Jun 30 2008

Yahoo makes me hate it twice today.

Tag: consumption,personal — 4:31 pm

My Flickr paid account expired, and it gives me inscrutable errors when I try to renew it.


Jun 30 2008

PSA: Yahoo are jerks

Tag: consumption,wtf internet,yahoo — 9:56 am

If you have any domains registered at Yahoo, you might want to move them – as of tomorrow, they’re apparently upping their yearly fee to $35. This is just for a basic .com domain with no special features. And they’re being sneaky about it.

(I’m really glad now that I invaded Former Employer and insisted I move their site to a different host last time I was home. If Yahoo decided to raise hosting prices, too, they probably wouldn’t have noticed until they’d started getting charged. As it is, I’m going to email them and ask if I should go ahead transfer their domain, too.)


Jun 29 2008

No one cares about this but me.

The term ended Thursday, so the last couple days I’ve been teaching myself Python. It logically follows. And just now I spent like half an hour creating sort a crappy roguelike with basic collision-detection! It’s less than 60 lines, it was totally easy! There aren’t any enemies because I couldn’t find an AI tutorial by someone who could spell words.

You shut up. I made a video game in twenty-six minutes. What did you do today?


Jun 27 2008

YUKITO KISHIRO WHY DO YOU HATE ME

Tag: a: kishiro yukito,manga — 3:13 pm

“Well, that looks like the final boss, I guess.”

“It just looks like yet another giant robot to me… Honestly, it lacks the impact it had before.”

Given that the “before” was A GIANT PENIS FROM MERCURY

Chapter 69

This is what “Kishiro writing himself into a corner” looks like. No, there’s a difference! You know what this means!? He planned all that crap before! The “overclocked dual-core brain” and the “Kung Fu Planet” and the “thumb wrestling so hard it leaves a crater”! That was a plan!

Chapter 71

This is so stupid.

Chapter 74

EXCUSE ME WHAT

Is this supposed to be some kind of commentary on laissez faire economics and – and patent law?! Mr. Kishiro, you just had a chapter where this guy fought a giant robot penis from Mercury. And now he’s coming out against libertarianism and gene patents? This is not a good way to make a point!

Chapters 76 – 77

NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE “SPACE KARATE” GUYS. DO NOT DO TWO WHOLE CHAPTERS ABOUT THE “SPACE KARATE” GUYS.


Jun 27 2008

The internet lies to me.

Tag: a: kishiro yukito,manga — 3:01 am

I have been trying to catch up on GUNNM: Last Order, but there are chapters missing in the scanlations. I google for it, and find message board people claiming that there aren’t any chapters missing, and the fact that it goes from 62 to 66 is due to a numbering discrepancy. This is demonstrably untrue. The beginning of 66 talks about a Sechs/Tentacle-Yankee fight that clearly isn’t the same one as the last Sechs/Tentacle-Yankee fight we saw – the one in chapter 60 – because Tentacle-Yankee says Sechs made him promise something during the fight, which did not happen in chapter 60! I am being cruelly deprived of a Sechs fight scene! I can’t even find raws! My life is harrowing.

I am a terrible person, because I am enjoying the main Gally plotline less than I am the one where Sechs gets repeatedly sexually harassed by a guy who can reasonably be nicknamed “Tentacle-Yankee.”

Though the main Gally plotline is actually suddenly awesome again! It’s still probably going to consist entirely of flashbacks and Fighting Your Jungian Double On The Astral Plane for a while longer, but that’s okay now, because it actually went to the place I’d given up on it ever going! Gally’s brain has been a chip since the first volume! She’s been a fake the whole time, just like Sechs, Elf, and Zwolf! They’ll refuse to call her “original” anymore, and will invite her to their secret Bitter Android Brain-Clone Parties! I expect awesomeness of this, Kishiro! Awesomeness and bullying!


