And if that's not enough, Jean tells me I got a package from Verizon today that might, if I'm very lucky, allow me to start up the DSL connection I ordered early in the month. I'm not holding my breath though.
Tuesday, October 31, 2000
I wanted to add a couple of links about Halloween with more substance, since the fun, spooo-ooky aspect will be covered in loving detail by both the citizenry and the media this evening. So here are a couple of links I found interesting:
- Mike Nichols' essay on Samhain or All Hallow's Eve.
- From ReligiousTolerance.org, Halloween: Facts and Misinformation.
She asks me why...I'm just a hairy guy
I'm hairy noon and night; Hair that's a fright.
I'm hairy high and low,
Don't ask me why; don't know!
It's not for lack of bread
Like the Grateful Dead; darling
Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there, hair!
Shoulder length, longer (hair!)
Here baby, there mama, Everywhere daddy daddy
Hair! (hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair)
Flow it, Show it;
Long as God can grow it, My Hair!
Monday, October 30, 2000
On my walk with Jean today, we got to carping about Daylight Saving Time, or as I quipped, Daylight Shifting Time. So why do we have to hunt down all our clocks and shuffle them back and forth twice a year?
- UselessKnowledge.com's take.
- Cecil Adams' take.
- A Catchall Site from the University of Indiana.
- A map of countries which follow DST. Looks like Japan is sensible "qbullet.smiley".
Further, a study of traffic accidents throughout Canada in 1991 and 1992 by Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia before, during, and immediately after the so-called "spring forward" when DST begins in April. Alarmingly, he found an eight percent jump in traffic accidents on the Monday after clocks are moved ahead.
And I find it all too annoying. So there!
So anyway, Mentor had a decent spike in their stock price this year, and I exercised a few options, resulting in my being able to buy a few geek toys. One was an iBook (Apple wireless laptop computer) which is allowing me to write this while reclining on the futon downstairs, watching television recorded with my ReplayTV.
So where am I going with this? Not sure, exactly "qbullet.smiley". I guess anybody who's bothered to read a few of my anime essays realizes that I've never grown up. The toys have just gotten more expensive. And while Jean has been studying, exploring life and placing less emphasis on material things, she still seems to love me. Kelly on the other hand is right behind me on the materialism thing "qbullet.smiley".
Quick anecdote. When Kelly was three I took her trick-or-treating. I thought I had taught her the proper rituals, knocking at the door, shouting "Trick or Treat!" But we arrived at a house, and as the owner came to the door, I said to Kelly "what do you say?" To which she gleefully replied "I want candy!"
I don't think the toys are pivotal to my being. As a true geek (only half-kidding here), I just have an appreciation for the cool gadget. I still think about life, what's important when all the toys are gone. I enjoy my afternoon walks with Jean more than anything, and we talk about everything under the sun (including geek toys). Then there are the Kelly-level moments in life, such as when she eats a homemade treat and says, "let me just say this", spreading her hands, palms flat, "Yum."
And not all the toys are soulless, either "qbullet.smiley". When I wrecked my ankle, I bought a bicycle. I ride it about as often as I estimated I would, which is to say about once a week, but it is so much fun I know the money was well spent. And in this case, I get outside, taste the fresh air, and get exercise as well. Sorry, but I'll have to spend some more money here soon, buying some thermal workout clothes, so I can keep riding on the rare dry winter days. I don't quite have the confidence to ride in the rain yet.
So I'll still feel free to talk about my soulless geek toys(tm). But try not to think I'm totally shallow and material when I do.
Stop me if you're tired. I just amazed myself looking over what I've spewed out this morning, lunch and evening. But I'm gonna stop now so Kelly can go to sleep.
Instead I'll go downstairs and play with another of my "Soulless Geek Toys"(tm), the ReplayTV. See you tomorrow.
In my bid to contribute, I today took the plunge and subscribed to the print edition of a science mag I've read online for a few months now. It is a British rag, called New Scientist. I'm afraid that Jean may find it a little too light as well, but the subject matter ranges far afield, and the best of their articles is very good indeed.
If we decide to up the ante, we are facing such august journals as Science (available only to members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for a yearly membership fee of between $112 and $250, depending on which (if any) membership we are allowed to undertake.
Then there's Nature, which has a one year subscription price for laymen of $159. I'm not hunting down the Internet links for these two until it is clear that we are going to blow that kind of moolah. Any suggestions from Internet Land?
I hadn't read Suck in quite awhile, but today's pointer to Greg Knauss' mini-essay put me in mind of them, so I cruised on over and gave today's essay a read. It was very interesting, and spot on as well. In the past Suck has been known for an irreverent National Lampoon sort of hyperbolic humor, but this had a heck of a lot of substance to it.
My only question at this point relates to a quote from the article:
Schwarzkopf took the question with an avuncular chuckle, and allowed as to how it probably depended, ho ho, on which side you're on.
In this context, I take it to refer to the sense "Regarded as being similar to an uncle, especially in benevolence." So my question is, since I'm an uncle, are my chuckles avuncular?
I've tried reading Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone to her, but while she was initially enthusiastic, she didn't last long enough to get to Hogwarts. "qbullet.smiley"
So we just worked our way through Ralph S. Mouse read by me, and Harriet the Spy read by Jean. More surprisingly to me is the new book that Kelly and I are reading: The Fables of Aesop. This is not any kiddie-fied version, it is the regular Penguin paperback. She just keeps me guessing.
P.S.: Kelly's first day back at school under the 'new regime' went well. Mrs. Wentzell said she was a "new person". We shall see if she is able to sustain that behavior, and indeed if Jean and I are able to sustain our 'iron wills.'
I'd prefer to just have two whole days of news always appear on the home page, but while the documentation promises this is possible, following the directions doesn't lead to that result. Too bad.
Don't look for this virtual flood of words to sustain itself. I've uploaded all my completed reviews, and the structure of the site is to my liking now, so things will slow down. Especially as I get bored with everything eventually and move onto the next exciting thing.
The only thing that will sustain me is the knowledge that my sister Brenda, and possibly my pen pal Nami, may read this as a pale substitute for letter/email writing, at which I suck. "qbullet.smiley"
From: [Cairo employee]
Subject: Lunch on Wednseday
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 15:04:38 -0800
We (Cairo team and partners from WV) will be having lunch on Wednesday
at Red Lobster in Washington Square at noon. Hope you can join us.
-- [Cairo employee]
Here's what I have to contend with. It's not like I don't want to go. This is one of those 'team-building' exercises I've mentioned already elsewhere. Oops, I guess I don't want to. "qbullet.smiley"
Actually, besides being a horrendous introvert, I don't have a problem going out with these folks. They seem nice, and as part of my job, I'd certainly like to build some ties with them before they return to Cairo. I'd rather do it in front of a computer screen, though. sigh
I'd been getting busy and real lazy about meal prep, and had taken to running to McDonalds for a burger when working late or doing late studying at the office. In addition, the company cafeteria makes really good soups (I love soup!) but rich.
So around the time of my cardiac adventure, I weighed myself, and I was up to 214 pounds. My normal active weight should be closer to 190. Oops. So I started prepping all my meals ahead of time to take to work. Some of this is modelled after Dr. Bob Arnot's Revolutionary Weight Control Program, a book I bought and had some success with a few years ago when I was training for running.
Since I'm lazy, I'm sticking to a fairly simple diet, with steady exercise (I never really gave up on the exercise, but it was harder when I tore my ankle up). So here is a typical workday diet:
- Protein bar
- 1 cup oatmeal with powdered skim milk, lightly cooked
- 1 caffeinated pop (don't like coffee)
- Lots of water
- 3 oz. fish
- 1 apple
- 1.5 cups raw vegetables (brocolli, cauliflower, carrots, celery...)
- 1 small corn tortilla
- Lots of water
- 1 non-caffeinated pop
- 1 Hershey's Kiss "qbullet.smiley"
- Lots of water
- 1 cup pinto beans, al dente
- 1 Hershey's Kiss
- Lots of water
- 0.5 cups refried beans
- cooked vegetables
- 1 cup V8 Healthy Request vegetable juice
- small homemade bread
- 1 glass red wine
- 1 Hershey's Kiss
- Lots of water
As you can tell, when I'm home I allow myself a lot more. Also, on weekends, I'm a bit easier on myself. Still, it seems to be working. It's been around a month, and I'm down to 206 pounds. Pray for me! "qbullet.smiley"
and was assured that I had WPW, and that it really wasn't that
important, I determined that it would still be a good idea to talk to my
Dad about it, since some of the research on WPW suggests that it might
All of this led to my essay, "Family Culture".
and was assured that I had WPW, and that it really wasn't that
important, I determined that it would still be a good idea to talk to my
Dad about it, since some of the research on WPW suggests that it might
I called him up this weekend and we spoke about all the usual non-news
and semi-news. I mentioned that Jean had been offered a column at the
paper where she works, I told him about the blowout Kelly had had at
Kindergarten. We determined that each of us was in good health (right
now) and exchanged calendars. Dad should be driving to Florida with
Betty right about now, for instance.
