Sunday morning miscellany

Suppose the translators responsible for The New American Bible took on Shakespeare:

Existence or its opposite? That’s what I am asking myself.
Whether it be more or less dignified to put up with
The barbs and darts of brash Luck, or to use weapons
Against distress’s oceans, to stop them from happening.

More Shakespeare, sorta: What is the connection between Interstella 5555 and the House of Percy?

There supposedly is a genre of iyashikei, or “healing,” anime, such as Aria or Ikoku Meiro no Croisee. I find most such productions irritatingly bland, rather than soothing or refreshing. ((The only example of the genre I find rewatchable is Someday’s Dreamers, which has a serious story underlying all the niceness.)) If you seek therapeutic anime, the works of Tatsuo Sato are much more effective:

A rewatch of Nadesico helped me get through the first few days of living with a broken arm, and Shingu was good for a flu and high fever.

Update: I just watched the second episode of Mouretsu Pirates. It looks like it’s going to be at least as good as Nadesico. Whether it approaches the level of Shingu remains to be seen.

“You don’t have to rely on a healthy body image or self-respect any more”:

Fotoshop by Adobé from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Hmm. I have Adobé, but I’m as ugly as ever.

You’d think it’s obvious that creativity requires solitude, but evidentally the fact periodically needs to be restated.

Nyamulagira continues to challenge Etna for the title of The Greatest Show on Earth:

Cooking with gas is passé. Let’s cook with lava. ((Hey, Erik.)) Here’s a recipe for pahoehoe game hen. Prefer a steak?

I don’t know if you can “cook a tasty chicken on lava”, but I know you can cook a steak of meat on an Hawaiian lava flow! I did it! You just lay a sheet of aluminium on the lava; you spread some some oil on the steak, possibly with some herbs. Then, you put the steak on the aluminium sheet and let it broil a few tens of seconds on each side. I can assure you it is delicious, all the more with a glass of Californian wine! I’m French; I know what good cooking means!!

See this for the Icelandic version.

Downright bodacious

I watched the first episode of Mouretsu Pirates twice in two days. The last series I did that for was Madoka a year ago. Pirates has a lot in its favor, including:

Space pirates.

Tatsuo Sato.

A meganekko with a hime haircut and a sailor suit.

A bunny, a ducky and a pink bobblehead pig.

An absence of in-your-face fanservice. ((No surprise, given that Sato’s Shingu featured an outstanding example of anti-fanservice.))

There are a few negatives, e.g., green lipstick, skinny ties and really bad haircuts.

The positives greatly outweigh the negatives, and Mouretsu Pirates looks like, at the very least, a fun show. With Sato at the helm, there’s a good chance that the series will be a satisfyingly complex story and not just an excuse to put pirate hats on pretty girls.


A bit of music:

It’s not just for humans.

If French is the language of love, what is German the language of?

(The latter via John C. Wright.)


2011 is over. Good riddance. It was a thoroughly crummy year for me, ((2011 was a good year for volcanoes.)) and I am not going to compile any retrospective posts. If you want to know about the year in anime, see Ubu’s recaps here and here.

Parachutes and bumbershoots

Here’s some music that caught my ear recently.

Kinoco Hotel has the ’60’s psychedelic sound down cold, straight from the garage.

If Chabrier and Satie formed a string band, they might sound a little like Shugo Tokumaru.

Here’s a piano arrangement of the above tune.

Pop music with a high-gloss finish: Tokyo Incidents, featuring Shiina Ringo.

I’ve also been listening to some “Tokyo virginity pop,” as Urbangarde labels their music. Imagine Hatsune Miku as a real singer in an avante garde-ish band. I don’t like any of their videos — the visuals range from pretentious and silly to pretentious and distasteful (I wonder what percentage of their operating budget goes toward fake blood) — so I’ll just refer you to their website. There are links to videos there; the music sounds better if don’t actually watch the videos but only listen.

I’ll close with another Tokumaru tune.

Cardcaptor Derpy

(Here’s a side-by-side comparison with the CCS opening.)

Is the Brony universe the American counterpart of Touhou doujin culture? Perhaps. However, the main attraction of Touhou for me is the music, and I have yet to hear the MLP equivalent of “Lunatic Princess” or “U.N. Owen Was Her.”

I found time to watch the first two episodes of Mawaru Penguindrum, and, well, I’m not at all surprised that its mastermind was earlier responsible for Utena. It starts off as a shameless tearjerker. By the end of the second episode it’s deep in WTF territory. It’s currently getting high praise around the otakusphere, but I’m skeptical that it’s better than Madoka, as some claim. I suppose I’ll have to watch the rest of it and see.

