Sunday, December 31, 2006

No "Noir Year's Eve" for me this time.

Subject: Noir
I'm just too sick this weekend to muster up a party like my previous two attempts at a tradition. I think this means I've only watched Noir a couple of times this year. I think... One, at least. I suppose I'll make up for it later. *sigh*

Anyway, it's nearly 2007. Forgive me if I don't bother dredging up a retrospective of 2006; I think over all, it's better off forgotten. Here's looking to something better in the new...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Back

Subject: Musings
I am apparently allergic to Arizona.

Well, that is to say, on Wednesday, a dust storm kicked up, and my sinuses completely went into overdrive. I was able to find some wimpy Benadrils to help, but because of this whole crystal meth craziness, it was impossible to get a hold of normal old-fashioned Sudafed. So I got to fly home with my head totally stuffed and no sleep. And if you've been in a plane, you know how the change in air pressure affects your ears? Well, imagine it while all stuffed up. Ouch.

So today, I'm still on West-coast time, eating chicken noodle soup, popping Sudafeds that I had to sign away for, and more or less miserably trying to keep my forehead from imploding. I guess I need a vacation from my vacation right about now.

More later; staring at the computer is making me dizzy.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Quick Pix

Subject: Musings
Well, I had a nice time exploring a little today, though my evening wound up a bit of a dissappointment. Not a big surprise considering it's Christmas eve, but there's not much open here in the "Gaslamp Quarter". The restaurant I went to was quite nice, and the entree was very tasty (a seafood California/Asian thing), but holy moly it was expensive. Overall I'm dissappointed in this area.

Next time, I think I'll try staying around Pacific Beach, where I hung out this afternoon. That's a funkier, and way more laid back, surfer-bohemian kind of place, and it was really nice.

Here's some pics:

From my room:


Surfers at Pacific Beach:


On the beach:



More beach:



The view from Point Loma:





Well, in the morning I'm off for the Middle Of Nowhere. I doubt I'll get to be connected until I'm on my way back home. So, Happy Generic Winter Solstice Festivities, everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nice day for a drive

Subject: Musings
I forgot to mention the one bright spot from yesterday: at the car rental counter, they had a cheap upgrade available to the special-edition Shelby-customized Mustang. I was just going to get a convertible like mine, but I thought this would be pretty cool.

Pics later, but essentially it's a souped-up, aggressive version of what I've got, and it has quite a nice get-up-and-go to it. The ride is a little rougher because of the stiffened sport suspension, but that also made it handle corners a lot better than mine. And the exhaust rumble... a lot of fun; you can hear it coming around the block.

Okay, it's a total poseur-mobile, but on Monday when I trek out across the desert to get to The Middle Of Nowhere, I'll be digging it on the wide-open freeway.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Off to a wonderful start. Not.

Subject: Musings
Well, after waffling about bringing my laptop and not bringing my laptop, I decided to lug it along anyhow. I figured since I'm splurging on first class tickets (the regular fare at the times I wanted weren't much cheaper, so why not?), I wouldn't need to be standing around all that much.

Well, it turns out the weather in Chicago sucks this morning, and the plane isn't even here yet, though the flight was supposed to leave an hour ago. Combined with the fracas in Denver that stranded thousands, there's no guaranteed alternate flights that will get me to San Diego before tomorrow night.

So I'm going to get to Chicago and try the dreaded "standby" gamble.

Again, since I'm flying first class, it's usually easier to get on one that way than with economy. But it does mean being stranded in O'Hare for hours, lugging this laptop and my carryon from gate to gate like some sort of gypsy-in-a-sportcoat.

Best case, I'll get to San Diego by 5:30 Pacific time. Worst (for today), 10pm. I'd rather not think about being stuck overnight. Bleh.

At least the Rochester airport has free WiFi, so here I am, blogging away. I won't bother with pictures, because if you've seen one gray and drizzly airport tarmac, you've seen them all.

UPDATE: I'm in O'Hare now, and have 2 hours to kill. Just checking messages first while trying to recharge a little, then I think I'll go find a beer somewhere. Hope I can make it on the next one.

UPDATE 7:30 Pacific Time: Finally, I made it. That took way too long. I managed to get on that flight, but there weren't any first class tickets left. Grrr. But I managed to get an aisle seat on the emergency exit row, and there was no middle passenger, so it worked out all right.

Except I didn't get any meal like I would have in first class. So now I'm exhausted, starving, and really thirsty. Luckily the Gaslamp Quarter has a zillion pubs and restaurants to choose from; I'm just too tired to leave my room yet, though. *sigh*

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ferry fare-thee-well

Subject: Musings
The Rochester "fast ferry" just slipped over the horizon due north of my house at 7:50pm.

It was way the heck out there, but it's huge, so I stood out in the cold (with a nice smoke!) and watched it slowly creep across the horizon until it dissappeared.

Oh well, it would have been cool to keep it around, but I never got around to riding it over to Toronto. And, apparently, so did the thousands of other wannabe riders who also didn't spend any money on it either. Thus it lost millions for the City of Rochester.

Tomorrow I fly to San Diego, where I'll spend the weekend before driving over the The Middle Of Nowhere, Arizona for Christmas week. Supposed to be sunny and mild for the whole trip. I'll have my laptop, and will hopefully post a picture or three, but there won't be much media blogging, and when I'm in The Middle of Nowhere, I probably won't be connected all that often. Probably for the better.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dexlactiwood

Subject: TV
"Dexter" had it's season finale, and for once I wasn't quite keeping ahead of it and predicting everything. The red herrings were a bit mundane, and in retrospect, the "final encounter" was really cliche... but because of the word that there would be a second season, I was wasn't entirely expecting it, figuring the chase would continue into the next season for some lame reason.

The performances were kind of fraying around the edges, too. For every believable moment, there were 2 or 3 forced ones, it seemed. Still, the ticking-clock tension was entertainingly maintained for most of it, and it still held my interest better than most normal network shows. But I'm figuring that by the time the next season rolls around, they'll need to have a mighty compelling hook to bring me back. It's kind of absurd that they're going to try and drag it out more.

"Battlestar Galactica" is pausing on a bit of a showdown cliffhanger, with Adama about to nuke the temple from orbit (it's the only way he can be sure... *cough*), which I suppose would mercifuly end the soap opera of jealousy and betrayal that's passing for drama down there. Well, that's a bit reactionary, I suppose -- it's being performed reasonably well, but it's a bit of an eye-roller at times. More interesting is why the Cheif was inexplicably drawn to discover the temple in the first place... is he actually a Cylon like he suspected way back when? There's a big to-do being made about the "final five" or whatever, and Baltar may be one of them as well. Anyway, the show will be back in another month, but they're moving it to Sunday nights. In the "Dexter" timeslot, oddly enough... (different network, obviously) Weird place to put it though.

Finally, I caught up with the last couple of "Torchwood" eps; and the stories and side characters are probably the most interesting thing about them. The main characters, though... not so much. As much as I want to learn more about Jack's circumstances, he's just not very compelling. And everyone else ranges from unintersting to mildly repulsive. Still, it's better than most, but all in all, I'd rather be watching more Doctor Who. When's that Christmas episode due?

Friday, December 15, 2006

You reek, eh? Plus more undead fashion and extra-large non-kids

Subject: Noir
I didn't get a chance to post much this week; sorry 'bout that.

I caught up with episode 9 of "Red Garden", which more or less just continues where we've been before. More clues as to what's going on (well, some somewhat blatent tell-all monologuing), but no song this week. There's some subtley good things going on with the animation in a few places, which really make a couple of the characters come to life. Even though they're undead and all. Well, you know...

Disc 4 of "Eureka Seven" -- I dunno. Just when it totally starts to annoy me with Renton's clueless immaturity, it goes and puts a couple of little neat twists in it. Then it goes back and annoys me with the overall immaturity. *sigh* I dunno. I was more appreciative of the overall animation effort in this one, and there's a lot of "life" to go around because of it, which is lacking in oh so much anime. I just wish it were better written. Still, there's a few things that are still managing to hook me at least a little bit longer. We'll see.