Then I touched on the topic of WPW. Had he ever had an EKG? Several. Had
any ever turned up WPW? No, he had never even heard of it. Well, good. I
told him how the doctor had explained that the only way WPW would ever
likely affect my life was if I found myself in the emergency room for
anything at all. Said Dr. Rudolf:
Be sure that the first thing you do is grab the attending physician by
the lapels and say "I'm WPW Type A!"
This is because emergency rooms have a standard approach to treating
elevated heart rates. They administer Verapamil,
which in the average patient is very successful in lowering the racing
heartrate. But in WPW patients, it causes problems.
Here's the medicalese:
Some patients with paroxysmal and/or chronic atrial fibrillation or
atrial flutter [and WPW] have developed [...] a very
rapid ventricular response or ventricular fibrillation after receiving
intravenous verapamil [...]
All this means is that I shouldn't receive the standard treatment
for racing heart, as it could actually make things worse. I need to
carry around that EKG and try to communicate my condition if I find
myself in need of emergency medical treatment.
So back to my Dad. On hearing this, he related a similar issue that he
lives with. It seems that while serving in Korea (as a medic), he was
sent with several other servicemen onto a refrigeration ship, Korean in
origin. Shortly thereafter, he and all his fellows came down with an
illness that was for several days undiagnosed. Eventually it was
diagnosed as pneumonia, and they were all treated successfully.
However, to this day, he must inform doctors, whenever they take an
X-ray, for whatever reason, that there is a 'fibrous strand' in the
lower-right quadrant of his lungs, caused by scarring from the
pneumonia. It will show up as a shadow on his lung, and has been there
since his youth in the Navy. Can't have the doctors rushing him off to
oncologists every time he gets an X-ray.
The reason this is interesting to me is that it sort of echoes my own
situation, and is a bit of history of my father that I had not heard
before. My relationship with my Dad is a bit distant, I think. When my
sister and I were growing up, he was a stern authoritarian, and did not
hesitate to 'use the belt' for martial punishment. Add to this the
fact that I am introverted and perhaps stereotypically Finnish (stoic,
withdrawn) and it all adds up to a less than embracing relationship with
Now over the years this relationship has mellowed, but we still don't
talk about very deep topics all that often. My father's own life is one
of those shrouded areas. I know some of the popular anecdotes, but I
doubt that he'd open up and tell me of his childhood fears, or what was
good and bad about his relationship with his own father. Truth to
tell, I am inhibited from asking. I can't bring myself to probe that
far. I'm not sure if it's really that important to me, but it does
illustrate why this little anecdote is of interest.
I know that I am boxed in by my personality. I'm not the deeply
touchy-feely type of person, except in my own narrow tribe. Kelly can
hardly breathe sometimes for all my hugging and nuzzling. Jean can have
my hugs and kisses any time she wants. But California cuddly I am
not. In a team-building exercise at work once, the 'facilitator' tried
to get us to give each other back massages, at which point I sat down,
and nearly walked out. "That's it," I said. So I do have my
limits, a wall around myself.
I am okay with this, most of the time. But it does cause problems for me
at times. A few years ago, my mother died. While I'd known that she'd
been having problems with her health, I truly had no idea that her life
was threatened. I was surprised when my dad called to tell me she had
My wife and I flew to Michigan to attend the funeral. My sister wanted
to know if I wanted to view my mother in the casket. I was not, nor am I
now interested in viewing the inanimate remains of somebody I once
knew. It doesn't give me peace, help me accept that they are 'really'
dead, or any of those other things people tell you when they have open
casket viewings. So of course I stayed at the opposite end of the
funeral parlor from the casket.
I was matter-of-fact, closed off, business-like during the entire
trip. If anybody ever told me the cause of death, I didn't hear
it. After the fact, my Finnish stoic facade prevents me from asking. I
just don't find it appropriate. So I have an idea what ended my mother's
life, but not the facts. I suppose for Kelly's medical records, I will
have to make the effort eventually.
The real point of this passage is that when I got home, I felt numb, I
helped unpack, then sat on the couch just staring into space. My wife
came in to ask me some day-in-the-life kind of question, and I just
started tearing up. I ended up crying for an hour, gut-wrenching sobs,
accusatory howls, snot and tears and all the unpretty symptoms of ugly
grief. After a while, the physical manifestations died down, and I don't
think I cried about the whole thing ever again. But I surprised
myself. I knew I missed my mother, and was sad she had died. But
I thought I was outside of the deeper responses. Or rather I didn't
think about it at all.
So now I think about mortality and turn my eyes to my Dad. I know we
don't have a truly close relationship, and I don't think we ever really
will. We are too much alike in that respect. But I don't want to make
the mistake of being the prototypical Finnish male, and completely miss
the signs, should they come. I don't want to come home from a funeral
not even knowing what took him, not even knowing if I feel, until the
storm takes me. I don't know what this means, but I'll be thinking about
it for a long time.
In any case, we worked through the miscommunications and got to the meat of the conflict. Now Jean is clear on how I intend to police Kelly's morning breakfast, and I'm clear how stressed Jean feels about Kelly's Kindergarten fiasco. I hope Jean has a clearer idea of the wrestling I have to do with Kelly too.
Kelly had her first 'enforced' breakfast today, and did try to deflect things by being by turns funny, cute, precocious and so on. Jean was home for it, so she saw the game. Jean is home today with what is probably a flu. We got enough food into Kelly's stomach to satisfy me, and I took her to school. Cross your fingers!
Sunday, October 29, 2000
Jean 'extracted' the container and returned it to the trash. Kelly began to cry and made accusations of meanness and unfairness. We assured her that we still loved her despite her being so mean. "qbullet.smiley"
Short story is that we sent Kelly to her room for an hour. She seems to have digested the message well enough to regurgitate the party line, but I doubt she believes what she did was wrong.
The big surprise for me was when Jean said she was angry not just at Kelly but at me too. It seems that regardless of the number of things I did that day, I didn't do enough. Apparently, I was supposed to nag Kelly to keep her toys under control. Sorry, I won't do it. I think it is enough to have the pick up time at the end of the day.
I didn't contradict her in front of Kelly, but I'll have a talk with her when we go for a walk on Monday (our weekday walks are the only time we can really talk without having Kelly insinuating herself into the conversation).
Saturday, October 28, 2000
The reason we were listening to music (courtesy of Napster, don't worry, I own or will soon buy all the albums named), is that Kelly is not allowed to watch cartoons this Saturday morning. She is not allowed to watch cartoons due to a rule we have now. Read all about it in my new musing, "Raising Kelly".
The reason we were listening to music (courtesy of Napster, don't worry, I own or will soon buy all the albums named), is that Kelly is not allowed to watch cartoons this Saturday morning. She is not allowed to watch cartoons due to a rule we have now. The rule is this:
- If Kelly gets a 'good-behavior' grade at Bridgeport Elementary School (Kindergarten) she is allowed to watch cartoons the following morning.
- Likewise, if she behaves at Kid Connection (daycare) in the afternoon, she gets to watch cartoons the same evening.
Needless to say, Kelly did not get a good-behavior grade yesterday morning at Bridgeport. In fact, she had the worst blow-up that she has had in living memory. We started the cartoon rules because she was having some behavior problems, and the rules seemed to help. But Friday she completely lost it. Here's what happened:
In the morning, the teacher, Mrs. Wentzell, asked all the children to put away their art projects and prepare for the next segment of the class. Four of the students were too involved in playing to listen to her, and failed to put away their art projects. Mrs. Wentzell quietly picked up the artwork of those four students (and yes, Kelly was one of them) and placed it all in the trash.
Three of the students were dumbfounded, with slack jaws, witnessing the consequences of their uncooperative attitudes. But one walked defiantly over to the trashcan and retrieved her work. That was my Kelly. She screamed at Mrs. Wentzell, and proceeded to cry and scream some more when Mrs. Wentzell tried to correct her. They made her sit in a corner of the room, but she didn't calm down. They made her move to the hallway, but she continued to scream. She was sent to the office, where she drove everyone crazy. A visiting policeman tried to talk to her to help her calm down, but she would not be consoled.
