Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I've not been saying much, and I'm sorry about that. It's the dead of the year, and I just don't have much energy left after work's done and what little exercise I get in.

I end up deleting most of what I have to say for the high sins of tediousness or ill-consideration. Most days the sun is a rumor, appearing in breaks in the monocloud during office-hours spent in my windowless cubicle. The weather is oddly mild, unwelcome warmth in the Christmas-solstice season. At least I can now start counting the days until daylight will stretch far enough to light my way back down the hill, and put myself back on a walking regimen.

But, it's not all gloom and drear. I bought Gun Frontier cheap from Right Stuff, and it's a grand lark of a series: Leiji Matsumoto characters shanghaied into The Old West. And not just any version of The Old West, but a darkly comic, bitter, late-Sixties version, full of racism, ill repute, sudden violence, and dubious heroism. Harlock as a laconic doofus of a gunfighter is particularly impressive, but the real hero of the story is his lecherous sidekick Tochiro, searching for the scattered remnants of the massacre at Samurai Creek. Their dynamic is roughly similar to that of Eastwood and Willich from the Dollars trilogy, but with the addition of the third character, maiden of negotiable virtue/conspiratrix Sinunora, it becomes clear that the model we're looking at is that of Paint Your Wagon or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Matsumoto anime shouldn't be this much fun - they're supposed to be all long-faced and virtuous and noble in that typical Japanese nationalist fashion. They're not supposed to have episodes featuring riflemen fatally giving away their positions with rainbows created by pissing into the sunrise, or having the protagonist arrested & sentenced to hang for the high crime of public urination in a particularly starchy town.

Also, the Japanese creators seem to know more about the period than the American adaptation crew. There's a mention at one point about knowing that a character hadn't been with the cavalry because he was lugging around a converted Springfield '61 - an infantry weapon, not a carbine. Or, at least, there was in the original Japanese - the translator got confused and had the characters talking about a "Calvin cavalry gun". No, guys, that wasn't "Caluvin", that's "carubin[e]".

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Photoessay about the postapocalyptic remnants of Detroit's State Fair neighborhood. I didn't quite buy the essay's line until I pulled up GoogleEarth and found the neighborhood, which appears from the air to match the essayist's descriptions. This is a knock-on essay from this inital article, which features more of the downtown Detroit wildernesses you've probably seen in mainstream articles before now.

Via Bruce Sterling's blog, which I'd read more often if it wasn't such a glitchy disaster area in its own very special way. Why is it that Wired's blog layout is so very technically incompetent? This site might not look like much, but at least it isn't an eyesore.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Someone claims to have engineered a flying full-size version of Nausicaa's flying wing. Eh, I'm not convinced. Looks like they've built a large kite which can carry a human being, but I betcha if you dropped that towline & let it glide, you'd see that sucker flip end for end until the pilot fell or the vehicle hit the dirt. It looks like it's getting all of its pitch and yaw axis stability from the towline.

Via Chizumatic.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Scientists in Toronto may have made a major breakthrough on both type I and type II diabetes. At any rate, they seem to have found out how to cure the diseases in mice. It hasn't been tested in humans yet, heck, there hasn't been time for other scientists to replicate the results with mice, and there's always the chance that they're blowing smoke, but damn! Interestingly, the line of approach is neurological, attacking pain neurons in the pancreas instead of the usual gland-oriented approaches. Immunologists are harumphing furiously, so who knows?

But I've got a number of relatives with type II, and any prospect of a serious cure is heartening.

Via the Instapundit.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fred asked me for a list of recommended manga the other week, and things have only just now slowed down enough for me to look around and try to put something together. Here's the first five, in no particular order:

1) Natsuki Takaya's Fruits Basket, from TokyoPop. I was just reading someone's comment on a liverjournal decrying how angry she was that this title was commonly denounced by people who had read it as "commercial crap". If you ask me, this attitude is preposterous, because Fruits Basket is glorious, brilliant crap of the highest calibre of commerciality. It is perfectly constructed to offer truly mass-market appeal - it's sold ten million copies in Asia, and another two million in North America - while also managing to be clever, aesthetically charming, and subtly disturbing all at the same time. The plot, described baldly, is ludicrous - a saintly orphaned girl's interactions with a rich family cursed to turn into the various animals of the Chinese zodiac - but the story hung on that silly notion manages to be in turn sprightly and tragic, without either element undercutting the other.

2) CLAMP's XXXholic, from Del Rey. My copy of the eighth volume just shipped from Amazon, and I'm looking forward to it as the only CLAMP title I'm currently reading. Now, CLAMP in the aggregate isn't the best story-telling or character-creating four-headed artistic team in creation. They're not really brilliant at plotting, and their style is so consistent and prototypically shoujo (even the ones that are technically shounen, like Angelic Layer) that I've heard half the shoujo titles in print mis-identified as "CLAMP" by the ill-informed.

All that aside, XXXholic is pretty damned nifty. The art style is severe black-and-white - I've yet to spot a ziptone or shade in the seven volumes released in North America. And it's a story that belongs in black-and-white, all harsh supernaturally-themed lessons in right and wrong, and the karmic price of weakness and the inevitable cost of human fraility.

Watanuki is a gifted medium and spirit-magnet who gets tricked into a state of indentured servitude to the proprietor of an improbable shop somewhere deep in the depths of Tokyo. The protagonist exists to be amusingly cantankerous and to act as foil to his employer, the decadent and striking Yuko, as she tells her various customers how doomed they are, what they need to do, and then to smirk sadly as they fail to appreciate her advice and stumble off to their aforementioned dooms. About the only downside to the manga has been the ill-advised crossovers with another concurrent CLAMP manga, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Tsubasa, which if you ask me, sucks, and its suckiness drags down the rest of the chapters in which the characters of said sucky manga appear or are mentioned. Eh.

3) Saki Hiwatari's Please Save My Earth, from Viz. The biggest shoujo SF manga of the early Nineties, it's one or two volumes away from completion here in the States, and I've enjoyed every volume so far, which is better than what I can say of certain other long-running manga - Kare Kano, your ears ought to be burning right now. The art isn't always gorgeous like the two previously mentioned manga, but it hits the high points on a regular basis, and when Hiwatari's on, she's on. If only she could have resisted throwing in fannish piffle and marginalia about Saint Saiya in the early volumes...

Please Save My Earth is a reincarnation romance, following the last survivors of an extinct race through their deaths in a research facility on Earth's moon through their reincarnation as schoolchildren in Tokyo. (Why Tokyo? Hell, it's where the audience is located...) There's lots of soap opera, a reticent, passive-aggressive heroine, a mad, bitter, compromised hero reincarnated as a puckish eleven-year-old boy, cross-gendered reincarnated unrequited love for the shounen-ai crowd, and enough angles on the fatal final days of the doomed aliens to make Rashimon raise an ambiguous number of limbs in surrender.

However, fair warning: this is not the shoujo manga for those who demand assertive heroines and politically-correct, or even particularly moral love-interests. Alice is a pretty, sweet wet noodle, her prior incarnation was more outgoing but still a ditz, and Rin was a obnoxious little cuss even before he remembered that he was a bitter, contrary, mankilling bastard named Shion in a previous life. Still, it's one of the few titles I usually read twice, once to tear through the new volume, and the second to savor the story and the execution thereof.

4) Hitoshi Iwaaki's Parasyte currently from TokyoPop, soon to be properly re-printed by Del Rey. A horribly violent, ugly, semi-nihilistic cannonball of a manga, Parasyte suffered mainly by being one of the first comics out of the chute in the early Nineties, just before TokyoPop got its stuff together & started printing unedited, unflopped material. The new release from Del Rey ought to be everything Parasyte should have been the first time around, except for the proper name, Kiseiji. Or, heck, just plain old Parasite - the "y" was so very, very... ugh. My probably-spoilery thoughts on reading the last volume are here.

Parasyte is an alien-symboite story in the vein of Hal Clement's Needle or James Triptree, Jr.'s "The Only Neat Thing to Do", except that every other version of the buddy-symbiote's race are what they were supposed to have been - man-eating intelligent monsters, with our protagonist escaping having his brain eaten by his particular parasite by successfully trapping it in his hand until it was "set" and stuck in unnatural symbiosis insead of where it belonged, in the driver's seat behind the hero's face. The art is rough and harsh, but the story is set in a rough and harsh and unforgiving world, and the roughness perfectly compliments the highly kinetic, sudden bursts of appalling violence. I'm seriously thinking about buying the new editions when Del Rey starts rolling them out.

5) Takeshi Obata's & Tsugumi Ooba's Death Note, from Viz. This is another one of those series which sounds kind of nonsensical in brief: a high school student finds the notebook of a shingami, a Death God, with which you can script the deaths of others, adhering to a certain set of proscribed rules, which becomes increasingly elaborate as the protagonist becomes increasingly megalomaniacal, brilliant, and oddly appealing. The fun of Death Note is the amorality of the basic story - you can't help but find yourself rooting for the sociopathically brilliant Light Yagami, as he slaughters everyone he can't fool or outwit. The body-count is quite impressive, and the celerity with which characters are lethally shuffled off stage once Light discovers their vulnerability is breathtakingly swift.