"Fantastic Children" disc 5 -- A bit more of the backstory from the last disc. It had been a while since I saw it and I forgot a lot of it, but it started coming back to me after a bit. It turns out that the Greecians' real selves are huuuuge. Reminds me of Robotech... *cough* At any rate, I think there's just one more disc and it'll conclude. Oh, and I think I've already figured out that the spastic karate kid is Tina's long lost half-metal sweetie. I think I figured that out on the last disc. And that the Science Hag was the albino girl who lost it in the earliest episodes. Oh, and one more: the detective is Palzo. Well, somebody important has to be Palzo. And why I remember his name and not most anyone else's is quite wierd. I guess "Palzo" is easy to remember.

I realized that I haven't written up the end of "Tsubasa Chronicle" season 2 yet. I think I'll quickly re-watch it and then sum up the series. Also, the TV report for the week is cut in half, but I should say something about that, too. And then there's some "Galact-oh-yeah" to watch. Oh yeah!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Undead Fashion Models from New York™ vs. the Amazon Space Pirates

Subject: Noir
I haven't had time for much of anything for a while, since I was actually working on that article for Media Promenade (via Google Translation)... which I'll be posting on Bee Train Fan soon, as well.

But today I caught up with a backlog of a couple of things. First up was discs 2 & 3 of "Sol Bianca", which I started quite a while back. There's not much to say about it besides the fact that I thought it was enjoyable. Though it was more popcorn than profound, I still like how actualized the details of their universe were, and the characters were fun to watch. Girls-with-guns ain't hard to win me over, after all... Heh.

Also, I'd been neglecting "Red Garden", and caught up with eps 6, 7 & 8. 6 was quite the angst-o-rama, and featured the return of the melancholoy singing interlude, while the girls had to come to terms with yet another rule that defines their horrible existence -- they're all in it together, and if one quits, they all die. Ep 7 brings us a taste of backstory, and a glimpse into the "other side", showing the so-called bad guys may not be 100% "bad". Or, at least, they have what might be considered understandable motivations. Episode 8 was one of the most genuine so far, and actually amusing at times, and probably had the best breaking-into-song momentup to this point. The four girls are starting to bond, and feeling a little bit of hope of overcoming their dire situation.

Unfortunately, it seems like that hope might be falsely planted, though it's left rather vauge. I know that even though the moment itself seemed genuine, I couldn't help but thing the other shoe was about to drop. I'm glad it didn't in that episode, though, because that would have been a cheap cop-out, I think. It worked really well with it just the way it was, and it made up for some of the starkly brutal crap from earlier. Unfortunately, it also means that we're probably about to dive into another excessively brutal layer.

I don't know how many episodes this is supposed to be, though I can't see how they'd be able to stretch it to a full 26 without some crazy plot twist or change in scope. So if it's actually only 13, that means we'll be getting into some intense conflict and showdowns pretty soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

TV Blurbs

Subject: TV
Just a quick roundup of my weekly TV usuals... plus it'll get that insanity off the top of the page. *cough*

"Torchwood" -- Kind of a bit of an odd episode, which sort of half-heartedly got into an "ethics of ressurrection" thing, but wound up generally utilitarian about it in the long run. Towards the end, it finally hints at what may be the series "arc" -- something "big and dark" and heading this way; heading for Jack. Or something like that. Maybe that means we'll graduate from "monster-of-the-week" mode soon.

"Dexter" -- The side stories are still reeking of obviousness, and by the end of the episode they've pretty much put all of Dexter's repressed trauma out for all to see, in tiny-but-obvious flashback flashes. But ol' Ice Truck dude is starting to slip up a lot, and seems to be unravelling a lot more in a way that seems uncharacteristic of his, uh, character. Looks like we're heading for a bit of a climax/breakthrough, which is good, because I don't know how much longer they can drag it out for. We already know everything. Now it's just more ticking-clock.

"Hereos" -- the year-ender meant to keep us hanging for a few weeks over the holidays. And the characters were kind of interesting to see how the threads of the plots started to cross. So much so that the one thread still hanging out there (Niki et al) seems so much less interesting. Yeah, I know, there was a path-crossing there a while back as well, but it doesn't seem to play into the destiny that everyone else does. And while most everything that happened was more or less predictable, the one "twist" around Peter's vision admittedly left enough of a hook to make me curious as to what it all meant. But, a hiatus for a few weeks will be fine.

Also year-ending, "Studio 60" -- of course, it was "The Christmas Episode". And oddly enough, the humour is actually getting funnier. Just a bit, but now it feels more believable that they're writing a comedy show. Well, just a bit. Lots of little charming moments, even enough to overlook just how many pet-peeve issues Sorkin was packing in there. From the FCC to New Orleans. The New Orleans bit involved actual musicians from there, and I've got to say, it was a nicely crafted moment. Well, the camera could have slowed it's swoopiness a bit. But it was nice. Of course, there were a couple of predictable over-sappy moments thrown in, but I guess I'll at least say that they were well-performed.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Madlax-pwned...

Subject: Noir
I really don't know where I can take the commentary of this show beyond what I've aready written so many times in the past. I'm going to try for the sake of the 'zine I'm contributing to, but for the sake of myself, I think I've covered it a million times already. How could I not.

In the last couple of episodes, this show gets really, really philosophical and almost pendantic with it's posturing. Life, death, survial, and whatnot are all intertwined in the philosophy of exististence that the show tries to evoke. The issue at hand makes the war a secondary, nay, "thirstary" issue when it boils down to it. But with the real life state of war the way it is right now, it's hard to just relegate it to the level of fancy that "MADLAX" purports to. You have to watch it through the conclusion to put the reality of the situation in perspective.

And so it winds up that I watch another round of my second favorite anime and find myself unable to affect any change, let alone be able to correctly interepret any of the symbolism and meaning present in the narrative and artwork itself. I think I know what's going on, and I'm pretty sure that I can follow the narrative, but it's obvious that unless I fill in the literal what-to-fors, I'm just posturing.

Still, it can only be said that I want the complex aspects of this otherwise simple show to be understood and accepted by those whoe stuck with it during it's airdate. It's an amazing and fullfilling story despite it's shortcomings, and it should relaly be more accepted by the usual market-focused puveyors of the mass market. In many ways, that's what the show is about, isn't it?

EDIT: Wait, WTF??!? This is probably the most PWI technobabble I've issue in many, many months... Well, whatever...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Getting there...

Subject: Noir
Just finished disc 5, leaving off where the cliffhanger hung me just over 2 years ago.

I've been trying to formulate my infamous "Crackpot Theory™" so I can write about it for Makoto's 'zine, but for every little bit of "a-ha", there's plenty of "but, what about...?".

For those who don't know my "Crackpot Theory™", it's essentially the belief that one of the threads that make "MADLAX" is that it's about actually making an anime series. Limelda is the obsessive fan. SSS is Koichi Mashimo himself. From there, it takes on quite a leap in speculation, unfortunately. I think Friday Monday is either the producer, or the writer. Carrossea is whichever one Friday isn't. Kuanjitta is the network. Madlax is the anime itself, but Margaret is the real storytelling.

It gets kind of complicated.

Which is a shame, because I'm in the "Keep It Simple, Stupid" school. But I'm trying to have fun with it, as well as make a point about how a good story lets you project a lot about yourself and your desires on to it. That's the root of what I'm going to write about. I still have a week to get it all together, and hopefully with all of it fresh in my mind, I'll get through it in short order.

More to follow, I'm sure.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Phase 1

Subject: Noir
I'm going to wrap up my "MADLAX"-a-thon with disc 3, and will blast throuh the rest tomorrow. I love this show so much that I can't help but get immersed in it, yet there's only so far I can go in any one sitting. Which is fine.

This time tommorrow, though, I'm bound to be totally unhinged and PWI-focued, even though I won't have an adequately cogent thought in my head. Oh well, what are you gonna do? Snakes on a plane, and all that....

