Coming soon to a sky near you

46P/Wirtanen on November 26. (Photo by Gerald Rhemann)

Comet 46P/Wirtanen will be cruising by our planet later this month:

Ranked in terms of distance from Earth, this will be the 20th closest approach of a comet dating as far back as the ninth century A.D., and the tenth closest approach since 1950. The minimum distance between 46P and the Earth (perigee) will be 11,586,350 kilometers (7,199,427 miles), occurring December 16, 2018, at 13:06 Universal Time, a little less than four days after the comet passes its minimum distance from the Sun of 187 million kilometers (98.1 million miles).

Don’t expect a thrilling show. Despite its close approach, this one will probably not be another Hale-Bopp. It may reach 3rd magnitude, but even so it will likely be difficult to see if conditions aren’t excellent.1 And if you do find it, it probably won’t look like the popular image of a comet with a bright nucleus and tail, but instead will be a circular cloud in the sky a little brighter toward the center. The moon will be bright then, too, which won’t help.

Update: a couple more pictures of the comet, here and here.

Cigarettes and sweets

Advisory: ACCA features explicit scenes of cigarette smoking

There’s one episode left in ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department, which will determine whether the show is an analysis of federalism or the tale of a bureaucrat who would be king. It deserves more comment than I have time and patience for right now. For further information, see M.O.’s brief discussion of the show at its midpoint here (beware of spoilers). Here are few screencaps for the post I’m not writing.

Watching ACCA may cause weight gain
Fan service, for certain sorts of fans: a Nikon SP rangefinder camera
Political intrigue is for the birds

ACCA is the only series of the winter season I managed to watch more than a couple of episodes of (other than the short Nobunaga no Shinobi). Nothing announced for the spring or summer seasons has caught my attention. However, in October there will be a new series based on Keiichi Sigsawa’s Kino no Tabi books. The original series is a minor classic and is on the short list of anime to recommend to people who think they don’t like anime. Now, would someone please license the books for North America, this time for real?

Hozuki no Reitetsu will also return in the fall.

A book in the library

There will be a proper series of The Ancient Magus’ Bride starting in October. If it’s of similar quality to the OVAs (recommended), it will be worth watching.

Not an ordinary library

The song of the Taiwanese garbage truck

Beethoven, Bądarzewska, Mozart
Beethoven, Bądarzewska, Mozart

One of the many shows I don’t plan to watch this fall is ClassicaLoid. ANN describes it thus:

The story follows high school students Kanae and Sōsuke, who live in a provincial town that is trying to revitalize itself with music. One day, suddenly “Classicaloid” versions of Beethoven and Mozart appear in front of Kanae and Sōsuke. When the suspicious-looking Classicaloids play music they call “mujik,” it has a strange power: stars start to fall, and giant robots appear. Now every day is tumultuous. Eventually, more Classicaloids start to appear such as Bach, Chopin, and Schubert. What is the great power that the Classicaloids have? Are they friends or foe to humanity?
The show’s music will include pop, rock, techno, and other arrangements of famous classical works, arranged by well-known Japanese musicians. The official website states that the show will also feature “battles, slapstick comedy, heartwarming stories, and light love(?).”

It sounds dumb, and while you are welcome to do what you like with Liszt and Tchaikowsky, I don’t appreciate anyone monkeying around with Chopin.

One of the composers victimized is a certain Bądarzewska. I’d never heard of this person, so I did a little searching and discovered that the composer is presumably Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska. She wrote a piano piece called “The Maiden’s Prayer.” From Wikipedia:

Percy Scholes, writes in The Oxford Companion to Music (9th edition, reprinted 1967) rather unkindly of Bądarzewska: “Born in Warsaw in 1838 [sic] and died there in 1861, aged twenty-three [sic]. In this brief lifetime she accomplished, perhaps, more than any composer who ever lived, for she provided the piano of absolutely every tasteless sentimental person in the so-called civilised world with a piece of music which that person, however unaccomplished in a dull technical sense, could play. It is probable that if the market stalls and back-street music shops of Britain were to be searched The Maiden’s Prayer would be found to be still selling, and as for the Empire at large, Messrs. Allen of Melbourne reported in 1924, sixty years after the death of the composer, that their house alone was still disposing of 10,000 copies a year.”
The composition is a short piano piece for intermediate pianists. Some have liked it for its charming and romantic melody, and others have described it as “sentimental salon tosh”. The pianist and academic Arthur Loesser described it as a “dowdy product of ineptitude.”

You can listen to the piece here, and Bob Wills’ version here.


The only current show that I’m following is Mob Psycho 100. Though less overtly comic than One Punch Man, it has much of the same sensibility, with a similar contrast of naiveté and cynicism, and with a similar satirical edge.


