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?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

All joking aside, this is quite clever, and exactly what I used to expect from the gentleman who used to call himself Tacitus. Good to see him back on RedState.
A riot is an ungly thing... undt, I tink, that it is chust about time ve had vun.

Who's up for a little ceremonial sacking of the New York Times printing presses? You know, no bodily injury, no tarring-and-feathering, just demonstrate a little disregard for editorial capital equipment, remind them that if they want to revert to antebellum journalistic standards we as the general public can always respond in the manner of Lincoln's Wide Awakes.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Huh. ING finally de-inverted their CD ladder curve. Oh, well, no real incentive for me to get anything over a 12-month. Done and done.

One-quarter of the way through Project Down Payment. So far so good.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I lost power on Saturday morning. As I was getting out of the shower, I heard this loud detonation and all the lights went out except for the emergency pack left over from when my apartment was a doctor's office. I went out looking for the exploded transformer, but none were obviously out. The whole block lost its cable, but only a few buildings around me actually lost power. When the cable guys came, they immediately spotted the problem - a big ceramic breaker hanging from the transformer behind the crematorium, and a very fried, very dead squirrel lying on the other side of the brick wall behind the library on the other side of the alley. Suicide squirrel. The one guy said they do this occasionally, "but usually only once". I said I hoped so, and pictured electrified, zombie squirrels vengefully waging war on humanity via the electrical grid, one little squirrelly shahid at a time.
Finished reading Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men yesterday. Not much to say about it - I had encountered Foner's notions of the centrality of free labor ideology in the early Republican Party before, in his book on Reconstruction. This book is more of a useful taxonomy of early Republicanism than a comprehensive history of the party like Holt's Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, but as a taxonomy it is fairly engaging. His section on what he called "Democratic-Republicans" was particularly informative, and his description of the geographic organization of the various strains of Republicanism was interesting, and I could wish for more on the subject.

The more I read about antebellum politics, the more I see the familial patterns, and the more striking how important certain clans were. Most striking has been the Washburnes, the Blairs, and the Sherman/Ewings. I wonder if this is just an artifact of my reading, or possibly emergent from scholars using the surviving archives of certain prominent families? Would we care as much about John Sherman if his brother hadn't been the mad general? Would I have ever have heard of Elihu Washhburne if he hadn't been Grant's patron? Dimitri Rotov & the political-military school would have it that I've only heard of the generals *because* of their political sponsors.

While we're on the subject of sponsorship, the more I hear of Dennison & Chase, the less I understand how it is that the Whiggish-conservative McClellan got his leg up by their backing. Chase especially seems to be the exact sort of political animal which the Webster-worshipping McClellan would just as soon see drowned like a cat in a sack.

Saw a new biography of Chase on the shelf at Websters along with the rest of that ACW collection. Maybe I'll stop by next month & see if it's still there. Meanwhile, on to the Simpson biography of Grant.
&#%$! The dropped ceiling in my spare room collapsed *again*. I'm getting so that anything stored in there is pretty much written-off & half-way out the door to the trash pile. Oh, well, at least it isn't the bed room or the living room.

And the cocoa shell manure the landlady used to landscape the property has sprouted orange mold. It better not spread to my apartment interior.

Bah. I got spoiled by the dry spring. Summer seems determined to make up for lost time & moisture.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fred gave me a heads-up the other day that Websters had bought a collection from a local Civil War buff, so I dropped by yesterday on my bi-weekly trip through State College. The history section had burst loose from its usual back-corridor location to take over two additional bookcases by the cash register, the operator of which was clearly not thrilled with the situation as such, although she was more disparaging of the apparent excess of WWII carnography than the more elderly, and thus more respectable, ACW material. I relieved their crowding situation a tad by picking up second-hand copies of Foner's Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, that book of Hagerman's that Dimitri is always on about, and Brook Simpson's biography of Grant up through the end of the war.

In Foner & Hagerman's cases, I'm not going to fret about buying used, because they're both tenured professors whose opinions I could give a pinch of owl dung - especially since Foner started acting the ass in public on current affairs, and Hagerman got into the business of retailing Korean-era ChiCom propaganda to trash on the US military. I'm a little more ambivalent about buying Simpson used, though. On the one hand, nobody gets royalties from used sales. On the other hand, I wasn't about to buy the book new regardless of where I might pick it up royalty-free.