Nintend-powned

Subject: Musings
The Nintendo "Wiii" holds a certain mythalogical place in my heart, depsite the fact that I haven't played many video games for many years.

I'm very, very attracted to the new way that the motion-sensitive contollers make such an impact on gameplay. The last console I owned was the totally ancient ColecoVision, and I played so much Dig-Dug that I must have earned a mineralogical PhD somewhere along the line... Well, okay, maybe not...

The Wii, despite it's lack of HDTV resolution, is apparently the pinnacle of gameplay, what with its' motion-control widgets and throwing-cow madness. The only Nintendo console game I've played is the origianal "Bomberman", but I'm more than willing to make up for lost time if the gameplay of this nifty little device is all that they say.

I think I'm going to have to wait until after the holidays to find a reasonably-priced version, which I think I'm okay with. Let the Xmas shoppers get all of the hype out of the way. But come January, I think I might dive in and join this whole "Wii" insanity for myself. Let's see...

Im in ur houz, cookin ur pazta...

Subject: Noir
Weather's really crappy this evening, so I'm staying in and blasting through at least a couple of discs of "MADLAX" tonight. Let's make sure I've got everything:

- Booze... Check.
- Pasta... Check.
- PWI... Not just yet.

Yeah, that's close enough. *smirk*


UPDATE 3 discs in...: How do I love this show, let me count the ways...

One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand,,,,,,,,,

Next in line for Bee Train: "Murder Princess"

Subject: Noir
Bee Train Fan member Matrim spotted the news that there's a new OVA coming out (straight to DVD, as OVAs are wont to be) on March 28th, 2007. Here's the discussion, with links I found to some more resources, including character designs.

This isn't going to be directed by Mashimo; it looks like a few of his newer staffmembers from "Tsubasa" et al are getting the chance to lead up this manga-based effort.

Doesn't look like my cup-o-tea, but as a Bee Train fan, I'll do what I can to support it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Beer goggles

Subject: TV
Last week, when I posted all those little enthusiastic blurbs about my usual Monday-night network TV shows, I had -- go figure -- a couple of beers. I was taking Thanksgiving week off from work, so why not?

This week, sober and working, I wasn't as enthralled. Go figure. Anyway, here's the quick roundup.

"Torchwood" -- I'm losing a bit of interest in this, even as they're trying to spice it up rather blatantly. The characters aren't quite doing it for me -- they're mistaking sexual shennanigans for chemistry, and that gets kind of boring, especially when layered on a "monster-of-the-week" scenario. Plus, Captain Jack just doesn't come off as cool as he could; little tidbits about his mysterious existence are almost too obvious, and they don't make up for the way he oozes smarminess. And all the other characters are written with gaping, obvious faults in a way that's just trying too hard to balance out their supposed strengths -- like they're trying to make the characters "humanly flawed", or even "complex", but seem to just be two-note transparent to me.

"Dexter" -- Yeah, last week I was totally in "I called it" mode; this week it was even more painfully obvious what was going on. And then, and then, they go ahead and completely telegraph that "yeah, that's right, that's what we did here". And the side-stories, like I had observed from the get-go, are a rather weak attempt to broaden the scope of the show, and are generally forgettable. It's still got it's moments, but it sure ain't no "Deadwood" or "Sopranos" replacement, that's for sure.

"Heroes" -- Hrm. So now we go back in time and see the origins of most of the freak... er, "genetically evolved". We even get to see how Sylar gets started. Of course, Hiro learns a "valuable lesson" in the matters of time continuity, Niki has an excuse for "Jessica-mode", and a bunch of other insightful tidbits. Which then brings us right to where we left off previously. And, oh, that "previously" and "next time" announcer voice, and tone, and writing -- and everything about it -- totally sucks. I don't mean Mohinder's narration, I mean the network bits before and after. Gah.

"Studio 60" -- Probably the least annoying out of the week, though the overall premise is really showing how thin it is. I'm starting to get annoyed that Jordan is so lacking in presence for a woman who's supposed to be a fast-track executive. I know there's supposed to be some attempt at giving her some human weakness (again with the "complex"!), but, well, she's no C.J. Otherwise, there are still some witty moments, and the rest of the characters have enjoyable aspects.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

denouement, and giant fuzzy puppies

Subject: Noir
I didn't actually get further than the first episode of "MADLAX" just yet, which is for the best. I figure I'll do a few eps at a time over the course of the week to get myself properly informed for my grand opus. Deadlines and all that; the pressure's on!

This evening I watched a couple of discs from Netflix. I've pretty much decided to switch over, so I'm in the "free trial" period right now.

First up is the animated Korean movie, "My Beautiful Girl Mari". Very nicely done. Simple. Animation-wise, it's a mix of 3D CGI with a flattened 2D character style that would be remeniscent of a cutout method, if not for it's multiplanar, almost rotoscoped style. A bit stiff in places, but otherwise it manages to capture the spark of life despite the drawbacks otherwise proscribed to it's technique. It's a combination of a "slice of life" story with a rather dreamy, almost trippy fantasy. Including a gigantic white fuzzy puppy stomping its way through a puffy-clouded dreamscape. Nice stuff. And the story, while simple, is involving enough to bring you along for the ride. I was a bit lost in the initial dialogue since I was a tad distracted, but it did it's job and reeled me in like it should. Not bad.

Also, I finally (finally!) got to end "Gankutsuou" with disc 6. It's been quite a while since I left it, and I fear I forgot quite a bit of the details of what happened. I'm confident that I had enough to go on otherwise, but I find myself kind of annoyed at the overall conclusion.

Essentially, as of the first episode on this last disc, they start spelling out exactly what happened. Which is fine, but by this point, a lot of it was pretty much in the "goes without saying" territory. So it essentially was going for the "closing the narrative threads we blatantly created in the first place" deal. Allright, fine.

Then suddenly we see the pointy-eared chick (blanking on her name) again after her being shunted to the background for quite a while, and we get into some bizzaro faceoff between the Count and his object of revenge, who turned hyper-megalomaniac and tried to take over (by blowing up) the neo-Paris that was portrayed. The final standoff was full of guns and hostages and angst and whatnot, and I don't know if it really served a useful dramatic purpose when it was finally all over and stuff started exploding. Kind of an "oooo-kay" finish there.

But it wasn't really over; suddenly we're eight (six? nine?) years in the future, and totally into "where are they now" territory. A forced denouement. And it's set up that whatsisname (the dude who's been central to all this) and the pointy-eared chick are likely set up to be paired, but what of Eugenine (I remember her name, go figure, who seems to be still competing for his attention? Everything else was very much still "where are they now" material. Though I could have sworn that "chick who the Army dude rescued" had died previously. Guess I was wrong. Oh well.

So now that it's over, I suppose that if I was able to see it in a timely fashion, I'd probably be able to have stuck with the context (and all of the names!) in such a way that I've gotten a smidgen more out of it than I did. And like I've said before, I like how they were unique with the style and all that -- they even toned back the insane texturizing to something more workable. But overall, I'm kind of disappointed that the story wasn't much of a breakthrough, and that is was more or less warmed-over leftover of the original book. The character animation, through all of the unconventionality, was really more of the same as far as limited Japanese character expression goes. Manga with funky backplates, really. There were still some breakthrough moments, though, that made it entertaining enough to stick with.

But in the end, I guess I'm kind of disappointed that all the obvious effort that went into it really missed the mark for a truly transcendent piece of work. It was within their grasp, for sure. But it missed the mark by quite a bit; probably by being way too self-aware, yet not very aware at all. Figure that one out!!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Turkeyday freakout

Subject: Musings
I've just finished picking apart the turkey I cooked for this week's festivities. "Ripped the carcass asunder", as Tom Robbin puts it in "Skinny Legs and All" (a book I'm re-reading for the first time in 15 years or so). "Like a little poem". You know what I mean.