Death Note at it's best is a puzzle-book, in which various antagonists are pitted against the anti-hero in games of wits. Authority figures and geniuses maneuver to figure out who Light is before he figures out that they're on to him - and kills them in a way which doesn't reveal his ownership of the "Death Note". There are some parallels with Obata's other North American-published work, Hikaru no Go, even though he's only the artist on both titles. Wonder if he's drawn to battle-of-wits sort of stories, or if that's just what he's been assigned to by the Shounen Jump editors? Either way, Death Note's sharp art, intricate logic-puzzles and Jacobean savagery make it an enjoyable bimonthly romp.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stuff like this makes me go absolutely mataglap. Edward Kennedy is so much like one of the cardboard Washington villains of a Tom Clancy novel that it isn't funny. He probably thought he was playing both ends against the middle, but one of those ends were the enemies of civilization itself. And we were in the middle, with Damocles gone thermonuclear and half-spastic.

This man was almost a presidential candidate, and is still a senior US Senator. How can we be sure he isn't playing games with the Iranians or, gods forbid, some well-mannered salafist front? I really, really hope he's bugged and wired to an inch of his life, but knowing the modern intelligence community, I fear that's wishful thinking.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Well, it's Florida time again here at Blogfonte, wherein your faithful hero goes venturing into the land of retirement, relatives, and excessive flatness. The way which yours truly chose to beat southwards was somewhat more convoluted than last year's, suiting the current season's parsimonious & farthing-pinching mood better than the previous attempt.

Left the Korean putt-putt in a park-and-ride north of the city by the bay (eastern edition), and took the light rail to a new airport, which likewise has a newish monicker, borrowed from a respected, historical, and newly-defunct SCOTUS member when I wasn't looking. The light rail operator kept talking about the line terminus being "Thurgood Marshall", which was terribly confusing while examining the map, which had two termini listed, neither of which being named after the region's most recently famous son. I suspect that if I were a member of my greataunt's generation, I would still be talking about people flying in and out of New York City's Idlewild Airport.

A businessman was barked at by a uniformed TSA type for carrying a bottle of water through the security station, wherein I damn near stripped naked in an attempt to get my metal into the scan-bin. Meh, taking boots off in public is entirely too much of a spectacle for my sense of self-worth.

This year's flight was actually a pair, with an hour-and-a-half layover in Atlanta, waiting on the connecting flight. Both seats were in the rear of each respective plane, which made for much more lively airtravel than I've come to expect. More like a roller-coaster ride, less like a glorified seat on ye olde Greyhound of the Sky. By the way, what exactly is the point of automating the trash recepticales at Atlanta-Hartfield, which make impressive mechanical sounds every time someone shoves a bit of rubbish inside, presumably compacting each empty fast-food bag in real-time? This cannot be particularly efficient. Is it that hard, getting the janitors from one part of the stretched-out string of Atlanta sub-terminals to the others?

The second flight, from Atlanta to Orlando, was both more crowded, and much more impressive. The difference between a 757 and a 767-400, is the difference between a airborne bus & an auditorium on springs.

All in all, the trip was quite long, and I'm pondering just driving down next year. The extra five to ten hours might be worth having mine own transportation oncet I arrive. Course, it would completely negate all the pretty promises I've made to mine honorable auto insurance agent about how few miles I'll be putting on the Korean putt-putt, in exchange for this year's much lower premiums...

Friday, November 17, 2006

There's a new martial-arts supply shop in Bellefonte, located behind the Jabco Millrace Cafe on Dunlop Street across from what used to be the Bush House & is now a rubble-lined hole in the ground. Presumably they're aiming at the traffic from the Tae Kwan Do parlor the next block over on High Street. I'm not so much into the kung fu or the kendo, but at least now I know where to go if I ever feel the need for a bokken or a nifty pair of Seventies-style spangled nunchuku.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

So, Skip Beat volume 3. I had been worried that the artist, Yoshiki Nakamura, was going to ease up and let her saint-gone-sour protagonist, Kyoko, revert to saintliness & sweetness. As of the third volume, that threat has not yet materialized. Our heroine, having been provisionally accepted into talent agency LME as a member of the cloyingly named "Love Me Section", is obliged to prove that she can both elicit, and accept, affection. The flamboyant head of the agency believes that the most bedrock requirement of "talents" who work in the entertainment industry is this ability to be lovable. Kyoko, whose whole life up to the point of the beginning of the story was a sort of rigorous ryokan-themed training in this exact sort of self-denial and hospitality, is thus emininently qualified to do what is required of her - be what the "customer" wants to be, by engaging the core emotional needs of the "customer" - but her radical alienation means that she harbors the worst possible motivations for said performance.

After the climax of the story which covers the last half of the second volume and the first half of the third, Kyoko comes to an interesting revelation: the horrible realization that she is hollow. Everything she ever did for others, especially for the cad Shotaro who betrayed her selflessness in the manga's inciting incident, has been entirely *for others*. She was a shell of performance - of doing things for others, with a reflexive smile and outward happiness, and an internal, manic sort of grasping desperation. Admittedly, it was a cheerful, happy-eyed sort of grasping desperation, but even in the initial scene of the first volume, the allegedly-happy Kyoko, slaving away at multiple jobs to support the selfish Sho, briefly breaks out of her working-happy shell to race madly and maniacally off on a poster-hunt. This sort of outburst is not the behavior of someone living her ideal life, although this is allegedly what she was doing at that moment. When an unintentional revelation shows her that her self-sacrifice has only earned contempt and betrayal, this shell of selflessness and outward cheer is shattered, exposing what was supperating below. This new Kyoko is a personification of the grudge, with a comedically-themed mania for curses, voodoo, and scorned fury, but what we're seeing is the energy of desperation directed outwards for the first time, the little that was left of the heroine which hadn't been dedicated to the shell of performance.

The second volume was kind of uncomfortable, as it cut a little close to the true, core theme of desperation, as Kyoko, rejected from her attempt to spite the now-hated Sho by outshining him at his own business, tries to crawl back into her shattered shell, to be other than what she is - to heal her "inability to love" by main force. The irony is that everything the agency president wants her to do, she could, and can, easily do, if she was willing to deceive herself & crawl back into the shell.

Once the stories shift to her direct interactions with other artists at the agency, this discomfort fades, because it's the other artists who are being discomfited, instead of the audience. Or, perhaps, just me. You see, I prefer to identify with Kyoko-the-terrifiying-truth-revealing-monster, scaring the crap out of her peers & fellow entertainment-workers, over suffering with the comedically abused Kyoko-the-desperate-victim, scrabbling after her false, lost sainthood. This is why the next arc, which covers the last few chapters of the third volume, and extending into the yet-to-be-published fourth volume, has my rapt and urgent attention.

The story rotates around the rehersal for a performance of a play at the agency's acting school, where the theme of the play - the effect of a mother's death on a child and her family - echoes the emotional trauma of the president's difficult young granddaughter. The granddaughter's problem is that she doesn't want the happy words and fake optimism of the play's script and her grandfather's artistic dogma - she wants to be told the things she fears. It's a true bit of characterisation - nothing is as infuriating to a depressive personality as to be fed aphorisms and happytalk. The granddaughter is looking for catharsis, and her grandfather's philosophy only allows for empathy. Nakamura brings us to that moment of catharsis, with a perfect look of appalled shock on the president's face as Kyoko inverts the schmaltz and pollyannaesqueries of the script into something ugly, and dark, and real - and then Nakamura drops us into the gutter between volumes. See you in two months! Argh!

On another subject, while I agree with Jarred Pine about preferring heroines who are self-motivated & empowered over the self-sacrificing types who exist to motivate or control a strong love interest, I have to think that Night of the Beasts is shaping up to be one of the worst possible examples of that particular post-modern impulse. The protagonist of Night of the Beasts, Aria, starts out as a kick-ass man-thumping brute who has literally never lost a fight with anyone, and gets into enough daily street-brawls to make that more than an empty boast. But the conflict and ongoing centre of Night of the Beasts isn't Aria vs. demons or thugs or whatever, but rather Aria's ability to redeem her morally-precarious, demon-haunted love interest Sakura, to keep him from going wild & killing innocents in the heat of a beserker demonic episode. So far, her toughness has only been of use in fueling her ability to get close to the out-of-control Sakura & bringing him under control - to tame him. This is classic romance-novel wish-fulfillment, acted out with a big-boned busty tomboyish thug of a heroine instead of the usual big-eyed demure wisp. I don't know, maybe Night of the Beasts will go in a different direction from the one I'm anticipating, but it doesn't feel like it'll be a Devilman Lady or cross-gendered Bleach, with growth-through-fists-of-fury character-development.

Instead, it scans like Red Sonja cast against type as Jane Eyre.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Picked up the second and third volumes of Dokebi Bride from NetComics based on the impressive first volume, and found that, while the story and art continues to impress with a flair for the low-key and the mildly grotesque, the translation and lettering is getting increasingly nonprofessional and intrusive. Somebody needs to do a bit more polishing to their scripts - there's a lot of bad grammar and worse English. And the font they're using in the word balloons? Even *I* find it ugly and coarse, and I'm not exactly a font snob.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Robert Gates? Who the heck is Robert Gates? How is an ex-CIA guy SecDef material? Is this Harriet Miers Pt. II?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Aigh. Waited for twenty-some minutes outside the polling place in Bellefonte West before they came out & said that they couldn't say when the machines would be up & operational. Had to get to work, so it looks like this evening instead.

Idiot technophilic optimists. Yeah, we can set up a commonwealth-wide secure network in an hour! Bah!