Jun 25 2008

The Dream City

Tag: dreams,fiction — 9:14 pm

Every once in a while I’ll have a dream of a type I think of as an Ur-Dream. These are dreams that have a moderately coherent story, are aware that they’re dreams, comment on something I’ve been thinking about or reading, seep into/out of whatever I’ve been writing recently, and about which my lighter-weight dreams will henceforth write lots of fanfiction. The Two-and-a-Half Apocalypses Dream was one of these – it contains a lot of complaints about stuff I was working on at the time, and some of the characters and settings have shown up in another dreams since.

(They have titles. Some of them have credits and dedications. The Lightning Key Dream was scored by Bjorn Lynne, with character design by Himekawa Akira and environmental design by Abe Yoshitoshi and CLAMP. The Memory Witch Dream was dedicated to Jim Henson and Tanith Lee, and included appearances by Getting Lost In The Back Yard, Accidentally Sleeping Through Most Of Autumn, and The Confused Sick Person Whose Jacket Is Getting Thin At The Elbows, regular presences in my dreams since grade school.)

This is one from high school. I’m pretty sure I had it around the time I first read Kaori Yuki, because the Count Cain read-through made me think of it and dig my write-up out of the hard drive.

-

A certain wizard has many towers, can make another by blinking, and each comes out slightly different from the other, but he cannot make a perfect one. Once he has thrown away into a sun enough to fill a small city, he stops making them, because they come from nowhere and he feels the universe will collapse if too much matter unaccounted for comes into it. He keeps seven, in a t-shape, and lives in the center one, which has a library on the bottom floor out of which he has moved all the books, then sat down in and grown depressed.

The wizard and Bianca love unwisely; or rather, those who love Bianca believe that she is unwise to love him, young and powerful as she is, because he is a doddering old fool who can only make towers. Later, Bianca becomes older and sadder, and he can no longer keep her attention.

Continue reading “The Dream City”


Jun 23 2008

“Earl!! The entire mansion is tainted with EVIL…!!”

Tag: a: kaori yuki,manga — 11:17 pm

As opposed to select areas of the mansion being tainted with E. coli.

Mainlined the second half of Count Cain/Godchild. I’d been putting it off because I wasn’t feeling sufficiently Kaori Yuki. Now my head feels all funny. I worry that parasites are about to burst out of it for the entertainment of men with pretty hair.

There is nothing I can say about Count Cain/Godchild. It is too crazy. There’s a zombie and then several other zombies and a lamb and several hundred nonconsensual organ transplants and reverse-child-molestation, which is when the kid molests the grown-up, because the kid is actually a thirty-five year old with a gland problem, unless the kid is another zombie, or possibly a baby skull that mind-controls parades.

I don’t think anyone ever explained where all those baby skulls came from. In another series this would be a problem. In another series these would be spoilers.


Jun 21 2008

Pondering representation of race in manga

Tag: manga,second-life — 2:15 pm

(Note: Having finished writing this, I remembered that Matt Thorn wrote an essay on this issue, and googled it, and, uh. It looks like a lot of what I’ve said is just regurgitating stuff he said. Sorry, Mr. Thorn! Here, go read that.)

Most manga set up one or more “default ethnicities” within which the mangaka feels free to give the characters a pretty large range of physical variance – as in, members of the “normal” group can have whatever hair and eye colors the mangaka feels like (as long as they’re black and white, I mean), various facial shapes, and slightly dark skin (if the mangaka’s not allergic to that). CLAMP, for example, generally gives the full range to Japanese, Chinese, European, and mix-thereof characters. In this way, the Japanese and Chinese and English characters can’t be physically distinguished.

Then there might also be one or more “non-default/exoticized ethnicities.” An exoticized ethnicity isn’t allowed the full range of variance – some attribute (90% of the time hair color) gets coded as a racial marker, and can’t vary within the ethnicity. Example: The volume of CLAMP’s Tsubasa where they go to a Korean world, and everybody has black hair.

