Thursday, December 30, 2010

This entertaining if nihilistic essay by Patton Oswalt seems to demonstrate that he took his brief stint on Dollhouse way, way too much to heart. It's a geek rant by an off-brand Tyler Durden, plotting to destroy otaku-consumerist society via the trash-culture Singularity. Since he used to be a fixture on those VH1 list shows he's proposing to use for his plot to goad otaku-pop into eating itself, I'm not sure whether we're supposed to take it seriously, or not.

There's a clever observation in the comment section about "generational shovel envy" that probably addresses the serious concerns inside Oswalt's comedy. Otherwise, I'd note that if the otakuficiation of mundanity offends you, you either need to get over your need to be a special and unique snowflake, or grow up & start working on a connection with high culture - you've obviously got too much inherent pomposity to comfortably slum about in trash culture in the long run.

Friday, December 24, 2010

So I just finished watching Corpse Princess, or Shikabane Hime if you don't like the English title. It was the horror-moe Gainax show from a few years back, one of a number of shows in that period featuring dead girls killing monsters & providing male-oriented fanservice. I took a disliking to the show when I saw the first episode in fansubs, but went back this fall when the FUNimation half-season sets hit the semi-discount bins.

Most of the things I didn't like the first time were still there in the whole, two-cour, 26-episode series, plus a few more irritations which I'll get into later. But the whole ended up more engaging and likable than I first gave it credit for. They did themselves a real disservice by opening up the series with a charismatic-polygamist hipster-villain as the first "monster of the week". It gave the show the apparent character of extreme misogyny, which it didn't really deserve, I guess. Now, mind you, there's a lot of female villains, especially monstrous mother-figures. Since the whole show is about murderous, unnatural corpses and the virgin-sacrifice animate corpses who kill them, it's a little hard to avoid that sort of thing, but it definitely is a consistent undertone - not an overt, constant presence.

The story is about a Japanese esoteric Buddhist sect which is built around "handling the dead", which is, after all, one of the major functions of the real-world Buddhist faith in Japan. Traditionally, one is "born Shinto, married Christian, and die Buddhist". This came about because of the extreme revulsion and doctrinal incapacity of Shinto when it comes to death. The fundamental corruption and defilement of the dead is a core concept in "classic" Shinto, and the various folk-religion clusters which make up Shinto break down heavily in the face of the corruption of the dead. Basically, because Shinto was a religion which emphasizes purity over morality and sanctity, death and death-rites became by default the preserve of the imported Buddhist traditions which didn't really care about purity. But here in the real world, that "handling" is a ritual and practical thing, not the fantasy-world extermination of the revenant dead which this show plays around with.

Corpse Princess is nominally a Buddhist show, in that most of the characters are members or chattel of a rather hide-bound (made-up!) Buddhist sect, and the scripts are full of Buddhist terminology and (extremely twisted) Buddhist doctrine and ideology. The heart of the story is more Shinto than Buddhist, anyways, like a doctrinal skin of Buddhist cant over the decaying, rotting Shinto meat and bones. The characters talk Buddhist but act Shinto. There are a lot of furious ranting about defilement, which is a pretty non-Buddhist concept as I understand the faith.

As the show wears on, it's increasingly obvious that the Buddhist cant is, indeed, Marxist-definition ideology - intellectual super-structure constructed to justify necessary practices within an existing cultural tradition. The man who created the "Shikabane Hime" system existed within a culture and a period where radically esoteric Buddhist ideas were the "new wave", history-on-the-march. He built his demonic-corpse-combating system from the materials he had at hand - the "fact" of violent, sentient revenants, and the faith and doctrines which he felt to be true. "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man" - no doubt, if he had been a Soviet commissar, the Shikabane Hime system would have been built on tenuous palaver about the dictatorship of the mortal proletariat and the immaterial dialectic.

The animation was a shared production between the renowned (if problematic) Gainax, and some company I've never really noticed all the much before, feel. (That's the name, feel. Lower-case pretentious.) I seem to remember hearing before that Gainax did the first cour of 13 episodes - "Aka", and feel did the last cour, "Kuro". The two seasons don't really "look" different, and I'm guessing that the creative staff carried over for the whole production, and the division of labor was more of a management, production thing. The scripts waver between absolutely vicious, sharp material, and soppy, long-winded wittering on about feelings. It verges on schizophrenia, but when it's on, it's on.

Art slops around a bit at times, but visually, the worst sins are there at the beginning in the first episode - the fight-designs are too hyper and unfocused. There's a lot of swirling about & incoherent action. They chose to give the heroine a pair of sacrilized sub-machine guns (a gun otaku would have to tell you what they were, I'd class them as sort of "mini-Uzi" deals, but I'm not detail-fixated enough to go track down what they were supposed to be). This might have looked "cool" in the character-design stage, but what it does in animation is weaken impact and soften the fight scenes. "More dakka" may be a game-fanboy cliche that some people love, but in a supernatural monster-fighting show, SMG fire has all the dramatic impact of turning a garden-hose on a rabid dog. It just drops into the red-black swirl of the action, and ends up looking ineffective. It's the supernatural Buddhist-monster-hunter equivalent of sending in the tank battalions and fighter-bomber squadrons in a Godzilla movie, or dropping a nuke on an Angel in Evangelion.

Finally, not to be a spoiler, but the ending of the series is abrupt, incoherent, and disjointed. Second-to-last episode, we close out on heroine beating in the face of the Big Bad. Last episode? Flashback episode about two dead, secondary characters' origin stories. Total non sequitur. Don't get me wrong, as a standalone, that last episode was great, fired on all cylinders, did what it was written to do. It's just that this was *not* the place in the series for this particular show. It *should* have been placed fifteen episodes earlier. I don't know if it was actually a mis-labeled OAV pitchforked into the disc-set as "episode 26", but nothing in the presentation suggested it. The second-to-last episode declared "to be continued", which definitely suggests that *somebody* intended there to be a real episode 26.

Oh, well. It's worth watching, but it's not deathless art, or even particularly great.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yeah, we're about due for the rapture. Pat Robertson has gotten to my left on drug legalization.
I just got a comment on a very old post asking what I thought of WikiLeaks & then chiding me for being inactive. When even the spambots think you've been too quiet, you've been too quiet. I'll try and come up with something later today... meanwhile, I think that Assange was born to hang, but he probably shouldn't be prosecuted. Just quietly abducted, shot, and buried in a saltmine somewhere.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wow, it's official. Keith Olbermann is the second coming of Father Charles Coughlin, the ravening socialist-progressive for whom FDR's less-than-absolute dedication to nationalization, socialization, and blood-on-the-walls class warfare was a stinging betrayal. Imbeciles who claim an equivalence between Coughlin and Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh are apparently ignorant of Coughlin's original stance as one of FDR's most fervent supporters during the 1932 campaign and the early days of his first term in office. It was only after FDR failed to descend upon Wall Street, burning sword in hand, to scour the money-changers from the temple, that Coughlin turned on the second Roosevelt, foaming like a rabid beast.

These two connect-the-dots posts on Warren Buffett and his long-standing "altruistic" embrace of estate taxes are kind of devastating. Unless you have an ad hominem hostility to ideologically-oriented big-think blogs like the American Thinker and Human Events, I suppose. Now that I look at it, te American Thinker post is more of an ideological exclamation point, whereas the Human Events post is the meat of the matter.

Short form? The estate tax is the threat, Buffett's insurance company combine is the protection racket, and his distress-sale merger arm is a modified busting-out operation capitalizing on the chaos caused by the interaction of the first two scams.

My one concern with the Human Events post is the possibility that the forced-charity case may be weakened by a variation on Friedman's permanent income hypothesis - that the projected return of the estate tax means that charity strategies are largely unaffected because their purpose is long-term, and in the long term, the estate planners expect a return of the conditions which drive forced charity.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

First snow of the season, just enough stuck to create ice patches here and there. Creeks are high, yesterday there was some flooding in some places. I'd say that winter is here. Relatively mild so far, hopefully all of our miserable has been rationed out to the mountain-west, greater Midwest, and England this year.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

An update from Michael Yon, relaying an email response by Defense Sec'y Gates to the WikiLeaks diplomatic cable eruption. It pretty much says what needs to be said on the subject, barring any serious bombshells hidden deep under the manure pile.

The WikiLeaks people still need to hang, though. Not because they're "terrorists" - thank you, Rep. King, for reminding people of how damn foolish congressmen can be - but because they're spies. We don't hang spies as much as we used to do - but we ought to. Incentives matter, and the prospect of hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So I remembered to open my monthly statement from the mortgage company. This month, there was a refund cheque attached to the statement, as well as a notice indicating that my escrow payment was increasing by about $10 a month. I was expecting the latter, as our property taxes are scheduled to creep up next year, and I've been reading stuff like this indicating that homeowners' insurance is also scheduled to balloon a bit. The former... why couldn't they have just left the money ride in the escrow account & cover the increases for the next two years or so? Since they don't seem to have figured any increase in the expected homeowners' insurance payment, they're probably going to hit me again next year for more; if they decide that I need to make some sort of mid-year additional payment to cover a deficit because they felt the need to take that surplus out of the account, I'm gonna be steamed.