Friday, November 03, 2006

OK, that was the shortest Fall, ever. I just got snowed on, while walking over to the main building to pick up some packages. There's still leaves on the trees...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Oh, wow:

...when someone says he's a Green and wants to "save the planet", that translates to me as:

"I am a puritanical killjoy with no concept of the scientific method and a burning desire to decimate my fellow-men so that the ugliest remnants of humanity can live the short, miserable, disease-ridden, brutal lives of medieval peasants in a spirit of smug self-satisfaction born of the sense that we have condemned billions of tediously aspirational humans to poverty or death"

Ironically enough, that also perfectly describes the plot and general spirit of S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire novels. The sad thing is, I consume those books like bon-bons. Just finished reading A Meeting at Corvallis the other week.

Via Andrew Stuttaford on the Corner.
Rightprof asked in the comments to this post if Bono was actually an evangelical. (Tried to respond in the comments, but Haloscan is being obnoxious this week. Thinking about dropping that service.)

Evangelical? Bono?

Sort of. By Irish standards. There's this interview with BeliefNet. There was mention back in the late Eighties that most of U2 were members of a Christian fellowship of some sort which sounded evangelical.

This article talks about that group, Shalom, and has a quote from Bono that he is sort-of-maybe Catholic, at least to the extent of raising his kids "technically" as Catholics. There's a chunk here that describes Shalom as charismatic & non-hierarchial, which definitely matches my informal definition of "evangelical".

This article seems rather definitive, though. They left Shalom in the Eighties over the whole rock-star thing, but are still pretty much believers in that tradition, just unchurched.
BTW, lesson from Tuesday's Halloween barbeque-and-potluck, to which the new CEO brought a bunch of candied carmel apples:

Don't eat a carmel apple when you're wearing a full beard, especially not when you're due for a trim. At least a quarter of the carmel will end up in your mustache or beard instead of in your stomach.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

If anyone could argue me out of my agnosticism back into the Faith by negative example, it would be John Derbyshire. What a shallow, cretinous fool. "Mysterian" my arse - if you want to totter through life a deist, use the proper terms. His reasons for losing faith are variously foolish (human minds being wired for religion is an argument neither in favor of, nor in contradiction to, the propositions of any particular religion) racist (blacks are religious! east asians aren't! I hates me some blacks, and love those Chinese!) and ignorant (dur, never did understand biology, but now's I've been edujumicated on my Darwin, I sees as how religion is bunk!).

I mean, he's still more religious than I am, even on a good day, but I can't help but feel contempt for his irreligiosity. And I suppose you can't possibly find a better argument for man's essential irrationality than that admission right there. Or at least, my essential irrationality.

Oh, well.
Utter, vicious nonsense.

The actual article - which provides the detail which Noah fails to supply - namely, that U2 was relocating to a country which *doesn't* impose an arbitrary and obnoxious windfall tax on royalties, in addition to the usual income taxes. Furthermore, Bono and the rest of the band will continue to pay their normal income taxes within Ireland proper. Nothing illegal or even particularly immoral is going on here, by rational standards.

Noah's predicate - that if someone crusades against poverty, then he can't have his own self-interests at heart when conducting his own private business in a tax-minimizing fashion - is utter, miserable, ill-thought-out horse radish. Real anti-poverty activists - from the early Victorian bourgeois to Carnegie to Melinda & Bill Gates - have traditionally been wealthy, canny capitalists with a perfectly rational commitment to not wasting their private resources on non-tax-optimal behavior.

Bono is merely the latest in a long string of wealthy evangelical Christian do-gooders. To denounce him as a hypocrite for not behaving as an economic martyr is just foul.

On another level, U2 is just the latest rock band to become tax emigres due to confiscatory European taxation policies. Were all of those hedonistic Seventies hard-rock outfits like Led Zeppelin hypocritical for bailing on Laborite England's obscenely high top tax rates, even though that money theoretically financed the era's progressive permissiveness in some sort of roundabout fashion? Of course not.

I wonder how much of this is just a push to tar Bono as a nasty, hypocritical evangelical neocon. He's said a few too many nice things about American Republicans recently. Time to cauterize the wound, soldier! Burn him!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

X_X Ugh. X_X

Halloween company picnic, with silly hats & "Pumpkin slice" contest. Ate *way* too much.

Afternoon productivity? Hah!

After School Nightmare and Night of the Beasts were both very much worth the purchase, BTW. Although After School Nightmare dances on just this side of my bishounen ai comfort-line, so you have been warned - not sure whether to classify the protagonist as a heroine or hero, but either way, likable person. Herm? Eh, whatever. The protagonist is one of these effeminate, hairless hermaphrodites which only exist in manga, trying "his" best to pass as male, and deeply conflicted about the whole thing. There's some sort of strange shared-dream-experience class/afterschool club thing which "he"'s being compelled to attend to "graduate" from "his" school. Lots of dream logic, conflict. Fun, although I'm not sure whether this will develop well, or just go in shoujo circles.

Night of the Beasts's heroine is thuggish and violent, which suits my personal tastes nicely. She's being semi-stalked by a superficially amiable Type A romance-novel love interest pretending to be a Type B. Since he's possessed of a beast-like demon, and there are demonic complications, things get bloody and violent quickly, but the book still has a light touch which sort of reminds me of a cross between one of the darker Yuu Watase plots and a Hojo character dynamic, like City Hunter crossbred with Ayashi no Ceres.

I've never heard of Night of the Beasts's Chika Shiomi, and it seems like this is her first translated manga. After School Nightmare's Setona Mizushiro apparently wrote X-Day, which I took a disliking to after the first volume, and never bought the second, so eh.
I decided to stop walking to work based on the new lack of light on the evening walk back to town. Last night, the gloaming fell as I was halfway down lower Valentine Hill road, which is not exactly safe unless I get myself a hat with reflectors or something likewise unspeakably dorky. So I drove in to work. And discovered that with the construction on Benner Pike, that it would have been faster to walk.

Argh! I want my hour of daylight back!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Oh, bollocks. The Iron Dream is unreadable except as an Eye of Argon exercise in Sturgeon's Law stamina. The prose is intensely, and intentionally, obnoxious. I certainly didn't get all the way through it, dropping out somewhere through the middle of a political streetfight-bordering-on-outbreak-of-civil-war in which the heavy-handed "truncheon" imagery just overwhelmed what was left of my good sense and better taste.

And I'm tired of having the right wing blamed for Hitler. Fascism wasn't rightwing. Need I point out, once again, the "socialist" in "National Socialism"?
"'infinite' doesn't necessarily mean 'contains all possibilities'. The sequence of all even numbers (246810121416182022...) is infinite, but the number '17' doesn't appear in it anywhere."

From the discussion following the posting of a color image generated from pi. That's about as succinct a refutation of the "monkeys typing Shakespeare" conundrum as I've ever come across.

Via a semi-random Ann Althouse link.

[But this follow-up, of the same pi derivation except in a radial arrangement, is a far cooler display.]

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ugh. Miserable weather - can't decide if it's raining or not, which leaves me wetter than if it just rained, flat-out.

And darkness is falling. Less and less time for walking & reading, as we creep towards the dark of the year. Meh.

Monday, October 23, 2006

So here's a question for you. I was talking to Bill Johnston while working ops at MangaNEXT, and he wanted to know why manga are shelved in American stores by title instead of author/artist. Bill, when he reads manga at all, reads 'em in the original Japanese, so he shops in the used bookstores and import places, where they shelve 'em the way the Japanese do - first by publisher, then by author, and then finally by title. I couldn't explain or justify why comics are filed by title, even in the real bookstores.

Of course, comics as comics have always been displayed in that fashion - it's a relic of the Big-Two-and-a-Half days, when the titles were forever - Batman, Superman, Fantastic Four, Spiderman - and the artists and writers came and went like the hirelings which they were. That explains the comics shops and the rest of the direct market. But bookstores - real bookstores - file their normal print offerings the way God intended 'em - by author. The only stuff that used to get displayed by title was their periodicals. Is it because they initially thought of manga and other graphic novels as periodicals, and thus deserving of the periodical treatment? Maybe it's the way that the publishing companies advertise the books. Title up front, artist/writer as an afterthought. Lord knows, I don't necessarily know the name of the artists responsible for the manga I read, not up front & foremost, the way I would with a paperback novel or nonfiction history or whatever.

So I drove down to Shaler last weekend. Lots of Santorum signs. Some Casey signs - not all that many, and most of them on semi-public land rather than on somebody's yard. More Rendell signs, and some of them on people's lawns.

Fairly few Swann signs, south of New Bethlehem. Fewer as you get closer to Pittsburgh. Since Southwestern PA is supposed to be Swann territory, I'm thinking that Swann is pretty much a dead letter, which kind of sucks.

But a lot of Santorum signs. More than I expected, given the CW that he's dead, dead, dead in the water, dead as a duck, dead as a doornail.

BTW, I must have passed through Murtha territory, in Armstrong County. I saw two signs, one for Murtha, one labeled "Boot Murtha". No Ihrey signs. Damn if I know what that means.

Milesburg is kind of strange. Not a single political sign, although it was getting kind of dark when I drove through late Sunday, so I may have missed one or two. Wonder if they're having vandalism problems down there?

The hunters were out in force in the Sheetz outside of Brookville. One pair of chowderheads in a white H2 Hummer took up way, way too much space at the pump. I had to tie myself into knots in order to get the Korean import putt-putt in beside 'em to gas that sucker up. H2s are just too big for civilian use. Specifically, they're too blasted wide.

Listened to the Steelers game on the way back. Haven't done that since... well, ever. Interesting game. Shame they didn't win, but it was amusing listening to the announcers describe a half-bare-foot touchdown sprint by a Pittsburgh receiver. And that quarterback... he's pretty much cursed, isn't he?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I may be forced to migrate over to Windows XP in the next week or so. Why?

