thinking about.
November: &#$@! Microsoft Word and its &#$!ing "smart quotes" defaults, anyway.

So, that's self-involvement, manga, and random profanity. Wait, that's the first line of the *last* post of the month. Let's try that again:

January: I'm back from Florida, but feeling deeply unambitious.
February: A friend emailed me this site specializing in the history of Bellefonte.
March: Austin Bay writes that, though triumphalists have become quick to see in 2005 another 1989 in the offing, that this is no year for end-games.
April: Ben talked me into going to see the Sin City movie last night.
May: Finished Harsh's Taken at the Flood yesterday, which is less satisfying than I expected it to be, largely because it's apparently the second in a series of three [possibly four] intricately connected volumes Harsh has written about or around Lee's Maryland Campaign, or, as Harsh puts it, the culmination of Lee's "Overland Campaign".
June: Ha!
July: "Blog" is just a species of slang for a class of web-journaling applications.
August: Sorry I've been quiet.
September: Daylight.
October: For those still doing the public poetry thing, here's a report of a Baghdad poetry meeting in what sounds like Uday's old stamping grounds, if I've got the location right.
November: Can an essay be both masturbatory and utter horseshit at the same time?
December: Steve Sailer's doing another tap-dance on Steve Levitt's head over Levitt's Freakonomics claim that abortion cut down on crime, in celebration of some heavy-iron economists joining Sailer in his dissent with a paper arguing that Levitt made two errors which totally negated the results he was relying on for his theory.

Hmm. Much better - more political, less profanity, if still a little heavy on the gnomic short sentences.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I swear, some people are just incapable of recognizing their own monstrosity. I saw all the posts about both the article and the show, but assumed that the bloggers were exaggerating for comic effect. This Hendrix person is a complete and total tool.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Doug Muir has been in Kosovo this week, on a business trip. Today he had a post about the Orthodox church-burnings at the end of the 1999 war and last year's riots and resurgence of church-burning. He gives the Kosovar Albanian side of this, describing the unfinished church squatting in the middle of Pristina University's centre green, and discusses the Nineties-era origin of many of the Kosovar Orthodox churches burned in 1999 and 2004, suggesting that they were political constructs rather than community centres. One of his commenters notes that many churches in Serbia and the rest of the former Yugoslavia date from the Nineties, because before that the Tito regime frowned in a typically communist way on new-church construction.

No experience, no strong opinion either way, but Doug's been interesting this week on the whole subject.
Winds of Change's occasional energy wrap-up is back after an absence of a few months. An always-welcome breath of reasons for optimism, although "biofuel" still leaves me steaming - the whole concept strikes me as "Son of Ethanol". I see that the Texans are getting ready to roll out a massive offshore windfarm - isn't anyone worried about yet another large energy installation being planted on the hurricane coast after this year's lesson on the subject?
Since everyone's pushing this Iraqi party questionnaire... PUK 52%, nobody else came even close. Well, I said the other week that if I had a vote, it'd probably go to the Kurdish coalition.
It takes some work to make Spike Lee the reasonable one in an interview, but this guy manages that feat with something approximating flair.
I had to special-order Tenshi Ja Nai through the local Comic Swap, due to it being published by a johnny-come-lately manga republisher called Go! Comi - word has it that they're escapees from one of the big two - Viz, I think. It's in the hoary old tradition of the cross-dressing roommate/partner micro-genre - there's more of 'em than you'd think. W Juliet and Girl Got Game are just two that have gotten published over here - an unpublished example would be Mint no Bokura, which featured a set of fraternal twins pretending to be identical, with the cross-dresser being the protagonist's possessive brother. Hell, one of the first manga I ever read, Twinkle Twinkle Idol Star, was a not-very-good cross-dressing idol-star-team manga, although that one was shounen, not the usual shoujo affair. Tenshi Ja Nai's schtick is that the protagonist, Hikaru, isn't the usual good-girl or "genki" archetypal heroine, but rather an introverted, determined loner who just wants to be left alone, damnit. Sort of a much-less-psychotic version of Sunako from the Wallflower. It makes for a different sort of dynamic than the usual idol-with-a-secret, roommates-conspiring-around-a-gender-secret love-comedy stuff. The one weak part of the book is the half-painted high-drama building up around the cross-dressing roommate/idol, Izumi. It's all too much, too soon in the story for my preferences. We'll see if the story settles down, or gets pat and repetitive like W Juliet. It's worth ordering the second one at least, I think.

I kind of promised to no longer buy from CMX, but Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne was just too pretty to pass up. It's a fairly rote magical-girl version on the usual "kaito" or gentleman-thief genre, which piles one set of ritual and stylization on top of another, equally rigid set of rituals and stylization, but it has a certain cheerful charm. The first volume was a little thin, but the art's nice, and you occasionally need a slice of pretty-and-stupid to break up the angst and drama. As a bonus, it *appears* as if CMX is in the process of addressing its quality-control issues, as the binding was vastly superior to the last few CMX books I've bought, and the overall presentation was superior and highly distinctive. It damn near jumped off the shelf at me.
I've literally turned into a lightweight! Two whiskey sours, which a few weeks ago would have been no big deal, got me tipsy in between tournaments at the Arena last night. They weren't even in a row! I haven't been drunk in nearly ten years. Novel experience. They aren't kidding about fat being an alcohol-buffer.

Not sure I like the Arena's deal. They jumped HiWay Pizza's night, and I wasn't going to go until my poker buddies ambushed me yesterday afternoon with the news that they were switching, and I felt I had to follow. Then, when they went out early enough at the 7 PM tournament at the Arena to make the 8 PM tournament at HiWay, they took off to play there. I went out a little too late to make it, so I hung around HiWay & had my second drink. Big Dave never did come back from HiWay - I hear he was doing pretty good in a really thin crowd.

It's kind of hard to play half-drunk - not because of the decision-making, but because the rest of the table knows, or thinks it knows, that you're impaired. Makes 'em near-impossible to bluff, and my cards weren't solid enough to play as tight as I wanted to play. Meh. Maybe I just suck.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Steve Sailer's doing another tap-dance on Steve Levitt's head over Levitt's Freakonomics claim that abortion cut down on crime, in celebration of some heavy-iron economists joining Sailer in his dissent with a paper arguing that Levitt made two errors which totally negated the results he was relying on for his theory. Levitt apparently conceded the first error, but is holding his ground on the other alleged error.

John Derbyshire of the Corner wants to know why some think-tank hasn't snapped up Sailer for his skill at being a "datanaut". Well, there's a reason I don't have Sailer blogrolled... boy bitches too much about white this, white that. Podhoretz apparently thinks he's racist, and I'm not too sure...

Update: Oh, for the love of small green apples, I do *not* suspect Sailer of "dark motives". I'm uneasy about his racial politics. I've never noticed him thumbing the scales, not that I have the background or the attention-span to catch him if he were. So why quote me on the subject and not Derbyshire, who was the guy I got the news from in the first place? Meh.
Dubya got called in for jury duty in Waco County. Sounds like a bad West Wing plot, one of the really schmaltzy ones all dewy-eyed with liberal-Norman-Rockwell idealism.

Via the Corner, which I really ought to put in the blogroll one of these days.