For the afternoon I watched a couple of "Mystery Science 3000" episodes, to try and conjure the "old days" where it was re-run on Thanksgiving as the heart of a "Turkey Day marathon" -- and I'd be the only one left at the house (my housemates having family not to far away) -- so I'd cook up a stuffed bird, drink a lot of Guinness (and a Finger-Lakes-produced dry Reisling like Dr. Frank), and revel in my hedonistic carnivoriousness. So today isn't all that different.

I did try to get started on "MADLAX", though. I've been asked by Makoto to write about it for his next fanzine release, so I figured I should do a "quick" refresher before doing so. But right now, the turkey-induced tryptophan dosage is doing it's magic, and I fear that I'll be passed-out asleep before too long; just like last year's Turkey Day attempt.

Granted, that was supposed to be the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy; extended versions no less, so it's no wonder I was totally zonked out by this point. Still, it's highly unlikely that I'll get much further. I'll give it a shot, but I won't hold my breath, as it were.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"The Duh-Vinci Code"

Subject: Cinema
*sigh*. I suppose I went into this film with appropriately lowered expectations and all. And I guess it had it's neat Hollywood-ized aspects to it. But boy, howdy, was it a totally white-bread excuse for a mystery film.

Just about everything was telegraphed, but obscured in such a way that there was no real figuring out the puzzle. Which is fine, but it was so overwrought in places that I wound up just not caring if what I was watching was a clue, or a twist, or a twist-on-a-twist, or whatever.

And the very, very end? *sigh*. Ron Howard didn't actually need to literally show what was down there, did he? I mean, duh!! At least if he left it at that, he might have scored a cleverness point or something. But I guess that didn't market-test well. Despite how freakin' obvious it was! Grrr.

Anyway, I was really only in it for Audrey Tautou. I just wish it was a little more satisfying in that aspect too, though. That impish brightness that she's so good at in "Amelie" et al is rather dulled and missed totally here.

Hmm. "Amelie"... *looks over on the DVD shelf*

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The "Lifetime Acheivement" Oscar claims another victim

Subject: Noir
Robert Altman died today; a really well-reknowned director who got this year's "Lifetime Acheivement" award at the Oscars. Which, apparently, is given out almost exclusively to notables who are at death's door. Kind of an "oh, well we meant to" award.

I kind of hold that opinion because I remember when Fellini got it in 1993, just before he died. That lead me to dub it the "Kiss of Death" award, and justifiably so.

At any rate, I hadn't really developed much of a following for Altman, besides an overall abstract appreciation of what he was doing. He was more interested in the "moment" than the usual Hollywood accessability of any of his films, yet he was still able to attract the financing and the talent to do it. His filmography is diverse and experimental, and he was one of those who "got it".

I had planned on watching his last film, "Prarie Home Companion", this week, because... well, just because. Today was going to be the day I went over to Blockbuster to snag it, even. And this morning I saw the news. So, obviously, I just finished it.

He was ill enough that, at the time of the production, the studio mandated that he had a "replacement director" available in case he couldn't finish it. He managed to do it, but go figure. It was a bit of a parable about accepting the Big End. Well, it was a bit more obvious than just a parable; it was a story that had almost all of it's threads focused on ending. The end. That's it. We're done.

Rather sad, when you realize it. And, given the events of this year, a bit harsh for me. As if it didn't quite apply; almost contradictory in a way. But still obvious that he was thinking of his own inevitability at the time. He even tried to put a few words of comfort out there, in the mouth of the white-trenchcoated-so-called "angel". Before his death, it may have not been quite so obvious.

I like Garrison Keeler, but I rarely ever hear his NPR radio show that inspired the film. On the two or three occassions that I did, I was quite entertained. And I've always appreciated his writings and speaking engagments that I did witness. For a rather "face-made-for-radio" sort of guy, he's got a great way of vocally and prosaically expressing himself. His storytelling is second-to-none.

The down-homey character of the show in the film is infectious and pleasant. In a word, "nice". The deeper themes of passing-on and nostalgia for the past are just sideshows in a way to the folksy demeanor and atmosphere. It's like a way of life is dissappearing, right along with Altman's own advanced decrepitude.

There's a picture out there with Altman groping Lindsay Lohan's bare leg, while in a wheelchair on the set of this flick, which I think sums up the entire reason why I'm saluting him now. He reached out and grabbed it, and made it his. Up until the last. That's awesome. And sad. So I'll drink to him tonight. (or, I should say, keep drinking to him... *cough*)

"Meh-moirs of a Geisha"

Subject: Cinema
Not much going on with "Memiors of a Geshia", an American-directed, Chinese-starring, Japanese-costumed period piece. One thing's for sure, though: the budget (and Spielberg's producing) bought some very nice cinemetography and very pretty art direction. Colors, scenery, sets and costumes were all quite lavish and, well, pretty.

Wong Kar Wai's work has a lot more in the "pretty" and "lavish" department, not to mention far more interesting story and character portrayal. "Memiors" kept me at a distance, even though it seemed that it wanted to be far more intimate. But the general distaste for the overt societal slavery that a geisha was subjected to, the injustice of it all, wasn't enough to bring any more direct sympathy to the characters. It was all very much just an intellectual enterprise at that level. Drama and "moments" rely on just a little more than that to really bring you into it. Too bad.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The non-elite opinion?

Subject: TV
A lot of the snarkier elitist Sorkin fans have been really critical of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip". And, I suppose, it's their right and all.

But I'm enjoying it. It feels better than most everything else on network TV. The authenticity is a little strained, and the depth is a little lacking, but it still feels like something smart and enjoyable is going on. Which is all we can ask for these days.

And while I'm on the "Monday-night-on-NBC" thing, our quirky-dumb favorite "Save the cheerleader, save the world" saved the gawddamned cheerleader tonight, and yet we learned nothing! The previews for next week lead us to beleive that we just might, and there was a little bit of a tease about Our Man Hiro and what happened to him (he has become the big-time fave of the fans of this show, and he's got the resume to make it a good thing, what with his ILM nerdy background and all), and even though I was about to yell at the stupid TV and swear my vengance against the show, in the last minute it seemed to redeem itself an make me want to watch another week. Grr.

That's about it for network TV. I didn't comment on "Galact-oh-yeah", mostly because it goes without saying. "End Of Line" still plays a prominent part of the Cylon subconcious, which is totally fucking awesome, but beyond that, it's just more watch-'n-worship as far as I'm concerned.

I knew it, I knew it!!

Subject: TV
I was going to comment last week that I knew who the "ice truck killer" was in "Dexter". I had figured it out pretty much when the character was introduced (though I did sort of think it was his sister early-on...)

No spoilers, but I guess if it was that obvious, if you were watching it, you would have figured it out too. Of course, in this latest episode from Sunday night, they pretty much just gave it away. Duh.

Good episode overall, though. Great little touches, especially around the psychotherapy bits. I'm looking forward to where this goes.

Wong K-aren't I so good at this...

Subject: Cinema
Wong Kar-wai's "2046" is quite a nice film. I had come up with all sorts of adjectives and associations to blog about it, but then I read the Sunday New York Times article about his latest effort. And all the things that I was going to say were already written in there. Or, better yet, totally superceded by far more insightful prose:

His rhapsodic movies, haunted by voice-over ruminations and swathed in lush regret, seem to transpire in the realm of memory. People and places are mourned even as they are captured on camera.

Yeah, that's about right.

The article is pretty good, as it gives me some more background on the talent he usually uses, and a little tidbit about the fact that the Australian cinematographer he has used in everything I've seen thus far (Christopher Doyle) won't be with him in his current project, "My Bluberry Nights", replaced by the Frenchman Darius Khondji.

Anyway, read the article (the NYT requires a very mild registration; it's worth it, really!). But just a couple bullets of my own observation, now that I've caught up with his works:

- Wong Kar-wai manages to land the absolutely most hottest actresses in all of Hong Kong. Daaaaammmmn!

- His (and his cinemetographer's and his art director's) use of color and texture gets better and better with every film, and it started out pretty damned good.

- It's all about the moments. From the article:
“I’ve never worked with someone who’s put so much emphasis on a single moment,” Mr. Law said between takes one night. “It’s extraordinary how he’ll take a moment and replay it and slice it up.”

