Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year...

Subject: Musings
Well, I made it back without serious incident, though with lots of little annoying, delaying ones. Got back very very late, hit the sack, and slept 'til nearly noon. Ahh. Better.

I found the preceding post stuck in my edit queue -- I never could get posting-by-Blackberry to work right. I've decided to just let that one go up without further comment.

Looks like it's not going to be "Noir Year's Eve" again this year, though while I'm not sick, I'm not well prepared, and I've got to be somewhere somewhat early tomorrow. I'm still on "west-coast time" and will probably be up late anyhow, but really, I'm just not quite in the right frame of mind to watch "Noir" just now.

Besides, my subwoofer is dead. What fun is "Noir" without the house-shaking rumble of thunder during the "Final Guidance"? *grin*

I owe myself a marathon though. I'm thinking of upgrading my home theatre equipment, right down to the furniture, so I may just inagurate it that way. Sounds like a plan. A very expensive plan.

That said, good riddance to 2007, and welcome to the insanity of 2008. Huzzah and all that.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas

Subject: Musings
...But with slightly less BAC than Nicholas Cage's character...

Actually, far less. I'm sitting at the bar one last night, but only for a few brews to help relax a little. I haven't had much sleep this week. The walls are rather poor sound barriers. One couple on one side have been bitterly yelling at each other. In Chinese. The other couple are late-night partiers, and early morning fu... Err... Well, the are in Vegas. You'd think my turning up the TV would give them the hint, but I guess they just don't care.

I fly out in the morning, only to be stuck in Atlanta for 3 hours, then to land in Rochester at 11:30 PM. In a bit of a snowstorm according to the forecast. So I'll be lugging my suitcase across a snowy parking lot with inadequate footwear, and will need to scrape off the likely layers of ice and cruft that built up, all because I figured I'd save 20 bucks by not parking in the garage. Really thought that one through. *sigh*

I figure I could sleep for days after all this, but I still have a pile of work to finish. Not sure what I was thinking when I believed I'd make this a "working vacation". *sigh* again.

I had some fun and amusing moments, and I had more than a few minor dissappointments that have been over-amplified by my extreme tiredness. All-in-all, though, I'm sick of Vegas and I'm not in a hurry to come back. Or to gamble ever again. Or fly. Or sit by myself in a bar texting away on my Blackberry like the nerd that I am.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Viva Las Vegas

Subject: Musings
Tomorrow, Christmas Day, I fly off to Las Vegas for a few days with the family. Kind of a long story, but it's something my dad really loved to do, and I guess we're doing it in his honor.

"I guess", because it's really my two brothers who really want to go; my mom and I aren't entirely enthused. I like it well enough, but I've become a rather stingy fussbucket these past few years now that I'm finally earning enough that I can seriously save towards an early retirement.

Plus, to top it off, I'm actually going to have to work while I'm there. I was so overloaded with projects this month that I really have no other way to meet important deadlines. I'll make up for it, I'm sure, but that use-it-or-lose it week I took a few posts back is really biting me in the behind right about now. Oh well.

Maybe there'll be pics, but there's no free internet at the Luxor, so it's tough to say. I'm hoping to take a few short trips outside of town to the various natural splendors, weather permitting. Beats shovelling money into slot machines.

Happy Generic Winter Solstice Festivities to all! Be back soon.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Satoshi Kon-athon

Subject: Noir
...Well, not really a marathon as much as a double-feature, but I'm on the verge of also firing up "Millenium Actress" or the end of "Paranoia Agent" just to fit the mood...

Way back in the early days of this blog, I had rented "Tokyo Godfathers", and didn't have an awful lot to say about it. I guess I was taking a lot for granted at the time, and to top it off, I was in the midst of awaiting the climatic end of "MADLAX" at the time. This time around, besides being a little more seasonally-appropriate, I was in the right mood, and I enjoyed it immensely. The characters, the story, and the attention to detail made the whole thing such a simple slice of whimsy and life that it's really hard to believe that I missed that way back then. It gets a bad rap as one of Kon's "weaker" efforts, but considering how good his efforts are, there's a lot of room for it to still be a great little movie.

In fact, it seems to me that a "whimsical" air is actually more prevelant in what he's done than the darker, twisted psychological point-of-view most everyone ascribes to him since "Perfect Blue". "Millenium Actress", besides being a wonderful love-letter to cinema, is a bit of whimsy as well. "Paranoia Agent" is defintitely something to think of along those lines.