Internet Explorer 7.0.

Windows will squirt out the finished version to their XP slaves in tomorrow's updates, and they've crippled 7.0 to not support Windows 2000. I've used 2000 since forever, and have never seen any reason to change over to the latest Windows crippleware until now. But, since a significant proportion of my customers are stuck with XP, they will be migrating to the new version, and I will be at a loss in supporting their issues and complaints if I'm still running 6.0 on Win2000.

Supporting my primary website-and-database is the only use I make of IE, BTW. I shifted over to Firefox years and years ago, after it became painfully apparent that my using IE for day-to-day interweb trawling was a gaping, ineffectual, dangerous hole in our security.

But I've got piles and piles of applications implemented on Win2000, all of which still work, and show no signs of giving me any kind of problems. God only knows how many of them will get absolutely rogered by a shift over to Windows-for-Bill-Gate's-sins-sodding-XP.


You know, for all the talk of the auto industry and planned obsolescence, at least they didn't go out into parking lots in the dead of night & smash in the headlamps of last year's model when the new lines were announced, or refuse to manufacture replacement parts for old models.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I came back from my long weekend working MangaNEXT to discover the usual mountain of work urgently needing done. It never urgently needs done when I'm actually *here*. As I finished digging out from under the pile, a customer came by my cubicle, twice, to lie to customers of *his* he was escorting through the building, claiming to one that I was the world's foremost expert on [x] and to the other that I was the greatest processor of same [x], quoting a figure at least four times what I actually process, by the most generous of computations. I hate it when people do that.

MangaNEXT was a qualified success, in that the hotel didn't burn down, and the con covered its budget. On the other hand, it just barely covered its budget, and the break-down was a bit of a scramble.

The only programming I was involved in - besides sitting in the one video room now and again to spell our sole video staffer while he did things like get dinner - was the "Manga Swap", which was four hours set aside, two on Friday, two on Saturday, in the workshop room for people to bring in their unwanted manga & see if they could trade it for something else. No cash, no trading adult material to children, but at some point the definition got stretched past just manga to include DVDs, toys, and tchotkes. This expansion occurred when I wasn't paying attention, or I'd have brought in about a dozen unwanted DVDs I haven't gotten around to getting rid of in some other fashion. Managed to unload all the manga I brought with me - yes, including Ravenskull - and mostly traded for DVDs, one of which I actually was kind of interested in.

I don't know if the event is scalable - it worked with the two dozen or so people who showed up over the four hours, and no real problems arose at that level of participation. But would it work if two hundred traders showed up, at, say, the Big Con in Baltimore? Not with only one staffer hanging out. I'd guess one staffer to thirty participants would be the necessary ratio, but that's assuming that it can actually scale. It is possible that beyond a certain point, the potential number of connections would become untenable, and thus utter chaos, no matter how many staffers were in attendance.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I thought the whole point of demotivational posters was to be condescending and mean-spirited?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Heroes is better than I expected it to be, but it's still damnably pompous and full of weirdness for the sake of weirdness. Hiro the Japanese fanboy is particularly peculiar - he's an undeniably appealing and amusing character, but he's full of *western* fanboy tics and references. I'm fairly certain that the Japanese fanbase for the X-Men comics is miniscule approaching non-existent, so having a random salaryman making an offhand reference to Kitty Pride strikes me as a non-sequitur.

As for the rest of it - the New York subplots left me kind of cold, but Hiro & the two Red-State blondes were pretty arresting. The show may get me watching network TV on a semi-regular basis for the first time in... geez, half a decade or more.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Man, this stuff is cool: the early Voyagers are reporting from the Heliosheath - the turbulent weirdness of the outer membrane of the solar system, where the solar wind runs out of gas & slabs up against the interstellar environment. I never thought of that chunk of reality as being much more than a good deal less than the usual not-very-much, but apparently it's a complex and strange nothingness about which Voyager 1 & 2 are proving that we know even less than we thought we did.

I gotta say, though - if Voyager 1 hits a crystalline wall & goes smash - everybody duck!

H/T Robert A. Hahn on RedHot.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I bought the first volume of an OEL comic called Ravenskull based on this review and the first dozen or so pages that the publisher maintains online here. The notion of a the Dracula Tapes-style continuation of Ivanhoe featuring the villain of that piece & the semi-tragic heroine struck my fancy.

I'd never actually read Ivanhoe before, but with a library within walking distance that was a problem easily remedied, and I read a library copy while waiting for Amazon to get around to shipping the comic. For those of you who've never read the Sir Walter Scott novel, it's essentially a nineteenth-century Marty Stu rehash of the Richard the Lionhearted/Robin Hood stories, with a lot of bollocks about Saxons and Normans and a tone peculiarly stretched between that of Scott's contemporary Romantics and the previous generation's skepticism and cynicism. As a romance, Ivanhoe is about four-fifths of a really great book, but the last fragment lets it kind of fall apart. Scott lets himself get pulled in different directions, and never can really decide whether he's writing tragedy or comedy, including bits of both, undigested and sitting side-by-side like Susquehanna valley rock formations. The best sections are those eventually-orphaned tragic moments, such as Ulrica's death-song immolation & the turret-top debate between the unbelieving cynic and false Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert and the Jewess Rebecca of York, his captive and object of obsession.

In the end, Scott drops the tantalizing suggestion that he was going to make a Miltonian project of Sir Brian's monumental pride and self-will, and lets him expire in a rather deflating and unheroic fashion in the climax, thus committing in the end to a sort of comedy. Rebecca, easily the most admirable and noble character in the book, is saved from a witch's incineration, only to be summarily drop-kicked out of the story into a Jewish form of nunnery which I strongly suspect is a product entire of Scott's overheated (or possibly overtaxed) imagination, leaving the rest of the ending to the less substantial, duller heroine & hero & numerous clowns and supporting characters.

I can easily see why Ivanhoe would attract authors of fanfic & glorified doujinshi, in which category I'd place Ravenskull. The dynamic of Rebecca and Sir Brian *screams* for a good het-slashing, the tension is palatable, and their respective endings so perfunctory as to almost demand a good re-write. In fact, I suspect if I dig around, I could find in the depths of literature and fanfiction some two or three examples of what I expected, based on the introduction, Ravenskull to be. A grand, baroque, dark, thoroughly Romantic spasm - self-sacrifice, guilt, witchcraft, a re-gendered Eurydice and Orpheus - a rich vein of deep potential, indeed.

It's rather a shame that Ravenskull isn't that story.

Oh, the art's there - a little shoujo-generic at times, there's something not quite right about the eyes at certain points, the occasional slight SD affection is off-tone for the material - but overall, for OEL pseudo-manga, it's quite good. The bizarre choice to mimic the Japanese style to the extent of following the unflopped back-to-front layout is, however, rather off-putting. You people aren't Japanese, this story wasn't scripted in that language, no-one involved seems to be Japanese, the source material is the product of a pre-Victorian Scotsman - stop trying to pretend otherwise!

But really, the problem with the comic is in the writing. I suspect the writer has no essential grasp of character conflict. The essential and sustaining conflict of any story based on the Rebecca of York and Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert presented by Sir Walter Scott ought to be romantic tension. The text of Ivanhoe offers a Rebecca who explicitly despises her suitor, and a Bois-Guilbert who is enraged by his inability to rearrange the world and his love-object in line with his self-image and cynicism. The entire emotional journey of a proposed sequel based on their relationship ought to be between that impasse and the eventual resolution of happiness or self-destruction, or possibly both at once, in the spirit of Scott's own depiction of Ulrica's deathsong, perhaps. This particular journey is completed by the writer of Ravenskull in the first third of the first volume, at break-neck speed, skipping many steps, in a dream-fugue depiction of the road to hell.

Having broken the neck of romantic conflict like a farmwife breaking that of a chicken destined for the soup-pot, the writer then goes on to address what he apparently prefers - artificial divides between already-committed lovers and RPG-style macguffin hunts & generic indestructible villains of the most generic sort. You can see the artist struggling with the material handed him by the writer, and making the best of a bad script. But it wasn't really what I had signed on for, and I rather object to the bait-and-switch. I found myself re-writing on the fly, which is always a sign that the authors have lost me.

Such a shame. I really would have liked to have read the book in my mind, the anticipated story rather than the one delivered. Oh, well.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hah! That's great - the ethanol replacing MBTE in gasoline has been scouring out the meters in the pumps, biasing the measures downwards so that consumers have been getting a hair more gas then they pay for, on average. That's a benefit of ethanol I hadn't considered! Although it'll probably bite us in the end as we pay for the increased cost of the gas inspectors' time & the early replacement of the eroded, damaged meters. Among other parts, no doubt.

h/t Gas Buddy, which is a daily, sick fascination. And a good source for energy stories.
Could someone in a position to do so remind Ma Nature of the existence of the calendar, and the fact that we have more than a week left in Summer according to that lovely invention? It's been chilly and overcast for three days or more, and I'm not ready for it to be autumn yet. I've still got all of these clean short-sleeved shirts, and somebody just gave me a pile of second-hand shorts that it's too damn cold to wear.

I recognize that nobody can do anything about the fact that dawn is creeping up on me, making my morning commute somewhat gloomy, but the temporary removal of the Grey Monocloud of Fall would definitely brighten up the few remaining days of "summer".
Oh my god, Hekmatyar? I would expected them to have captured bin Laden before they found that old fox. He's an old, old, old-line ghazi, who has fought the Soviets, the other warlords, the Taliban, and us in succession. At one point after the Soviet withdrawl, he was "Prime Minister", which meant basically that he was primus inter pares among the warlords, or at least claimed to be so. I'll dig up some material on him over the course of the day. That's a damned impressive catch.