Fantastic.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Chibi flashbacks and alternate universes

Subject: Noir
I got a chance to catch up with "Fantastic Children" disc 4, of all things. Or, better titled, "all the flashbacks that explain most everything".

We get into the actual backstory of the Princess Tina, and what was going on on her home planet, with the scientists who became the "Children", and it's a rather neat story. Nothing particularly unique or insightful, but otherwise chock-full of the good-ol' melodramatic standards that are time-honored traditions in most all storytelling. That is to say, there's actually storytelling going on, and it's quite acceptable.

It's a departure from where the series was going, in some ways, but it still fits in quite well. I didn't quite expect it to delve as far as it did into the past, but while they're there, it's interesting enough to want to keep following along. We get into the usual "doormat triangle" aspects (the "I can deal with being 'just friends', really" angle) and other things that would otherwise make me cringe, yet frame it in a sort of epic fantasy realm that makes it watchable even for an old cynic like me. And it's a little tiny bit difficult to place the "flashback" characters in the original story, but I think the subtleties in their expressions are allowing me to map them accordingly. If I were able to retain their names at all, I'd chart them out, but I can't, so I won't bother.

Moving on, I was going to hold back on commenting on "Tsubasa Chronicles" until I had a chance to watch the last episode for the season. These last few episodes of this last arc were mostly directed by someone other than Mashimo, but overall, they have been rather interesting. One thing's for sure, this "Chaos" guy is a total dick. It was pretty obvious that he was planting fake memories via fake feathers into Sakura, and doing Sarkura wrong like that is defintely an anger-provoking act.

That said, there have been way too many "standing around" or "just staring" moments in this arc. Grrr. And the cut songs. Oy. Let's just stand around while Yuki Kajihura's vocalist goes on about some psuedo-romantic notion some more. *sigh* Still, it's nice to see Sakura own up and tell Chaos off in ep 25... calls him a coward to his face. There's not quite as much adoration of the Sakura character like there is in the first series, but you still can't help but root for her and Syaoran more than anything. I'm looking forward to wrapping up the season, and I'm also looking forward to whenever season 3 gets underway. It's grown on me that much.

I finished up "Spider Riders", at least up to ep 26. It's supposedly cancelled in Japan, it's dissappeared in the US, but it's still going in Canada. Quite a shame that there won't be more Japanese episodes, because those were really getting quite interesting, despite my inability to truly understand the narrative. The whole mystery around Aqune is probably the core of it all. She's all the more mysterious when I have to rely on the visuals to tell me what's going on; I suppose I'll subject myself to that awful Canadian dub a little more just so I can catch more of that storyline.

Otherwise, there's still moments that are quite subtley funny, especially with the classic comic-relief character embodied by Grasshop. Damn, I mean, he even has kids! The Japanese voice for him is hilarious, and the scenarios, while simple, really play up his character. I find myself looking foward very much to the (hopefully quickly arriving) region 1 DVDs. And I hope the Japanese lapse is actually just a hiatus and not an actual cancellation. I'll have to ask around to see.

It's a pity that the show didn't attract much attention from the usual anime fanbase, because it's really quite clever; far moreso than most of the usual boy's fighting genre. But it's been written-off from the beginning as a "Canadian" show without even trying to find out the facts behind it's production. Oh well, I guess everybody can't be Bee Train fans like me. *sigh*

Finally, more "*sigh*"... I'm still watching "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" for some reason... It's a tad addictive, though I'm afraid I can't say it's for any highbrow reasons that a snob like me could admit to. Like I said before, it's this year's "Kannaduki" without the shojou-ai. There are strange little twists and a sci-fi aspect to it that makes me keep coming back for more. And the characters are interesting, albiet nearly stereotypical. Nearly. It's the slight differences that are probably playing the most in keeping me watching.

I'm getting a little worn-out by it though. It's getting hard to imagine that there's anywhere else that it can go that will be interesting enough. But I guess that since I'm up to episode 10, and I've only found up through 14, that we must be getting close to the end. So I guess I'll finish it off one way or another.

Oh, post-"finally", "Red Garden" still wasn't all that brutal this go'round either, but we're getting a little tiny bit closer to what happened to our conflicted and anguished (undead-teenage-fashion-model™) gals. And we were almost about to break out into another song, though it didn't quite pan out that way this time. At any rate, it's still different enough for me to keep with it, even though the animation is kind of extra-limited, and the ED is getting lamer and lamer every time I see it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

3rd try: "The Bad Sleep Well"

Subject: Cinema
Blogger ate my two previous attempts at talking about this Kurosawa directed bit of old-skool film noir. The first try was a bit of "Posting While Intoxicated", the next was me complaining that I didn't really remember what the heck I wrote the first time.

Now my enthusiasm is pretty much gone, but I figured I'd at least note that I watched it.

It's loooong. 2 1/2 hours. It's "inspired", like many of Kurosawa's films, by Shakespeare -- this time, "Hamlet". But it's set up as a tale of powerful corporate intrigue and corruption. And, unfortunately, it's kind of stiff and formal.

Of course, I think it's supposed to be that way, because the formality of the language and the interactions of high-level corporate bigshots is kind of key to the whole thing. And I'm only just the slightest, tiniest little bit clued in that it's there, but absolutely not at all in tune with it to the point where I can experience it as intended.

And then at the end, after a long and (eventually) involving buildup, it just kind of goes and ends. Just like that. And yeah, the whole language thing comes starkly into play in the last scene, obvious enough even for me.

So overall, it's not going to play as my favorite Kurosawa work, for sure. But like I said, it eventually did get rather involving, and there's plenty to be learned from it overall, I'm sure. And I can't very well have a Kurosawa collection without it now, can I?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wait, what?

Subject: Noir
Okay, I'm still watching "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" for some reason, even though on the surface it's got a million things that I really don't care for in anime. Or at least, that I don't want to admit... I'm even up to ep 6. Hrm.

Still, when I got that warning from wonderduck about "out of order", I didn't quite imaging this. Okay, I think I get the plot, through the confusion. And there's a certain level of satire here that continues the spirit of the 1st ep's shenannigins. And what's with the damned Tea Ceremony undercurrent through the whole thing? Dunno.

Anyway, this may wind up being my "ashamed-but-still-watching" series for the season; kind of like what "Kannaduki" was two years ago, but without the shojou-ai. *cough*

Not quite ashamed to be watching, but still no shojou-ai either (*cough*), is "Red Garden". Not as brutal in episode 4, but the performances are still interesting none-the-less, as the girls come to grips with the fact that they're Undead-Teenage-Fashion-Models From New York City (™), and start trying to figure out just why this happened to them. Just so long as this series doesn't go overboard with the gross-out factor, and keeps it at a more suspensful-horror level, I'm going to stick with it and see where it goes. Oh, and no singing this ep either. Too bad; I thought that was a neat twist. Though I could see how that would get old, fast.

On DVD, I finally got to continue "Eureka Seven" with disc 3. Not much to say about this one, except we get to have fun with Eureka's evil antimatter twin (goatee sold seperately). Supposedly the next disc will start getting a little deeper, but for now, nothing particularly striking happens. The recap episode was a little annoying though, so I skipped it.

I also finally got a hold of disc 3 of "Fantastic Children". A loooong time since I watched the previous disc, so I actually watched the recap episode on this one, which helped tie a few details together that I forgot. A neat story, and we learn more about the background of the characters, but it still seems to be missing a certain something. Not sure what. Maybe an honest sense of urgency -- there's a few points of attempted tension and conflict, but it's kind of pale and localized. As much as they say there's an impending doom over their heads, I really don't get to feel it very much. Still, it's nice, it's imaginitive, and I don't have any complaints overall, except that it's impossible to get these out of GreenCine in a timely fashion. *sigh*

I think I'm going to give Netflix a go. "Gankutsuou" and a few other series I've started are all stuck as unavailable, and I really would like to finish a few of those up. Maybe they'll turn things around faster. Hard to say. GreenCine still has a rather obscure selection of other titles, so I'll probably hang onto a minimal subscription for those, but otherwise, it's probably time to move on.