Jean arrived to pick Kelly up, and ended up having a conference for a half hour with the teacher. So now Jean is upset, and Kelly is sitting in the living room with no cartoons until noon.
I'll admit she has great resources when told she cannot watch cartoons. She has been listening to tunes on my laptop, eating her breakfast, playing tapes in her little tape player, playing with her dolls. In other words, doing just fine in the absence of television.
In the meantime, I mull over what has caused her behavior problems. It's a pain in the butt being a parent, especially when you don't particularly want to be one anyway. Jean was the one who wanted a kid, but I committed to it, so here we are.
I grew up in a house where spanking as a form of discipline was an accepted way of life. Well, not accepted by me. Since we have had Kelly, we have never spanked her, and I am not about to start now. I have subscribed to the notions put forth in the book Parenting With Love and Logic, the basic principle of which is to let kids make decisions as early as possible, when mistakes are usually not too damaging. And let the child 'own' the consequences of their actions.
What this means is that I've been letting her decide what she has for breakfast on school days. The hope here is that if she gets hungry at school before snack time, she'll realize that she needed to eat more at home before going to school. But the morning of her blowup she ate very little, and that probably contributed to her problems. So in the spirit of letting her 'own' the consequences, we told her that for the next few months she was losing the priviledge of choosing her breakfast in the morning and that she would have to eat what we chose for her.
Another factor that might have contributed to her blow-up was lack of sleep. My wife observed that our usual pattern with Kelly is to start moving her to bed at 8:30pm. First Jean visits her, reading her a story, then I do. But generally, Kelly and I relate by play and goofing around, so she ends up getting worked up just before bedtime. So there's another switch in our routine. Kelly now goes to bed at 8pm (one half hour earlier), and I visit her first. Hopefully, that will help her to get more sleep.
A final factor that may have contributed to her blow-up: this morning she is displaying all the outward signs of a cold. If she was coming down with the inward symptoms (tired, achy, stuffy) yesterday morning, then that would have a big influence on her behavior. So we nurse the cold this weekend as well.
None of these factors excuses her behavior, in my opinion. And my own responsibility is not to be waved away either. The two steps of controlled diet and extended sleep are my attempts to take responsibility for my side of Kelly's blow-up. What this all boils down to is that parenting is hard. It would be easy to spank her for misbehaving, it would be easy to make every decision for her and have a perfectly behaved little doll. But I want her to be able to make good decisions at a very early age. Sometimes, giving her control means I overstep and give her too much. Then we fine tune.
I hope that we don't have to restrict Kelly's rights even further, though we made the dire hint in her hearing that if she couldn't learn to control herself, we might have to visit the doctor. And who knows what a doctor might want to do? Maybe vitamin shots! Shiver. So Kelly is motivated to learn self-control, and I am motivated to help her. I just need to find that fine balance between freedom and control that will let her grow up to make good decisions for herself.
Thanks for listening.
Friday, October 27, 2000
Rather than try to overwhelm weblogs.com, I've put sixteen pictures up at Photopoint. That way, anyone who wants can look at the thumbnails there, and if they like a picture, clicking on the thumbnail will load the larger image.
All images have been scaled down to fit in a 640X480 frame. Pictures were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 950. Some after-photo editing was performed in Photoshop 4.01 on a PowerMacintosh 8500/120.
And believe it or not, all photos were uploaded using a 33.3Kb modem! "qbullet.smiley"
Don't know if I should make this a regular 'feature' or what, but sometimes this show tickles my funnybone.
Buffy finds a glowing sphere, about the size of a baseball, and shows it to the gang:
Giles: It appears to be paranormal in origin...
Willow: Why do you say that?
Giles: Well, it's all shiny...
Buffy confronts Spike outside her house:
Buffy: Why are you outside my house? In five words!
Spike [ticking off his fingers]: Out .. for .. a .. walk ...
[and then after a teeny pause, thumb]: Bitch.
Thursday, October 26, 2000
- I definitely have WPW.
- I am otherwise healthy as a horse (cardiac, pulmonary, you name it).
- WPW poses no health risk for me, as I display none of the risk factors which would require ablative catheterization or other treatment.
So I'm golden for another few years. In another week or so I'll be having my physical, which got bumped when Dr. Selby was too overloaded, but I don't think we'll be seeing any other dramatic developments.
Wednesday, October 25, 2000
- "The Wild, Wild East" (Trigun)
- "Peter the Great" (Alexander)
These are the last two of my recent reviews which I tried to recover. Any reviews I post hereafter will be new. I look forward to writing a review of FuriKuri next.
There are rare moments in a person's lifetime when he or she discovers a
hidden talent, one which represents the path not taken. Say one has
dedicated one's career to software development. In the evolution of his
self, the software wonk might try his hand at writing. And then that
rare magic moment would manifest itself, revealing that he is actually a
gifted writer, skilled in conveying the kernel of a topic with
effortless ease. This is not one of those rare moments.
I won't even go into all my faults as a writer. I leave that to the
reader who bothers to plow through my turgid prose. But I've come to
recognize one very clear shortcoming. I can't for the life of me
clearly describe why I like a particular anime. If you've suffered along
with me through any of my previous reviews, you've seen me puzzle over
such gems as Tenshi ni Narumon, knowing I liked it but at a loss
as to why. Well get used to it. Confused I came into this world, and
confused I shall ever be.
Now that I've done with that unburdening, let's take a look at
this month's puzzle. The name of the show is Alexander, and it is based
on the life of Alexander the Great, in much the same way that
U-571 is based on the capture of the Enigma cypher machine in
WWII, and the manner in which Gladiator is based on the reign of
Commodus over the Roman Empire. This is to say, very, very
Real history tells us that the British captured the Enigma machine,
before America even entered the war. The best historical accounts of
Emperor Commodus' life suggest that he either died of an illness, or
poisoning at the hands of his advisors. And oh, yes, he never had a
general named Maximus. I won't go into any such myth-puncturing when
looking at Alexander, but just keep it in mind as we proceed. Oh,
alright, there were no -- to the best of our knowledge -- flying
sorceror-assassins of the cult of Pythagoras in ancient Greece. But it
wouldn't be an anime if they were missing.
I don't even need to give a synopsis of the story background, since that
at least is relatively accurate, and recorded for anyone willing to do a
little reading. So instead I'd like to spend what remains of this column
considering the style of the show, which I'm told will last 13 'acts'.
Alexander is the product of numerous fertile minds. It is based
on an original novel by Hiroshi Aramata. According to the official site
for Alexander, he "combined his life-long interest in the subject
with over 5 years of painstaking research to present his own unique
interpretation." And he certainly didn't let that painstaking research
sully his unique interpretation.
While I'm sure that the director contributed to the vision, I don't know
how much influence over the look and atmosphere of the show he had. For
the record, note that he was Yoshinori Kanemori, and that he has also
directed Galaxy Express 999, Final Fantasy and others. Feh
on the producers. Who knows what they are thinking, on any given day?
Of course the jewel in this creative crown, the pearl of this video
oyster, the prize in this Crackerjack (tm) drama, is none other than
Peter Chung. If you haven't heard of him, shame on you. He is my
personal hero of the animation world, responsible for inflicting on the
world that marvel of originality and tribute fused together, Aeon
Flux. If only for this one work I will worship at this altar for
many years to come.
Far more of his work has been in the realm of character design than in
actual writing and story development. In 1994, starved for more Peter
Chung, I sank so low as to watch Phantom 2040 religiously on
Saturday mornings, despite the fact that his only involvement was to
contribute the character designs (actually the writing for the show was
not too bad and a cut above many of the made-for-USA kids' shows of the
time). Fortunately the very next year marked the launch of the Aeon
Flux television series, an encore brought about by the unquestioned
popularity of the original sequences found on MTV's Liquid
Imagine my surprise to hear that the creator of so many angular,
anatomically questionable heros was going to turn his talents to
Alexander the Great. I was certainly excited to hear it, even if he once
again was constrained to merely designing the characters, rather than
contributing to the story.
Now years later (his character designs were completed in 1996), the
grand design has come together. The multifarious minds behind
Alexander have delivered up their child. Alexander is a
sprawling epic told in several episodes of a more personal scope, as
Alexander wins the respect of his people, and then falls prey to
overweening pride. Amongst the characters we have Alexander
himself, Roxanne, the daughter of a powerful Persian clan leader and
eventually his wife, Alexander's friend Hephaestion and a cast of
I viewed the first two episodes in the original Japanese, without
subtitles, so perhaps I can be forgiven my bemusement when Alexander is
attacked by the utterly spooky Pythagorean assassins, who are convinced
that he will be the agency of the end of the world. Olympias,
Alexander's mother, is also a trip. We are treated to a flashback of her
giving birth to Alexander while entwined with giant serpents. She's
apparently all for her son becoming the world-destroyer.