(Wiki entry here. When I checked, some Wiki silverback was whinging that the only source for the capture was Roggio.)

The source seems to be Deutsche Presse-Agentur according to this Rantburg article.

Some first-rate ululating in this Rantburg article from late yesterday.

Inital link via Instapundit.

Update: Meh. Looks like Roggio is walking it back to just a prominent commander in Hekmatyar's organization. Oh, well.
Aiee! There's an insanely cheap Geneon sale over at Right Stuf, 10 DVDs or CDs for $50, or 25 DVDs or CDs for $100. Even after screwing up and getting normal UPS Ground instead of the el cheapo free shipping, that's not much more than $5/DVD, which is my kind of cheap. But don't forget the coupon - BOUNTY10 for the 10/$50, or BOUNTY25 for the 25/$100 - because that can be a difference of over $500.

It's definitely a chance to pick up all those Geneon series you were kind of on the fence about.

This seriously destroys my budget for the fall, which was kind of straining at the seams as it was...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Through a series of impulsive decisions not distinguishable from mere whimsy, I found myself reading two adventure novels set in the Victorian period narrated by self-professed cowards, Flashman by a twentieth-century Scotsman named Fraser, and King Solomon's Mines by an actual Victorian, H. Rider Haggard. I'd been recommended the Flashman books repeatedly by folks on the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list and by Fred Ramsey, so I don't suppose that would be too unexpected a turn, though my perusal occurred solely because I passed by the book on the shelves at Schlow Libary while looking for the last volume of an eight-volume fantasy series by another Scotsman, Dave Duncan, of which I had in my personal collection the first seven, having somewhere through my travels since graduation misplaced said eighth volume into the darkening depths of oblivion. The Haggard novel, on the other hand, I came across the other weekend, while amusing myself by trawling through the "antique mall" over on High Street, the entrance of which I've passed on a almost daily basis these last six years, but never had until that day entered. That establishment calls itself a "mall" instead of the usual claim of "store" or "shop" based on the owner's habit of renting out (or lending, or extending on credit - I'm not exactly sure of the contractual details or the practicalities for that matter) segments of that vast and sprawling laybrinth, extending throughout portions of if not the whole volume entire, of three buildings between the Curtin Mansion and Petrikin Hall, to individuals or consortiums of individuals looking to sell curios, antiques, and the scrapings of their deceased relatives' domiciles. Said book has on its front leaf a plate indicating that it once belonged to the holdings of a public library in Erie, Pennsylvania, and I am not sure if it was stolen from that institution, or merely sold off & not properly voided in the transaction.

The comparison of these two views of the period from the view-point of fictive "cowards" is rather instructive. The protagonist and primary narrator of the Flashman Papers novels is one Harry Flashman, a villain from Tom Brown's Days, supposedly gone on to enjoy a great and grand career as one of the most-decorated of Victorian heroes, in truth a base poltroon & moral monster, turned honest solely in his final memoirs, allegedly reproduced in the novels. King Solomon's Mines, on the other hand, is a narrative allegedly recorded by that book's protagonist, big game hunter Allan Quatermain of the Natal Province of South Africa, for the edification of his son, a much more direct and yet less likely conceit - for what man would repeatedly proclaim in a memoir intended for the eyes of his progeny his self-described cowardice? The answer, most likely, is that we're intended to accept that the narrator and alleged author is professing a sort of self-effacing falsehood for the purposes of, indeed, false modesty. At points during the reading of Flashman, one is inclined to suspect something of the same sort, having been hammered repeatedly about the head and shoulders by the narrator of his self-declared worthlessness and cowardice, until one turns contrary and querulous through a sort of combative perversity, but in the end, the comedic effect of this is too overwhelming for such heroic doubts to survive intact. If the pretended coward of King Solomon's Mines is more of a liar than poltroon, the protagonist of Flashman is a plain-dealing villain, and his lies in his would-be memoir more for effect than against the substance so stated - Flashman is, indeed, a coward.

Though both books are striking in their picaresque effect of exoticism, King Solomon's Mines in its fantastic re-design of Zululand as the mythical Kukuanaland, Flashman for its of reproduction of the setting and events of the First Afghan War, the purposes of their authors, of course, could not have been more diametrically opposed. Haggard had set out to write a simple lost-world adventure, without serious satiric intent. Fraser, on the other hand, intended nothing if not satire, and a nihilistic assault upon the figure of the Victorian heroic figure itself, in all its self-effacing glory, while he was at it. He was writing in the Sixties, in post-colonial Britain. It's not at all surprising that a writer of that time and place would want to tear down the intellectual and literary memories of the Victorians, obliterate those elements and personages and ideas which supported colonialism - discredit the morals and virtues which made the Empire possible, and justified it. After all, if those were allowed to stand, then they would continue to embarrass those descendants who had let the Empire lapse, had wasted their patrimony. It was not merely necessary to critique the Victorian project - see Orwell's Burmese Days - it was necessary to *destroy* it. The author of Flashman, taking seriously that old saw about Waterloo being won on the playing fields of Eton, went back to the very roots of Victorianism, resurrecting a minor prep-school villain, proposes to drag him through every heroic moment of the period, rendering each one as un-heroic as mud in the process.

One thing that stood out, since I'm sensitive to such things, is the two books' usage of the word "nigger". [ugh] The narrator of King Solomon's Mines, written in 1885, uses that word exactly once in the introduction, then immediately discards it as unworthy, observing that he'd known natives who'd better deserved the designation "gentleman" than many an Englishman. The word "kaffir" is used throughout the text, and though I'm not exactly sure that this is much of an improvement over that prior epithet, given its current racist associations with Afrikaans and the memory of apartheid, it couldn't have been as offensive to Victorian ears as it is now, at least to me. Indeed, most of the cast of the novel are "kaffirs", including many if not the majority of the characters with demonstrated agency & importance in the novel. Not that I'm saying that the book doesn't display a certain half-blind patriarchal paternalism, but it's not a virulent or vicious sort of bigotry, being rather similar to the tone of many space operas which clearly descend from this exact book, via Edgar Rice Burroughs and many lesser immitators.

Flashman, on the other hand, is absolutely rife with the "n-word". There are few pages, once the narrator arrives in India, which is not disgraced by that epithet. Repeatedly. With contempt & intent. Mind you, as an American, in my mind that word doesn't apply in the way used by the author & narrator, that is, the British usage, synonymous with "wog" or "native", only more offensive. But that's the intention, I suppose - the point being how inhuman the narrator and his peers considered the Indians, Afghans, and other native inhabitants upon which they proposed to impose Empire, absent-mindedly or otherwise. The distinction, in the end, between the usages of the two authors, boils down to intent. Haggard's primary intention was exoticism and entertainment. Fraser's intent seems more nakedly didactic, if clothed in the fashion of humor and satire.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I was told by a mailman walking up the Stoney Batter on the way in today that I was the only person he'd ever seen stupid enough to walk and read at the same time who wasn't also a mailman. Am I to infer from this that mailmen make a habit of reading other people's mail on their routes?

Do other people get randomly insulted on the road like this? Admittedly, the usual insult is more of a there-there poor pauperish you, do you need a ride somewhere? than an insult against my intelligence. Of the two, I think I prefer the insult direct. No, you condescending do-gooder, I own my own car - it runs and everything. Even has multiple gears & a working parking brake! I walk so that I'm not as fat as you are.

Ugh. You know, when somebody calls me & asks for me to write up a bunch of descriptions, and promises to email me *what* he wants written up, I kind of expect to find an email with said information waiting for me by the time I walk up here. I can just randomly make up stuff - and I did, and just sent it to him - but that can't be actually, you know, useful.

And I don't know which departments have already delivered descriptions per their requests. They're the ones with actual knowledge of what they're planning, aren't they?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Four new Evangelion movies in the works? I guess those unnecessary Zeta Gundam movies must be making enough dosh to get *somebody* excited about film adaptations of old TV anime. But really, they've already done the movie adaptation thing for Evangelion. Just how many times are people willing to sit through dramatizations of Hideaki Anno's psychoanalysis transcripts, anyway? I just re-watched the Eva TV series a few months ago...
Bleargh. I now know why this Lipton green tea mix was half-off on closeout down at the Weis. Tastes like tap water strained through a clothes-iron & left in the crisper drawer for a week. *Smells* great, but the taste... If you make a mistake with a two-liter of soda, you're stuck with bleh for a couple days. Make a mistake with a box of tea mix, and you're up for a week or more of yetch. Thought that was too much of a good thing...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sorry, sorry. Not really busy, just... meh. I was down in Maryland last weekend, touring the Antietam battlefield & Harper's Ferry with my parents for Labor Day. Things have been middling busy at work, but not insanely so, I don't think.

It's getting a little coolish, and it's been raining way, way too much for this time of year. The apartment still leaks, although the roof guy & I have agreed that it's probably the exposed, aging brickwork on the south side of the house, and not the new roof that's the culprit. Whatever it is, the apartment stinks of mildew & mold. I've been burning a candle someone gave me at ComCon to try to change the stink, if not eliminate it. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be one of those strongly-smelling candles.