For no good reason, I downloaded a curiosity called “Ravex in Tezuka World.” I should have bailed out when I saw this

but I foolishly watched the whole thing. The planet of Reearth, whose denizens are escapees from Osamu Tezuka’s various works, is threatened by Dark Silence. However, the cheesy dance music of the Ravex trio saves the day, with some assistance from an altered Astroboy.

Not even Prince Princess Queen Sapphire can save this mess.

Heroines and heroes, and a new poll

Balsa (Seirei no Moribito) is the most heroic character in anime according to visitors to this site, followed by Simon (Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann), Homura Akemi (Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica), Kenshin Himura (Samurai X; Rurouni Kenshin) and Vash the Stampede (Trigun). Others receiving votes are Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist), Nanoha Takamachi (Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha), Nausicäa (Nausicäa), Rem Saverem (Trigun), Togusa (Ghost in the Shell), Allen Schezar (Vision of Escaflowne), Yoshika Miyafuji (Strike Witches), Yoko (Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann), Alphonse Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist), Ashitaka (Princess Mononoke), Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop) and Eboshi Gozen (Princess Mononoke).

There is a now poll up: which is the outstanding romantic couple in anime? I’m doing this one in two stages. Vote for up to three in the first round. The top ten will advance to the final round.

I regret that I had to disqualify a few of the nominees for not being old enough. In a few years Syaoran and Sakura, Hayama and Sana, and Haraken and Yasako will be good candidates, but ten and eleven is a little young for serious romance, no matter what CLAMP thinks.

Is there in anime no romance?

Here are the nominees so far for the outstanding romantic couple in anime.

Jinto and Lafiel (Crest/Banner of the Stars)
Keiichi and Belldandy (Ah! My Goddess)
Giroro and Natsumi (Kerero Gunsou)
Kyouichi and Harumi (Shingu)
Ayato and Haruka (RahXephon)
Shichika and Togame (Katanagatari)
Kenji and Natsuki (Summer Wars)
Tomoya and Nagisa (Clannad)
Mikiya and Shiki (The Garden of Sinners)
Renton and Eureka (Eureka Seven)
Noboru and Mikako (Voices of a Distant Star)
Lawrence and Holo (Spice & Wolf)
Shuji and Chise (Saikano)
Shinra and Celty (Durarara)
Rosette and Chrono (Chrono Crusade)
Batou and Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell)
Ryuji and Taiga (Toradora)
Isaac and Miria (Baccano)

Surely there are more. I’m having trouble coming up with other couples, though — Marco and Gina (Porco Rosso), perhaps? There’s a lot I haven’t watched, and I have no special interest in love stories. If you know of any worthy anime couples missing from the nominations, please mention them in the comments.

Alternative animation

Ubu on $369.98 ($498.98 retail):

I refuse to apologize for bittorrenting any longer, and I refuse to feel guilty, and I refuse to buy any series from anyone, anywhere at that price. Burn in hell, Japan.

If that is indeed what purveyors of anime have planned for us, and if they do finally succeed in eliminating torrents and downloads, then anime will be dead outside of Japan. However, there are other places where good animation can be found. France, for instance. Recently I made the mistake of browsing and found both The Triplets of Belleville and Persepolis for $7 each.

Belleville was as good as I remembered, though I had forgotten just how fat the Americans were. Here are a couple of excerpts showing the eponymous triplets in their prime and in the movie’s present.

Madame Souza, who plays the bicycle wheel in the second clip, is one of the great heroic animated characters. She would have been serious competition for Balsa in the current poll had The Triplets of Belleville been a Japanese movie.

Persepolis is a girl’s-eye view of the Iranian revolution, with an sojourn in France. Despite its subject matter, it’s often quite funny.

I highly recommend both movies.

Other bargains I spotted include Chicken Run and The Corpse Bride, each for $5. I also found a two-disc edition of Coraline for $7 at the grocery store. It includes two pairs of red/green 3D viewers.


Looking for Christmas presents for youngsters? Petite Princess Yucie is on sale at RightStuf for $10. This is an excellent price for a very good series. (Here’s Steven’s review, with which I concur.)

Princess Tutu is on sale for $15, also a good price for a very interesting story, though not as suitable for young viewers.


Both Jonathan Tappan and J. Greely have been posting pictures of their recent trips to Japan. Visit their weblogs and see.


Newt Gingrich has an idea for enhancing American defenses.


Hot stuff:

What really happened to Gollum and the ring in Mt. Doom?

A spectacular recent video of Kilauea in action.