None of this is made any easier by the set and costume design which has
about as much to do with ancient Greece and Persia as General Relativity
has to do with Dr. Who. Colors are bright, buildings are postmodern,
everything is very jumbled. But lest we rush to blame Peter Chung,
consider this quote from an interview with him: "First, I started by
doing research, before the director, Mr. Kanemori, told me to quit the
research and only use my imagination... if [the director and writer]
didn't like something, they said so, and I'd change it."
And change it they did. Alexander's tutor and mentor, Aristotle (yes,
that Aristotle) ends up looking like a fugitive from a Cockatoo
farm. In a major battle fought in the second episode, where Alexander
disobeys direct orders to brilliantly win the day, I found myself
reminded of a Civil War Battle re-enactment as presented by Cirque du
Soleil. Colorful, yes, but also distracting, if you know more than a
little about the period.
The parlor pieces also have that jarring quality, like watching Imago or
Burmese shadow puppets presenting Hedda Gabbler. While I could go
on with the jarring images and obscure references to other culturally
puzzling phenomena, I hope you get the gist. It's fun to poke fun, but
enough is enough.
I've deliberately stayed away from the details of the story in this
column, not because it is hard to tell what is going on (the official
website has some excellent information, synopses and character
descriptions) but because I think the substance of the show
should be experienced by each of you. It is certainly worth the
investment of an hour or two to watch the first two episodes. Personally
I intend to watch more, since I am interested in the evolution of
the relationships among the characters, invented and historical, who
have been introduced thus far.
But I felt it was only fair to prepare the path, as it were, on this
journey, by letting you know what was discordant about the show. If you
approach it as a purely fantastic creation in the typical anime vein (I
found myself thinking of Yotoden more than once while watching),
or if you are woefully ignorant of history (and there is no reason why
you shouldn't be, where ancient Greece and Persia are concerned), then
Alexander will seem a peculiar and rich brew.
anime show which was to become quite hot in Japan: Trigun.
Trigun does something fresh with a respected genre, paying
tribute to Sergio
Leone and the spaghetti westerns which have since become
I admit I'm not too plugged in to the licensing announcements of
American anime companies, or the American arms of Japanese ones, but
I've heard that Trigun is supposedly coming to the
U.S. soon. So now might be a good time to revisit my viewing of this
Trigun is a 26-part anime series, somewhat episodic, but
constructing an overall story arc. The setting is Old West in flavor,
though the Old West of The
Good, The Bad and The Ugly, or Wild, Wild West.
Technological anachronisms abound, as do trick guns and bizarre
characters. After a brief period it becomes clear that this society is
the remnant of an interstellar colonization effort. What went wrong in
the colonization is the main thread of the story arc.
Trigun the anime is based on Trigun the manga, authored
by Yasuhiro Nightow in 1995. A new manga, Trigun Maximum, is
still running in the magazine Young King Ours
The cast of characters includes the Good Guys, such as Vash the
Stampede (early in the series identified as being responsible for much
mayhem, with a bounty of $$60,000,000,000 [the '$$' is not a typo]),
and the Bad Guys, who are so bad, they even get a Team Name: the Gung
Ho Guns. I've said that Vash is a Good Guy, potentially giving away a
story point, but it's pretty clear to the viewer, if not to the other
characters, that he is good, noble and crazy, in the best Lupin/City
Hunter tradition. It is true that mayhem happens around Vash, but
Vash is usually trying to stop it.
I could go into the details of the driving story arc, but that *would*
be giving too much away. Suffice it to say that Vash has enemies,
powerful enemies, who want to destroy him. The chief Bad Guy directs
his lieutenant, Legato Bluesummers, to harry and humiliate Vash, and
Legato generally does just that, commanding the Gung Ho Guns, a
rogue's gallery of characters the likes of which always populated the
old Wild, Wild West television shows. Just a sampling of these
- Hopperd the Gauntlet - attacks his victims as a human bullet.
- Midvalley the Horn Freak - attacks with sound blasts from a Saxaphone.
- Leonov the Puppetmaster - uses killer mannequins at a distance.
The tone of the series ranges from whimsical, hilarious and goofy to
downright depressing. Characters enter our awareness, show their
humanity, and all too often die. Vash is the Fool, traveling from town
to town on a journey of discovery. Sometimes he is able to help
people, other times he has to watch them slip through his fingers.
Joining him on his journey are two insurance agents, sent to find the
source of all the claims their company has been flooded with recently.
One is Merril Stryfe, diminutive but tough, and the other is Milly
Thompson, tall, cheerful, and not the brains of the team. But she
does carry a big gun. Most of the main characters
carry a gun of one sort or another, usually a trick gun (i.e. a gun
concealed in an unexpected way, or a gun with flashy performance
Does all this hang together? Remarkably well. Even viewed in raw
Japanese, which I don't speak, I found the stories engaging and fun. I
was a bit taken aback by the dark turn of later episodes, but they do
eventually resolve into a--sort of--happy ending. I once was told that
the Japanese have a word which describes moments which are both happy
and sad. Here Nightow and the anime creators bring that word alive. If
you can handle an anime where not all the Good Guys live, and the
happy ending doesn't include a wedding and a castle, Trigun is
definitely worth your time.
The ISP I use at home has been down with a hard disk crash for the last couple of days, so I haven't been able to post from home. Thought I'd take a quick moment to post from work. I'm still alive, all is well.
Saturday was the "NOVA" Halloween party, and I showed The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and "Bio-Zombie"! They were both well-received by the cheesy entertainment crowd.
Sunday we went to the Oregon Zoo. Jean was there because she's taking a class in Anthropology from PCC. Kelly and I went along, and wandered around the zoo while Jean was 'in class'. Stellar Cove was cool, and I'll post a couple of pictures when I can log in from home again.
Saturday, October 21, 2000
Friday, October 20, 2000
First, Furi Kuri is a six-part OVA series brought to you by Gainax. I believe there is also a movie. If that's not enough for you, there are three volumes of manga serializations, and a CD. Since almost all of the staff previously worked on Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou or Neon Genesis Evangelion, there is a strong artistic influence from each of these series.
Furi Kuri takes place, as do so many anime, in a world very like our own, but not quite so. As is often the case, the laws of physics are violated with cartoon impunity, and characters display a certain...robustness...which any of us could only dream of. Folks are flung through space in beauteous arcs, limbs flailing majestically, to perform graceful one-point landings on their faces, heels rapping smartly on their skulls. Do these poor creatures feel pain? Surely, but they pick themselves up and--well, they don't march back into danger, they run away like any sane person, but the point is that they can run.
Another staple of Japanese OVAs is the domination of the cast by high school (or younger) characters. FLCL is squarely in this camp. The "hero" of our story is hard to pick out in the three episodes I've been privileged to watch, but there are a few candidates to choose from:
- Nandaba Naota, a 12-year old student. His brother is off in America, playing baseball. He is nursing a big chip on his shoulder, seeming to feel abandoned.
- Samejima Mamimi, aged 17, is supposedly the girlfriend of Naota's brother, but she acts awfully familiar with Naota. This is yet another source of annoyance to him.
- Haruhara Haruko. Maybe not the hero of the show, but my pick for bestest, most funnest and excitingest character in the show, and indeed in this year's anime. She's got a guitar with a two-stroke engine, a Vespa Scooter with an unknown propulsion system and a cool riding outfit. She's the oldest of the 'kids' in the show (so far), stating that herself that she's 19 (though she's probably older).
Haruko's picture graces the top of this review. Maybe not her most flattering picture, but it does capture some of her tendency to vogue disgracefully. Along with this cast of characters we are introduced to the 'adults' in the series, such as Naota's father Kamon, and his grandfather Shigekuni. Amongst the non-human cast we have Miyu-Miyu, a rather disturbing cat, and Kanchi, a robot, pictured here behind Mamimi and Naota. It is one of those difficulties of plot spoiling which prevent me from explaining how Kanchi first arrives on the scene, though I will go so far as to note that he was given his name by Mamimi, after a destroying angel character in a video game she played.
So what's it about? It's partly about the 'ordinary' life of two kids in the city of Mabase, growing up in the shadow of the mysterious Medical Mechanica plant. That the plant looks like a giant steam iron, and in fact billows forth gouts of steam or smoke at irregular intervals is certainly a source of curiousity for these kids, but it doesn't obscure their more ordinary concerns of alienation and confusion.
