Miscellaneous II

A curiousity I came across: Macs in Anime & Manga. I can add a couple of creators to the list: yoshitoshi ABe (Lain, Haibane Renmei) and Chiaki J. Konaka (Lain and virtually every other complex series) are both Mac obsessives.


The Frog of Paradise

This has got to be either the greatest movie ever made, or the stupidest: Raccoon Princess.

The film informs us, from the outset, that this is not going to be a conventional ride. A twinkle-eyed farmer speaks directly to us as he sets two traps; never, he says, should a Tanuki fall in love with a man, nor vice versa. Perhaps cruelly, he sets two traps to ensnare one of each and thus begin the game. Far from being a distancing gesture, this delighted the crowd. Abandon all snarkiness, ye who enter here, Suzuki seems to be saying. And if you’re going to follow a film that deploys every fakey theatrical trick in the book (painted backdrops, kabuki-esque posing, copious musical numbers), you’d best not be snarky. Wait, did I say musical numbers? No shit, Jack, this picture has opera, pop, glam rock and hip-hop numbers in it, all choreographed to the silly hilt. If you’re not enchanted by Ziyi’s beautifully sung ode to the handsome prince, delivered as she emerges from a waterfall, you’ll surely be giggling with delight at the doped up, ska-ish theme of the Tanuki Palace, accompanied by hundreds of raccoon people at delerious play. A band of red-haired, whiskered musicians play wooden instruments and prance through the scene, and three adorable little raccoon girls provide extra vocal snazz. If this all sounds cutesy, then, well, it probably is. But it’s delivered with such mind-blowing brio that you’ll be too stoned to care. And you’ll want the soundtrack instantly. The performers, in any case, are uniformly excellent, with Ziyi [Zhang] in particular a total vision, breathtaking to look at and listen to. They’ve all done their homework, and they’re all acting in the house style: over-the-top but perfectly composed, like a pop art oil painting.

There’s more on the film here. It looks like the filmmaker is a bit confused about Catholicism.


And I thought Microsoft was evil

I will never buy anything with the “Sony” label again. Here’s why:

If the customer is king, Sony has turned to treason. On Halloween, news broke that Sony BMG was using copy-protected CDs to sneak digital rights management software onto customers’ PCs in order to restrict how customers can use lawfully purchased content.

The Sony DRM software, XCP, made by a company called First 4 Internet Ltd, installs as a rootkit to conceal its presence and inhibit its removal. Rootkits are generally considered to be spyware. Sony has even provided a Mac version through a company called SunnComm.

And then there’s the Sony EULA:

1. If your house gets burgled, you have to delete all your music from your laptop when you get home. That’s because the EULA says that your rights to any copies terminate as soon as you no longer possess the original CD.

2. You can’t keep your music on any computers at work. The EULA only gives you the right to put copies on a “personal home computer system owned by you.”

3. If you move out of the country, you have to delete all your music. The EULA specifically forbids “export” outside the country where you reside.

4. You must install any and all updates, or else lose the music on your computer. The EULA immediately terminates if you fail to install any update. No more holding out on those hobble-ware downgrades masquerading as updates.

5. Sony-BMG can install and use backdoors in the copy protection software or media player to “enforce their rights” against you, at any time, without notice. And Sony-BMG disclaims any liability if this “self help” crashes your computer, exposes you to security risks, or any other harm.

6. The EULA says Sony-BMG will never be liable to you for more than $5.00. That’s right, no matter what happens, you can’t even get back what you paid for the CD.

7. If you file for bankruptcy, you have to delete all the music on your computer. Seriously.

8. You have no right to transfer the music on your computer, even along with the original CD.

8. Forget about using the music as a soundtrack for your latest family photo slideshow, or mash-ups, or sampling. The EULA forbids changing, altering, or make derivative works from the music on your computer.

(Via Chizumatic.)


How to think

How to measure the height of a building with a barometer:

Some time ago I received a call from a colleague. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score. The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.

I read the examination question: “Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.” The student had answered: “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.”

The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly! On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this.

I suggested that the student have another try. I gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he hadn’t written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one. I excused myself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on In the next minute, he dashed off his answer, which read: “Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^2, calculate the height of the building.”

At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and gave the student almost full credit. While leaving my colleague’s office, I recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem….

(Via Synthstuff.)


Galadriel’s secret love-child

It’s a year old but still timely: Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s illuminating introduction to Mary Sue literary theory:

Mary Sue literary theory has changed my professional life. Before, when discussing manuscripts with my colleagues, I had to say things “You know, one of those books that keeps telling you how wonderful and talented and perfect the main character is and how much everyone loves her, but aside from that there’s nothing at stake and nothing really happens? No logic, no causality, no narrative development, just that character being wonderful every barfy step of the way?”

Generally they knew what I meant; we see a lot of books like that. But those conversations have gotten much easier now that I can say things like “See if the author will agree to rewrite it from another character’s point of view—that main character is a screaming Mary Sue.” Or: “I sent it back. The agent was all excited about how the author’s ‘expanding into a new genre’, but it’s just a Mary Sue with jousting scenes pasted in.”

(Via Eve Tushnet.)


Is Legolas really a blond?

While browsing the “important posts” at Quenta Nârwenion, I came across a curious bit of Middle-Earth science: Hair color genetics for Tolkien’s elves. It looks like Peter Jackson probably got it wrong:

Unfortunately, there will never be proof, one way or another, to Legolas’s hair color because there is too much ambiguity.  His father is said to be golden haired in The Hobbit, but this book’s assertions to anything were pretty much amended by Tolkien himself in later writings, when he began to seriously world-build for LotR and TS.  Legolas’s people were of a huge branch of Elven folk who never left Middle-earth for Valinor, called “dark” Elves, but this is a misleading nomenclature. They are only “dark” because they have not seen the light of the Trees of Valinor, not due to coloration.  Certain sections of these people, the Teleri, were silver-haired (ie. Thingol and Celeborn), but here again there is much to debate, since the parts that seem to support the silver genome are a distinct section of the Teleri in Beleriand and Doriath, and these are not the people from whom Legolas descended. 

Legolas’s people have been somewhat isolated over the generations, which could allow for any number of dominants and recessives to take hold.  Having established our genome, however, the most likely explanation is that he is dark-haired and gray eyed, like most of his kind.  If he were a recessive, the odds would be more in favor of silver than gold. 

Tolkien’s vagueness can be interpreted in other ways, as well.  Tolkien was always very quick to point out golden and silver-haired Elves, and anywhere where the coloration was not to the dark-haired standard.  If one is to go with this interpretation, then once again, we would have to bet on Legolas’s hair being dark.


Cave leporem*

I’ve noticed that my weblogs are viewed least on Saturdays. Which is good: it indicates that you all have better things to do than idly surf on your days off. But a few do stop by, and for them here’s a reward: a couple of cute little movies about an unlikely love.

*or something like that. My Latin’s a bit rusty.


You are who you eat

This might put you off your feed. The majority I didn’t recognize, and that’s just as well.

One I did recognize was Maetel. I think she’s better as a robot than as lunch.

(Via fps.)