Not as if I am going to get much of any interest income out of $345 of additional capital, even if I bother to take it out of my non-interest-bearing checking account & move it into savings.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Reading for the day: postwar German currency reform. Some guidance on how the American occupiers of Germany & the West Germans managed to get out from under the disastrous burden of destroyed German infrastructure & massive liquidity left over from inflationary wartime Nazi financial policies & debts.

Heavily politicized process, though. I kind of think it only worked *because* it was overseen by a foreign military occupation government. The potential for politically-directed corruption in the burden-equalization-fund and the escrow-account feature of the conversion law appears vast.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm always last to notice these things. The lawyer who used to be my company's CEO, and then was... something in management for a couple of years after we merged the company with his one-man law firm, left again a few years ago to start his law firm up again, taking his secretary with him as part of a general down-sizing of our front office, which was overstaffed at the time, given the administrative needs of a small research & information technology company. Well, apparently Rod bought the old First National Bank building on the northwest corner of Bellefonte's courthouse square. I stopped by this morning on my way to pay my utilities at the borough building, and Heather gave me the five-dollar tour of their renovations.

It's a grand old building, built in the 1870s or 1880s. Tall, if narrow lobby with a vaulted ceiling; an enormous bank vault takes up the back third of the building. It's not so much a building with a vault, as a vault with a building built around it. Heather said the vault door weighs seven tons. There's a grand mural on the wall, painted during the Kennedy administration from a 1878 engraving of the view of old Bellefonte from the top of Half Moon Hill. Beautiful, although I'm told that it's made retrofitting an ADA-compliant toilet terribly difficult, because the mural stretches the whole length of the lobby, including the area where they want to put in the new bathroom. Also, the old bank president's office, located on the second floor, would apparently be in violation of modern fire codes. The basement retail space is also in violation of ADA codes. They're ripping out thirty years of catastrophic slumlord "renovations" which do things like block doorways and so forth. The upstairs bathroom had *two* layers of drop ceilings, one layer three feet from the true ceiling, and a second, newer layer another two-three feet below that.

The time capsule under the courthouse square's pavement, which is marked by a plate in the sidewalk outside the building, is apparently (if only theoretically) accessible via a bricked-up entrance in the basement. Also in the basement is the entrance to an access tunnel which I'm told the borough had forgotten existed, which almost collapsed earlier this year while they were repaving and surfacing High Street. You have to wonder how many other forgotten little subterranean architectural elements are hidden around town.

I hope Rod and Heather all the best, because the new office looks like a real challenge. It'll be pretty when they get everything nailed in place, though.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I hope to god this story isn't true. The sheer magnitude of bureaucratic stupid required to demand the confiscation of toenail clippers and multitools from a company of National Guardsmen carrying pistols, assault rifles, and machine guns because "they couldn't take over the plane with the guns without bullets, but the toenail clippers were dangerous" is... galactic in scale. I'd prefer to think that someone's just having us on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I had a nightmare this morning about Credit Anstalt and British naval mutinies this morning. I really oughtn't read Depression business histories prior to going to sleep. I'm not sure if I should call it a nightmare, or pre-waking musing on the news of the day before. More and more, the Euro is looking like this generation's gold standard. More and more credit is going to get tossed into its maw to maintain the unsustainable status quo until a series of sovereign defaults causes everyone to bail out in hopes of not being the one left holding the bag. Beggar they neighbor, here we come.

Meanwhile, I've been watching a show I don't particularly like, Hell Girl. It's a supernatural contemporary fantasy, basically a series of half-hour revenge plays. Our villain protagonist and her coterie of lesser demons offer revenge on the target's object of grievance, promising to drag said object directly to hell in exchange for the eventual damnation of the target's soul. The episodes are usually crafted in such a way as to make the audience root for the double-damnation, and in fact, as of episode 15, not a single target has gotten away scot-free. Initially, the setups were pretty rote, and I was grumbling about how formula it is, but after a while the writers started changing things up & introducing a second protagonist with whom you could actually have a moral affinity, this sketchy freelance journalist whose psychically-entangled daughter keeps seeing visions of the process of vengeance-solicitation & damnation as it happens.

The issue is that the nominal villain-protagonist has very little depth or back-story. She shows up, she puts the spiritual loaded gun into the hands of the aggrieved, and hovers about, not doing much of anything other than collecting evidence & waiting for Chekov's curse-doll to go off, whereupon she forcibly ushers the grudge-object into Buddhist hell. 80-90% of her dialog is exactly the same, from episode to episode. Her three demonic renfields have more character, and more lines, than she does.

Also, she doesn't seem at all picky about the vengeance she wages. Initially, they show you the demonic band demanding the villainous victim offer remorse, and his or her defiant refusal. Then the cases get shakier and shakier and the revenge-takers squirrelier and squirrelier, and we start not seeing this scene of self-incrimination before the demonic tribunal. And the grudges start getting really, really mistaken, although not invariably so. The writers are building up a case that no act of revenge is worthy, but then they keep undercutting that case whenever it starts getting overwhelming.

Anyways, it's an interesting show for arguing with the screen. And the first season was dirt cheap.

Friday, November 12, 2010

So, I've been watching a pile of anime DVDs I accumulated over the last month or so. There's been other things to do, so I've got a bit of a backlog. And there's a lot of good stuff - Xam'd is hipper and weirder than I expected, as if somebody set the creative staff of Eureka 7 loose in an erzatz variant on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and told them to touch on biological terror-weapons, suicide bombers, and squeeze in schoolgirls when they had the chance. BONES can usually be relied upon to produce something pretty, if not necessarily something coherent. The only complaint I have with it is that the sound is so aggressively stereophonic that it exceeds the rather primitive capabilities of my current TV-watching setup, and every ninth or tenth line is delivered to a speaker I don't have set up. Very disconcerting when you get a subtitle but no actual audible words behind it.

But the single craziest thing I've seen all month is an episode from the new Dirty Pair TV set released this week from Noizumi. Now, Dirty Pair's always been known for its bunny girls, and the petty trademark squabbles with Playboy that dogged the franchise in Studio Nue's attempts to sell into the North American market. The Japanese just love bunny girls, and the Hefnerites don't like to share their toys. But I've never seen... this. Bunny boys? The crazy thing is that this is where that episode *starts* - it gets weirder than that; for one thing, they're the servers at a grandiose polygynous wedding wherein the reluctant bridegroom has been chained to his seven prospective brides. The plot can roughly be described as "end of the Graduate as portrayed by the couple from Dog Day Afternoon, with a ending courtesy of the Urashima Effect". Dirty Pair TV is loose and crazed, with very few imaginative brakes. The writers weren't too enthusiastically dedicated to the cause of coherent narrative or consistency, which means that the episodes can end up in unpredictably strange places when things inevitably go off the rails. I had never realized that the OAVs were actually *staid* in comparison with the high weirdness of the TV series.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Hear, hear.

Keith Olbermann may be a irredeemable rage-addicted spokesclown with toxic political views and a silly set of affectations, but this is a preposterous reason to can him. Fire him for being a sociopathic, abusive co-worker; cut him loose for bad ratings; discard him as part of a emotional re-balancing of the badly off-kilter network - but don't let him go for putting his money where his mouth is.

Every nightly tirade in favor of left-wing, Democratic political aims and policies is a contribution in kind worth many, many times the monetary value of whatever maxed-out individual contribution he may have made to Jack Conway and whomever he gave money to down in North Carolina. Furthermore, political donations are inherently private affairs unless trumpeted loudly by the donor. Even a overbearing blowhard of a public figure like Olbermann ought to have some sort of privacy. We know more about public figures these days than I really think necessary; unless it's a criminal affair, I mean...


Thursday, November 04, 2010

"So our experts in political advertising have a problem. They don’t understand politics. And they don’t understand advertising."

This is pretty true. And the more I hear from the Consultancy, the more I get disgusted with them. Like horrible Frankenstein monsters - chimeras cobbled together from the butchered remains of a pile of Wall Street quant cowboys and unemployed used car salesmen.
Got to talking here at work about the increasing spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in agricultural lands. Any pesticide or antibiotic will, given consistent and unvaried usage in a region, breed resistance, and glyphosates - "Roundup" - has been very, very successful and very popular. The answer, obviously, is to shift over to a similar broad-spectrum herbicide in regions affected by resistant weeds, and definitely in regions in immediate proximity to affected regions.