And now, "Paprika"... Oh, I think I love this film more than "Millenium Actress"! And not just because there's the same filmmaker-homage aspect to it. Okay, maybe mostly because of that, but really, it's so wonderfully intertwined with whimsy and subconcious and life that I'm this close to upgrading my home theatre to a Blu-Ray-capable setup just so I can see this in hi-def...

(Okay, I was going to do that anyway in the new year, but c'mon, what a great excuse!)

I've seen some overall "meh" reviews of it, and a general overall dissappointment, but especially after being warmed up by "Godfathers", I was more than receptive to go along for the ride. The wonderful title sequence, which was more or less that wonderful trailer I first saw way back when, sets the tone and establishes the magic. Sure there's a deeper angle of "what are dreams?" and "what if you're my dream?" and that sort of thing, but it's not really all that deep unless you want to pursue it that way. That may have been the story, but it really wasn't the point.

Not that I really quite grasp "the point" either, because I'm probably a bit too enthralled with the experience more than the literal narrative. Which maybe is the point after all?


Okay, okay, that's a little over the top. One thing's for sure, though; his love of film, his expression of what movies mean to him and what role they play, his realization of his own dreams -- those are things he's telegraphing in this, and his other works. That's probably why I find them so attractive. It's possible that once again I'm projecting my own desires on it, and if that's the case, all the better. If it's malleable enough that I can do that and still come away with it speaking to me, then I think it's done it's job quite well.

The last Roundup

Subject: Noir
...well, for 2007 at least. As much as I'd like to try and break away from the "roundup" form of blogging and start digging deeper into individual shows like I used to to more often, it's going to be a while before I can shake loose the cobwebs in my creative centers and get back into that groove.

I wanted to give "Dennou Coil" a full bit of praise on it's own, but by this point, everyone else has also seen the end and has blogged more or less the similar sorts of impressions that I had. I watched it using the downloaded soft-subs, but I want to give it another go with the fansub group's more complete version (with the signage & text translations and whatnot). Also, because things happened so fast, and there was so much expositionary dialogue going on, I may have likely missed a bit of the visuals here and there while busily trying to keep up with reading it. And vice-versa sometimes.

Plus, it's such a good, well produced story, I want to watch it again.

Even better would be seeing this licensed and in DVD form so I can share it with friends someday. But it seems the shows I like lately aren't high on any R1 company's list right now.

One exception I didn't realize about (because I hadn't paid any attention to it) was "Tengo Toppa Gurren Lagan", which ADV apparently had for a while now. I had already dug up the whole series after sampling a few episodes -- based on favorable mentions over on KT's blog and in the AniPages forum, and I got swept up in the energy and likeability of the characters. There's quite a lot of typical cliche fighting-robot weirdness that I would normally find either lame or cringe-worthy, but all told, it seemed like everyone involved was having such fun making the show, and making fun of all that lame cringe-worthy stuff, that I was hooked. Plus, a lot of the action animation, and the overall artwork, was lively and interesting and quite well done.

It hit all kinds of great mood notes, and had a great sense of scale and detail -- though by the end when the scale of things was so over-the-top and supposedly ridiculously huge, I don't think it quite pulled that off. It was fun, and you were rooting for everyone, but once things got "moon-sized", you really didn't get that kind of sense of huge-ness anymore, which it did a lot better early on. Also, I figure a lot of the "in-jokes" probably went totally over my head, but I could appreciate the details for what they were anyhow.

Anyway, for those of us in the US, ADV is experimenting with streaming it, subtitled, on their website, to try and fill the gap between the Japanese airing and their DVD/TV release. Since I did a no-no and downloaded the whole thing, I kind of want to support that experiment at least a little. But I find the lack of ability to watch it full-screen, plus the clunky low bitrate encoding messing with some of the better-animated action bits, and I'm not sure I'll keep that up. A shame.

I finally managed to dig up the finale for "Romeo X Juliet" a while back; for some reason it never showed up on my usual sources. Waaay back at the beginning, I had said that I sure hoped they didn't wimp out on the tradgedy factor of the original story, and thankfully (without spoiling anything), they most certainly didn't. But it was really quite clever how they were able to do it totally differently, yet still do it a bit of justice, as over-the-top melodramatic as it was. I think it was a suitably entertaining and thoughtful ending and I'm not disappointed. Strange how I wound up attached to the show, but I liked that it was different and a little bit creative in it's retelling, and that overall there was a good spark to the characters that got me through the rougher patches in the story.

