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.