A few years after Monsanto introduced Roundup Ready GM traits, their rival corporation Beyer CropScience offered a competing set of traits, known as "Liberty Link", which introduced glufosinate resistance into the modified crops. While glyphosate and glufosinate are chemical cousins, they attack different parts of the amino acid array, so that glyphosate and glufosinate resistance are not interchangeable. Luckily, glufosinate is similarly non-persistent in soils, which means that it isn't particularly prone to concentration due to heavy usage. It's also not particularly vicious towards mammals, although it is, like most pesticides, not exactly something you want to eat with your morning raisin bran.

However, glufosinates aren't nearly as pugnacious against weeds as classic glyphosates. Usage guides talk about "weed management" rather than "weed control". This is why Liberty Link has been less than a roaring success as a competitor to Roundup Ready traits. Liberty and its cousins are just less powerful and more specialized in their timing requirements than good ol' Roundup and the generic glyphosates. Roundup's an AK-47; Liberty seems to be more of a hobbyist's target rifle, maybe a long .22.

Pioneer's extensive marketing of their Herculex family of GM traits, which includes a base resistance to glufosinate along with the marquee bio-insecticide which replaces the original YieldGard, means that the glufosinates are a widespread alternative to Roundup resistance if it really gets out of hand. But I really hope that someone somewhere's working on a replacement to both, with more of a "kick" than the underpowered glufosinate. As GMO matures, its practitioners have to realize that while the pace is more sedate than in bacteriology, weed and pest management is still very much a Red Queen's Race.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

So, looks like Toomey nailed it down, outside the margin of lawyers-making-faces-at-each-other-in-front-of-judges. So there's that.

Nationwide, it's kind of a mixed bag. Looking like maybe 55-65 in the House, and what, 7 in the Senate? Meh, it isn't the superwave we were hoping for. Was it enough to terrorize the moderates in the 2012 Democratic class in the Senate into playing ball with the conservatives? I suppose it comes down to Angle-Reid. If Reid goes down, that'll break the Democratic caucus's unity, I think.

But, it doesn't look like he will. Boxer looks a lot closer than Reid at this point tonight. I figure at least one of the four in the west are going to break to the challenger after everything's counted - Colorado, California, Washington, Nevada. But no more than one. Maybe two.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Comments spam is getting more and more clever. I just had one which took a minute and a half to classify properly as spam rather than a particularly wordy example of the product of an addled mind. It was semi-on-topic, filled with hot-button phrases aimed squarely at the political slant of my particular blog; if I only scanned for ideological relevance, it might have gotten past. Sadly, once you actually try to make sense of it, it's clearly a very clever example of word salad with embedded advertising links.

But they're getting closer.
Brr. Hard frost. Not too many voters so far, I was #4 and only two more came in while I was leaving.

Looks like it's going to be clear across most of the country. So much for bad weather driving low turnout. Oh, well.

Vote Toomey!
The polls open in about an hour, and I haven't gotten around to doing down-ballot research. Oops!

Oh, well. Here's the list of Centre County sample ballots, not easy to find this year. And...

There is no down-ballot. No state offices (other than the state legislators), no judges, no initiatives, referenda, or county offices. Well, that was anti-climatic. I guess I'm voting straight ticket Republican this year? Oooh-kay. To be honest, I never like to do that. Maybe against Jake "Shakes" Corman on the general principle that I don't like ex-junkies in public office? But I don't particularly like his opponent either... Corman's dumped a ton of expensive flyers on my doorstep, which confused me because up to this moment I didn't know who was running against him. So far as signs go, he might as well be running unopposed.

Let's go with that. With Corbett likely to blow out Onorato, there probably ought to be some Democratic opposition in the Pennsylvania upper house to keep 'em honest. I'll stick with my local state rep, though, because Benninghoff has been pretty honest as time-serving members of the Black Horse Cavalry go.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So I read my copy of Bujold's new book, Cryoburn, mostly while waiting on PepBoys to finish working on my car. It wasn't the cheapest maintenance I've ever gotten, and when you're dealing with a tiny little clown car, even basic maintenance "feels" pricy. As for the book...

It isn't her best work. In fact, I'd call it the weakest since Ethan of Athos. She clearly has run out of things to do with Miles Vorkosigan. Overall, the book feels like a first draft, or written from the gutted remnant of an unsatisfactory, largely discarded outline. There's little emotional arc to the story, and it isn't really thematically fleshed out. She obviously went into the project wanting to talk about the politics of suspended animation - the story's set on a planet where they took Chesterton's aphorism about tradition being the democracy of the dead way, way too seriously. But somewhere along the line, the emotional resonance got lost.

Part of it might be the dispersal of the viewpoint among three characters, none of whom are real moral actors in the story. In fact, there is no real moral point to the story - things just happen damned thing after another, and the solution to high-handed corruption of corporate mores is, apparently, high-handed illegalities & exploitation of corporate mores on the part of the good guys. The threats are mostly bloodless, and the resolution is kind of low-impact.

There are signs that the book originally was cast as some sort of heavy-handed allegory in favor of universal government monopoly on healthcare cryogenic storage, but that an editor complained & Bujold (who always has been a big lefty, at least when it came to socialized universal healthcare) dialed it back in consideration of her rather right-wing Baen audience.
This is neat. Makes me wonder what the theoretical gripping strength of something based on coffee grounds and rubber could be, though. Seems more of a "delicate operations" device than anything seriously beefy. The idea of a phase-transition robotic hand is just cool, though. I wonder what the reaction time of its grip could be? The release sounds relatively fast, but the close might be a little slow, given the need to pump a vacuum every time.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Things I wish I had written, #3:
"Oooooohhhh, those scary libertarians. They’re going to take over the government and [discordant organ sound, thundercrack, horses neighing] leave us alone."

Friday, October 22, 2010

It's a beautiful beaten-bronze morning, of the sort you see towards the end of the season of turning leaves. I sort of regret not walking in to work, but I've started going over to State College for GOTV calling.

I really should have gone in earlier, but you know inertia. The office was full of women, mostly college-age; aside from one crew-cutted college student who was in for about an hour, I was the only man calling from the office that evening. I didn't realize we were calling the Sugar Valley area until it came up on the very last call of the night, on a long, involved "undecided" call. Some folks really do want to be argued into a decision - not that the call script encourages it. I apparently sold her on Toomey, so - hurrah! The call volume is pretty impressive, given the numbers I saw on the board - '08, we would have been dancing in our tiny, tiny call centre to clear that sort of volume. The scripts haven't changed much, though.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

All I have to say about WisCon's insult to Elizabeth Moon is: who the hell is Nisi Shawl? I'm not even a particular fan of Moon's - she's written some fantasy novels I appreciated, and Phases was a pretty good short story collection, but most of her recent work hasn't impressed me at all, and the essay that earned her this betrayal wasn't even particularly hard-knuckled or interesting - a standard, vanilla, rote recitation of liberal melting-pot commonplaces, really.

Pile this on top of the Juan Williams firing and it's shaping up to be a spectacularly self-destructive week for the PC left.


Update, next day: Oo-okay. Maybe they did Moon a favor by disinviting her, although if she voluntarily goes to these things, perhaps that sort of ugly is her cup of tea. h/t Brickmuppet.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Can't remember all five freedoms guaranteed by the 1st amendment? Don't worry, neither could I. I had to look it up to remember that "petition the government & present grievances" business. It's a pretty dense little bit of law, isn't it?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Since the decision to not have a baby clearly impacts both national defense and the health of our economy, it is obvious that under the Commerce Clause Congress can regulate abortion, and ban it. Right?

I'm pretty sure that little argument is a heck of a logical fork. Goes for contraception as well, as far as I can see.
My bias inclines me to accept this report as valid. But I worry a little about demolition by analysis. The abandonment of faith in traditional standards doesn't result in a new rationality, but rather the replacement of faith in tradition with the randomized embrace of novel irrationalities.

h/t, wherein the comments section immediately turns into a slap-fight about ACW instead of the medical-study subject of the article itself. Where trust has been destroyed, politics drive the discussion of *any* given contention.

Monday, October 18, 2010

So, the last place I expected to be exposed to a bitter anti-Tea Party campaign speech? In the middle of Friday's Smallville episode, sandwiched in between Clark-and-Lois-at-their-class-reunion rom-com antics and an A-plot about Brainiac 5 and Ghost-of-Christmas-style Legion time-travel shenanigans. All of a sudden, we get Green Arrow ranting about bloggers and supposed anti-immigrant bigotry. Apparently, the Tea Party is Apocalyps psychic astroturf. Maybe next week we'll find out that Darkseid is funding anonymous anti-Blur campaign ads courtesy of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision?