I started in on the Foner book on the way into work this morning. Interesting so far - a little alarming how much I find myself in agreement with that Stalinist SOB when it comes to discussing the sociology of ideology.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How exactly do fundamentalist pro-lifers square Exodus 21:22 with their view that a fetus is indistinguishable from a child in Christian moral terms? I can see how non-fundamentalists can square it - the laws of the Torah are historical and the moralities revealed in the Bible advance with time, from old to new testiment - and I can see how Catholics can square it - the laws of the Church supercede those of the Torah via the Patrimony, etc - but I'm not really clear on how the hard-core by-scripture-alone folks can get away from this:
If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

as an establishment of the fetus as an entity of lesser value than a child, implicitly taken under the following "life for life, eye for eye" passage.

None of which gets away from my increasing suspicion that abortion is a worldly evil on a strictly policy level, issues of religion and belief notwithstanding.

Thought encountered via David Plotz's fascinating Blogging the Bible column.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Back from New Jersey. Got talked into helping with their MangaNext project, which is coming up quick in October. Dave & Eugene Cheng were trying to talk each other into being con chair, which is more common on the scene than you'd normally think - people who are good con chairs are rarely eager to take on the job, and people who are eager to be con chairs are rarely good at it if they talk their way in.

MangaNext is a side-project of the non-profit that runs AnimeNext, set up as a "light" or "relaxicon" event in a smaller venue with less intensive programming and, of course, a manga orientation. The big convention has been talking about doing a minicon like this for years out of mind, but it never really got off the ground aside from the comcon, which isn't really open to the public. I think it was because the big honking convention absorbs every resource it can get its tentacles upon, and is more prone to burn out staffers than inspire them to run little versions of the big show. I also sort-of agreed to help with another con down in northern Virginia the month after that, although it isn't certain & set as of yet.

I was working registration like usual, and a girl came up with a copy of her birth certificate as a form of ID. I looked at it, and exclaimed in outrage when I realized that she had been born about three weeks after my first initiation into anime fandom, the end of my freshman year. She was literally younger than my otakudom. An entire generation of cosplaying teenyboppers has spawned since I first had my tiny little mind warped by Ranma 1/2 and Laputa at a PSSFS party.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ha! American Pie was the only rock album other than Jesus Christ Superstar my parents owned, and I must have listened to that record a hundred times or more growing up. If you get all of the gags in the parody, you badly need to get a life.

Hee hee hee...

Oh, h/t spacemonkey at IMAO.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Really good month for Del Rey manga, BTW. The second volume of School Rumble has made me a real fan of the manga. I mean, I kind of liked the anime, but the material which was just generally OK as animation really shines in the original manga. Jin Koboyashi's art is at the same time cheerfully old-fashioned and highly polished, and the style parodies are broad enough that I can get most of the aesthetic jokes, while still marvelling at the crisp shounen and sports-manga action. It's both a parody and a pitch-perfect exemplar of the styles at the same time. I'm now really looking forward to all of Harima's mangaka scenes in future volumes, now.

While we're on the subject of crackerjack Del Rey manga, ES (Eternal Sabbath) is pretty damned exciting in its own right. I really, really liked mangaka Fuyumi Soryo's melodramatic Mars, but to a certain extent I have written off that enjoyment as an artifact of it being the second shoujo relationship-comic I had read after the extremely ordinary Peach Girl. But ES (Eternal Sabbath) has that same crystalline, chilly high-drama harshness that made Mars so striking, so entertaining, so... brisk. Soryo has a bitter, Puritan sensibility, an alienation and skepticism about human motivations which flirts with Hitoshi Iwaaki's open sociopathy if never actually embracing the darkness of Iwaaki's Parasyte.

ES is technically science-fiction, about a young man (variably named, and I'm not sure which name they're going to settle on past the first volume...) who can read and "hack" human psyches. He uses this talent to slip through society, inserting himself into the lives of people, and living parasitically off of their ideas of who he is. At the same time, he does indulge in mostly-benevolent manipulation of those around him, and Soryo quickly introduces a "moral centre" character in brain physiology researcher Mine Kujyou. But even Kujyou is presented as an alienated individual, one of those borderline-Asberger types who often gravitate towards the hard sciences. Not so much unsympathetic, as half-clueless and totally lacking in social skills - the type who's prone to cheerfully rattle on about reproductive strategies in lions (IE, males killing their young) at an omiai.

The art is striking - especially the pages dealing with "ES"'s perceptions and manipulations of the minds of those he interacts with - but not particularly brilliant or outstanding. Exactly what was required for the subject-matter. A lot more interesting-looking than Mars, but then, Mars was a romance manga with the occasional knife-fight or motorcycle accident thrown in for spice. Apparently Soryo has the chops for ES's more-challenging material. I'm really looking forward to the next volume.
Between a busy work season and a general re-direction of my energy towards small ends, I've been kind of slacking around here, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. Sorry about that.