All that changes in an instant when Haruko literally races onto the scene, gunning her Vespa toward an unsuspecting Mamimi and Naota. This meeting is a lot like the first meeting between Ataru and Lum, or Tenchi and Ryoko. In other words, it is disastrous, and totally turns Naota's life upside-down. All right, I think I'm entitled to at least one spoiler: Haruko smacks Naota in the head with her guitar! Why does she do it? Well, that's part and parcel of the story, but it is a truly precious scene, as Haruko shifts about the unconscious Naota on her knees, not actually moving her limbs but scooting from spot to spot in some spooky yet hilarious telekinetic dance.
After this painful first encounter, Naota is shocked to find that Haruko has moved into his house, invited there by his father as a live-in maid. It seems that Haruko is not yet done with Naota. Indeed, she is in his face, on his case and pawing other places in a most unseemly manner. Haruko is, in short, every otaku's dream. But Naota is not an otaku.
Furi Kuri is by turns moody and hyperkinetic. Mamimi broods, vamps and may be an arsonist. Haruko has a mission, plainly, and is given to outlandish claims, such as being an alien. Naota probably just wants them all to go away. Kanchi has some of the best scenes in the first three episodes, between battles, heroic posture and angelic tableaux. So I return to the question. What's it about?
In part it is about the mystery of the Medical Mechanica building, and certain phenomena associated with it (at least by some of the characters), such as the appearance of Kanchi. It is also about the growth of the relationships of the characters: Naota and Mamimi, Naota and Haruko, Kanchi and Mamimi. Oh, it's all very complicated. Anybody who tells you they understand this series has either had an advanced preview of the entire thing, read the whole run of manga, or is lying.
On a scale of one to five Shamanic Princesses, I'd have to give this one a three for inscrutability. In the realm of Kare Kano, it is a peer, both for character development and interaction, and for humor and style. The music, by The Pillows is somewhat repetitive on the CD, but is eminently satisfying in the context of the series. I especially like "Little Busters", which makes it's debut during Kanchi's second fight scene.
So without giving away more plot details, that sums it up. Is it worth watching? Yes, if you thought Kare Kano was worth watching, or Mahou Tsukai Tai, or Shamanic Princess. Not because it is like any of those series, though occasionally it holds some kindred relationship. Rather because it tries to do something a little different, and have fun with it. And like Haruko on her Vespa, Furi Kuri tears up the landscape.
Director: Tsurumaki Kazuya
Character Designer: Sadamoto Yoshiyuki
Script: Enomoto Yooji
Manga: Ueda Hajime
Music: The Pillows
Wednesday, October 18, 2000
If you find yourself in Philadelphia with time on your hands, and you don't run to squeamishness, then allot some time (half a day is reasonable) to visit the Mutter Museum. When Jean, Kelly and I were there for the Moyer family reunion, I was fortunate enough to have found out about this place before we left, and Jean and I insisted on setting the time aside for a visit.
To me, and to Jean as well, I believe, it was the high point of the trip. Well worth the $8 general admission for each of us. I think we stayed a couple of hours, so it at least repaid the price of a movie.
The Museum's collections include over 20,000 objects, including approximately 900 fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens; 10,000+ medical instruments and apparati, primarily dating between 1750 and the present; ca. 400 anatomical and pathological models in plaster, wax, papier mache, and plastic; ca. 200 items of memorabilia of famous scientists and physicians; and ca. 1500 medical illustrations in the form of lantern slides, 35 mm. slides, photographs, drawings, and prints. The Museum continues to receive medical instruments and specimens donated by Fellows, other physicians, and individuals.
Now if only I'd heard about Eastern State Penitentiary as well, the trip would have been a real pleasure. Via metascene, here is an essay by magician Teller on his visit to Eastern State Pen.
A quote from Larry Wall, the creator of Perl, delivering a speech at the Atlanta Linux Showcase and Conference, on Perl 6:
As I was flying here on Delta Airlines, the monitor was showing all
sorts of happy sayings.
"If you can dream it, you can do it."
-- Walt Disney
Now this is actually false (massive laughter). I think Walt was confused between necessary and sufficient conditions. If you don't dream it, you can't do it, that is certainly accurate.
transcribed by Nathan Torkington
Tuesday, October 17, 2000
- Of little or no importance; trifling.
- contemplation of one's navel
- Of or relating to ground water.
So if you're looking to buy a dictionary, don't do it unless it has these three words (and your own personal favorites). You may very well never need to know or use these words, but it is, as my old calculus instructor used to say, "a measure of sophistication".
- "Las Vegas Diary" - My family trip to Babylon
- The turducken stops here - My wife's rant on "Turducken"
- "The Death Penalty" - Death, Passion and Politics
- "Trick or Treat" - A fluff Musing
- "Raising Kelly" - Raising my daughter
- "Family Culture" - About me and my Dad
- "Soulless Geek Toys" - Toys versus Life
- "Boys, Girls and Rules" - Boys Like to Argue about Rules
Monday, October 16, 2000
The short story: I've definitely got a WPW heart. No apparent risk due to my behavioral experiences (no fainting, dizzy spells or the like), but I'm supposed to carry a baseline EKG with me so that should I ever find myself in an emergency room for whatever reason, the physicians know not to give me certain kinds of meds.
The longer story: He consulted with Dr. Selby's PA (physician assistant) and they decided I should see Dr. Rudolf for a direct examination to make sure there are no other issues. Chances are low, since my bloodwork, B.P. and other indicators of the EKG are all great, but as he says, "In my line of work, I seldom get to revisit issues. If a dermatologist sees a pimple today, next week, no problem, but..."
So I get to add one more consultative visit to my localized string of doctor and dentist visits. After this, I think things will settle down again for a while. I certainly hope so. This gets tedious after a while.
Sunday, October 15, 2000
Nami, I hope you're reading at least some of this weblog too, as it is sort of like a running first draft for the letters and email I'll be sending you in the future. Of course, this server's bandwidth to Japan may be totally inadequate, in which case I'll understand if you don't have the patience to wait for the pages to load.
The rest of you (all two of you): enjoy what you like, and for god's sake, post a comment in the discussion group to let me know you're out there! Just kidding. I know it's jes' me and the crickets. ;^)~
Woody Invincible (Jordan Chan Siu-Chun) and Crazy Bee (Sam Lee Chan
Sam) run a pirate video shop in a Hong Kong mall. Their daily lives are
spent swaggering down the mall, talking big, betting on horse races and
trying to get dates with the various women who work there. Indeed,
except for two brief forays into the outer world at the beginning of the
movie (and one final visit at the end), the central cast of this movie
are the owners and workers at the various shops in the mall. Although we
see customers, they are early on ciphers, and later, zombies.
Running a beauty shop are two cute young women, Jelly and Rolls (yes,
they are actually called that in the movie, at least in the subtitles).
They are of course the constant victims of Woody and Bee's attentions.
Rolls is also the target of the unrequited love of a nerdy sushi chef at
the corner food court, Sushi Boy. On another floor, a cellphone store
('used' cellphones at bargain prices), we meet Brother Keung and his
wife. Brother Keung is an even bigger talker than Woody and Bee, if that
The early part of the movie is spent introducing each of these
characters and giving us time to recognize their fundamental roles. A
handful of characters are basically good, but most are flawed or even
bad. This gives plenty of targets when the flesh starts to fly.
After this chatty beginning the various fates begin to intersect when
Woody and Bee are instructed by their faceless boss to bring his car.
While they are going to the shop to pick it up, we are introduced to the
source of the movie's action.
And now for a brief digression. When I was a child, decades ago, Marvel
Comics was at the height of its popularity. Stan Lee was one of the
founding fathers, as it were, and he was giving interviews everywhere,
magazines, television. Anyway, I saw an interview with him on a talk
show, and he was a very funny guy. His main thesis was that other
comic companies had very implausible superheroes, who flew threw the air
because of magical powers.
"But ours", he said with a wide grin, "they fly for very good reason".
The Incredible Hulk simply leapt very high like a giant grasshopper.
Thor would throw his hammer and since it was on a thong around his
wrist, his body would follow. Spiderman gained his powers quite
logically, when he was bitten by a radioactive spider. And so on. Stan
Lee clearly having fun, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
I mention this little anecdote because Bio-Zombie has a similar
attitude. While George Romero's original zombies, from Night of the
Living Dead, are the result of mysterious radiation from a passing
comet, Bio-Zombie's zombies are caused by biological warfare agents,
created by the Iranians. A rogue canister of this chemical agent
disguised as a soft drink bottle is the source of all the chaos in the
So Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee cross paths with the 'real' world when
they--well that would be telling. Suffice it to say, for some reason
they bring an infected person back to the mall with them, and the world
begins to unravel.
