Friday, March 11, 2011

8.8 Earthquake Strikes Japan

Oh my God. It's 4 in the morning on the East Coast, and I'm not going to bed anytime soon. Fuck, fuuuuuckkkkkkk.

OK, I'm a bit calmer now. But oh my god. I've been able to get in contact with a lot of my friends who were over there, and I'm pretty sure most of them are OK. So that's good. But I don't know if my grandfather's over there or not (I'm pretty sure he's not but...). And Jesus Christ I'm worried for the folks I helped when I was with Sanyukai. Those people were right on the river, and they might not have gotten any warning. A lot of them sleep in the afternoon, did the tsunami go up the Sumida river? Oh God.

I wonder what this will mean for teaching programs over there, or if I can go over for relief work once I graduate. I gotta help out somehow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Serious Post is Serious

So this blog hasn’t been updated in forever, and this is going to be something of a different topic. By which I mean I’m going to be blogging about politics and society. I suggest anyone looking for an amusing read, get out now. Please. It’s for your own good.

I’m a U.S. citizen. Been one all my life, haven’t lived anywhere else except Japan for a few months. I’ll say up front that I genuinely support the US in being a decent country. I’ve been politically aware since around 2000 and the fracas of the elections then. Generally, I haven’t been too unhappy with the way things have worked in this country. I’ve been opposed to the war in Iraq soon after things went to pot (I’ll not lie that I was a bit hoodwinked by the initial promises of an easy victory, but I was about 14 at the time, and still a bit uneasy). I was reasonably for the war in Afghanistan, but there’s no doubt it’s been mismanaged and is in general a shitty situation. Even in the darkest years of the Bush Administration, I was generally OK with…argh, it’s tough to put. I was confident that people who had policies I opposed were misguided, as opposed to out-and-out evil.

I’m not so sure now, and it’s troubling me greatly. The trigger’s been what’s happened in Wisconsin, both tonight and over the past few weeks. We’re seeing the real impact of what having the Tea Party and conservative Republicans in power means, and it fucking scares me. What Scott Walker has done, and what looks to be an increasing national trend, is subverting democracy and is fucking over everyone but the very rich. And it’s working. We’re all getting fucked over, in a way that I see as unprecedented. And I’m not used to that. For God’s sake, I’m a white, middle-class Christian male! I’m supposed to be the one doing the fucking! Now, I’m apparently fucked over because my folks don’t make millions per year. Jesus fucking Christ, what is with this? I can’t understand the mindset of people who support the methods and measures taken by Walker and the Republicans. What does it accomplish? How do they think this helps them?

I know not all republicans (I use the small “r” there to designate folks who vote republican) are evil. Christ, I know a bunch who are wonderful people, people I love and care about. But it’s becoming harder and harder to think that all those Big-R Republicans (elected officals) aren’t. They’re not serving people. They’re serving corporate interests.

And that’s another thing! Corporations! Christ, it’s hard to say you hate corporations. I’m typing this on a computer that was made by a corporation, I’m watching the news on a TV that was made by a corporation, all my shit is made by a corporation. Corporations and capitalism, I feel, are really what have enabled the sort of life I’ve got right now. They’re the ones who developed the technology and the structure that’s made my life possible. But fuck me if I can’t think that they’re a force for evil right now. Many corporations are so hell-bent on pursuing profit that they’ve decided people are no more than numbers. And then they have no problem deleting those numbers. And it’s not looking like there’s an infrastructure in place in this country to oppose it. They have the money, they have the propaganda, they have the power.

I don’t want to get too in-depth tonight. I could write all night about politics, international relations, the state of the world, corporations, the economy, everything. And I want to have this conversation.

Previously, I felt like I could just tune out politics and all that stuff when things got too overwhelming. Especially because I found that the internet forum I primarily discussed politics on turned into an echo chamber of opinions that I didn’t really agree with, and which I didn’t feel were effective or realistic.

I don’t think I’ve got that luxury now. I don’t think anyone has that luxury now. What I guess the brunt of this is talking about is this:

I previously felt that the country would be alright. Things would work out. There were flawed people in power, there were misguided policies being enacted, but the core of America was sound.

I don’t have that feeling anymore. America, if we continue on this course, is fucked. Royally fucked. And the biggest economy and most powerful military going down is going to drag a lot of people down, and it’s not going to be pretty. It’s going to be bloody and horrific. And I can safely level the blame at Republicans, and at corporations who put profit above human lives.

So the question is now, what the fuck do we do? How do we reverse this course? I don’t know right now, and I think I need to find out and do my part.