(Actually, I think that Kurogane’s feudal-Japan world is also limited to black hair, which raises questions about the human tendency to exoticize/racialize our own histories/ancestors…)

The more typical example, found in 90% of manga set in in modern-day Japan: Bisco Hatori in Ouran High School Host Club gives the full range of hair-color variance to Japan, but limits European or European-Japanese-mixed characters to blond hair. Hence the weird dissonance between the art and the writing, where people say that the mixed-race Tamaki and Nekozawa “stand out” and have a “foreign flair” because of their pale hair – while plenty of pure-blooded Japanese characters like Honey, the twins, and Haruhi’s dad also have light-colored hair.

The defaults vary within a mangaka’s work depending on setting and what the mangaka is trying to achieve. Osamu Tezuka drew Chinese characters as squint-eyed Western-style caricatures in Ask Adolf, set mostly in WWII-era Germany and Japan, but in Tezuka Default Style in Boku no Son Goku, set in folklore-ancient-China. Yuu Watase’s manga are mostly set in Japan and involve no non-Japanese characters or discussion of race, “allowing” her to give her characters a wide range of hair colors. Her Sakura Gari, however, limits its Japanese characters to black hair, presumably because one of the two protagonists is mixed-race, and a good deal of the plot revolves around this. (Sakura Gari is also set in the Taishou era, while most of her other works are set in the present day. See: exoticization of history again?)

(Incidentally: Ask Adolf‘s default ethnicities are German, German-Jewish, and Japanese, so those groups are drawn in Tezuka Default and are not readily distinguishable. The Nazis can’t tell from looking at him that the half-Japanese guy is half-Japanese, allowing him to join the Gestapo and so go crazy with guilt and identity issues and so forth. I don’t recall whether people within the story can tell the full Japanese characters from the full German ones, or whether the half-Japanese guy gets taken for white or Japanese in Japan.)

A lot of Western readers get confused as to whether that slight-tan thing that some manga characters have is supposed to indicate race, and why even manga like Petshop of Horrors, ostensibly set in a large US city, don’t tend to have any characters recognizable as black/Hispanic/Indian/etc.

The reason for the latter is that – to put things very crudely – Japan is racist to the point that most mangaka cannot draw these groups. The mangaka I’ve used as examples above all use basically the same techniques for racial identification of Asian and white characters. These techniques are part of manga’s basic visual vocabulary, in the same way black panel borders mean flashbacks and light reflecting from a character’s eyes means danger.

Western readers, when we first get into manga, tend to get excited about the depth and flexibility of this vocabulary – but the fact is that this vast, extremely codified vocabulary, which a mangaka must know and be able to use in order to get published, doesn’t have the words for non-Asian-non-white characters. They don’t get drawn enough for those words to be necessary.*

For the former, my experience is that the tans are just tans, and more what a Western** reader would call a class marker than a racial one. Generally, the tan is shorthand for “working-class/uncultured/trashy.” I would imagine there’s some association with the ganguro subculture (which manga tends to associate with working- and lower-middle-class girls – not sure if that’s the reality), but given that it’s also used on male characters, and there’s a fair amount of social taboo against dark tans in Japan, I think it’s probably more complicated than that. (People with tans = people who have to go out and work in the sun = lower-class? People with dark skin = tanners = burakumin? Dunno.)

Because the tan is already coded as a class indicator, it can’t be used as a racial one without carrying that baggage along with it – Fullmetal Alchemist is the only example I can think of that actually does use it to indicate race. Revolutionary Girl Utena makes use of the type for Hey Let’s Subvert Some Even More Stuff purposes – it is Not Done to make the dark-skinned characters rich, polite, cultured kids of impeccable lineage, and certainly not [spoiler spoiler]. (Also, one of them’s named Ohtori, which surname in Japan apparently gives off vibes like, I don’t know, “Muffy Vanderbilt III.”)

-

* To stall off anyone considering writing a sorrowful comment about this is in my comments – no, the West isn’t much better off in this regard. Most Western artists cannot draw an attractive dark-skinned person, because the techniques they’ve learned and their ideas of beauty are all intended for the depiction of white people.