The bio-agent is infectious (of course) and anyone bitten by a zombie is
doomed to become a zombie as well. Soon the mall is teaming with
shambling flesh eaters, and some measure of tension arises. I say only
some, because the tone of the movie even now is irreverant and
slapstick. References to video games abound, and any tool found around a
mall is pressed into service in the role of zombie slayer.
Overall, the movie follows this progression: first third chatty and a
bit slow, second third building toward the climactic zombie battle,
final third gory and exciting, but ending more somberly. I don't think
I'd give this movie more than a 6 out of 10, but with Halloween coming
up, it is certainly appropriate, and cheesy and low-budget enough to
make for silly fun.
The links will be added here as they appear.
Friday, October 13, 2000
Sitting in one of Dr. Selby's examination rooms by myself waiting for him, I picked up a copy of U.S. News & World Report from August, and came across a fascinating article on something I hadn't known before:
And something my daughter would have liked to know when she was younger. It seems that due to biofilms, antibiotics are not nearly as effective as we think concerning ear infections.
I was supposed to have a physical exam this morning, but the doctor was running late, and when they asked if they could reschedule, I said it depends. I told them about a few brief stabbing chest pains I had had a couple of weeks before, and they hooked me up to the EKG.
Diagnosis: everything is okay. My blood workup showed excellent cholestorol, my blood pressure was normal, the EKG showed no dangerous abnormalities. We've rescheduled the regular physical for next week.
But it never ends. The EKG flagged a possible characteristic which a small percentage of the population exhibits (Dr. Selby says "one in a thousand"). It's called
Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, or WPW. There's plenty of info on the Internet, so look it up if you're curious. The upshot for me is that a cardiologist needs to look at the EKG, and probably examine me, to determine if I really have it.
If I do, I get to carry around a copy of my EKG, and maybe a medic alert tag. Why? It seems that when most people get tachycardia, there is a common medicine given to slow the heart. Guess what? In folks with WPW, this only worsens the problem. So don't do that. Hence the need to identify myself if I have it.
So now I am told I have low risk for heart disease (very healthy in general) but that I need to have a special consult, and have my regular physical rescheduled to next Friday. Watch your health folks. For the average young person, it is free. After a certain age, it's work.
Thursday, October 12, 2000
I started watching this about mid-season last year. I was surprised at how funny and clever it was. So I'm watching it regularly now. Last night's episode was very uneven, but I loved the line near the end. Non-watchers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer may leave now.
Xander is finally moving out of his parents' basement. The crew is helping him carry boxes out of the basement. All except Anya, the former demon and now his mortal girlfriend. She's reading a magazine. He speaks to her (paraphrasing wildly here):
Xander: Can you carry this?
Anya (disturbed): Why me?
Xander: It's just that everybody's helping...
Anya: Buffy's got super strength! Can't we just pile everything on her? Like a little pony!
There, I said it. Do you think less of me? Only, after a long day at the office, sometimes I just want to vegetate. I'm not Edison, I don't thrive on four hours of sleep and continuous work. Since my work is mostly mental, that means mental rest also. And what is more passive and stressless than television?
Monday, October 9, 2000
Now I get treated to several weeks in a row of lazy steady showers, drizzles, mists and downpours. Not too many thunderstorms, which is something I miss about the Midwest, but that's the only thing I miss about the Midwest.
My wife has been coming down to my workplace for a few months now, around lunchtime or in the afternoon, to join me for a walk through the small woods located on campus. This I enjoy a lot. Now with the rain, we get to walk through the woods and hear the frogs croaking from the bushes. Wow.
If I ever kick this cold (if it is a cold <suspicious glare>) I'll start up running again. And let me tell you, running in the rain is the very best thing for the spirit. Don't think discomfort, you're gonna take a shower afterwards anyway. Think swooping through a corridor of falling gems, surrounded by a gentle, restful sussurus of white noise, courtesy Mother Nature. It is 'the bomb'.
Gotta finish lunch and get back to work. 'Bye now.
also ran the NOVA mailing list (I still do the latter). I had recently
attended Anime Expo, in southern California, and been exposed for the
first time to Hong Kong movies. Sure, I might have seen an old Shaw
Brothers movie on late-night television, but to me that was
'chop-socky', i.e. formulaic and stale.
To see what this has to do with Halloween, you can read my meandering essay, "Trick or Treat".
also ran the NOVA mailing list (I still do the latter). I had recently
attended "Anime Expo", in Southern California, and been exposed for the
first time to Hong Kong movies. Sure, I might have seen an old Shaw
Brothers movie on late-night television, but to me that was
'chop-socky', i.e. formulaic and stale.
What I saw at the convention was shown late at night (the 'midnight
movies'), but it was at an anime convention. I guess I got the
formative notion right then that flying people movies were kindred of
the fight show and historical drama as rendered in anime. I was eager to
share what I had seen, and find ways to let others see the same
vigorous, if somewhat ragged-edged, creativity that I had.
For the record, from memory, some of the movies I saw that summer
at Anime Expo, were:
- Full Contact
- Bride With White Hair
- Deadful Melody
I'm sure I also saw some Jackie Chan movies, but I've seen so many since
then that I can't recall which ones.
In any case, I began noting on the mailing list whenever a midnight
festival of Hong Kong movies was showing at the local art theatre. I'd
share tidbits about the arrival of a Jackie Chan film in limited release
to a regular theater. And I procured some of my favorites and showed
them at NOVA meetings.
Before long, a member who lived in another city and came to the
occasional meeting posted a rather scathing message to the mailing list
protesting the dilution of the club with non-anime. I was stunned. It
was quite a bitter message as I read it. It had never occured to me that
somebody might feel threatened by the casual mention (truthfully not
more than once a month) of local theater showings. And I always showed
my own videos on my own television, in a corner of the meeting, rather
than taking over the main screen.
Maybe I was wrong. I don't know. If so, then maybe I'm heading for the
same attacks in the future. Folks seem generally tolerant of stuff going
on in the corner of a meeting nowadays, and I've shown a few Hong Kong
movies in recent history. So we'll see.
What got me to thinking about this, and reminiscing, is that NOVA is
heading toward it's annual Halloween party (October 21st, Tigard City
Hall ;^)~ ) and I'm weighing two movies in the balance to show in my
The first I have seen, and it is cheesy yet fun. It is called The
Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, and was co-produced by Hammer
Films (a well-known American producer of horror films from the
mid-fifties to the mid-seventies) and Shaw Brothers (a famous Hong Kong
studio at the time, and known for more than just kung-fu). Peter Cushing
plays Professor Van Helsing. The premise is that Dracula has moved to
China to rule over the Seven Golden Vampires, and Professor Van Helsing
agrees to help the inhabitants fight them. This movie is notable for
it's kung-fu vampires!
I think it's a lot of fun, and my only reservation is that the movie has
some images of women with exposed breasts. This occurs when the 7GV are
raiding the village to get fresh victims, and in their temple when they
prepare to drink their blood. In all honesty, it's not the least erotic,
but one must think about these things in our Puritan society.
I thought I might be able to bypass this problem with a neat trick. See,
the DVD has two versions of the movie. The second version, titled The
Seven Brothers Meet Dracula, is ostensibly the version originally
released in the U.S., whereas the first would have been for the wider
world audience. Great, I thought. The second version will be a
prude's version with no breastage, and I can show that one.
But it was not to be. The second one has the exact same scenes
with exposed breasts as the first. The real difference is that the
second version has been edited down to a much shorter film. The result
is that the story which was enjoyable in the first version is a jumbled,
confusing mess in the second. Out with that option. So I'm taking an
informal poll on the NOVA ML to see if there are any objections to
showing it, if ample notice is given.
I have another candidate, which while gorey, is so only in a cartoony
over-the-top way. It is called "Bio-Zombie" and is a Hong Kong
homage/rip-off of Dawn of the Dead. I have recently done a
preview screening of it, and review it elsewhere on this site. I'd have
to agree with other reviewers who say it is corny and that the violence
is over the top. That sounds just about right for a Halloween party.