Christ Almighty, I wish I had a drink right now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


So I just finished up watching Durarara!!, the show about crazy adventures in Ikebukuro. I put off work to do it, but that's not really anything worth noting, as I'd have probably put it off anyways.

So, I felt like writing about it 1. because I haven't posted on here in...forever, and 2. because that was something I haven't done often enough.

Complete and Total Spoilers Below! You HAVE been warned!

So, Durarara!! is a show about Ikebukuro. Ultimately, it's not about the people in Ikebukuro, or what happens in Ikebukuro, it's about the place itself. Of course, this version of Ikebukuro is home to a headless woman who drives a bitchin' motorcycle and commands the power of shadow, as well as a crazy freak who can use a highway sign as an axe to cleave the top of a car off, plus a crazy schoolgirl who controls people she's stabbed with a cursed sword.

Did I mention crazy? Because this series is chock-full of the crazy. The only person in the cast who isn't nuts in some way is Simon, the ...wait for it...giant black Russian man who advertises and delivers for a sushi joint and kicks the ass of anyone who causes trouble, including the aforementioned crazy freak with the highway sign.

Yeah, it's a weird show.

So, plot. Here's what you find out ultimately ended up happening in the series.

A kid from the country, Mikado, moves to Ikebukuro to go to high school with his best friend, Masaomi Kida, who moved there a while back. Kida's a veteran of the town, and he introduces Mikado to a few friends and warns him about some unsavory sorts. Seems like a relatively normal start, right?

Then the Dullahan shows up. I had never heard of a Dullahan before, but what they are is apparently a Celtic spirit that rides around headless, with a headless horse, acting like a grim reaper. Celty, the one in Ikebukuro (and it's unfair to say "shows up", she's been there 20 years), has lost her head, and drives a motorcycle instead of a horse. She does awesome stunts with it.

Anyways, there's this guy, Izaya. He's a total troll. But he also knows everything about Ikebukuro.

Oh, and there are these gangs- the Dollars, some new group, and the Yellow Scarves, leftovers from the old "Color Gangs" of yesterday. And there's a sword-wielding maniac going around slashing people.

Alright, that's the setup. So here's how it all goes down.

Celty, living with this dude Shinra, is out looking for her head. As it turns out, this head is in the posession of a crazy lady who runs some pharmaceutical company. Or, alternately, attached to a girl. This girl is the friend of Anri Sonohara, a girl whom Mikado and Kida start hanging out with. Also, people are being kidnapped by this company.

The first batch of episodes are a bunch of scene-setting, introducing just what the characters were and their relationships. Then, Celty finds out about the girl, and starts chasing her. Shit happens, one particular element of which knocked my socks off:

Mikado, a while back, created The Dollars as a sort of social engineering thing, which took off in Ikebukuro. They started getting out of control, and he eventually wrangled them together into a modicum of decency, just by suggesting things. So, when things come to a head, he declares the first meeting of the Dollars and weaponizes 4Chan. Seriously. He went to confront the crazy lady (what she did is next), who had bodyguards ready to take the kid. He says "you've got brawn, I've got numbers." He sends a text message. And the entire public square they're in erupts as everyone's cellphone goes off. The entire square was made up of Dollars members. It was epic.

I can't be bothered to summarize the rest of the series, as it is so completely and utterly crazy, on the part of absolutely everyone. Suffice to say that it is wonderful, and I have never been as truly surprised watching something as I have been watching Durarara!!.

The series is wonderfully paced, has a great, diverse cast, and is so crazy in plotting that it's just a ton of fun to watch. It also makes me miss Tokyo like crazy. The show's about Ikebukuro, and even though I was on the opposite side of Tokyo, it's still about Tokyo, and...I WANNA GO BACK!

I also need to stop spoiling myself, because being surprised by Durarara!! was wonderful, and I haven't had that chance in a while now.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nanoha! Battle of Aces!

Well, I had planned to watch quite a bit more StrikerS tonight. Despite my raging fanboyism for all things Nanoha, I haven't finished the series, possibly because I've been spoiled rotten on it. It's still really good, and I have no excuse, but I haven't.

Well, tonight, actually, I was playing Mahou Shoujou Lyrical Nanoha A's: The Battle of Aces. That's right, bitches, I've got the Nanoha fighting game. And a PSP, provided I rolled well enough on diplomacy to convince my hallmate to keep the new PSP he bought and sell me the old one.*

And it's really kickass. The combat itself is rather simple, but it's tons of fun, and really gives a great feeling of being in the middle of a Nanoha battle. It won't win any sort of award for combat complexity or anything, but I don't give a flying fuck. It's fun, that's all that I care about.