As far as the current season goes, I'm pretty much only following "Ghost Hound", and only just sort of. I'm not that thrilled with the animation, but the overall design and art is reasonable enough. The story isn't as gripping as it wants to be, and it's almost borderline lame, but there's just enough of a little twist to it, and little bits of surprise reveal, that it makes me curious as to what's next. I also like how the soundtrack is mostly ambient sound, and I'd bet it'd great if I were able to watch it in 5.1 surround. But overall I'm not entirely enthused by it, and if it loses me, then I won't be disappointed.

"Future Police: Urashimon" is a much more, uh, challenging watch. Yeah, it's old-skool Mashimo-directed zaniness, but it's also old-skool Mashimo-directed inane-ness. It hasn't aged all that well. And it hasn't yet taken on any characteristics that would bring me deeper into it, and I'm not sure it will, despite the possible hints for it. It's mainly just a low-brow, mostly-harmless, 80's cliche comedy, with the occasional glimpse of the early Hand Of Mashimo. It's no "Captain Tylor", for sure. Or "Tank Police". Or "Dirty Pair".

To wrap up, I also rented an old OVA/movie called "Darkside Blues". It didn't start off in a particularly appealing manner for my mood, but I stuck through it. There wound up being a couple of enjoyable characters that helped with the matter, but there was nothing particularly outstanding there. It had all the typical elements of an old-skool dystopian sci-fi drama, right down to the "start the story in the middle, end the story in the middle" kind of meandering with no real conclusion. You're just witnessing one little snapshot in time in a bigger story. Which is fine, but ultimately with this one, it wasn't particularly rewarding. And by the end, even though it was still early, I found myself extra-sleepy and wound up turning in early instead of offsetting it with a more lively selection off my DVD shelf. Ah well.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Subject: Musings
As I figured, coming back to work was like walking straight into a giant pile of... oh, nevermind. Anyway, combine the resulting fatigue with my already-faltering motivation to write, and I haven't been on the internet much lately aside from scanning headlines, and have just vegetated in what little down-time I've had.

I've got great stuff to say about the endings of a few shows, especially "Dennou Coil", and, surprisingly, "Tengo Toppa Gurren Lagan". No, really! That one wound up kind of addicting. *grin*

More later? Hope so.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

"You are the affection within madness."

Subject: Noir
One more disc to go with this round of "MADLAX", which will make it the one project I started these past 2 weeks that I actually finished. Well, besides cooking a turkey, but still...

I have to go back to work on Monday and I know that taking a vacation has just meant that I'll have a lot to catch up with when I get back. Not a good thing, and very similar to the last time I took time off and allowed myself the luxury to watch "MADLAX" all the way through. Only this time I didn't watch "Noir" as well, because I couldn't bring myself to go that far. Ah well. Hopefully, I'll be able to pull of a "Noir Year's Eve" when I return from my Very Vegas Christmas, but with the Super Secret Deadline I have at work, it's not entirely likely. I'll play it by ear.

Disc 6 of "MADLAX" is a bit of a crusher. It kicks off some of the most emotional and tragic bits that you'll see anywhere in anime, and everything about the production and animation are outstanding and top-notch, so it's no wonder that I think back to this year's "El Cazador" followon and feel slightly betrayed.

I enjoyed "El Cazador" and still think it's better than most everything else that's been aired lately ("Dennou Coil" excepted, most certainly), but "MADLAX" is so amazingly well-crafted, detailed, and multifaceted that the overly-simple, obviously-outsourced bits of "El Cazador" made it such a dissappointment to me. I was going to try to do the "trilogy marathon", but I can't bring myself to put Cazzy in comparison to my favorite 2 others. Maybe that's for the best.

"MADLAX" suffers from a bit of continuity issues (to say the least) and is far from perfect in 100 ways, but in terms of cinematic moments and pure emotion, it kicks my sorry arse every time. "Noir" even more so, even with it's artistic niggles and incongruences. Cazzy, though, is just kind of 2-D in comparison. (Yes, that's a bit of a pun).

*Sigh* I shouldn't be dwelling on this, as I have the big finale to go through for "MADAX", and I want to be particularly primed for it in more than just how much Shiraz I've been drinking. So I guess I'll leave it at that. I'll rewatch Cazzy soon enough (with tacos and tequila, probably) and find I like it well enough on it's own. For now, the "MADLAX" shadow is going to obliterate it.

UPDATE: "There's a me inside of you." -- said it before and I'll say it again. The key to the whole thing.

And that's it for a while. *sob*