Picked up a cheap copy of the first disc of Argento Soma. Cheap DVDs are neat and all, but once you get one of 'em in a series, you find yourself semi-obligated to go & get the rest of the damned series, which are rarely as cheap as the first one you picked up on a whim. The show wasn't as bad as I remembered it being, from having watched an early digisub of the first episode way-and-a-hey back when it was new and notable. Nothing great, but really well-animated, and not the usual run of mecha cliches. It's supposed to be a loose mecha version of Frankenstein, in the same way Infinite Ryvius was supposed to be a very loose space opera version of the Lord of the Flies. (Same production house, I'm told.) I've never actually finished reading Shelley's book, but I doubt it had quite such a prominent role for the little girl befriended by the monster as what's portrayed in Argento Soma. In fact, I kind of suspect that the flower-girl from the classic Frankenstein movie was an invention of the filmmakers. Eh, speculation from total ignorance - so illuminating! The Japanese writers of Argento Soma turn the relationship between the flower-girl & the monster into the typical miko-and-kami Japanese cliche. Think Neo Ranga.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Read the first volume of Drifting Classroom this morning. I don't think I'll be continuing that particular investment in historical manga-literature.

The art is extremely stiff, with characters who can't seem to run in a natural fashion, bizarre gape-mouthed expressions, and the designs in general give the impression of not particularly naturalistic drawings of dolls. Mind you, this isn't the sort of loose Disneyesque character design which Tezuka and his imitators used to produce - those are warm, charming, a little shabby at times, perhaps, jokey, yes - but not stiff.

The panel design suggests that the impression is intentional - very rigid, confined, ruled, patterned. Except when something violent or disturbing happens, then the gutters disappear, the panels fill up the whole of the page, and blood & violence is lovingly, delicately inflicted upon Umezu's doll-people, who suddenly come alive with fear, pain and horror.

I don't think that Drifting Classroom is my sort of thing. It seems designed to encourage all of my worst anti-social bordering on sociopathic inclinations. Not only could I not sympathize with any of the characters, but I found myself cheering up a bit when the little dead-eyed gape-mouthed doll-children started bleeding & wailing. That's not a good place to be going.

It's a little depressing that this is considered a classic.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Anyone have any idea whether this is any good? It sounds kind of generic, but my attention was caught by the Oz reference, which seems like a total non sequitor given the plot synopsis.
Drove over to Clem's in Bald Eagle Valley to pick up some T-shirts for the company just now. Remember what I was saying about the corn being high this year? Not so much in that chunk of Bald Eagle Valley. Wish I could say I was surprised. That valley really is the arse-end of creation.

Well, OK, the arse-end of Centre County. Swampy, trash-dump-ridden, pestilent, - trashy. Why do they *bother* farming that land? It always *sucks*.

Ugh. Should not have eaten those peanut-butter fudge "cookies". More like shapeless, tiny candy bars. Like a lead bar in your stomach.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

So this month was volume 20 of Kare Kano, and second-to-last volume to boot. That manga had a pretty good run from vol. 15 through 19, and the first half of vol. 20 continued that run - great, right? It kind of deflates a bit after that strong start, though. And by the end of the volume - what, Arima wants to be a beat cop? Where the heck did that come from? - you can definitely see the seeds of why my Japanese-reading, manga-importing friend Bill warned me to pretend that the twentieth volume of Kare Kano was, in fact, the last volume. 'Cause there really isn't anywhere else for this story to go, other than limp bathos. In fact, I'd argue that it went there right after the mangaka led up to Yukino's grand reveal of the hidden Big Deal... and it fizzles like a pissed-on firecracker. That is to say, it manages at the same time to fail to catch fire, and stink horribly at the same time.


On the other hand, I bought all of those volumes about the future pop-star siblings-by-marriage romance in the early teens, and those kind of stank in their own feeble sort of way. Kare Kano is definitely one of those manga that blow hot and cold. It's just that I've been warned that the end of the series doesn't really blow any warmer than this, and may in fact freeze solid before the pagecount goes to zero.

I will say that I liked the dead-trees ghost imagery in the first half of vol. 20. Stretching bare limbs across the characters, entrapped in the grasping deadwood tangle whose roots aren't visible, because the artist has only drawn the top halves of the scenery. Tsuda does have a way with subtle imagery. Or possibly the sort of blatant imagery which strikes clods like yours truly in a memorable way, I suppose.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Oh, BTW? The corn? In excess of ten feet in the fields around Governors' Park east of town. It might have been higher in places - I don't carry a tape-measure around with me on my walks - but it was hard to tell up around the soccer field, which is entirely surrounded by cornfield. Up there, wind gusts and the stalks' own inability to support themselves have caused large swathes of overtall corn stands to collapse in on themselves. I wonder if those are harvestable, or are they basically wastage? I think those fields are taller because they're silage-specific seed varieties - few if any had more than one ear, which suggests that somebody had been monkeying with the genetics to favour stalk and height over grain and volume. But, since that farmer didn't care to brag about whatever seeds he or she planted this year via the usual seed-sign-posts, I can only guess.
I picked up a pile of closeout-cheap DVDs in a just-before-opening raid on The Best Anime Dealer On The Circuit, dashing in and out quickly during the Con. That best dealer on the circuit? BuyRiteDVD, although they never, ever identify themselves as such. In fact, the only thing I've ever seen them post in the way of signs are these "$5 DVDs!" banners, which I do admit, is pretty nifty advertising, because - hey! $5 DVDs!

This year, they also had el cheapo box-sets. I went to the con looking for cheap Fancy Lala DVDs, after picking up a very cheap first volume of said Fancy Lala at a local Dollar General. BuyRiteDVD was selling the Fancy Lala brick for $15. Dude.

I should be ashamed to admit publicly that I bought & watched this series. For those not up on the details of Japanese girl culture - and I don't claim to be an expert, but - "Fancy Lala" is a sort of Japanese Barbie doll. I'm watching the anime equivalent of Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus. Or more accurately, Barbie Meets Jem. (How is it that they never did any sort of Barbie: Rock Star cartoon? Is it just that Amazon is letting me down, and I really ought to be searching elsewhere for my examples? I don't know, I'm allergic to polyurethane pink. I've spent more time semi-googling for Barbie crap than I wanted to already, give me a break, imaginary audience!)

Right. Back on track. Fancy Lala. It's an exemplar of the "magical idol" sub-sub-genre of mahou shoujo or "magical girl". Instead of prepubescent little girls transforming into various roles of adolescence and adulthood (traditional "magical girl", like Minky Momo) or into a fighting-hero (like Sailor Moon or Wedding Peach or any of dozens of similar bishoujo sentai), "magical idols" are little pre-pubescent girls who use their magery to become disposable entertainment figures, aka, in the Japanese parlance, "idoru". Nobody ever recognizes just how inappropriately childlike and callow these fake idols are, because one of the primary points of idolhood is the coy affection of aspects of childhood by adolescent or just barely post-adolescent girls who are themselves not all that far from the longed-for-state of innocence. If you haven't seen Perfect Blue yet, this is the point at which I urge you to go and see it, because it'll explain more about the "idol" industry than I could in fifteen paragraphs of tedious otaku blather.

Anyways, "magical idols". There are a lot more of these titles than you'd think. Fancy Lala is probably the best of the bunch, if only because it doesn't spend as much time on the main characters dreams and aspirations as is usual. In fact, the protagonist, Miho, never really wanted to be an idol at all. She wanted to be a mangaka, a comic artist. She gets the usual magical-pets and magical-tschoktes, turns into her grown-up self, and goes wandering around one of the trendier sections of Tokyo, where she's scouted as a model by a shoe-string production team who've just lost their model & were in desperate straits. One thing leads to another, and thus the accidental idol star, "Fancy Lala" is born.

But this accidental beginning isn't just contrivance, it is also theme. Miho's story is one of giri, of obligation and acquiescence. She goes through a lot of adventures more because it's what she's expected to do, or because of prior promises, prior obligations, and the natural logic of prior successes.

I suppose I'm making it sound a great deal more dreary and unpleasant than it actually is, so I should row back a few strokes at this point. Only about half the episodes are concerned with ldol-industry romping about. The show finds plenty of time for ghost stories, her school-friends, neighbors, and relatives, and all sorts of goofing around. Combined with the show's retro-Eighties charm - the character designs are by Akemi Takada, who was pretty old-fashioned even by the standards of 1998 - is a solid run of good writing and fine animation, by television standards.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Now that Ag Progress Days are behind us, it's time for Bellefonte's Arts and Crafts Fair, today and tomorrow. Unlike State College's Arts Fest, Bellefonte's emphasis is more on the crafts than the art. It's mostly tschoktes and the sort of pseudo-rural and actual-rural kitsch that some of my female relatives have been fond of.

Not really my thing, although I might toss the old wax-covered pinecone & get a new one.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back from Ag Progress Days.

Talked to some seed company reps, and it looks like the avalanche of new seed traits may have slowed down - nothing really outrageous or novel in the works for 2007. For the years 1999-2006, it seemed like every year we'd get a new cluster of genetic modifications - first Yieldgard (Bt cornborer insecticidal) & Roundup Ready (herbicide product-specific resistant), then Liberty Link (another class of herbicide resistance), Clearfield (yet another class of herbicide-resistance), then Yieldgard-RW (Bt rootworm insecticidal), Herculex I (the next generation of Bt-like insecticidal, cornborer), Yieldgard Plus (Bt stacked both cornborer & rootworm), Herculex RW (see above, for rootworm), Herculex Extra (Herculex equivalent of Yieldgard Plus), and then more triple- and quadruple-stack varieties than you could keep track of in spreadsheet format.