Friday, October 6, 2000
previous, so I'm here at work (on lunch break, thanks), but I
still coughed so hard and long that I sprained a muscle in my
ribcage. I can still breathe, but some stretches and turns are
On the other hand, this morning I went to Dr. Levin to have the stitches
removed from my gum graft (periodontal surgery can be such
fun). He practically cooed over the success of the graft. So
according to him, the danger area now has enough tissue to "last a
lifetime". Considering my dodgy health, that could be less time than he
So the second (and hopefully last) graft, on the opposite side of the
lower jaw, won't happen 'til 'next year' (January, ouch). I don't know
whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that I now know what to
My regular dental hygiene visit should be a barrel of laughs this time. That's next Tuesday. Then as if I wasn't getting poked and prodded enough, next Friday is the semi-annual physical exam. Wish me luck!
Thursday, October 5, 2000
Here are the anime reviews I've managed to recover so far. They are not necessarily in chronological order, sorry:
- "Probably My First Anime 'Review'" (Mahou Tsukai Tai!)
- "Assemble Insert"
- "Princess Nine"
- "The Wild, Wild East" (Trigun)
- "The Legacy of the Sailor Scouts" (Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne)
- "Jasmine Jello" (Tenchi ni Narumon)
- "Peter the Great" (Alexander)
- "Big Robo" (Big O)
- "Phantom Plot" (Boogiepop Phantom)
- "Sailor Ninja" (Jubei-chan)
- "FLCL S LTS F FN" (FuriKuri)
- "Top Gundam" (The Candidate for Goddess)
A word about how I create reviews. I don't speak Japanese (my attempts at study were foiled by parenthood). So if I'm reviewing a raw Japanese show, I'll often search the internet for factoids. I don't give credit all the time, but I try to write my own words, aside from the factoids. So if you spot a possible (certainly unintentional) plagiarism, please let me know.
Unfair Anime Reviews (echo! echo! echo!)
In case you're a new reader, let's review the rules:
- The reviewer must not be fluent in Japanese. In fact, he may only
know a smattering of phrases, preferably lewd.
- The anime under review must be unsubbed, undubbed, in the original
language, what I like to call 'raw Japanese'.
- The show must be relatively new, so that there are few episodes
available to review (in this case the first two), and there is
limited information on the Internet about it (this reviewer's
primary research tool).
- [extra credit] To take advantage of the reviewer's ignorance, the
show should be heavy on dialogue, only lightly interspersed with
any sort of action. If it makes 'The Seventh Seal' seem like
'The French Connection' we are well on our way.
I really, really shouldn't do this sort of thing. But the shows I like
to review most are the ones which haven't yet reached our shores, and
I've always had a fatal attraction for the odd. So I end up drawn to
shows such as Shamanic Princess like a moth to the flames. And if I say
"what the hell was that??!!??" more often than the next otaku, so be
So here I am again, to share my impressions of a show I have little hope
of understanding. Moreover, a show which makes Serial Experiments Lain
actually break a sweat in the race to be the least-animated animated
series. What's the show, already! It's Boogiepop Phantom. There, I said
it. What are you going to do about it?
If you like scenes which linger lovingly on street lamps, transit
trains, and the by-now-obligatory immobile street crowd, then you
probably have the complete Serial Experiments Lain in your DVD
library. You should start saving for Boogiepop Phantom too. The series
is only twelve episodes long, so it shouldn't be too hard to do.
Seriously, though. This seems to be a part of a growing genre of anime
in Japan. This genre has existed from the start, but is really
flourishing now on the late-night satellite channels like
Wow-Wow. Boogiepop is on at 2a.m. on TV Tokyo. What sort of audience you
get at that time I can only guess, insomniac for one. But somebody
watching television at 2a.m. is more than likely a little bit more
patient than the average prime time viewer. So shows like these take
their time. The story evolves through dialogue, imagery, flashbacks,
visions, and the internal monologues of the characters.
For the non-native viewer, a consequence is that the show is more than a
little bit hard to follow. But I'm guessing that even a Tokyo resident
will scratch her head a bit over this show. It is classified as horror,
and has a bit of the Clive Barker leaky-reality feel to it. In the first
episode Tonomura Moto is introduced. She is apparently obsessed by
germs, as she opens doors with tissues and is constantly washing her
hands. Not particularly good at making friends, she lives in a bubble of
her own making.
As if her life isn't bad enough she was in love with a boy, Saotome, who
has disappeared, and being painfully shy she never even approached
him. But fear not, in the dark of night Moto is walking home from the
karaoke bar, alone, when Saotome manifests in a cloud of light. Moto is
understandably disturbed, but soon overcomes her discomfort and talks
with him. After a short conversation, Saotome reveals his true colors,
grabbing Moto and spewing ectoplasmic tentacles from his mouth. But
before he can do the nasty to Moto, he is 'killed'. Boogiepop Phantom
has made her first appearance.
So who is Boogiepop Phantom? The info out there is sketchy, but I did
glean this bit from EX Remote:
BOOGIEPOP WA WARAWANAI (BOOGIEPOP PHANTOM)
TV Tokyo Overview: A secret organization that
Wed/Thu protects the world from danger, Boogie
1:45-2:15am Pop. Based on the grand prize winner of
the 4th Dengeki Game Novel contest.
So presumably Boogiepop Phantom is an agent of that organization. But
like so many secret organizations, Boogie Pop won't hire you unless
you're stylin'. The graphic included with this article should give you
With her first and second appearances (in the second episode) Boogipop
Phantom is enigmatic, and despite the capsule review above, her motives
are not at all clear. She at least seems to object to what I think
are good acts, too. I don't know, does grabbing weird invisible
fist-sized spiders off of people and eating them qualify as a bad act?
When I was but a wee sociopath, attending college (or more often, not,
as I seem to recall through the fog), there were two magazines which
were favorite pastimes, in lieu of studying. One was the National
Lampoon, which though sophomoric in it's humor, was actually very clever
in it's early years.
The other was Heavy Metal. Years later, I chanced to look into an issue
and was disappointed with the total dreck I was confronted with. Could
this be the magazine I had so enjoyed when only a few years younger? I
theorize that it went downhill, that the creative juices of the editors,
writers and artists had run their course. Or it just wasn't as cool
after all the drugs were purged from my system. Whatever.
In any case, in its heyday, Heavy Metal was the magazine. Based on the
French magazine Metal Hurlant, it contained a wide variety of art
styles, though always of the most exciting and beautiful quality. The
stories were, how shall I put it, obscure. I don't know if this was a
French thing, avant garde and all that, or if it was an Art thing, but
there you are. The magazine was full of stories that didn't go anywhere,
but boy was the journey fun.
One of my favorites was 'The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius' by
Moebius (now known by his real name, Jean Giraud, and working in the
movie industry -- he was a primary art designer for Alien). Moebius is a
fantastic draftsman, but not the best storyteller, and the Airtight
Garage wandered all over the place. But I didn't care. The line art was
so careful, so idiosyncratic, and the vistas so far-reaching and
beautiful, that the characters could have been discussing their grocery
lists (actually I think that was Chapter Five) and I still would have
come along for the ride.
What has this got to do with Boogiepop Phantom? Well, like Serial
Experiments Lain, Shamanic Princess and other plot-challenged series
(okay they have plots, but let's face it, plot takes a back seat to cool
in these shows) the journey is ultimately more important than the
resolution. So while I might get a few blisters along the way, I'm
willing to walk a few more miles with Boogiepop Phantom.
Directed by Watanabe Takashi
Character Designs by Suga Shigeyuki
Original Character Designs by Ogata Kouji
Produced at Mad House
Copyright � 2000 Kadono Kouhei / Mediaworks / Project Boogiepop
the coolest series to come out of anime? Admittedly there are several candidates,
but I think hands down, one series rates head and shoulders above all others for
cool factor in those last two years. With clever retro graphics, archtypal cool
cats and an eclectic musical mix from all over the map, supplied courtesy of Yoko
Kanno, that series would be Cowboy Bebop. It's soooo cool that my television
screen often frosts over when I watch it. Trigun comes in a respectable second,
and there are several ties for third, but Bebop reigns.
Now I'm going to say this just once. Will the person in the back of the room who
shouted 'Outlaw Star' slink out quietly before I kick his ass?
So now that you're all primed for a review of Cowboy Bebop, which everybody's had
a chance to see by now, let me put your mind at ease. This ain't about Bebop.
It's about a new show airing on WowWow, 'The Big O'. My fixation with coolness
comes from watching the first episode of this series (unsubbed) at the behest of
Tom Jansen, resident mech-head. The show places both feet firmly in the cool camp
with its choice of music (jazzy, symphonic, again eclectic), characters (James
Bond via Pierce Brosnan, rather cute android girl) and yes, Big O! Does it
measure up? Not to the benchmark, of course, but it is pretty cool.