Admittedly, they've been larding the show with politically correct greenwash horsehockey for years now, but at least they balanced it out with Knight Templar eco-fanatic villains like Tess Mercer.

The thing is, I'm actually paying folding-cash money for the privilege of hearing some pretty-boy play-fascist call my friends and relatives bigots. That's not cool, and I'm seriously thinking of cancelling my season pass because of this. The only thing keeping me on the edge here is that the character in question, Oliver Queen, has always been a pinko "liberal" - in the Frank Miller version, he was a flat-out New Left bomb-throwing communist. I *may* be overreacting to an unreliable-narrative speech which wasn't supposed to be a Writer On Board soapbox affair. But it sure was *staged* like an Ayn Rand monologue, and in combination with the forget-the-errors-of-the-past and fear-of-the-future only-the-present Grand Inquisitor speech given to Brainiac 5 in the previous segment, the whole thing sure as heck felt like a particularly nasty campaign presentation to *me*.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Win or lose, the congressional elections this year have a more interesting cast than in most years. An entrepreneur, roboticist, and Marine reservist, Scott Bielat, is running against Barney Frank in my sister's district in Massachusetts. There's an actual rocket scientist, Ruth McClung, running against a Democratic congressman in a deep-blue district in Arizona. There are doctors (two of them in Michigan, Dr. Rob Steele in Ann Arbor and Dr. Dan Benishek of the Upper Pennisula), and nurses (Renee Ellmers of the Trinity Wound Care Center in Dunn, NC, running against Bob "the Strangler" Etheridge).

I'm sure there are more I've just not noticed, or am not remembering at the moment. It's a nice change of pace from the usual cloakroom full of lawyers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Who *are* the greatest living Americans? It's a hard question, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, "call no man lucky until he is dead", similarly, trust no evaluations of greatness until their accomplishments have stood the test of time and weathered a crisis or three. Five years ago, Alan Greenspan would have been on my list. Three and a half years ago, Ben Bernanke would have been on it. At one point George Soros was a candidate, before I read more about him & realized just how much of a villain with good publicity he really was.

Secondly, don't confuse good intentions with greatness. George W. Bush is a good man, and occasionally a competent politician and passable statesman. He still failed when it was important, and left a mess for those that come after him. The same goes for most politicians, whom as a class are generally second-rate intellects and second-rate human beings, at best.

Thirdly, it really does seem as if fewer and fewer real innovators, real leaders, real thinkers are left in our polity. The true giants were by and large pre-boomers, and are dying off at a rapid pace. Milton Friedman is gone, so is Norman Borlaug, Ronald Reagan, Sam Walton... The heroic figure has largely been eclipsed by the celebrity in the public eye. Despite all the self-serving Randian piffle of the last two years, there are no John Galts or Howard Roarks on the national scene; the best we can offer is Donald Trump. We don't really have any true robber-barons, and many of those we have, aren't Americans at all, like Rupert Murdoch or Richard Branson.

Fourthly, there may be a set of "greatest living Americans" whom no-one has ever heard of, "for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs." Our awful, worthless media are of no help in this regard.

I don't know, I'd essay Rudy Guiliani, if only for how he did the one thing that no-one would have ever expected in the days of my childhood - redeeming unredeemable Gotham, diverting it from its self-demolition, if only for a generation, if only for a bit... Perhaps T. Boone Pickens? It's sometimes hard to tell a true captain of industry from a self-promoting con artist of monumental proportions. Look at Lee Iaccoca!

Logically speaking, there should be some great man or woman lurking in the medical research field, with all the activity of the last thirty years, but it's all been so bureaucratized and corporatized, it's hard to spot the motive man among the Organization Men... I don't know, maybe Leland Hartwell or Robert Horvitz.

(While looking around, I noticed this strange duck, Ahmed H. Zewail. Can't decide if he's technically an American or an Egyptian. He seems to live in the US, with citizenship, but anyone who has rumors about him running for the presidency of another nation is a dubious example of an "American". It's like claiming Golda Meir as an American, I think.)

Nanotechnology would seem to be a fertile field for earth-shakers, but the only people in that field I'm likely to have heard of - like Eric Drexler - are most likely nothing more than popularizers. Huh, looking around, some of the American candidates in nanotechnology are already dead - Richard Smalley for one. The field hasn't even come close to fulfilling even a hint of its promise, and already the pioneers are leaving us. Yet another example of how greatness is only proven in many cases posthumously. Examples like Norman Borlaug are rare indeed!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Oh heck yeah. Although really, playing hard-ball welfare-paternalism in a season of massive popular dependence on the dole might not be the most tactically sound attitude.

Monday, October 04, 2010

We had another fire in my end of town, BTW. Third fire on Bishop in the last year, second one on that block. A badly run-down rental duplex on one of the worst blocks in town. Pretty crowded area, they couldn't fit all of the fire trucks close enough to bring all the equipment to bear. Ironically enough, all of these fires have been within a block and a half of the Undine fire station. I wasn't the only looky-loo, half the town was crowded around rubbernecking.

Now that I look at the local paper, I see that those additional sirens I heard afterwards was due to another fire over in the Bush Extension on Reynolds Avenue. The duplex sounds like a total loss. I had thought it was a Victorian, but the owner claims it was 1930s-vintage.

There's some pretty ferocious discussion in the comments of the duplex story about the regulation of Section 8 housing, with commentary about how many of these units in Bellefonte have burnt due to bad wiring. As for the later comments... I'm sorry, but if you're on public assistance, the way you live your life is everyone's business, and you shouldn't beg with one breath and demand respect for your privacy with the next breath. Speaking of breath, I saw at least one very young firefighter sitting wiped out back on South Ridge by the ambulance, either heatstroked or suffering from smoke inhalation.
Well, hell. Apparently Del Rey's bailing out of the manga publishing business, possibly in favor of packaging for Kodansha USA instead, distributing for hire. While the shift-over might conceivably occur painlessly, industry folk suggest that Kodansha has been spectacularly inept so far, and "trainwreck inside the station" is the way to bet.

This kind of sucks. I'll have to tally up the Del Rey titles I've been buying which will either be terminally delayed, or just plain terminated. Let's see...

Nodame Cantabile - no great loss here, it should have ended a couple volumes back. It's just been spinning wheels since about three volumes into the Paris continuation of the story.

XXXholic - again, this is a manga past its prime. The most interesting character has disappeared, CLAMP is relying more and more heavily on cross-overs with a separate title I honestly can't stand, and there just isn't much more life in the story.

Genshiken - actually, this title was finished, but word just popped last month that the mangaka is reviving it. A delay wouldn't affect matters here at all, since we wouldn't see a new volume for over a year regardless.

Moyasimon - this is the one which will hurt. It's a fun comic, but we've gotten two volumes in as many years. Another delay of another year will just kill interest, and thus kill the title dead.

My Heavenly Hockey Club - honestly, this comic is the second-weakest Ai Morinaga title in US release. I would gladly see this one killed dead in exchange for another volume of Duck Prince, orphaned by the CPM implosion.

Princess Resurrection - fun; but I barely noticed its failure to release. Put it in the "please don't kill her!" column, but barely.

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei - boy, this one is snakebit in the US. The brilliant SHAFT anime adaptation is stuck in turnaround, imprisoned by MediaBlaster's slow-motion demolition. Still and all, I like it, and it was getting better with time and repetition. Jokes which were merely amusing in the first two volumes were positively lacerating by the third or fourth time around in later volumes. Repetition is very kind to Koji Kumeta's sort of humor.

the Wallflower - speaking of repetition... this manga is over twenty volumes long. If it were about anything substantial, its welcome would be long-since worn-out. But the recent volumes were what they've always been - pleasant ways to waste an hour without thinking too hard.

School Rumble - again, nothing great or grand, but the recent omnibus was a good way to kill a couple hours. It's close to the end, I hear...

Yozakura Quartet - this one just never paid off on its promise; the story was gloomy and down-beat, compared to the characterization and tone. "Tonal dissonance" and failure to make much sense left this comic an exercise in pretty nothingness.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A presidential order to stop whining has apparently been taken as an invitation to snivel instead. If only all opportunities for schadenfreude were so harmless...

You know, at this point, just assume any smartass link-based comment is due to an Instapundit h/t unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Huh. You learn something new every day. Apparently Germany's been paying off its Treaty of Versailles war debt for the last twenty years, or more accurately, paying off the bonds that the Weimar Republic issued in the early 30s to settle their war reparations obligations. The bonds were repudiated by the Third Reich, sat around until the West German government agreed in principle to resume payment after reunification in the early 50s, and the reunited Germany started actually paying the debt in 1991.

That's... very German.