I got talked into going to that charity poker tournament at the State College Knights of Columbus yesterday. I ended up doing really, really poorly - went out inside of the first half-hour with an all-in on "Broadway" - a 10-J-Q-K-A straight. Wouldn't you know that those two kings that came out on the flop matched the two "cowboys" in the other guy's hand, meaning that I had been betting into a perfect four-of-a-kind. Gotta love that "walk of shame", when you're one of the first three or four to walk out of a room of ninety, complete with running camera from one of the local TV stations recording it all for posterity. Oh, well. It was "charity". Although I was told that the Knights do this every month. Dunno what their legal excuse is when they don't have a kid who fell off a balcony as cover.

No, I'm not bitter. A little rueful, maybe. But not bitter.

The Bellefonte Cruise is coming into town this weekend, which means that I'm leaving town. One of Bellefonte's relative virtues is that it's usually a quiet town, aside from the occasional aging biker gang's funereal roar. The Cruise is a definite exception to that general rule. Racing engines, loud PAs, Fifties-revival bands playing in front of the courthouse, and... the stereo contests. The stereo contests right across the street from my apartment. My thin-walled apartment.

See y'all. I'm going to Jersey to staff a convention in Secausus. Don't bother breaking in, I doubt you could get a fence to buy anything in my apartment, unless your fence is a thrift store with a side-line in anime DVDs, SF novels, manga, and Civil War history.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Jason & Dan Wolfe talked me into going along on a caving trip last night, to a place called Tytoona Cave down southeast of Tyrone in Sinking Valley. It's a pretty wet cave in a part of the state which has been honeycombed by quarries & open-pit mines. For some reason I expected it to be slap up against a mountain, but instead we ended up down a nondescript back country road, and a bit of a steep walk down a deep, fairly scenic sinkhole facing a limestone rockface.

You can see the pictures on that website, Tytoona is a flat, horizontal cave of about six hundred feet on a single level, before it "sumps out" and turns into a water-cave where the cave divers *used* to go diving before a woman got turned around & drowned a number of years ago. We were not, of course, cave diving, but rather just splashing around in the safe section of the upper cave.

We were promised "stooped-over" wetness, but it turned out that the last few years of deluges - Ivan among others - had changed the cave a bit, and it turned into a stomach-crawl through chest-deep water about a hundred feet in. I kind of freaked out the first try through, mostly due to Dan's remarkably gonzo approach to the challenge - he porpoised right on through. The prospect of having to do that, in the chilly shock of actually getting down into the water, was a bit much. After I calmed down a bit & followed directly behind him along the sharp pebbly shallow section instead of trying to swim around the other way, I got into the spirit of thing.

There aren't any really grand stalactites, but there was some "flows" that Jason was excited about. There were a number of side-holes going off the main chamber which we passed by on the way in to the back of the cave, the "sump". This is where the air pockets run out, and all the floating crud caught in the cave's creek floats along the surface in a mildly nasty agglomeration of scum. Since we were relying on headlamps, it wasn't too foul, but the scum kept us out of the sump-water, even though Jason and Dan thought that there was a couple dozen more feet to the cave further on, due to slight changes in the lay of the rock.

We found a lost, miserable toad and a bullfrog in this last sumpside gallery, washed downstream along with the rest of the rubbish. We supposed they were surviving on the random bugs also washed into the cave. Other than those, the only living things we encountered were good-sized brown and orange salamanders, which weren't afraid of us. Too blind to see our lights? I didn't bump into any fish, although they must have been in the water.

On the way back, people went crawling into the side-holes, one of which featured a tiny little stream, a remarkably long run of at least fifty feet, and more mud than I had really counted upon. I didn't get all the way back - by the time Dan went in, we realized that it was past sunset & was getting dark outside, and we broke for the exit. At first we forgot about Dan, and I had to turn around & yell that we were leaving. There's a section in this side-hole where the person climbing through either dams up, or pushes forward, the flow of the stream in a quite striking fashion - the first time it happened, I mistook it for the sudden onset of a rainstorm upstream, until someone reminded me of Archimedes' Law.

All in all, a lot of fun, but massive, massive amounts of dirt. Not a clean hobby, spelunking.

[Some history on the cave here.}

Monday, June 05, 2006

No great depression of the 1870s? That's mindwarping. Where's the link, damnit! I want to read more about this, but Google is being obstinant. Here's a review of the most recent book by the author, Charles R. Morris, apparently a financial expert of some repute. He's clearly talking about something which isn't great news to someone literate in economic history, but it isn't something I'm too familiar with, and everywhere I look, people talk about the great depression of the 1870s - even "The Long Depression of 1873-1896"!

Link via the Corner.