It's getting increasingly hard to keep track of which varieties are trait-stacked with which varieties, as every company has its own nomenclature. But it seems to definitely be slowing down. No new traits, and the companies with Herculex are starting to retire their Yieldgard varieties. But that barely makes up for the confusion which is Garst. They started out with a slate of generic sort-of traits which mimicked the trademarked, IP-protected traits from Monsanto - Roundup Ready became GT, or Glyphosate Tolerant, Agrisure CB was synonymous with YG1, both of them being Yieldgard (Cornborer), etc. Then a bunch of company mergers brought the two lines of IP into corporate contact, and suddenly Garst is selling seeds for both sets of IP side-by-side. It's enough to give one a headache.

There was a stand selling Ribeye sandwiches and steak-and-egg sandwiches. The steak-and-cheese-and-egg was great, especially after an hour standing under the noon sun in a cornfield listening to a presentation on no-till & methods for measuring crop residue & soil field quality.

The corn and soybeans are doing insanely well here in Pennsylvania. I literally did not recognize the soybean fields at first - I've never seen them this high, this perfect-looking. Not only are the corn stands running between eight and ten feet, they're doing so uniformly. We didn't get all that much rain - Spring Creek is alarmingly low - but it all hit at exactly the right time for really, really pretty fields. Gorgeous.
Oh, great. Some Islamotard fascist hacker cracked the websites for AnimeNEXT and MangaNEXT. Until they get it cleaned up, two of the cons I volunteer for have had their advertising hijacked by semi-literate anti-Semitic agitprop.

Schweinehund scum.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

It's Ag Progress Days here in the valley. We're sending people from work in groups today and tomorrow for "educational purposes", which I'm reading as organized tours, which is a bit of a shame, as Ag Progress Days is like a carnival, with tractors. I managed to talk them into letting me go along tomorrow, after promising I'd take it seriously and be a good boy.


Monday, August 14, 2006

They had a German brass band down at the gazebo in Tallyrand on Sunday. Boy, was that annoying. They were actually wearing lederhosen. I could have sworn that most Pennsylvania Dutch were from northwestern and southwestern Germany, not Bavaria or Austria. Lederhosen are an *anachronism* for Pennsylvania Dutch.

You know, Germans have one of the least amusing and most embarrassing agglomerations of low culture in the world. Other cultures might have bagpipes, fiddles, clever oddly-named pipes & quaintly-formed stringed instruments. What do the Germans have? Tubas.

At least we have chocolate.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Good God. I apparently had upwards of thirty heatstroke casualties on my prereg line at the Con on Thursday, which was a hundred-years record day for heat in Baltimore. The line control folks asked me for permission to open the doors early in order to get at least part of the line indoors - I can't fit the whole of a Thursdays' prereg line inside of the lobby we use, because said line might contain as much as four thousand competitive line-squatters, but we can probably get nearly a thousand in there - and I said "yes" as quickly as they would let me. For some reason, that decision didn't make its way back up the line of command particularly quickly, and since I had my own department to get organized and moved forward, I didn't personally move the line inside, as I might have if I'd had time.

But I did know there was some sort of a problem out there - everybody and their brother was talking about the heat wave, and every station on the dial was chattering about the heat advisories on the way down from central PA the previous morning. It couldn't have been any sort of surprise to anyone paying attention. Furthermore, my reg line is not a slow-moving one, nor does the Con have a reputation for slow Thursday preregistration - we have cleared our line by the end of the night every year for the previous three years on Thursday. There was no earthly reason for anybody to be waiting all day out there in the record heat and sun. Thirty-some sunstroke and heatstroke victims, and three who had to be hospitalized. Worse than I thought, but no great surprise. My people processed somewhere just south of nine thousand that night, and cleared the line before 9 PM. No reason whatsoever for people to be waiting on line all day. Good God Almighty.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hey, back from The Con, apparently I worried some folks by not posting. Mostly intact aside from a minor scalp wound. Apparently my poker face doesn't survive exaggerated face-faults into hardwood table-tops after a particularly frustrating bad beat.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I started watching my DVDs of the first season of Ranma 1/2 last night, as sort of a preparation for the Con, which is coming up next week.

I have an attachment to Ranma 1/2 which is oddly disproportionate to my respect (or lack thereof) for the show. I recognize its flaws, and its inherent limit - how it degenerates so quickly, how it operates almost entirely at the surface, how essentially sexist and borderline racist it really is. But it was the first anime I really connected with in an emotional sense. It really blew my mind when I encountered it at the end of my freshman year of college, and it dominated my attention for months afterwards. I went out & rented a VCR before leaving for the summer, copied a new friend's set of episodes, and watched them into oblivion during that summer. I almost have the dialog memorized - and I don't [technically] understand Japanese!

For me, the first season of Ranma is like the nostalgia equivalent of crank. It gives a memory buzz stronger than the remembrances of lost landmarks, first loves, and great accomplishments. I recognize that these emotions are transferences - the associations and displacements of friendships and worlds for which this goofy fighting-harem show is just a sort of signpost and stand-in for the thing itself.

But even signposts have a sort of value for those who find themselves in strange and lonesome places, mindful of the distant roads that lead us, someday, home.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Have you ever heard of the Buckshot War? This came up in the course of a discussion over whether an incumbent governor of Pennsylvania had ever been voted out of office. In short, yes, such an event took place, in the election of 1838, when the Whig-Anti-Mason Governor Ritner was defeated by his Democratic rival Porter, and the lame-duck governor tried to seize the arsenal in Harrisburg, made faces at crowds of Democratic activists, and tried to talk Captain E.V. Sumner of the Carlisle Barracks into calling out the Dragoons in support of his version of the new State House of Representatives. (Yes, that Sumner.) For an alternate version of the Buckshot War, see here.

I had no idea that the commonwealth came that close to an armed outbreak. It seems, if less violent than the periodic outbreaks of public disorder in Allegheny County (IE, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Battle of Homestead, etc), somehow more alarming in that it was the sitting governor attempting to overthrow the duly-elected legislature by resort to force of arms in the capital. Indeed, the second account almost reads like an alternate-history version of the pre-war machinations in the spring of 1861 in Missouri and Kentucky, with Sumner standing in for Lyons and - hrm, who was the officer in place in Kentucky?

Which really sends me off on another wild-goose-chase, because I just don't know much about Kentucky's early-Civil-War history. I can find an equivalent of Jim Lane or Sigel - that would be Lovell Rousseau. Hrm, this suggests it would have been William "Bull" Nelson, although I don't quite see how a naval officer had control over state arsenals - he wasn't commissioned in the Union Army until September according to Wikipedia.

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's the week of the San Diego Comic Con, and thus new-license time. A lot of the CMX releases sound promising, especially Canon and Variante. But you know what gets my goat? Del Rey went and grabbed up Parasyte/Kiseiju after TokyoPop lost the license. Damnit, I spent a ton of money last year picking up the crummy half-arsed flopped versions. Don't make me go and spend a similar wad of cash to get 'em done right *now*. Well, I never did get the first volume...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Just as a by the by, Skip Beat is just as nifty as I was promised by Big Dave. For all those who've been grousing about the anti-feminist tendencies of shoujo heroines, I offer you Skip Beat's Kyoko.

Kyoko starts out as a sweet-tempered milquetoast worker-bee doormat for her would-be pop-star drone of a boyfriend, Sho. He essentially ran away from home & his parents' attempts to get him to marry some dull girl & take over the family inn. His purpose in doing this was to become a "celebrity" (damnit, I can give you odds that this term was almost certainly "idol" before the translator got a hold of it). As he left his hick town, he idly managed to talk childhood friend Kyoko into running away to Tokyo with him, inspiring her to drop out of school and work multiple jobs in support of his pretty, indolent, rather insolent self. She's his biggest supporter, and aside from a certain manic intensity, is your basic self-sacrificing shoujo heroine.

That is, until she overhears him bragging to his manager how he basically considers her a "servant", is kind of contemptuous about how little effort it took to talk her into leaving with him, and drops the news in passing that he's getting the education she's denied herself & that *she* was the "dull girl" his parents were trying to get him to marry. At this point our heroine kind of suffers a full-on psychotic break, and transforms into a *much* more interesting character, one organized around rage, vengeance, and irritability. All while striving to become an idol/celebrity herself, mostly just to spite her ex.

It's a ball, and I can only hope the mangaka doesn't let her revert *too* much to her original self-denying sweetness, although there is some suggestion that this will be the essential thematic conflict. That is, our heroine is a bitter, enraged, alarming personage attempting to make it in a career which rewards sweetness, inoffensiveness, and lovability. The people at the talent agency find themselves stampeded a little bit by the sheer intensity of her new-lit bonfire of a personality, but at the same time quite professionally certain that she'll never make it, because she refuses to be "loved". It's a promising train-wreck, if the author can pull it off.

OK, I admit it, I mostly posted this just to get that new Greg Mankiw blog link up on the blogroll. But Skip Beat is pretty keen.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I'm reading the Hagerman book, which isn't as revolutionary as I had heard, but then, older books of analysis can be somewhat underwhelming if you've read the works written since then in reaction. You're getting the points already processed & denigrated or taken into account by those who've followed in the writer's foot-steps.

More striking is the significant number of minor errors of fact, the text often mistaking one river for another - saying so-and-so discussed a 1863 campaign from the Rappahannock to the James, where I'm pretty sure the author meant Rappahannock to the Potomac, or talking about Lee planning a move from Gettysburg to the Rappahannock, where the logic and the actual planning was for a movement behind the Potomac & into the Valley, confusing references to a "Fourth Corps" at a time when there was no such organization with the Army of the Potomac, floating discussions of a "Second Division" without indication of which corps said division belonged to, etc etc. Well, that and all of the nonsense on stilts about Chancellorsville demonstrating the inability of offensive tactical use of artillery & Buford's delaying action before Gettysburg demonstrating the fading of cavalry notions of shock tactics, but those are matters of analysis and not fact.