That's it for anime for now. Coming soon, I'll be catching up with the last few eps of "Tsubasa Chronicle" and "Spider Riders".

".hack//Roots" dub on Cartoon Network

Subject: Noir
I didn't have a chance to mention it yet, but I did manage to snag it on my DVR last night (well, 5am this morning...) -- the ".hack//Roots" dub started airing on Cartoon Network already. That was fast!

Anyway, my brief impressions are over on Bee Train Fan.

More posts to follow soon, I promise. I've got a stack of quickies built up, but no time to accumulate them. *sigh*

Friday, November 10, 2006

DeepDiscountDVD -- it's that time of year again!

Subject: Musings
It's mid-November, which means Deep Discount DVD has their everything-is-20%-off sale. Coupon codes are on the DVDTALK forum.

Note that it's been discovered that they will sometimes remove, or pre-inflate, various titles from companies that don't want their discs to be in the sale. And ADV, among other anime companies, often request this. Still, there's bound to be some good deals on box sets and the like. I wonder when the "FLCL" set is due again?? Hmmm.

Sale is until the 18th. I get nothing out of promoting it; I'm just sharing my enthusiasm. *grin*

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And the winner is...?

Subject: Soapbox
...well....

I predict that by the end of the day, the media spin cycle will have gone from "Democrats victorious" to "Gains weren't enough, Dems in trouble". Heck, the NYT already started... On Monday!

Regardless of what "side" you were rooting for, or even if you gave two snits about it, take this thought with you -- with all the crap, corruption, bloviating, and voter frustration out there, only a handful of seats moved. Incumbents far and away held their own ground. The system is geared towards entrenching power, and when that gets threatened, all the little dirty tricks start coming out.

George Washington's farewell address forewarned us of the result of partisanship:
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Of course, that advice was already too late; in his cabinet, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were already squared off in their competing interests, and the system would become entrenched in John Adams' administration, in which the "media" climate (consisting at the time of newspapers, pampheteers, and gossip) was so toxic and divisive that he actually thought the Alien and Sedition Acts, and the resulting imprisonment of newspaper publishers, was a reasonable idea.

Is there a solution to a long-entrenched and broken system? The short answer is, of course, "no". Despite my long-held naivité on the subject, third parties rarely gain enough traction and popular support to overcome the entrenched power structures; they can't even get their voices heard in the public debate. The only time a third party made a significant presence, the entire country plunged into Civil War. And that isn't a very welcome scenario in the modern militarisic era. And it's quite a bit of hyperbole to even suggest the possibility.

Of course, I don't have any solutions; I'm just an obscure blogger-type. All I can recommend is to keep informed, and keep digging for that information beyond the easy mainstream corporate noise machines.

And remember that if you vote for a local representative, you're actually voting for his/her party's leadership -- Speaker, Majority Leader, etc. -- so if you disagree with that party, but like where the individual canditate diverges from it and vote for him/her anyway, too bad; you're out of luck. You've just voted to keep their leadership doing whatever it is they were doing. The only way to possibly change it is to put the opposing party's leadership in place, and vote against them down the road if they don't perform either. That's the only "message" that can be sent; third-party percentages or "maverick" candidates don't mean squat.

It's one big doom loop if there ever was one. *sigh*.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Galact-oh-yeah = Galact-astonishing!

Subject: TV
"End of Line."

My gods, they used "End of Line"!

Last week's episode, that I didn't get around to commenting on, was rather tight and gripping, though all-together an obvious statement about secret tribunals and unconstitutional presidential orders and all that. Whatever. Compared to this week, that was just a bunch of schlock.

Even the undercurrent of the "we were in the shit, you weren't" thread this week was just the minor bit-player to the really cool stuff that happened.

We got a really detailed glimpse into the Cylons this time. And it was a little bit surreal (and a tad low-budget, accordingly), and very, very illuminating. And completely fascinating. We get introduced to the base ships as another model, with one who's picked up an Earth-originated disease, technobabbling incoherently with various machine and computing parameters. And we get into "Cylon psychology 101" a little bit. As well as get clued into the whole bit about the fact that there are even more "models" than we've been introduced to so far. It's this exploration into new territory that's most fascinating, go figure.

But then, one of base-ship consciousnesses goes and says "End of Line". My jaw dropped in awe of the not-quite-obscure reference.

"Tron". No, really, that old freaking Disney experiment from the height of the 80's videogame craze. The MPC would always conclude it's conversations with the totally geeky phrase "End of Line". How could this show not be aware of that connotation? I love it!

I really hope it can keep up the pace. I was getting a little worried about it last season, but now that there's so much dimension to explore, I can't wait to see where this season goes.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

From feudal to brutal

Subject: Noir
Just a few things passed my way in the anime department these past couple of weeks. It seems that the shows I'm most interested in aren't getting the subbing attention that the usual clichefests get. Go figure.

"Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto" eps 1 & 2 -- kind of generic looking, and borderline boring, but this might have enough interesting aspects to the characters and stories to make me stick with it a little longer. It's a period drama set in late 1800's Yokahama, where Western merchant traders were contained from "contaminating" the rest of Japan. An uber-skilled brooding ronin-type meets up with a kabuki theatre troupe bent on revenge. The troupe is bent on revenge, I mean. Actually, the ronin dude may be, as well, but he's brooding, so we can't really tell. Also, there's a Very Serious dude associated with the troupe who seems to be controlling a lot more behind-the-scenes. And he kind of looks like a generified Ludwig from "Meine Liebe". Anyway, mix that in with a few mystical powers for the "blowing shit up" factor, and that's about it.

"The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" eps 1 & 2 --- Uhhh, ooo-kay... Yeah, it appears that I'm a latecomer to this particular party, and I'm not entirely surprised that I overlooked it. I am a bit surprised that I'm still thinking of downloading more. The first episode was a spoof of a psuedotypical student/amateur fan film, playing up the usual cliche elements in that sort of thing. Girl-in-a-bunny-suit seems to be the operative gag here. Though the thing that caught me entirely off-guard, and may wind up being the hook that reeled me in, came towards the end. And it's kind of silly.

There was this monotone-spoken fake witch character, who had a cat on her shoulder. It was amusing enough when the cat would fall asleep and start slipping off, prompting her to jack him back up there. But then there was this moment when the cat started to actually talk. And talk in the typical "magical animal explaining powers" kind of voice. And the "witch" shut him up amid a brief bit of surprise and confusion.

Like I said, rather silly. But something about the whole timing around the gag really hit the right notes. "So what the hell, I'll watch another one", I figured. The second (first?) ep introduces the characters' off-camera personae, centered around Haruhi Suzumiya, it would seem. A couple of seconds into her initial ranting, and I realized "Hey, I dated that girl!" Well, that didn't last all that long, because she wound up being way more overzealous... and then they introduced the girl under the "witch" hat; a nose-in-her-book ignore-the-rest-of-the-world sarcastic talker, and I realized "No, wait, that's her..." Hmmm. Okay, so maybe a combination of the two.

Anyway, my subconcious nostalgic connections aside, there really isn't a whole lot of redeeming value for me in the show, but I can sort of see it being one of those sorts of things I can't bring myself to give up just yet. And for some reason I wrote more than a quick blurb. What's wrong with me??

And speaking of "wrong", "Red Garden" ep 3 was probably the most brutal episode I've seen of anything in quite a while. "Elfin Leid" was brutal, but bluntly, over-the-top brutal so you couldn't take it seriously. "Speed Grapher" was just a fugly grossout. This was more a serious dramatic manipulation that was really, really harsh. More of a "natural" brutality, if there could be such a thing in anime. An unreal real.

No singing in this one like there was in the first 2. But the voice performances, and the way the characters are written overall, have much more nuance than any other show out there. And that probably plays the most into that impression I'm getting, since it seems that their reactions are a lot like what you would expect from real teenage women when stuck in a horrifying situation like that. It's not the same as melodrama. It plays more on fear than emotional empathy.