I know, I know, it's hella unfair to rate a show on the strength of a single
episode, and it's way hella unfair to compare it to Cowboy Bebop. But when you
walk in the Crips' neighborhood, wearing Crips' colors, you better be a Crip. And
Big O isn't content to walk in Crip neighborhoods. It also traipses over to the
Bloods' block as well, borrowing style and imagery and hardware from 'Giant
Robo', the Roger Maris of anime cool to Bebop's Mark McGwire. So the Big O team
is obviously itchin' for a fight!
But enough of that. I am certainly willing to look at another episode, and Tom
can be my supplier for at least a few more after that. Thereafter, we'll just
have to see (says smartass Don). In the meantime, what's it about (so far)? In
the first episode, we are informed (fleshed out by the magic of Internet-supplied
synopses) that the series takes place in Paradigm City. This is a reasonably
modern-looking burg, sorta like a well-lit Gotham City. It's got that little
extra flair, though, with partially collapsed skyscrapers, looking like a cross
between the leaning tower of Pisa, and the Empire State Building. Has Godzilla
As a backdrop, we know that forty years ago a mysterious event left everyone with
no memory. In the aftermath, folks are left with no education, no knowledge how
to work all them newfangled devices that make life so sweet. Somehow, in the
intervening years, folks figured out how to work a refrigerator and open a beer,
and things are back to more or less normal. But as a side-effect, technology is a
premium good, and those who can procure it, or work it, can write their own
Into this ragout rides Roger Smith, 'the Negotiator', complete with upper-case
'N' and quotes. He's the cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about,
Roger! Oops, that's Shaft. Roger is a rather cool, debonair fellow who
negotiates for a variety of things, among them technology and poor kidnapped
souls. On one of these negotiations, he becomes attached to R. Dorothy
Wayneright, who turns out to be an android, and has a certain charm of her own.
Clearly there are multiple parties after all the riches that technology can
bring, but I'm afraid that I lost track of all the threads about the time that
the first villain robot showed up to steal a buncha cash out of a bank with
seemingly endless snake arm vacuum cleaner attachments, extruded from it's
lobster-claw hands. This was the cue for Roger to summon forth his neatest
technology toy, The Big O. Yes, it's a giant robot, and yes, it's rather
steam-punkish. At least Roger rides inside of it, instead of perching on it's
shoulder in short pants while it slugs it out with the current Bad Bot.
This serves to explain why there are tilt-a-whirl skyscrapers in Paradigm City (I
was kinda hoping they were the result of Donald Trump suffering an aneurism and
trying out new architectures as a result). It's a little harder to understand why
Roger the Profiteer hasn't sold the damn thing and retired to the South of
France. At least until you see him sitting in the cockpit in his double-breasted
suit throwing roundhouse punches without actually soiling his immaculate outfit.
Of course a stylin' guy like Roger would prefer to beat the crap out of his
opponents without incurring the heartbreak of sweat stains!
Anyway, a lot happens in the first episode, and I'll eat my Ginrei Fanclub
Membership Card if there isn't a Bigass Robot Stomp at least every other episode.
I'd also like to see the relationship between Dorothy and Roger evolve. This
alone could raise the series out of the blood and organ bits of failed coolness.
So now that I've hammered you with spoilers, it will come as no surprise that
Dorothy appears to be smushed at the end of the first episode, ironically by the
villain-o-the-week robot just Smacked Down by Stone Cold Roger Smith (and Big O).
Wonder how she gets outta that there jam (robot sandwich with android jam)?
of the strengths of Japanese animation, and one of the weaknesses of
American animation (at least when I was growing up, during the Fifties
and Sixties). While there was the occasional animation with a strong
female character, she was nearly always aided and protected by a
stronger male. In anime, the male presence in the M.G. show was just as
likely there for comic relief, or more often, to inject a little
Magical Girls have ranged from the sachharine (Minky Momo, whom I like,
by the way) to the comical (Akazukin Cha-Cha). In between we've had
Hime-chan no Ribbon and Miracle Girls. But it was with the arrival of
Sailor Moon that an entire sub-genre gelled. Now we can all recite the
- An ordinary schoolgirl, just like you!...
- Is chosen by the gods, God, the Fates...
- To protect the Earth from Evil, Demons, Satan, beings from an
- By (often coincidentally) being in the presence of threatened
- And transforming herself into a costumed Magical Girl (with the
most lovingly detailed animation in the show, to be repeated ad
- And using her gift of Magical Powers to neutralize the evil
- Whereupon she transforms back into meek, mild-mannered Clark
- (7a?) Don't forget the mysterious male interloper who occasionally
helps her and--rarely--rescues her, with generous doses of
This formula (and yes, I know I've missed your favorite numbered step,
insert it where you please) has been so successful that we have been
subjected to a whole raft of clones, some not too bad, and some truly
horrible. We've had super-nurses, super-brides, super-gameshow-hostesses
(just kidding, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear this one is for
Over time, there has been a gradual shift, an imperceptible transition.
The successful show has become the copy-cat has become the well-worn
genre. Within this repetition, there have actually been some original
moments. The trouble is that with a well-worn formula, you can get away
with a lot of just-don't-care storytelling. The viewer is comfortable
with the rhythms of the genre, and fills in the blanks. So I find it
hard myself to say when a M.G. show really is good.
One measuring stick I apply now is to see how my daughter likes it.
She's four years and seven months old, and has consumed every episode of
Card Captor Sakura ravenously. She's watched the eleven episodes we have
several times, sometimes with me reading the subtitles, sometimes with
no narration at all. As a result, I've enjoyed the show a lot more
myself than I might have if I'd watched it alone.
But this is not a foolproof yardstick, and at last we arrive at the
topic of this review. The series in question, launched in February of
last year, ran for 44 episodes. It's title is "Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne".
Here is the premise:
- An ordinary schoolgirl, just like you!...
Oops, let me start again. Kusakabe Maron is a high school girl with
ordinary school friends, including her friend Toudaiji Miyako, daughter
of a police detective. Miyako's family seems to take care of Maron a
lot, and early in the series we are led to believe that Maron's parents
aren't around at all.
Maron is a direct descendent of Joan of Arc. It is because of this
connection with the young female crusader (an historical Magical Girl!)
that Maron has been selected to fight the minions of the Devil. These
minions inhabit objects of beauty, often paintings, and beguile
innocents to capture their souls. Maron, with the help of her apprentice
angel Fin (a diminutive winged sprite) becomes Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne
(divine thief Jeanne), and 'steals' these demon-inhabited objets d'art.
There is a lot of repetitive formula, declarative phrases such as 'Game
Start!' 'Checkmate!' and 'Collection Completed!' when she has collected
the demon with a pin which transforms into a chess piece. She has a
small array of gadgets which aid her in her tasks as well, such as the
Rebound Ball, a ball on the end of a cord attached to her wrist, which
can grab any object she throws it at.
For reasons which escape me, she is compelled to announce the time and
location of each theft, leading to large batallions of police waiting
for her at each crime scene (they of course don't know the true purpose
of her thefts). Almost always, Maron's best friend Miyako is there with
her police detective father, vowing to capture the vile thief Jeanne.
She cannot recognize Maron, because as Jeanne, Maron has blonde hair. I
imagine it is the same astigmatism which afflicts Lois Lane.
The romantic interest and the competition comes in the form of Nagoya
Chiaki, a fellow high school student by day, and the mysterious thief
Sindbad (yes, Sin-d-bad) by night. From the first few episodes, it is
not clear what his allegiance is, but he has similar equipment, his own
angel, Dark Access, and a fine nose for locating those demon-infested
artworks which Jeanne is trying to neutralize. What does he want? Who
does he serve?
On the whole, with the normal creative variations, Kamikaze Kaitou
Jeanne conforms to the genre admirably. But it has a low-budget feel to
it that I don't notice so much in Card Captor Sakura. For instance,
there are scenes, such as one from an episode where Jeanne is surrounded
by police, where the figures who menace her slide left and right like
ducks at a shooting gallery. When Miyako runs towards the foreground,
her image becomes courser, the lines of her dress thicker, as if the
artists simply blew up the cel for successive frames without even trying
to touch them up.
The writing and character development feel a little too peremptory to me
as well. It somehow reminds me of Devil Hunter Yohko, a second-string
series if ever there was one, and Zenki, of which--though it was one of
my guilty pleasures--I at least had the sense to feel guilty about it!
Kelly (my 4.5833333... year old) pronounces this a show worth watching,
saving and seeking out. But this feels like a B-grade filler series to
me. It's worth catching a couple of episodes to see if it somehow speaks
to you, but I doubt it will become one of your fondest memories.