Noticed via Red State, of all places.
Meh. In this situation, I think I believe inter arma enim silent leges - "In times of war, the law falls silent." Anwar Awlaki might be an American citizen, but he is self-exiled, in rebellion against constituted authority, and actively plotting to murder his fellow citizens. He can either surrender himself to said duly constituted authority, or die screaming in some Yemeni shithole.

Really, it's his choice.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I like this:
If you’re not willing to have somebody hauled off at gunpoint over the project, then it’s probably not a legitimate concern of the state.

Via Instapundit, although I'd probably have come across it myself later in the day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

During the weekend, I walk around Bellefonte while reading. I see most of the streets in town once or twice a month during the sunny season. I've yet to see a single political sign in town since they pulled down the primary signs, and only a single new political bumpersticker, an ant-Jim "raging anti-Semite" Moran sticker on a car with Virginia plates. But it does look like somebody from the Sestak campaign did a pamphlet drop in Rainbow's End this morning. Not a very efficient one - I saw a couple stuffed under windshield wiper blades here and there.

I'm reading a book on the Lindsay years in New York City, called the Ungovernable City. A little slow going, and intermittently *very* irritating. For those of you who aren't New Yorkers of a certain age, John Lindsay was the first "the next JFK", a tall and stylish liberal congressman from Manhattan's only Republican district, who successfully rolled into the Mayor's office at the head of one of those typical Gotham "fusion" tickets which regularly leverages left-ish Republican politicians into office at the head of coalitions of irate "reform" democrats. (See La Guardia, Mitchel and, I suppose, Bloomsberg in a sense.) He was the Fair-Haired Boy for about a year, mooted for the Republican presidential nomination for '68, all that. Very moddish, liked to walk the streets of New York's ghetto districts, surrounded by a swarm of Ivy League grads, liked to talk a good libertarian game.

Unfortunately, Lindsay's "libertarianism" was the sort that assumes a bloated government & believes that the way to control inequitable distribution of power is to enlarge the problem with bigger and bigger organizations & centralized, patriarchal authority. Not, in point of fact, actually any sort of libertarianism at all, but rather a recognizably liberal brand of fascism. His people were very fond of labeling all of their many enemies as "racist". Of course, back then, a number of those enemies actually *were* racist - look up what the acronym "SPONGE" abbreviates, if you care for a sample. But the Lindsay crowd was fond of stunts like trying to tie William F. Buckley to the Birchers... anyways, I think I would have gone batty dealing with that time. Liberalism was in the saddle, and beside it rode Riots, Rent Control, Youth Rebellion and Family Dissolution.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Is it pretentious to read xkvd even though you need wikipedia to get the math jokes? (Especially if you still don't get it after a quarter-hour reading & not understanding how Ackermann functions work?)

Oh, btw: another explanation I didn't get. (Having read through it three times now... nope, still not getting it.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hah! Such confidence in the campaign prowess of their bosses! I suppose it pays to think ahead, and prepare parachutes while you can.

I've been watching the Delaware disaster with a mixture amusement and horror. Prior to the primary election I didn't think much of O'Donnell, but the event has made me think even less of Castle and the NRSC in particular. This sort of feckless, squalid ineptitude is exactly why I've refused to give a dollar to that collection of grasping, sordid hacks, no matter how many times they hire out a call-bank to sweet-talk me into donating. Still and all, it's hard to take Delaware seriously; as far as I'm concerned, it's just three wayward counties of the Commonwealth that fast-talked themselves into a separate seats at the Continental Congress. Nowadays, it's the conglomerate capital of the country, more corporate lawyers per square meter than any place on earth, and proof positive that the modern corporation isn't synonymous with conservatism, Republicanism, or free-market ideology in general.

Monday, September 13, 2010

So, I've been quiet for too long. For the most part, I've just been walking and reading (mostly nonfiction - spent like three weeks on Caro's behemoth biography of Robert Moses) and working through my backlog of DVDs. I've been buying more than I have time to watch, and frankly, I've not the most active of social calendars to begin with. I had some old friends in from out of town on Labor Day weekend.


I suppose I could talk about my recent Kyoto Animation binge. I had a fairly positive reaction to their galge (visual novel? I don't know, I sometimes have difficulty telling the two genres apart) adaptations Clannad and Clannad After Story. So, the next time I spotted them on sale, I bought their earlier Key adaptations, Kanon and Air.

Apparently some folks group them together as Key's "Seasons", Clannad being "spring", Kanon "winter" and Air "summer" - I don't know if one of Key's other visual novels is the missing "autumn" or if it's just the three. The seasonal themes of Air and Kanon are much more obvious and intuitive than Clannad's, which is more notational, and frankly, I think that somebody, somewhere just forced the "fit" by grabbing for the cherry blossom scene at the beginning of that later series.

Kanon turned out to be definitely worth the purchase, and was full of "scenery porn" and sharp writing. There's a lot of excellent animation in that show, and very little in the way of "kwality". Like Clannad, it starts out cheery and light-minded, with a lot of easy, cynical Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya-style humor, but it's all sandbagging in preparation for the mother of all tear-jerkers. The Kyoto Animation Kanon is like a fiendish, diabolical machine for the harvest of the tears of otaku, and it was wrought *very* cleverly indeed.

The strange thing is, is that the Kyoto Animation two-cour Kanon of 2006 was a remake of the original one-cour TV series from Toei in 2002. I made the mistake of tryng to watch Big Dave's archival copy of the fansubs of the Toei Kanon sometime last decade, and came across so utterly, completely repulsed and bored that I only got through the second episode by inventing monstrous serial-killer backstories for all the characters, effectively turning it into a filler-episode version of When They Cry. Even then, it was deadly boring, mutt-ugly, and pointless. The relation between the Kyoto and Toei versions is as that between the lightning and the lightning bug. Still and all, the story in Clannad is sharper, smarter, and more focused. Where Kanon is a exercise in magical realism, full of illogic and set in a town where winter is eternal and spring never comes, Clannad borders on science fiction, has a rigorous and logical underpinning below its leaps of fantasy, and occurs in an actual place, rather than the magical dying marchenland of Kanon.

So much for Kanon; Air is a different story, one of narrational failure and promising apprentice-work. If Kyoto's Kanon is the product of solid, accomplished, even inspired journeymen, and Clannad is a true masterwork, Air is the beautiful trainwreck which justified the resources the latter series were offered. And it is, intermittently, beautiful. You can see flashes of the trademark Kyoto "flushed" character animation, of gorgeous gem-like background art, of the occasional seamless, fluid action scene. But more often, the characters are flat over unincorporated backgrounds, floating, and erratically placed. The early episodes often feature the head-on square-in-the-frame staring-out-at-the-audience one-shots which are so stereotypical of visual novels and dating sim games.

Worse, the writing, which felt like a "rough draft" of Kanon 2006 in the first half of Air, went absolutely to hell in the last third, until at the end, I honestly couldn't tell what the hell had *supposed* to have happened, the emotional dissonance and apparent narration having so utterly derailed the presentation that I'm still not sure what I was supposed to take away from the experience. Happily, the US release doesn't end on the TV series' maddening note, but continues with the two OAVs Kyoto released, set in the middle of the narrative with the Heian-era characters on their fugitive journey through the mountains. A central part of the narrative failure of the TV series, which dropped the modern-day characters for two-three episodes for the adventures and tragedy of their ancient ancestors, was thus somewhat redeemed by the OAVs.

Anyways, Air will probably enrage you if you have any felt need for coherent narrative, but it still is pretty to look at & stops in some entertaining places prior to going smash in a truly spectacular trainwreck in the final episodes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kon's last testament, posted by his family and friends to his website. It sounds very much like his interviews in happier days, it sounds like him.

I will say this: by his own testimony, he was apparently going to an acupuncturist and a chiropractor for his pains, and it sounds (although he does not come out and say it) that he got to a doctor too late for a saving diagnosis. Did alternative medicine's quacks kill him by neglect? Maybe not, apparently pancreatic cancer is so deadly because it produces no early symptoms, and is very difficult to diagnose in time to keep it from going metastatic. By the time Kon was going to a chiropractor for bone pain, it was probably already too late. But the chiropractor was definitely the wrong choice. Doctors, drugs, chemotherapy and surgery done six months earlier might have given him at least a little more time.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh, man, this is a catastrophe for anime. Satoshi Kon was one of the real greats working in theatrical animation, fearless, brilliant and warm-hearted. It came out of nowhere, too - he was apparently diagnosed with cancer in *May*. He was so young...

He never made a bad film, or a boring one. He should have had twenty more years of great art ahead of him.

He was so *good*. The field is full of erratic geniuses, flakes and competent hacks - Kon was one of the few truly balanced, brilliant animators. He was too damn young to be taken like this.

He should have had productive decades of real greatness ahead of him. This makes Millennium Actress suddenly very... poignant. Like he had been trying to make the dozen films he somehow instinctively knew he'd never have time to finish.