The story mode is cool. Lots of dialogue that some industrious folks over on Animesuki are translating, which, combined with my own skills, makes me feel like I'm practicing. There's a lot of cute CGs and kickass music, and the entire thing is fully voiced, which is really cool for a PSP game.

And I read somewhere that Fate's VA, Nana Mizuki, apparently wore her thumbs out on it.

*Dude's not a bad guy, but seriously. I tell him I saw a cheap PSP and it turns out to be the one he wants, so he buys it, sells me his old one for cheap, and everyone's happy, right? Well, apparently a couple of minute defects on the screen (like, seriously, it's amazing how unnoiticeable they were to me.) were too much for him, and he wanted his old one back. So I've been spending the last day fast-talking, trying to convince him that A. He's not going to get a much better deal on this PSP- if he wants better, he'll have to buy factory new, B. Returning it may cost him some money, C. I'm willing to buy his old PSP to cut back on the actual cost, and D. I already bought this game and REALLY WANT a PSP.**

** Which is funny. If you told me six months ago (well, before I heard about P3P. I don't know how long ago that was), I'd say there's no way I'd ever buy a PSP. Go figure.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Certain Moderation Policies

As an internet denizen, I am frequently found on forums. Sites where folks post back and forth from various and sundry places all over the world. Different sites have different policies when it comes to how moderation works. Suffice to say that I have certain issues with one particular site.

I'm not going to name names here, but anyone who is reading this who knows my posting habits can probably figure out where I'm coming from.

Across the internet, standards vary in terms of what's acceptable to post. Some sites don't give a damn about what kind of language you use as long as you're polite and aren't actively insulting people. Some sites (Something Awful) don't give a flying shit about language or insulting other people so long as you're legible and not being an idiot. And even then sometimes that's cool. Some sites aren't moderated at all.

And then there are...other sites. Sites where all discussion of politics and religion are flat-out banned, and any topic so much as trending towards there are locked.* Where absolutely no foul language is tolerated. Where, apparently, you aren't so much as allowed to criticize another poster. Where my calling out of another poster for his overly negative comments (admittedly, something of an overreaction on my part) earned me a warning.

Look, this is not the way to establish a productive discussion, single moderator who oversees the whole damn board. If you're not allowed to establish an antagonistic dialogue with someone, you cut off a fuckton of options for discussion. Fundamentally, a board is supposed to be about a bunch of people getting together to shoot the shit. When people shoot the shit, they're occasionally going to disagree. If they can't at least talk about disagreeing directly, if they've got to pussyfoot around each other like bulls in a china shop for fear of offending precious mod sensibilities, they're not going to be able to have a productive dialogue. They're just going to passive-aggressively snipe at each other and build up resentment. Fortunately, that hasn't happened with me too much- most of the folks there are surprisingly nice, but it doesn't work. It's not dialogue, it's canned, sugary bullshit.

And another thing! The policy of "infractions" building up to a ban is so goddamned retarded it makes my head spin. Functionally, it's 3 moderations means they think about banning you. Now, that in and of itself seems reasonable. It's not that reasonable when the moderations stick with you for two years each. Let's take an average- I post about 3.25 posts a day on the site in question.** Which means that if roughly one out of every 900 or so posts I make gets called out for flaming, I'm going to be looking at a ban. And you know what? What I've been modded for isn't fucking flaming. Nor were the people I was arguing with! It's disagreeing! Calling someone out! Disturbing the peace of the perfect little world that the mods have set up. It's like fucking Hot Fuzz- any and all deviation from the perfect facade is wiped out in the name of "The Greater Good". It's like they can't tolerate any sort of disagreement- everything's got to be picture-perfect and happy or else...what? People's feelings will be hurt? You won't be able to brag about having the "friendliest" community on the net? It's goddamned retarded.

And you know what it means when bans build up? Prolific posters get shafted. Not for blowing up and actively going off on a bender, but for stupid things that add up over time, things that wouldn't even be fucking noticed on other sites. And since another thing that's banned there is discussing banned posters, well, it's like they just drop off the face of the earth. I've seen several quality posters get banned, and never heard a reason, nor a justification.

And the site does not appear to be looking to change anytime soon, which means I can apparently take my problem and shove it up my ass, as I have no doubt that attacking the moderation policies like I'd like to (kind of what I've got here, but more respectful and with less profanity) would get me another warning and not accomplish anything.