I gave up on Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress half-way through the first episode. Pixy stuck it out and reports that it is

Completely implausible. These people are so dumb the zombies would starve to death.



At one point in Summer Wars (recommended), a list of people who solved a puzzle in the movie is displayed. While rewatching the movie recently, I spotted a familiar name. You might find other names of interest, variously misspelled.


A reminder from The Political Hat:


Double feature

Most of Satoshi Kon’s works are long out of print and are generally only available at extortionate prices or through irregular channels. However, Paramount Pictures is currently streaming Millennium Actress, his most approachable movie, for free. That’s it above.

Meanwhile, Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle has been acquired for North America. Will it come to Wichita? We can hope, but I doubt it.

Continue reading “Double feature”


If you’re a creative sort, you have an opportunity to collaborate with Neil Gaiman. Unfortunately, the deadline is next Monday. I wish I’d heard about this earlier.


Coming attractions: Pixy might be able to see Comets Lemmon and PanSTARRS now. The latter should be visible to those of us in the northern hemisphere soon.

There are more comet pictures here.


Vertical, Inc., is considering whether to translate Yusuke Kishi’s Shin Sekai Yori. If an English-language copy of the novel would be worth $25 to you, go to Vertical’s Tumblr page and “like” it. They need 4500 people to express an interest before they’ll undertake the project, and I was only #699.

Kishi does have one book available in English translation. I’ll probably include The Crimson Labyrinth in my next order.

If you’re not watching the anime Shin Sekai Yori, you’re missing one of the finest — and most nightmarish — science fiction stories ever broadcast.


Bambi Meets Godzilla, rebuilt:

You can watch it in 1080 if your computer can handle it.


Professor Mondo‘s novel is now available as pixels at I just got a new pair of glasses, so I’ll probably wait for the print edition and read it the way books were meant to be read, on dead trees. You can read one of his short stories here.


A note on current events in the Catholic Church: everything you read in the secular press is complete and absolute BS. Don’t believe anything you read. I suggest checking in occasionally with Elizabeth Scalia if you want an informed perspective.

Meanwhile, here’s the Vatican version of March Madness, and Christopher Buckley’s introduction to simony.



Which famous British poet is this? The answer is here.

(Via Eve Tushnet.)

Seasonal yawn

Gee, it’s summer already, and I haven’t yet finished ignoring the spring anime season. Is there anything coming up that’s worth my attention? Let’s see. Moyashimon Returns and Dog Days’, probably. I might check out Sword Art Online, Joshiraku and Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (Humanity Has Declined), ((Speaking of decline ….)). And that’s all that looks even slightly interesting.

Out of morbid curiosity, I watched fifteen minutes of Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. Pros: Girls in skin-tight uniforms. Cons: Everything else.

I did watch the first episode of Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi all the way through. The art is low-budget but pretty. It looks like the emphasis of the storytelling will be on romantic intrigues, which is not of great interest to me. What did catch my eye was the botany in the opening, in particular what looked like Epiphyllum hybrids. This is curious, because the parent cactus species come from Central American jungles and were not likely to have been cultivated in 13th-century Japan.


I recently finished the first season of Dog Days, by the way, and it was good. I wish I could recommend it for youngsters, but there is a little too much fanservice.

I also finished Soul Eater, finally. At the two-third’s point, it looked like it was going to be a very good series, with Vast Conspiracies Revealed at the end, and Everything Explained and the World Put to Rights. But the plots fizzled out, and the rest of the show ended up being mostly just a lot of fighting.

Which is not to say that it’s a bad show. It is always entertaining, with effortless transitions between violent action, horror and farce. It just could have been more.


I see that Haibane Renmei will be available in September for a very good price.

Be sure to miss it

Remember this?

Neglected by his globe-trotting father, Popper grows into a sharkish real-estate wheeler-dealer, flipping New York landmarks and falling out of touch with his young son (Maxwell Perry Cotton) and adolescent daughter (Madeline Carroll). He must, in addition to wrangling the birds — a bequest from Dad, multiplied by a customer service error — try to win back his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and woo a reluctant seller (Angela Lansbury) to part with the Tavern on the Green.

I sure don’t, and I read Mr. Popper’s Penguins many times back before the last ice age. Please, if you have to make a crummy movie, at least base it on a lousy book, not a childhood favorite.