And Paprika, and Paranoia Agent... so many of his anime were such headlong, desperately crowded races against the clock, filling every unforgiving minute with sixty seconds dreamt.

Monday, August 23, 2010

So, a fairly active weekend, at least for me. My Uncle Ron dropped by for lunch Saturday on his way back to Ohio from a meeting outside of Scranton, and I showed him around Bellefonte. It's been a couple years since I last saw him, and he looks good - retirement's been agreeing with him so far.

Sunday, Jason and Tristana held a garden party at their place out on Airport Road, and we got sozzled on mint juleps & played croquet on their vast half-acre lawn. There was a crowd of over a dozen, and only one person remembered the rules. We ended up playing well into the twilight, shifting the course under the flood lights out front by the garage in the early evening. I made a variant on my usual stir-fry, a mush of spinach, mushrooms, bean sprouts and pasta, *heavily* seasoned with a lot of garlic & rosemary, with just enough fish to keep it from being a vegetarian dish. It seems to have gone over well, so that worked out nicely. Mint juleps are a murderous beverage, by the way - one glass contained two to three shots of bourbon with a little water & some mint and sugar to flavor the mix. A glass and a half and I was quite wobbly for a while there.

This morning I went to pay my utilities, and discovered that it had been due a full week before they *mailed* the bill. The secretary down at the borough business office was quite resigned, and accepted payment with an apology - all the bills this quarter were issued with the same typo. Oops.

Saw someone run the railroad crossing on Water Street, just before a gravel train with *three* engines came rumbling across the tracks, while I waited in traffic, on my way to work just now. I've never seen a load that heavy come out of the Pleasant Gap quarries - they must have had a sudden upsurge in orders. But seriously, people. Don't run the railroad crossings like that. It ain't safe. If he had waited to do that fifteen seconds later, they would have been pulling his crossover out of Spring Creek with a crane.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

So I played tour guide for the folks at Gettysburg last weekend. A co-worker who does reenacting occasionally recommended a tower on the south end of the field that I hadn't remembered. When we got there, I realized why - it was over seventy feet tall, and I'm more than a little acrophobic. So's my father, when it comes down to it. Add in my mother's issues with stairs, and it was kind of a stretch. I gave my description of Sickles' salient & the Longstreet assault at the top of that tower with my hands firmly vacuum-sealed to the railing, and we got down as soon as we could. Great view, though.

I apparently annoyed a Gouverneur Warren fan with my short-hand summation of his career while we visited Little Round Top. He turned around and gave us a Look. The next morning, I talked to someone at our hotel who apparently had been standing nearby with his family during the incident & had appreciated my gloss on the events. His daughter apparently wants to take a degree in history, and I explained the possible career-paths, or lack thereof, available for people who choose that particular major. The short-hand is "lawyer, history professor, or well-educated member of the general public". It really isn't a "technical training" degree. At best, it gives you some experience in writing and structured research.

The old Cyclorama building has become a real disgrace - not only do they have it sealed away behind a decrepit chain-link fence, but they've let all the lawn within a hundred yards of it go to wrack and ruin. This would be fine and all if it were in some distant field, but we're talking about four hundred yards from the Angle and right up against Ziegler's Grove. There are a dozen regimental monuments standing forelorn among the weeds and overgrown grass, and it looks like hell. I wouldn't object to them tearing down the Cyclorama building - it is a dump and all - but they ought to do something about the seediness of the immediate environs.
Hmmm. This sounds pretty important, and it maps to what I understand about the thought-processes of Europeans and Israelis (and, notably, which the writer doesn't address, why non-post-nationalist Americans are so much more likely to be pro-Israeli, for that matter).

The writer thinks in terms of Israel vs. the European Union model, but what immediately occurred to me is the collapse of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was a multi-national empire, not a nation-state, but what impressed the European (and American!) by-standers was the racial-nationalist element of the borderline-genocidal fight between the Croats and the Serbs, both against the Bosniak Muslims, and the Serbs against the Kosovar Albanians. Where Americans saw *tribalism*, Europeans saw *nationalism* as the operative evil at work. The American solution was carving out viable nation-states for the various sides to transfer their tribal impulses into adherence to beneficial nation-state patriotism; the European impulse is to "enlarge the problem" by replacing the old multi-national empire of Yugoslavia with a south-eastern extension of the new multi-national imperium, the European Union.

Hey, we're all Spartacus Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit now!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is it just me, or is Glenn Reynolds starting to sound positively pissed-off about something? He doesn't sound quite like his usual "happy warrior" easy-going self. That bit's more of a bitter Lewis Black jab than the usual gentle Instapundit jibe.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jason at Blogsuki summed up the knotted, spiked half-comedy and half-tragedy wonder of Clannad much better than I could. Even if he was a Kyou-fixated Obama-voting doofus.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I've been enjoying Clannad After Story an awful lot. I wouldn't have imagined that an animation team would take the after-the-resolution of a dating sim & make a family drama of it. The whole show is basically post-climax, except they're not treating it that way. The heroine is sickly, so she ends up repeating her senior year - again! She's actually a year older than the protagonist, because they met on her second go round at trying to graduate. He was a goof-off during high school - a self-described "delinquent" - so he ends up getting work where he can, and ends up becoming an apprentice electrician with a small local contractor. The show spends two-three episodes with the protagonist as he works his way into the honest-to-god Japanese blue-collar lifestyle.

The above was written before I watched the second half of the second season. Wow, what a series of gut-punches. The entire series, both seasons, are in retrospect *not* dating-sim stuff, but rather a rather sharp-edged family drama with magical realist overtones that just uses the *furniture* of moe dating sims. I can't believe I once dismissed this series as "retard moe". Sorry, Kyoto.

I still think K-On! is stupid, though.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life and work on Cicero Street's "raper's row" in the Seventies. I'd never heard the term before, apparently it's Mametesque slang for a very Mametesque place, a no-hope used-car strip. The place the writer describes makes the dealership in Used Cars seem positively idyllic and idealistic by comparison. *Everybody* at this place was screwing everybody, and it worked, until the guy running it learned about the scams which affected him, and failed to roll with the revelations.


Friday, August 06, 2010

So TRSI cancelled my order for the latest Nodame Cantabile volume, and I hear they canceled a pile of other Del Rey titles. My newer order of Del Rey stuff - mostly Zetsubou Sensei, XXXHolic, and School Rumble books - is still active, and it looks like some of it is waiting on the next ship cycle to drop in the mail, so Del Rey isn't completely gone, yet. Heck, I'm not even all that upset about not getting the new Nodame, it hasn't really gone anywhere in the last three volumes at least, the mangaka's been treading water ever since she shipped all the characters off to Paris. It really ought to have wrapped up when the protagonist conquered his airplane phobia, the rest of it's just inertia and the attractions of a steady readership draw for the editors-in-chief.

But I don't like where this is going with Del Rey. They got the ground cut out from underneath them by Kadokawa, who hasn't really bothered to follow up with any significant new or active titles from their in-house label. It's been all back-catalog omnibuses and license recycling. Meanwhile, the companies which are increasingly uninterested in *selling* us manga have been cracking down on the pirate sites from whom folks can *steal* manga. I'm not really clear on what the financial advantage of suing pirates out of existence *is* if you aren't willing to provide the service being pirated.

All I know right now is that I'd kind of like to read the next volumes of Nodame or Kurohime, and nobody will sell either to me.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

I believe for now I'll follow GayPatriot's line on the whole overturn-of-Prop 8 thing.

Personally, I'm thinking that gay marriage is a social experiment, and I prefer social experiments to be undertaken under controlled, limited, and voluntary conditions. If there were some way to break off the Bay Area into its own little administrative region, I'm sure that the locals would be happy to have their experiment - even the local conservatives have by and large made their peace with the San Francisco spirit, and those few hold-outs like Michael Savage seem to thrive off of being the counter-culture to the counter-culture anyways. But California is a bigger place than just the Bay, and apparently the majority of the state's voters don't want to be caught up in yet another state-wide social experiment. This idiot judge, by tying the rejection of Prop 8 into specious constitutional arguments, is threatening to produce a *national-level* social experiment. That's the opposite of controlled & limited, and by striking down all the extant laws, voluntary as well.

I don't know, maybe all this crap is for the best. Maybe it'll result in a Great Divorce of the state and marriage, sever the apparatus of no-fault divorces, tax status, "starter marriages", and all the rest of it from the serious social business of family formation. But the last time the social elites went off on one of these lets-meddle-with-divorce tears, the result was the Long Sixties, and I don't think I want to see that on a national scale. I kind of want to see what it does to a liberal city like San Francisco over a fifteen-year period, before I'll agree to subject the whole country to that sort of blind fiddling about.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I was wondering if G.T. was running opposed this year for the 5th Congressional District. Apparently not. The Democrats somehow managed to nominate an assistant manager at the State College Five Guys burger joint for our congressional district. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm sure Michael Pipes is a great guy and all, but is he even old enough to run? A college freshman in 2004... hrm, it's probably pretty close.