And yet, it hasn't driven me off. It's got a good balance of that horror with suspense and characterization. That does a good job of overcoming what may very well be a dumb, or at least blunt, storyline. So I guess I'm sticking with it. I hope the one sub group that's doing it will agree.

Finally, "Kemonozume" ep 2 -- There's a few harsh bits about this one too. Some of the violence is quite over-the-top in trying to push the "ick" buttons. But that raw, kinetic art style, high-end jazzy soundtrack, and really tight animated moments make up for that. And the rather disjointed-seeming storyline. It also helps that I'm checking out the HDTV version, so I see more of the nuance in the lines and colorations. Anyway, this one is worth me catching up with, though hopefully it doesn't find itself needing to ratchet up the "ick" more and more each time.

This weekend I have more "Eureka 7" and "Fantastic Children", finally, as well as some catching up to do with "Tsubasa Chronicle" and "Spider Riders".

Over a week again, huh?

Subject: Musings
Well, it looks like blogging, forum posting, and The Internets in general have fallen by the wayside for me again. *sigh*

No real excuse, 'cept for a general malaise not unlike "Seasonal Affective Disorder"; but otherwise nothing serious. Just following my instincts to shut off the world for a little bit and take a break.

I've got a couple of backlogged loggings to blog; uninspired as they may be. I think I'm going to fiddle around with the new Blogger templates too, so there may be some temporary display oddities. Hang in there!

More later, then.

UPDATE: Well, I'm kind of close to where I had it... The new "Archive" widget is kind of neat. I'm working on trying to get all of the "Subject" label fields filled in, now that Google has made it a little easier to do them in bulk. That said, there are still hundreds of posts to tag. Bleh.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Torchy, Dorky, Sorky, uh...

Subject: TV
...and Icky? Hmm. Anyway, those are the four shows I'm watching besides "Galact-o-yeah" this season. A lot, for me.

"Torchy" means the premiere of the spinoff of "Doctor Who" -- "Torchwood". Thanks to the miracle of the internets, I was able to download it some hours after it aired on the BBC. The "Torchwood" organization was introduced in the recent seasons; heck, "Torchwood" is an anagram of "Doctor Who". It's the super-secret started-by-Queen-Victoria anti-alien squad, headed up by Captain Jack, of all people. Seems to be a sort of "CSI-meets-Men-In-Black" kind of concept. Anyway, it has much the same sort of attitude as the new Who, crossed with cop drama, and with the innuendo and "strong language" kicked up a notch. Fun so far; hope it lasts.

"Dorky" -- well, that's "Heroes". Last week, just as I was going to give up on it, it ended with a bit of a hook. A hook totally baited for nerd. Hiro, the irritating Japanese Star Trek fan (WTF?), shows up as his future incarnation, all dramatically dressed in black, with a katana across his back, being all intense and speaking perfect English. Then the episode ended. I blinked twice, and thought "hey, that was cool", and actually looked forward to this week.

Well, it wound up a little dissappointing, because the guy who plays Hiro (or the director, I figure) couldn't quite get the foreboding presence to carry through an actual exchange of dialogue with the emo-haircut sponge-powers kid. But, it was still enough of an entertaining twist that I was able to take the rest of the episode in stride. Even though it's rather sub-optimally written. It's very comic-book, but you really need to follow-through on-screen and with the performances if you want to pull "comic-book" off. I keep thinking that if it were animated, I'd probably not be so critical of it. Heck, to me, everything's better when it's animated! *grin*

Anyway, it ended again giving me a little bit of a chill -- the catchphrase I'm sure you'll all see buzzing around for the next couple of weeks: "Save the cheerleader, save the world". Looking back on it, that's really kind of stupid. But, it's a fun stupid. I guess I'll stick with it a little longer; if anything, it'll give me a chance to type up some classic sarcastic rants again.

Let's see, where was I? ...ah, "Sorky" -- Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60". It seems to be turning into Sorkin's masturbatory fantasy of what he wants TV to be, combined with his schlocky nostalgia for what TV was at one point. But, it's rolled together in his trademark snappy dialogue and interesting on-screen moments, so I'm still in on this one. But I'll probably wind up complaining about it too. Or worse -- I'll find there's nothing worth writing about with it. A shame.

Finally, "Icky" is Showtime's "Dexter" -- a series that follows a serial killer. Who works forensics for the police. Who exclusively hunts other serial killers. Definitely meant to layer on the "ick" factor, but surround it with what they hope will be interesting characters. A bit psychological, a bit mystery, a bit bland in spots. Anyway, it turns out there's another serial killer that's on to Dexter, and is taunting him and trying to lead him on a chase. Intercut that with all the things Dexter tries to do to "blend into normal life", and spin out a couple of side-stories with the other characters, and, well, I guess that's about it. It's curious and all, but it seems to pretend that it's more edgy than it actually is. Still, it's on my list for a while longer.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Galactic-own'd!

Subject: TV
I'm a bit late with adding my voice to the buzz surround the rip-roaring conclusion of the "Battlestar Galactica" "Resistance" arc. It was completely entertaining and a lot of fun to watch, but there was something I noticed about it...

Every single thing that happened -- every plot point and twist -- was either predictable, or cliche. And yet it was still awesome! How'd they do that?

I mean, think about it: the prisoners from the cliffhanger, Tigh and his traitor wife, Apollo's solution to Adama's orders, Boomer's baby, Starbucks baby... all these things and more get shoved in your face and twisted around, and ultimately you say to yourself "well, duh!" -- yet they totally pulled it off. The performances, the reactions, the moments that occur with each of these events are what made the show. And all of the literal narrative points, as predictable and cliche as they were... each and every one was something, deep down, you wanted to happen, conciously or subconciously. And you alternatively gasp or cheer when they do.

And the icing on the cake was all the cool "blowin' shit up" space-battle FX. The way the Galactica shows up for the rescue mission. The way the Pegasus shows up to rescue the rescuers... Both enough to bring on a "Frak yeah!" in the most jaded, cynical sci-fi fan.

Fan-tastic.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

And the season thus far...?

Subject: Noir
Meh.

I've already meh'd "Pumpkin Scissors", "D.Gray Man" and "Death Note", and haven't bothered keeping up with any of them. I grabbed a couple of more since then:

"Kemonozume" ep 1 -- on Hayama's recommendation, I've gave this a shot, and it was different, for sure. A raw style that I think I could get used to, though the story to this point isn't all that compelling. It's more interesting than most, though, so I've downloaded a couple of more to see where it goes.

"Tenpo Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi" ep 1 -- first I downloaded the raw, and gave up pretty quickly, because there just wasn't anything there to grab me, so the lack of knowing what the dialogue was about was an annoyance. When I finally got a hold of a translation, I couldn't get very far with that either. It's pretty much "yeah, whatever" for me. More "meh".

"009-1" ep 1 -- again with the raw (but no translation as of yet) -- I dunno; I fell asleep in the middle of it and don't remember anything about what I did see, besides an overall impression of not being particularly impressed yet. I'm going to wait for a translation before I give it another go.

"Red Garden" ep 1 -- probably the most interesting that I've dug up so far. I watched the raw first, and my first thought was "fashion plates" -- you know, those fashion drawings that are meant to emphasize some particular clothing style or color scheme. While I'm notoriously very un-fashionable myself, I thought it was pretty obvious that was a core design element.

That, and the noses.

Everybody seems to be talking about the noses on these characters. Basically, it's an overall departure from the usual anime ski-slopes, and I think it gives the characters more, well, character. Anyway, combined with the overall stylistic approach, and some of the overall unique touches to the technique (a character breaks into a melancholy song, and it's been reported that the dialogue track was actually recorded western-style -- that is, before the animation instead of after), is keeping this one on my "keep my eye on it" list, even though the overall animation and story (finally saw translations the other night) aren't anything special at this point.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

On the road

Subject: Musings
No posting this weekend; I'm back in Massachussetts this weekend visiting family. I'll be back some time Sunday evening, if I can get around all the foliage gawkers on my drive home.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

More roundup. Always more roundup...