Tristan and Iseult …

Romeo and Juliet
Porphyro and Madeline
Heathcliff and Catherine
Tracy and Hepburn
Ignatius and Myrna
Zaphod and Zaphod

These are a few of the great romantic couples of Western Culture. Who are their anime counterparts? Some possiblilties: Jinto and Lafiel (Crest/Banner of the Stars), Keiichi and Belldandy (Ah! My Goddess), Giroro and Natsumi (Kerero Gunsou), Kyouichi and Harumi (Shingu), Ayato and Haruka (RahXephon), Shichika and Togame (Katanagatari).

Who else? Please post your nominations in the comments. If there are enough couples, this will be the next sidebar poll.

A couple of arbitrary restrictions:

• No children. Syaoran and Sakura make a cute couple, but they’re way too young.

• Heterosexual couples only. No yaoi/yuri, please, and no harems.

Oh yeah, anime

I used to write a lot about Japanese animation. I haven’t lately, partly because my obsessions vary with time, partly because I haven’t had opportunity to watch much of anything at all, animated or not. If nothing else goes wrong, ((While my luck isn’t Brickmuppet bad, the past 18 months have not been pleasant.)) there is a good chance that I will finally have my place back to myself again very soon, Then I will finally watch the rest of Dog Days and some more of Hyouge Mono, and see what else might be worth my time.

I don’t know if I will be able to afford maintaining an interest in anime, though. Katanagatari, a show high on my to-buy list, is offered in two Blue Ray/DVD “premium editions,” each containing half the series. These sets are available as “weekly specials” at RightStuf for $52 each. Katanagatari is good, but it’s not $100+ good. It wasn’t a Suzumiya Haruhi-level megahit, and I doubt that it will ever be released in an affordable DVD-only edition. Ditto Arakawa Under the Bridge, a series on my to-investigate list. Such prices seem to be what we can expect for most interesting series licensed during the next several years, until Blue Ray discs drive DVDs out entirely. When that happens, this might be what to expect. If so — well, good bye, anime.


In other anime news, Dennou Coil remains unlicensed in America.


Feline stroke of the week:

Gingrich, who would have made a marvelous Marxist ….


You can read the grim details and take the quiz yourself, if you dare, here.


Fear the Death Note.

Miscellaneous notes

I discovered this downtown this past weekend. I’m not sure what it is, but because it is big, prominent and ugly, it’s probably art.

Some perhaps not-unrelated art news.


Chinese science education might not be quite as rigorous as thought.


… Studio 4C has taught me that, if it’s pretty enough, I won’t mind if it’s nonsense


Election notes:

I like his attitude.

End post-mortem discrimination.


For guitar aficionados, a proposition from a thread on Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton:

Roy’s playing: like a funeral. Danny’s playing: like a carnival.

If Buchanan’s playing is funereal, it’s one hell of a service.

Bonus video: a twelve-year-old Joe Bonamassa plays Gatton’s telecaster.


The idea of a maid café is a bit creepy, but this one might be worth visiting for its name.

(Via dotclue.)


A couple of notes for volcano watchers:

There’s a natural jacuzzi near El Hierro in the Canary Islands.

Nyamuragira in the Congo is putting on a nice display of lava fountains.


Altogether ookie

Some favorite spooky, creepy anime-related tunes and videos for the Halloween weekend.

Ghost Hound was a major disappointment, but the opening song, Mayumi Kojima’s “Poltergeist,” is terrific.

Here is Susumu Hirasawa’s “Parade” from Paprika, illustrated with scenes from the movie.

(Although Hirasawa may be best-known to anime fans for his soundtracks to Satoshi Kon’s work, he’s had a long and interesting career stretching back to the ’70’s. Of particular note is his influential synth-rock band P-Model. Look for the first album, In a Model Room (good luck finding it), and see where Hiroyuki Hayashi really got his ideas. (There’s also a K-On connection, which you can discover for yourself.))

Here’s the cheerful, upbeat ending song to the heartwarming series Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (So Long, Mr. Despair).

The opening of Hakaba Kitaro (Graveyard Kitaro) was storyboarded by the spasmodically brilliant Kenji Nakamura in Shigeru Mizuki’s style.

Here’s something you might remember from years gone by.

Let’s end with a tender lullaby by Hirasawa from Paranoia Agent. ((If you want something a little livelier, try the opening.))


Bonus link: Jack Chick meets H.P. Lovecraft.

Trivia and silliness

Life continues insane. Banging my head against the wall hasn’t done much good, so I’m seeing how well tearing my hair out works. Here is some frivolity to amuse you while I try to figure out how I ever got marooned on this ridiculous planet.


Ubu speculates on sequels to various anime series:

Grenadier: In which Rushuna has to go into the hospital for back surgery.

In the sequel to Divergence Eve, it’s the entire female cast.


I found it here.


Professor Mondo has posted a couple of tunes from his band’s forthcoming EP. You can listen to them here. If you like ’60’s garage rock, you might find them quite listenable. I particularly recommend “Garden Girl” if you have a taste for cheesy Vox organ.