Tall, slender and on little wheels

Fred Himebaugh, a.k.a. “The Fredösphere,” who once wrote a jazz chamber opera using Terry Bisson’s “They’re Made Out of Meat” as the libretto, has unleased his idea of a pop song upon an defenseless world. “Earth Girl” is an a capella celebration of interplanetary romance. The performers are not credited; I presume they are Fred, Fred, Fred and Fred. Frëd is some kind of genius; what kind, I hesitate to say. It’s available at


It’s spring preview time again. As usual, little looks worthwhile. C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control is directed by Kenji Nakamura, who previously did Mononoke and Trapeze. Even if the story makes no sense, the visuals should be entertaining. I’ll probably also sample Moshidora to see if it’s possible to make management interesting. I might see how Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera compares to the original. The preview looks true to Go Nagai: too childish for adults, too pervy for kids.

There are times when I would swear that every man, woman and child in Japan is a pervert. I really didn’t need to read about Lotte no Omocha.


Some visitors have come here looking for a “shinmoedake webcam.” There’s one here and a couple more here (the sixth and fifth seventh and sixth from the bottom in the box at right. The fourth fifth from the bottom ((The Suwanosejima camera is back (second from the bottom), though you still can’t see much.)) is Sakurajima, which is worth checking regularly). The Shinmoedake crater at Kirishima did erupt again Sunday, but it was not as catastrophic as the L.A. Times would have you believe:

If there was destruction and panic, everyone was over it in time to go to the mall the next day.

The big show was back in January.

If it’s “silly hindu stuff,” you’re looking for, I can’t help you.


Holmes to Watson Victorique to Kazuya:

“As I’ve explained, my fives senses are on high alert, gathering fragments of chaos from the world around me. The fountain of knowledge inside me toys with them out of sheer boredom, reconstructing them. If the inclination strikes me, I occasionally verbalize this in a fashion that even a terribly ordinary person like you can understand. Normally, though, I can’t be bothered, which is why I remain silent.”
Gosick, page 30

… and that’s where I quit reading. I might watch the first episode of the series Gosick to see if the animated Victorique is any less obnoxious than her print conterpart, but I doubt that I’ll follow it.

I might also watch the first episode of Haiyoru! Nyaruani: Remember My Love to see if it’s any better than the lousy OVA shorts I saw some time back. I expect that one episode will be sufficient. (Update: Never mind.)

The winter anime that look most promising are Fractale, a noitaminA offering, and Mahou Shoujo Madoka?Magica, directed by Shinbo. I might also take a look at Yumekui Merry for its Touhou affinities. Nothing else looks interesting. It may be just as well; real life continues to be annoyingly complicated, and I have plenty else to read and watch in what free time I have.

Miscellaneous silliness

Ubu watched Linebarrels of Iron so you don’t have to.


“This is either going to be a laugh riot, or I’m going to want to hurt somebody.”

The one in pink is Sherlock Shellingford, not to be confused with Sherlock Holmes.

Just wondering: what exactly does the word “milky” signify to the Japanese?


Here’s the second-most impressive Touhou video I’ve seen: ((The most impressive remains this one.))

Then there’s this:


I enjoyed The Triplets of Belleville — one of the few movies I’ve seen in a theatre this century — and I’ve been waiting impatiently for Sylvain Chomet’s next movie. Unfortunately, The Illusionist is apparently a disappointment.


Can’t get out for your morning run because of the weather? Crank up your organ and dash through Chopin’s “Revolutionary” etude:

(The 19th-Century Czech pianist Alexander Dreyschock played this piece with left-hand octaves, which is at least as impressive a stunt as this.)

(Via Frëd.)


The manga magazine Young Jump has published a history of the Ig Nobel prizes, noted here and here. There’s no translation, but the images speak for themselves.

The 2010 Ig Nobel prizes will be awarded September 30. Fans of Moyashimon will be interested to know that the theme of this year’s ceremony is “bacteria.” Scheduled events include:

The Bacterial Opera: World premiere of a mini-opera about the bacteria who live on a woman’s front tooth, and about that woman. Conducted by David Stockton. Starring Maria Ferrante, Ben Sears, Roberta Gilbert and Thomas Michel as bacteria — and Jenny Gutbezahl as The Woman. Pianist Branden Grimmett. Costumes by Jenn Martinez.
Microbial Miniconcert by Evelyn Evelyn (and their friends Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley)
Pre-pre-show Boston Squeezebox Ensemble microbeconcert in lobby (begins at 6:45 pm), led by Dr. Thomas Michel
Pre-show Pathogenic Bacterial Pianoconcerto by Maria Eliseeva


If you get tired of reading manga and watching anime, you can always watch the Japanese Vesuvius. Sakura-jima has been puffing away quite energetically recently, and this webcam has a good view of the active crater. (If you click on the cross-hairs, you can take control of the camera for a while.) It’s best viewed during daylight hours in Japan, though allegedly, if you’re lucky, you can occasionally see some incandescence and lightning at night. (Update: Visibility might be impaired by clouds, particularly when tropical storms are in the region, as is currently the case.)