Because I’ve been brooding about this issue’s applicability to Second Life skins all week, I offer you up this example (slightly NSFW, scroll down to the bottom for the “black” one). This designer is extremely popular and well-reviewed, but all her dark skins have this unattractive ashy coloration – she seems to just do some sort of color-replace operation on her pale ones, not realizing that darker skin doesn’t reflect light the same way pale skin does. (I won’t go into the facial contours of her model, as there are some sensible reasons for a designer to display all her skins/clothing on the same shape.)

** I specify “Western reader” because, basically, the way race is constructed in Japan is complicated, and I don’t feel competent to try and come up with better vocabulary for this phenomenon.


Jun 19 2008

I made rice pudding.

Tag: food,japan,recipes — 8:02 pm

I’ve been doing some Idiotic Cooking Experiments in the rice cooker. Notable episodes in the saga included Idiotic Cajun Rice and Idiotic Garlic-Salmon Rice Pilaf. We will not discuss these dishes further.

Today it was Idiotic Chocolate Rice Pudding. Which… actually turned out really well. It’s much better than my usual attempts at stovetop rice pudding.

So I post the recipe, for the benefit of people everywhere who do stupid things with their rice cookers. It’s just a modified version of this guy’s recipe for mango coconut rice pudding, rendered sleazier by my involvement.

-

Idiotic Chocolate Rice Pudding

1 14 ounce can coconut milk
1/4 cup sushi rice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons “Valor” house-brand hot chocolate mix (translated from Japanese, this means: “whichever hot chocolate mix is cheapest”)
1 tablespoon sugar
some cinnamon

1. Mix all ingredients together in the rice cooker bowl. Let sit for half an hour to give rice time to soak.

2. Turn on rice cooker.

3. When finished, open and stir, then let sit on “warm” setting for ten minutes.

4. Take out and allow to cool/set.

The only complaint I have about it is that it’s a little heavy – next time I might cut down the chocolate mix to one-and-a-half tablespoons.

-

Incidentally, the cheapest place to buy coconut milk in Okazaki is this liquor store in Wing Town. I have no idea why. They have this tiny little foreign foods section crammed into the back, with the same coconut milk the Valor sells for 400 yen for 100. They also have chickpeas, Earl Gray, and Tabasco sauce for cheaper than anywhere else. And a good brand of instant curry I haven’t found anywhere else.

The liquor store is not, interestingly, the cheapest place to buy liquor. That’s Seiyu, Wal-Mart’s Japanese chain.

(They do have the largest selection of Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark products I’ve seen anywhere in Japan, which I would probably care about were I a proper Kentuckian.)


Jun 19 2008

Tag: personal,t: avatar — 5:12 pm

I am going to drop dead if I don’t get more episodes of Avatar right now.

(Nickelodeon has not generally been one of the companies it occurs to me to despise – I mean, it’s no Eli Lilly, or Sony. But now, knowing nothing more about its business practices than It Has Episodes Of Avatar That I Don’t, I am adding it to the list.)


Jun 18 2008

Today’s Destructive Force – Mushrooms

Sensu-sensei is secretly a twelve-year-old boy. She drew boobs on my homework. The rationale for this was that I had used the wrong word for “milk” – I’d used the one meaning “breast milk/baby formula” rather than the one meaning “cow’s milk.” I am, however, fairly certain that there exist other means of expressing that.

Things learned on Food Vocabulary Day: According to a very scientific survey of like seven people, people in Japan, Taiwan, China, and Korea do not eat mushrooms raw! Ever! Because it’s dangerous! Fretful-sensei was extremely emphatic about this!

The Pierced American and I took several minutes to get past this, while our Asiatic counterparts professed to be astonished that America has not yet gotten itself killed on all these poison mushrooms we keep eating.* The European and Brazilian guys looked upon us all with amused condescension. Presumably they do some secret third ultra-civilized thing with their mushrooms.