A couple of major events come up next month.

Warren Harding, thinking outside of his wooden box, is campaigning for President in the 2011 elections, cleverly cutting his opponents off a year early.

• You’ve heard of Plan Nine from Outer Space, Manos: The Hands of Fate and Robot Monster, of course, but how about King Kung Fu? It’s allegedly as bad as any of them, and it was made right here in Wichita. One of my acquaintances in the SCA had a role in the movie. He refuses to discuss it. ((Another SCA friend was in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. You can identify her by the paper bag over her head.)) It will be shown on the big screen, quite possibly for the last time ever, a week from tomorrow. I probably should attend this historic event, but I’m pretty sure I have something else I need to do then.


“Truly, you are a frequent flyer!”

(Via the Anchoress.)

Who is the unluckiest person in the galaxy?

Seina Yamada, of Tenchi Muyo GXP, or Ken the Brickmuppet? Consider this, this, this and this, and there’s plenty more in the archives.


So there is a rumor that Bob Dylan might get the Nobel Prize for Literature. Well, okay. The Peace Prize is absolutely meaningless nowadays, so why not make the literary prize a joke as well? ((I am aware that some intelligent people think Dylan is a Great Artist, but in my arrogant opinion, he has but a modest talent for doggerel and none whatsoever for music.))


High heels obviously make no sense for superheroines. ((Sailor Mars’ greatest superpower is the ability to sprint in stilettos.)) Neither does exposed cleavage.


Some examples of the ninja in Japanese art.

Nightmares, mostly academic

From the aptly-named “Overthinking It,” an analysis of the political economy of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:

But the strong feminist themes of the series are built on a foundation of political contradictions. The most fantastic element of the show is not that ponies can talk or that dragons exist; it is the illusion that an egalitarian society can be maintained among groups with massive biologically inherent gaps in ability and economic utility. By even the most cursory of sociological and economic analyses, the society in MLP: FiM should be highly stratified along class and racial lines. And there are clear signs of that stratification, except they are obscured by a propagandistic focus on the power of “friendship”.


“Unoriginal,” yes; “genius,” no:

… Goldsmith describes a course he teaches entitled “Uncreative Writing.” In this course, “students are penalized for showing any shred of originality and creativity,” and rewarded for “plagiarism, identity theft, repurposing papers, patchwriting, sampling, plundering, and stealing.” The course also involves such misadventures as modifying Wikipedia pages by inserting additional spaces between words and holding classes within the online game Second Life. The final exam consists of purchasing a paper from a paper mill and presenting it to the class as one’s own, on the basis of answering the question, “Is it possible to defend something you didn’t write?”

See also Professor Mondo’s note on Pierre Menard.


I ain’t no damn academic and never will be, thank God.

“Gene, your writing style is very clear and concise. Very muscular. But it is not academic writing. It is popular writing. If you persist in writing clear prose, you will never get far in academic writing. Academic writing must be turgid and convoluted. You must force your reader to read your sentences four and five times before she can understand what you are trying to say. You must obscure the concepts that just anyone can understand. You must, as literally as possible, grab your reader by the throat and pull her face into the text, holding her captive until she can escape by understanding the essay in full after struggling and wrestling with your words.”


Announcing the Société des Bozars:

We grant that television is a tragic addiction, and we yield to no one in our sympathy for its unfortunate victims. But why must the rest of us be prisoners of other people’s filthy habits?
Join the Société des Bozars today and raise your standard against aesthetic pollution. Make a pledge to patronize only establishments with no visible television sets.

One bonus of joining is that you need never set foot in an airport concourse or a McDonald’s again.

Winfield notes

Guitarist Akihiro Tanaka and flutist Toshio Kishimoto
Guitarist Akihiro Tanaka and flutist Toshio Kishimoto

When the international market for anime collapses, Japan can export fingerpickers. Akihiro Tanaka took second place in the International Fingerstyle Championship at the Walnut Valley Festival two years ago, first place last year, and was a featured performer this year. Meanwhile, Tomoake Kawabata placed second in this year’s contest Thursday.

Tomoaki Kawabata
Tomoaki Kawabata

Continue reading “Winfield notes”

In the pink

This has been a brutal year (-17°F in February, 110°+ repeatedly this summer) and it shows in gardens. Yews and arbor vitae are badly damaged if not dead, hostas are shriveled and sugar maples have few intact leaves left for their fall display. However, the naked ladies, a.k.a. Lycoris sqamigera, spent the worst of the heat undeground and look just dandy right now.


I’m going to be away from the computer for a few days. While I’m gone, you can study the saxophone solo in “Tank!”