The reason I bring this up is that Hagerman mentions in passing that Lee was a member of Mahan's Napoleon Club, and this challenged my notions of Lee & my understanding of the events of Lee's life and career. So I went looking online, and the most authoritative online reference I can find is this passage from Freeman's Lee biography. All the other online references are brief notes airily asserting Lee's membership or "sponsorship" in his capacity as West Point commandant. Since those references also erroneously assert that the Napoleon Club was founded several years after McClellan graduated from the Academy, I think I can safely discard them as less than authoritative.

Freeman essentially says that he doesn't know that Lee attended meetings, although he believes that it occurred - the records had been destroyed in a fire, and he spends most of his discussion of the period listing the books Lee took out of the West Point library on military history, instead of on Mahan or the Napoleon Club.

I don't know - the Freeman biography is very old at this point, and perhaps somebody somewhere has done some more work on the subject, but if so, it doesn't show itself online in a quick google. Are there any monographs on the Club, particularly on this alleged sponsorship by Lee as commandant?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sorry about the radio silence. All of the work I wasn't getting last week due to the holiday doldrums came crashing down on my head like the much-recently-threatened-hereabouts flash-flood of legend.

In other news, the landlady's contractor[s] have started working on my roof, in a peculiar and drawn-out fashion, which seems to feature a scrawny guy in a mustache and no shirt climbing around the outside of my apartment & asking me questions through the open windows, and randomly tearing off strips of the roof in no particular order, in obedience to no particular scheme that I can detect or deduce. I'd complain about it choosing to rain just as they started this process, except it's been raining every other day regardless of what we mere mortals have been choosing to do with our time, so it was going to happen whenever the process started, regardless of timing.

Went off to go swimming last Sunday. The pool at Governors' Park is $4 per day for adults, $3 for children, and is open, theoretically, noon to 8 PM. Dunno if that's just the weekend, or weekdays as well. So, I swam. Not as much fun as I remember it being from my childhood, but then, I think it had something to do with socializing and goofing around, and I'm a bit old for that sort of thing, given the age of the crowd, such as it was.

Friday, July 07, 2006

This article in the New Scientist seems to argue that the North Atlantic Conveyer Belt is *not* the primary driver of northwestern European climatic mildness, but is rather dwarfed by atmospheric warming (having to do with patterns driven by the Rockies) and northwestern Europe's natural enjoyment of a "maritime climate". In other words, western Europe has mild weather because the wind comes from the west, over the massive heat sink of the Atlantic, and from the south, due to the atmosphere rebounding from its prior subarctic swing over southeastern North America.

The *logic* seems solid, although I naturally know next to nothing about the model-work, nor do they really offer any details. But essentially, they're arguing against the idea that a sort of Young Dryas redux is anywhere in the cards, and seem to suggest that any modern shut-down of the North Atlantic Conveyer by global warming will be swamped by the accompanying warming itself, leaving western Europe pretty much at scratch.

Link via Jonah Goldberg at the Corner.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Here's the AoD blog round-up on licenses. What's that Honneamise thing? Bandai Visual? Whoever they are, they're idiots if they think that anyone will find Wings of Rean interesting. It's been a really long time since the original Gunbuster was available, though. That might be a good 'un, although perhaps it's the sepiatones of nostalgia speaking, there.
Hmm. I really liked what I've seen of Black Lagoon, not sure what I think of Geneon licensing it. They have a nasty habit of refusing to release bricks & thin-paks until their stock ends up in the hands of liquidators. Eh, we'll see. Maybe ADV and Bandai'll chase 'em onto the thin-pak bandwagon.
I had been thinking when I heard that Right Stuf snabbed the second season of SuperGALS out from under ADV, that it was a show made for rental, but then I noticed that they're releasing it sub-only, in a single brick for under $50. Maybe I can talk Big Dave into buying it, since he picked up the first season on the cheap way back when... y'know, to complete his collection. I mean, I'd like to see the rest of it...
Yeah, if you're finding subversion in Aishiteruze Baby, you're looking too hard. I won't say it's all surface, but that mangaka isn't really one for deep thoughts or elaborate games. She's set out to draw out a triangle where the essential emotional arc isn't romantic, but rather parental. Kippei demonstrates his worthiness by being a good mother to poor abandoned Yuzuru, and thus attracts Kokoro, whose traumatic childhood loss of her mother couldn't be more obviously Grown Up Metaphorical Yuzuru if the mangaka had hung a sign to that effect around her neck. It's about as family-values as shoujo comics get.

Well, ok, maybe it's a little subversive. But only if what is being subverted is the notion of romantic love as the be-all, end-all of narrative. And really, that's a pretty abstract sort of subversion.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I read that $.25 copy of Forrest Gump I picked up in a bag-sale at the Bellefonte library a while back. The first page reminded me of something I had read once, but had forgotten until now: the book and the movie are wildly divergent works of pop art. The only appearance of the "box of chocolates" metaphor in the book is on that first page, where Forrest informs the reader that "Bein' an idiot is no box of chocolates". It's really quite amusing for the first third of the novel, like a smartass fanfic version of the movie, full of snark and meanspiritedness and general ill will.

Winston Groom's original Forrest Gump is a polar opposite of the dunce-saint I remembered from the movie. He's faintly bigoted, has actual political views (everytime someone asks him about Vietnam, he says "it's a lot of shit"), smokes so much pot that he gets addicted to the stuff, is enough of an idiot-savant to play chess grandmasters, screws around, and in general behaves like a regular, fallen member of mankind. In many ways, this alternative Gump is barely any kind of idiot at all, which I suppose is where Groom was going with the final message-line of the book, having Jenny say something about everyone being some kind of idiot or another.

The Gump of the novel gets around a lot more than the movie-Gump, pelting the Clerk of the Senate with his Metal of Honor, saving Chairman Mao from drowning, becoming an astronaut, and spending four years as the slave of a tribe of cannibals in New Guinea, picking cotton. Did I mention the racism? Groom seems to be a real piece of work, and I swear this novel set back my opinion of the "New South" at least fifteen years.

At first I was delighted with the differences from the movie. The book reads like a meanspirited *satire* of the movie. However, by the time this Gump had gotten back from Vietnam and was auditing a Harvard literature class on "Idiots in World Literature" I was kind of pining for the Tom Hanks fool-saint and his passion-play decency. The difference between the movie-version and the book-version of Lieutenant Dan really brought home the difference, illustrated the *value* of Hollywood moralities. All of the pathos, the moral stature of the Lieutenant Dan arc had been an invention of the screen-writers, and the original Dan, stripped of all of that inventive family history and sense of destiny denied, turned out to be nothing more than a legless, drunken scumbag. There's no redemption in Groom's Gump, and that kind of sucks.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Wow, Drifting Classroom dates to 1972-74? I had been going back and forth on whether to go for this one, but that sells me on it, at least for Viz's first volume. We don't get nearly enough old-school manga over here. Who knows, maybe they'll finally give us some Rose of Versailles some day!
Um, it is back to Zombie Powder again? I thought it had gotten goofily re-named "Zombie Power"?

Maybe it was a leftover title ganked from TokyoPop's ashbin from when they retitled Power! to Girl Got Game?

Oh, well. Regardless, I don't know that I'm willing to spend time and money on a series which got cancelled mid-run. BTW, is there a link out there to the AICN story from which the Zombie Power renaming thing came? It *is* AICN, after all. Wait, here it is. Along with the image of the first volume with the original title right there on the cover. Um, how confident are we of anything in this article? Seriously?

At least the bit about it being four-volumes-then-cancellation seems to be on the up-and-up, according to the current version of the Wikipedia article.

Verdict? "Zombie Power" was an artifact of an AICN writer being full of it.
Wow. You know the wave of bankruptcies and near-misses in the anime industry is really cutting deep when three-dollar DVDs start showing up at the local Dollar General - and you end up spending significant sums of unbudgeted money on 'em. Now, admittedly, I'd not normally bother with Fancy Lala or Spirit of Wonder - while they're probably worth $3/disc, I don't think I'd spend $5 - but I've now seen multiple discs which I've paid, if not full price, then a significant fraction thereof, languishing in the three-dollar-cutout bins. Good shows, too, like Cowboy Bebop and Vandread. Meanwhile, I *almost* coughed up for a box set of Angelic Layer I saw at Best Buy the other day for south of $35, and cringed to see a modified brick of Escaflowne for $33, brand new.

It's brilliant times for the penurious and miserly, but are all the companies going to scrape their way out of the other side of the bog? CPM seems to be trembling on the brink, for one.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reading Simpson's Grant biography, just finished the section on Vicksburg and the immediate aftermath. One of the things that comes out crystal-clear in Simpson's account is Grant's proclivity for recruiting stalwarts among those set to spy & monitor him. One after another - McPherson for Halleck, James Wilson for McClernand, Olmstead for the Sanitary Commission, Dana and Thomas for Lincoln & Stanton - those sent to spy on Grant, check up on him, or possibly relieve him outright in Lorenzo Thomas's case, became instead advocates, cronies, or supporters once they came into Grant's presence.

Grant showed no sign of any personal charisma or magnetism prior to the war. Where and when did he develop this ability to corrupt and convert his would-be minders to his cause? Why didn't it work on newspaper writers?