Seriously, this is the worst- modded site on the internet. If I didn't have this safety valve to rant in, I'd be tempted to just go suicide by mod and send the main moderator a ridiculous hate-filled invective.

So I'll just say it here.

Go fuck yourselves.

*If you didn't know what site it is before, you probably should now.
** Which I very nearly typed out just now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

One Piece

So, I spent the weekend (and a good chunk of last weekend) reading One Piece. It was very good, and I fully see why it's the single most popular manga ever in Japan. And I mean, it's ridiculous how much One Piece crap you see here. You go into a random store, and I'll be willing to bet that there'll be at least one One Piece item. I recall hearing that One Piece tankouban are among the best-selling books in Japan, if not the best-selling. Books, not just manga. One Piece is ridiculous. One friend of mine mentioned how some people he was working with asked him what manga he liked, then (drunkenly) insisted that he read One Piece.

At its core, One Piece is a silly, lighthearted pirate drama. It's pure shonen cheese, and it revels in it. Reactions are overblown, characters suffer ludicrous punishment* and come out smiling, and the power of friendship can beat down anything. The bad guys are ludicrously evil at times, and at other times just ludicrous. I don't feel like summarizing any of the plot right now, but suffice to say that there are moments of the purest win, and distilled awesome, and no real lows like you get in Naruto and Bleach.

Saying that...the latest arc (the Whitebeard War one) didn't do it for me. And there's a prime reason for that. The crew was broken up, and we've heard exactly jack and shit about them since Kuma split them up. It was all about Luffy trying to save his brother, and a bunch of characters I really didn't care about doing stuff. Plus, I really don't feel like One Piece's power system lends itself to epic clashes. With all the individual devil-fruit powers and whatnot, fights need to be one-on-one type deals where each combatant can have attention focuses on his abilities. Mooks are there to be effortlessly swept out of the way. Previously, One Piece pretty much stuck to that formula and it worked, but with the sheer amount of unique powers being slung around in the battle, it was highly confusing and altogether not as awesome as folk squaring off one-on-one. Sure, it's probably a touch more realistic, but...well, if you're expecting realism, you clearly haven't read One Piece.

But like I said, the fact that the Straw Hat crew was broken up (really, right after Brooks joined!) bugs me. The primary appeal of One Piece was the sheer dedication of the Nakama to one another, and that's just vanished ever since the group's been split up. Luffy's been so focused on Ace that he hasn't given a spare thought to his friends, and the manga hasn't saw fit to give them much more than a couple pages.

So I hope that we'll be seeing a reunification of the crew very shortly.

P.S.- Nico Robin is smoking hot.

*For this reason and this reason alone do I think that Luffy could take Naruto in a fight. Even given Naruto's superhuman toughness and recovery, Luffy is just in another league.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Negima Spoilage and Speculation

So, I've not talked about Negima for a few months now. In the interim, we got Nodoka being ten kinds of kickass, Fate's plan revealed, Asuna's personality after memory restoral revealed, Negi proving one again he can solve any problem in the world by finding the right girl and kissing the bejeezus out of her, and he's apparently going full demon power or something.

But anyways, Fate's plan involves transporting everyone in the Magic World to a special "other place" that is apparently a paradise, but he doesn't really know. Because magic is what sustains life on mars, and eventually that magic's going to run out, and the whole thing will come crashing down. When it does, well, first off, every single "magic person" there vanishes straight-out. Second, every normal person (mostly in Megalomesambria) suddenly ends up on Mars proper...

So Fate's plan, since it would be wrong to just save the real folks in Megalomesambria, and impractical to have 1.2 billion new refugees on earth, is to just teleport everyone...well, somewhere. He doesn't really know much about the place, apparently. And he's got to use Asuna to do it. He apparently also needs to mass magic power in the world, which is why he destroyed the gateports- they apparently siphon it off, and now it's all poring through the old ostia gate, straight into....Mahora, obviously.

Now, I've seen this as a huge computer metaphor. The humans are all "ghosts in the machine" if you will, the magic folk are all sentient programs, and the entire magic world's a computer on the verge of a blackout. Fate wants to move folks over to a new hard drive, but he hasn't been there to see if it's kosher.

Now, with the world tree glowing, here's how I see this going down. Step one: Chao comes back! This time, there's a crisis, and Negi et. al. agrees that it's time to reveal magic to the masses. Then, using newly integrated magic and technology, they can adapt to the new refugees. That'd be chaos and hell, but it'd be interesting. I'd love to see the political implications.