I guess we don't get to make fun of South Carolina and Alvin Greene any more. What, there wasn't a wild-eyed university professor they could have sprayed down, shaved, and stuffed into a cheap suit?
This is ironic, as I've been thinking recently that I can't get excited about Corbett, but I kind of want to do something to help Toomey. Corbett's foot-fault with the libertarians over pestering Twitter over some anonymous messages didn't really set right with me, and although I will vote for him, I just can't see clear to stumping for him. But yeah, I'll vote against a tax-crazed Democrat any day, especially if he's stupid enough to tax yunzers' Arn.

Toomey, on the other hand, is a solid Club for Growth fiscal conservative, and we need him in the Senate. Sestak seems to be dumber than Casey Junior, and I wasn't sure if that was possible. The only question, is how to help. My experience in 2008 left me feeling like all that cold-calling just alienated people & drove people away from the ticket. 2004 frankly felt kind of similar, although I mostly did door-to-door that year. Toomey seems to have enough money, and sometimes it seems as if political donations just get siphoned off by the campaign consultancy and other parasites.
Some leftist tool is apparently plotting to burn a confederate battle flag in front of a tea party rally.

As the transparently obvious goal is to call tea partiers racists by insinuation, I suppose the platonically proper response would be to put the fire out by pissing on the burning rag, and then curb-stomp the prick for his insinuated insult to the crowd.

But since tea party crowds are by and large older, nonviolent, and more even-tempered than I, I imagine that the most that will happen is that he gets arrested on some sort of fire-code violation.

Monday, August 02, 2010

So I finally installed the window air-conditioner last night, with help from Jason. Maybe I should get a unit that I can actually install without help, but it came with the house, and it still functions. It turns out that a dehumidifier sucks up about half as much electricity as a functioning air conditioner, and produces waste-heat to boot, so there's no significant advantage in going without air conditioning. If I lived in the arid West it might make sense, but the house tends towards the humid even on the driest of days.
I was thinking about the history taught in school when I was a kid, back in the '80s. I can't imagine it's improved much at all since then, but from my limited vantage-point, it's become more intensely itself, which is a bad thing.

It's important that K-through-12 public-school kids attend "social studies" classes, rather than history. It's important because they get taught "social studies" history. American history as taught in those classes, especially in that period between the Civil War and the Great Depression, is taught according to a very rigid point of view.

Because it is taught by union fanatics, labor history of the period is presented in a very Whiggish, march-towards-the-Wagner-Act sort of melodrama, in which the literal proletariat suffers from repeated impositions of Marxist-style ideology - defined classically as a superstructure of false beliefs concocted by a dominant class to suppress the natural expression of subordinate & oppressed classes. The interests of labor and entrepreneurs and their true history is distorted through this lens of Organized Labor Triumphant, the messy details reduced to narratives of secular Crusade & martyrdom.

Large swathes of Gilded Age political history is absolutely impenetrable to struggling students, because it is taught by public servants who are more interested in their predecessors' passion play of reform and independence through civil service reform. Real and vital political struggles between interest groups - between entrepreneurs, rent-seekers, speculators, the arrogant legions of the rising professional class, and the various and diametrically opposed political machines - get washed out in a sepia blur of "reformers against the bosses". Again, a sort of reverse Whiggish progression makes incoherent characterless bosh of the events in all their true colors.

The great arguments over currency is usually repellent and confused in the classroom, because the teachers are poorly educated on the subject of economics, business, and money. The "Marxist moment" has long since passed in the training academies, but that incorrect and debunked set of doctrines haven't been replaced by anything useful or even equally false, but rather nothing at all. How can "social studies" teachers teach about the conflict over greenbacks, hard currency, and bimetallism, if they don't even really understand Gresham's Law?

Lastly, the Progressive Era is usually taught as a bloodless extension of the "Reform Era", as a culmination of "American Liberalism" and its goals, mostly because "social studies" are taught by political progressives, who were raised to believe that their ideology was something called "liberalism" and thus a descendant of nineteenth-century Liberalism and Whiggery. This means that the students are often mis-educated into the belief that the Progressives were something organic, popular, and arising from the national character, rather than a modernizing crisis of that character, and the failure of confidence in the American project. The current Beckian-Goldbergian assault upon Wilson, Croly and the Progressives is such a popular revisionist trend these days *because* of the emptiness and falsity of the narrative taught in the schools about this era and that movement. The Progressive-Whiggish myth of the era creates massive cases of cognitive dissonance when the student encounters the actual historical details later in life.

All of which, I suppose, is a lead-up to a recommendation of a pair of books I've read this summer - David Pietrusza's 1920: the Year of Six Presidents and Ken Okrent's Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition. These two books address two sides of the "Progressive Moment". 1920 does so from the angle of Wilson's harsh and disruptive totalizing rule and the step-back from the brink that took place in that election year. Last Call looks at the era from the angle of that most quintessentially American of Progressive projects, Prohibition, a conversion of the Whiggish temperance movement into a corporatist, regimented, stubbornly transformative apparat, and how that social and political movement's encounter with human nature deformed the American economy and civil society, and was defeated in the end by corruption, individual initiative, human nature, and the collapse of the technocratically managed economy.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

So, it is summer. I get kind of lethargic in summer, if y'all haven't noticed. Slow-thinking and unimaginative, uncreative even.

Which is a not-very-roundabout way of vamping for the home audience, folks. Yes, I'm still with the living, if not so much with the demonstrative interpretive dance. Originality and authenticity are equally rubbish values, anyways. Cleverness and craft takes originality and authenticity like a full house takes two pair. Especially in Omaha hold 'em.

The old home town is still there, variously seedy and newfangled-unfamiliar. There are folks who live their whole lives in the hometown, work at the same jobs their fathers and grand-fathers worked. I talked to a former neighbor-kid who's now running his grandfather's firm with his brother, for instance. Other folks, like our family, are kind of nomadic, slowly shifting stakes from one camp-ground to another, over the course of decades, sure, but still nonetheless essentially transient. We don't really *stick* for generations on one plot of land. It doesn't seem to be our nature. Strange, really, because otherwise we're pretty stolid folk.

Well, stolid for a lot of rootless gypsies, that is. ^_^

Monday, July 12, 2010

So yeah...

All I can say, is that sometimes you wake up with a nearly-fully-formed thought that wants to be let out. It's generally better to let it out, I suppose.

Oh, btw - sounds like Alvin Greene paid his Senatorial paperwork fees out of his unemployment cheques, at least in part. I gotta say, the prospect of someone saving over ten thousand dollars from two years of unemployment is pretty impressive - I think more of him for it. While he might be something of a narcissistic clown, at least he's a self-made loon.
I woke this morning to a radical sky
The world dyed red, pouring through a cracked-open door
And every eastward window
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning
A city some where is burning
The reflections of its flames
And agonized death
Is reflected in the raging
Of my placid Pennsylvanian dawn.

I woke dreaming
Of laughing vicious crowds
Of idle rich children, assaulting the streets
Of some inner Parisian bohemian museum-piece
Like schoolkids run amuck
Through a preserved waxwork display
Of expatriate imagination
The French existential ideal
Stuffed and mounted and put on display
A disneyesque trap
For intellectual tourists
To waste the riches of their elders'
Long fruitful toil

I shouted "ordered liberty" at the masked mob
Amateurishly brandishing card-board battering rams
More intent on hurting themselves and their peers
Than anything around them.
It was they that respected the display
And I the interloper
In their 1968 of the night.

Their happy cruel clowning
That suited this stage
The curdled imagining of
Streets cobbled with pretension
And meaningless riot.

Out in the gray brutal suburbs
The mob of reality lurked
Hostile, alien, hopeless
Lit by the light of small burning
French cars
The desparate disordered ruined wreckage
of a foreign working class
Imported by a country
That no longed needed them
Their strong arms made weak
By the collapse of a world
Built from things and hope.

Now the inner country
Subsists on the revenue
Of a different set of imports
Exporting the memories
Of expatriate nostalgia-tours
And dreams of hedonism
To those who would be
Cynical wanderers in the ruins
Wherein they could be woken
From their well-fed nightmares
To these burning clouds of
This radical sky.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

In other CDT news, a side-mention in an article on a police back-pay issue in Bellefonte brings up a plan to convert the old Gamble mill-race to hydroelectic generation. That's a pretty nifty idea, but I have to wonder how much of an installation would be required to wire it into the grid, and whether it would be worth the investment. While it's a consistent flow in most years, Spring Creek *is* somewhat variable in drought years.