Subject: Noir
Thought I had actually blogged these; guess I didn't. *Sigh*

"X" disc 2 -- I'm still kind of on the edge of this one... part of me wants to be really bored with it because the story, visuals and cinematics aren't really breaking any ground for me, and the other part thinks that a couple of the characters might be interesting enough for me to hook me into the story better. I'm still not really sure who's who; maybe that will shape up in disc 3.

"Samurai 7" disc 2 -- all of these were still retreads of the fansubs I've already seen, including the episode that's rather, uh, "raw" in style. Kind of like they had to rush an episode and dispensed with the 'tweeners and cleanup steps, and just hacked out 24 minutes as best as they could. Back when I first saw it, I was of the opinion that it had a bit of an "experimental" feel; now I'm not so certain of it. At any rate, the disc is otherwise decent enough quality, and the story doesn't quite offend me as much as it did back when I was just starting out with the whole "anime" craziness.

"Sol Bianca" disc 1 -- This one I have mixed feelings about. A direct-to-video OVA (redundant? yeah), the animation was pretty much awful in most spots. Just another hi-gloss moving manga. But the character designs and art direction were pretty good, I thought. The concept of a bunch of gun-toting pirate babes on a sleek super-ship, and the sci-fi universe it inhabits, has endless appeal to me -- that whole "what anime does best" impression I used to have way back when. Otherwise, I don't know if there's anything deeper in it for me than the entertainment value I get out of that. If the next disc opens up a little, I may even buy it. Heavily discounted, of course...

"Death Note" -- Meh. Sets itself up as a goth-wannabe's ultimate fantasy, but falls into dull monologue and dubious character motivation. All in the typical moving-manga style, and mostly void of anything uniquely imaginative. Not interested.

"Tsubasa Chronicle", eps up to 44 -- The "arc that was starting to get good again" did pretty well for itself. We see even more of Kurogane's tragic childhood, and we get to wander around in the half-completed stage that is Sakura's memories. The latter of which sets up some interesting tension with Syaoran, and eventually leads to yet another encounter with the mysterious evil-antimatter-stuck-in-a-tube version of him. Still mysterious, but not annoyingly so. But the slightly-annoying aspects return in ep 44 with a simple one-off episode, geared towards the "cute" factor. Actually, nothing was particularly awful about it, just a bit fluffy for my taste. I'll get over it.

".hack//Roots" -- got through to the end with it. And I guess I'm a bit annoyed. And dissappointed. Out of all the "//SIGN" characters they could have had cameos of, who shows up?? *Sigh*. That said, there was one little tragic bit that was unclear in 25, and actually explained (for once) in the end, about Phyllo. And a couple of other disclosures were made, but purely as factoids to set up the games. Otherwise, it was extremely anti-climactic. At least "//SIGN" had a genuine moment to it's ending of the core character storyline, even though spent just as much time setting up the games, and then going all deus ex machina all over the place. "//Roots" just relied on flashbacks of Shino to try and achieve the same effect, and it fell short for me.

Also, all the eye animations seemed totally different than the episodes to this point. I mean, really obviously off-model in ways that I can't quite pin down. I'm not sure what was up with that...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Oh yeah! -- "Battlestar"-style

Subject: TV
Ah, the return of "Battlestar Galactica"! Having hung on to the cliffhanger for months now, it's great to finally be back in the thick of it.

It's actually not an entirely profound intellectual exercise, for certain. I mean, yeah, it's totally turning certain current-events-inspired scenarious upside-down and drawing you into them as sympathizers. Not a difficult or deep thing to do, but maybe it's a little gutsy. There's a bit of complaining that it's "never been this blatantly political" -- my response is, have you actually been watching the same show?? It's been political since the beginning! But instead of preaching, it just simply puts a human face on it, and goes beyond the rhetoric into the red meat of the thing.

It's all very simple. Very straightforward. And that's what's so subversive about it. It has very little of the "designed by committee" stink on it, that it's free to assemble all the usual cliches, fling them at you with razor-sharp precision, and still come away with the feeling that you've actually shared the experience... or at least went along for the ride.

This is really the one show of it's type that I don't mind not watching in crappy standard-def NTSC -- soon enough the Hi-Def Dolby-surround versions will show up on UniversalHD, but I want to see what happens now! It's that enjoyable.

In other TV-watchin', "Heroes" seems to be just the opposite. Very, very, very much steeped in "designed by committee" stink. Like the attempt at something quirky as done by a team of marketroids who market-tested what quirky means to average mallrat teenagers. I'll give it a little more of a chance to see if it's just early-episode stiffness or whatnot, but I figure I'll drop it before too long.

It also is the lead-in for "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", which I'm still following a lot more closely. Though despite Sorkin's talents, I'm thinking it has a touch of early-episode stiffness as well. Of course, it's a show about the "designed by committee" stink, so it's kind of hard to tell where the fictional committee ends and the real committee begins. And while it's blatantly trying to call on stereotypes and cliches and upend them, it seems to be doing that in a rather stereotypical and cliche fashion. If you watch it, you can probably tell what I mean.

The only thing I wish the show would do is to have actually funny comedy sketch snippets, instead of the accurate-though-awful mimicry of the typical "Saturday Night Live" fare. *sigh*

Friday, October 06, 2006

The new season upon us...

Subject: Noir
The last half-season from Japan didn't yield much of interest to me, though frankly I didn't try very hard to look for stuff. I may or may not have missed something. I never did try "Chevalier" beyond the first episode, or "FLAG" beyond the second. I can't remember what else I looked at, but there wasn't anything in particular that I would have considered expending any effort on.

The latest season just got underway, and some early subs are starting to trickle in. So far, I've only sampled two: "Pumpkin Scissors" and "D.Gray-man". The latter I stopped about halfway through because I really wasn't in the mood for it. It's kind of like "Trinity Blood" in it's alt-goth 19th-century supernaturalism style. The characters didn't quite hook me right away, and overall it wasn't anything special -- moving manga as usual.

Same goes for "Pumpkin Scissors", though I actually sat through the whole episode. The storyline might prove to be a little more unique, though. And it's in an alt-universe World War I style. I might give it another go if I'm really bored, but otherwise, like I said, nothing special, moving manga, yadda yadda.

On my list-to-try (though I don't really remember why for any of these, besides the slight possibility that they're be suitably different:
  • "Red Garden"

  • "009-1"

  • "Bakametsu Kikans"... uh.. "Irchani"... uhhh... I can't read my handwriting. Something historical with swords, I think

  • "Tempouib"... uh... not again... "Ayakashi" ...goo-goo-something... whatever

  • ...and maybe "Death Note"

I'm not holding out too much hope for any of them, but out of the huge list of what's premiering, those are the few that stood out.

On tap for the weekend, I've got discs for "Sol Bianca", "X" and "Samurai 7". Otherwise, tonight -- the return of the return of "Galact-oh-yeah!" Oh yeah!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

And now for this month's bout of "Post MADLAX Syndrome"...

Subject: Musings
I'm not entirely certain when I finished last night, but when I woke up just before dawn, on my chair, on the screen in front of me was a half-finished blog post. Or, I should say, an intoxicated rambling that was even more incomprehensible than the one I judiciously canned the last time I did this.

Something about "ancient rocks" and voting in "national elections" or something. Yikes!

Anyway, I have today off, and it's really nice out, so I'll work on clearing up the ol' syndrome with a nice drive along the lakeshore, I think.

Almost done...

Subject: Noir
I really can't say enough good thing about "MADLAX"... really!

There's so many layers of awesomeness going on that I can't even describe how great I feel watching it. Color, timing, character... all the things I've gushed about in the past still play on full-force after these last two years.

And I have one disc left to go. The tears have been shed, the fears have been shelved, and... well, I'm out of puns I can use to make this paragraph rhyme... No matter; I'm still enjoying this evening; 39th birthday notwithstanding...

Anyway, enough wasting time... let's bring on the rest of it already!