As for not having any near-by projects requiring the power - the whole town has street lighting. I'd imagine that it could be run into the grid, given some transformers and the like. I don't know, Dad's the electrical engineer in the family.
Looks like Webster's Books is folding tent. Something about being behind on the rent, "starting two years ago", whatever that means. Before it was Websters, it was Seven Mountains Books, then before that it was the Book Swap. Svoboda's got folded into the operation at some point during its existence if I recall correctly, which means that two families of independent booksellers are leaving State College's downtown this month. Supposedly there's another location out in Patton Twp somewhere, and I have to agree with the angry people in the comments, it isn't kosher to be opening new locations when you can't pay the rent on your downtown lease. Rather looks like a "strategic default" move from this remote vantage-point.

Look, the reason *I* stopped going there was the raging political polarization, their increasing prices, the stink of coffee (despite the smartass comments about hippie stench, I never noticed any such thing - but I can't abide strong coffee odor), and my having moved out of the immediate State College area some ten years ago. Websters long ago became... repellent to most of its potential customers. The only people they were interested in appealing to - fair-trade fanatics, localvores, leftie college professors, students, and hangers-on - are, as a rule, cheap, cheats, or contemptuous of the profit motive. That isn't a long-term path to profitability.

Looks like Fred's still alive - he was defending his former business partners in the comments. I wonder if they still have the warehouse under the block across the street - Fred used to say that the majority of the business's cash flow was in the mail-delivery online business through Amazon and other outlets.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

"Sorry. That last paragraph was supposed to be in defense of the film, but I got distracted by the thought that someday, somebody might quote me on a DVD box."

Aw. come on, Howard. That's the sort of mishap that you can drink out on for a decade or two! Sort of like being publicly abused by Harlan Ellison used to be a badge of honor on the fan circuit.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Hrm, my tax refund finally processed. More than it should be - they apparently pay interest. What should I do with it? I'm thinking of plowing it back into the principal on my house.
So I was sitting in my basement watching Fringe last night when I started hearing these muffled booming noises. Apparently Bellefonte was celebrating the Fourth of July on the First again. So I walked down Crawford Street about a quarter-mile until I could see the fireworks in the distance. Must have been setting them off from behind of the high school or from the fields around Governors' Park. Not bad for a podunk little burg like ours, I suppose.

Fringe is interesting, but I'm not sure if it's going to turn into another overwrought J.J. Abrams MacGuffin-chase like Alias. First three episodes were pretty OK, and it has a strong sense of place in its Boston setting.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the subject of microfracking chemicals, my father forwarded this link to me last night. I was looking through the list, and X-Cide 207 caught my eye - it's an industrial microbicide and fungicide, and is pretty nasty. It's explicitly labeled for fracking, and most of the rest of the chemicals look like similar biocides, industrial solvents, surfactants, and the like. Hrm, also Bio Clear 1000 and its relatives, which are also nasty microbicides - "slimacide", "algaecide", etc. Various caustic and acidic agents....

The nasty stuff looks like it is used to keep algaeal blooms from forming in the fracking circulatory system.

For the nasty stuff, it depends on concentrations, I suppose. This sort of stuff will be present in industrial brownfields. But as the article points out, these are all essentially trace substances in a slurry whose vast bulk is composed of the pure drinking-class water the Marcellus operators are extracting out of my industrial park's pumps. The list includes a number of rather dubious-looking environmentally-sensitive replacements for dirtier compounds. I say "dubious" because these sorts of substitutions tend to be less effective than the old poisons.

Eh, it's possible that somewhere down the line some of this stuff could get out into the general water table. But keep in mind that the old mines are volcanoes of nastier stuff all over this state's minefield regions, and all of them were cut right into the water-table, open sieves of heavy metal seepage. Even the worst case isn't going to be anything like the old mercury poisonings of the "golden age" of industrial mining operations. Heck, there are flooded, abandoned quarries all through this region with crystalline-clear water the color of nothing in nature - crystal-clear because nothing can live in the waters. I've been told that if you go swimming in some of them, you're going to get skin burns.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Did y'all know that indie comics god Wil Eisner wrote a Vietnam-era illustrated maintenance comic for the M16A1 assault rifle? It's very distinctively Eisner-esque. I knew he wrote some sort of book about the war, but I never got around to reading it. His best book is still probably A Contract With God... but this pamphlet is surprisingly engaging for something about equipment maintenance.


Friday, June 25, 2010

If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna!

Likewise, if you have to buy a "bimbo box", buy one. Don't try to cushion the blow to your manly ego by buying something some idiot in marketing decided to label a "man van". Hell, I kind of like minivans. They aren't wire-rimmed milquetoasts playing cowboy dress-up like your average SUV, or pickup trucks languishing in two-car garages like big sheepdogs stuck inside a bachelor box with their townhouse-dwelling overcompensating owners.

h/t, although I'm seeing this one everywhere today.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I went on a hell of a DVD-buying binge this last month, due to a confluence of online sales at Deep Discount & My "to-watch" shelves are groaning under the pile, and I'm spending a lot of time in front of the TV, alternating between the box-set of the Shield & various anime series. This week it's Clannad.

I never watched Clannad in fansubs, because I had a bias against Key visual-novel adaptations. I was so utterly bored by Kanon (the awful 2000 Toei version) that for the longest time I referred to the whole subgenre as "retard moe". But I've been favorably impressed by Kyoto Animation's production style, the roseate skin-tones and gorgeous backgrounds, and Sentai's ads on their other releases for Clannad made me regret my initial refusal. So, I bought it expecting "scenery porn" - which means I'd basically be watching it for the landscapes.

So far, the backgrounds are ok, but nothing quite as gem-like as The Second Raid; at least not yet. But the story and writing is unexpectedly amusing, and not nearly as emo & overwrought as online commentary about "Jun Maeda's sad girls in snow" leads one to suspect. The protagonist is a mischievous liar, who likes to amuse himself by staging manzai routines with his gullible nakama of haremettes & token beta-male sidekick. It's nothing great, but so far it's an amusing way to waste a few hours of my life...

Oh, BTW - "clannad" isn't a word - there's a Celtic band which abbreviated "an clann as Dobhar" into "Clannad" for their name, and somebody at Key decided it meant "family" in Gaelic. It doesn't, it doesn't mean anything. But apparently Key intends "Clannad" to refer to the protagonist's search for family via nakama formation.

Oh, and btw - Sentai? If you feel the need to bombard the viewer with heaping piles of on-screen cultural note subtitles, it'd be nice if you put them in a secondary subtitle track. It's a little intrusive, and since I've been watching these things for nearly twenty years now, pretty redundant. Especially all the blow-by-blow details about what the various politeness-level gags mean in the Kotomi arc.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yeah, if Obama thinks that he's Lincoln, he's apparently settled on Petraeus as his McClellan. Is he going to run CentCom remotely at the same time he's directly commanding in Afghanistan?

The general should remember what happened to Our George. Petraeus' little fainting spell even has a small parallel in McClellan's repeated bouts with typhoid fever [?]

Friday, June 11, 2010

So, the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale boom has touched down here in Bellefonte. At least some of the microfracking operations north of I-80 are pulling some fraction of their millions of gallons of water needed for the fracking process out of two small pumping stations here in the industrial park I work in. These days, there's usually at least one tanker-truck topping off for the trip upcounty to feed the new well-systems, and this Tuesday when I was walking around the loop there were three tankers hooked up to the pumps, and a fourth one passed one of the finished tankers as I headed back to my office.

They must have made arrangements with the Chamber to buy water from the industrial park's permits. Since the park is, at best, one-third full, I guess they had capacity to spare. Freakily enough, one of the regular tanker-trucks was originally a milk tanker, and still has milk placards all over it. I guess the boom came on so hard and fast that they've been re-purposing equipment like the milk tanker.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

South Carolina continues to appear collectively determined to prove itself "too small for a country, too large for an insane asylum". The last month's deranged pig-pile on Nikki Haley aside, it appears that an unemployed, incoherent veteran with an outstanding felony charge for mopery has become the state's Democratic nominee against Sen. Jim DeMint.

Oh, well, at least the state's offering a congressional run-off between the state assembly's arguably most conservative (and only black!) Republican and the son of the late Strom Thurmond, one in which said conservative black Republican, Tim Scott, at least has a chance to win, since he did come in first during the primary proper. I entertain myself with the mental image of the old Dixiecrat rotting in his coffin, at a loss on whether to spin clockwise or widdershins.


Update: Oops. I don't know why, but the fact that South Carolina's felony-charge senatorial nominee is black makes it less funny and a lot more sad. I guess it's easier to laugh at a crazy good ol' boy than a wrecked black vet. That's too much like a guy I knew in college...