Also, according to Fretful-sensei, Japanese people do not eat carrots raw. (Fretful-sensei: “Wouldn’t they be too hard?!”) Also, apples must be peeled and sliced before they can be eaten, and the crusts must be removed from all sandwiches. These tendencies do not, however, seem to be pan-Asian in nature – Myuu-san (Taiwan) said she felt it was okay to eat carrots raw if they were sliced thin, which possibility Fretful-sensei accepted with some dubiousness.

We took a mock version of the JLPT 2 listening test today, and I passed with a pretty safe margin. Yay! Though the listening section is apparently easier than the reading/writing?

* This is the rest of the world’s default assumption about us. “What do you think the Americans are doing today?” “They are probably eating poison mushrooms.”


Jun 14 2008

Tag: japan,personal — 1:45 pm

Today I was wandering vaguely around the Seiyu, and encountered a mirror larger than those common to my daily experience. I now know why all my pants are falling off.

Apparently I’ve been eating even less than I thought.

This also explains the back pains and the (spoilers for my life!) late period. Sorry for anyone who was hoping that one would turn out differently.


Jun 14 2008

This is how we will destroy Western civilization.

Tag: personal — 9:47 am

I keep being annoyed this morning that there’s no way to google what day it was I last took a shower.


Jun 13 2008

Mata jishin

Tag: i study japanese,japan,personal — 9:12 pm

We had spoken tests today. There was an earthquake right in the middle of mine, and I had to start over, and still messed up the sentence with all the “te”‘s and “tte”‘s. I practiced that forever. Evidently I’m much less amused by earthquakes when I’m not in my room. I kept thinking, “What if the school is not properly stowing its hazardous chemicals? For surely it must have some. What place of learning does not?”

Yesterday some people from the student affairs office came to put my window screen back in, as it fell out and tried to kill an old couple when I opened the window after the last earthquake. They (the people from student affairs office, not the old couple) scolded me for still not having the AC turned on. I hadn’t even really noticed it was hot. I didn’t really feel hot today, either, but got my first heat-headache of the summer, and so gave up and turned on the AC. Also bought ice cream. Japan has some funny ideas about ice cream. I – naturally – have an upset stomach.


Jun 12 2008

Plan

Tag: personal — 5:55 pm

I’m going to make a crime drama where they go to a furry convention every episode, and it’s always the same dead Hispanic woman.


Jun 11 2008

Avatar 3.12-3.15

Tag: t: avatar — 8:07 pm

Spoilers:

Continue reading “Avatar 3.12-3.15″


Jun 08 2008

Avatar 3.01-3.08

Tag: t: avatar — 12:07 pm

Spoilers:

Continue reading “Avatar 3.01-3.08″


Jun 07 2008

Avatar 2.17-2.20

Tag: t: avatar — 4:28 pm

Man, Zuko. Will you cut that shit out.

I like how, though I originally had something specific in mind for that statement, it could be referring to absolutely anything.

Good lines:

“Now comes the part where I double-cross you.”

“Just take the bear.”


Jun 06 2008

Avatar up to ep 2.16

Tag: t: avatar — 11:40 pm

1) I love Toph so much. But she needs to beat up more actual living things soon. As opposed to like buildings and stuff.

2) Azula’s henchmen are also awesome.

3) Zuko’s voice actor is okay with Wounded And Vulnerable, but not so much with the Angry And Wants To Kill You. And he’s angry a lot! It’s distracting. And I still feel like Aang and Katara’s voice actors are kind of stiff a lot of the time, particularly when they’re delivering plot-loaded dialog. (Yeah, I know, they’re pretty much kids. But Wikipedia says Toph’s is thirteen, and she mostly doesn’t throw me off.)

3a) I think I don’t usually notice it when anime voice acting is bad. Also, I watch so little TV, particularly English-language TV, that watching this is actually kind of strenuous. No, I seriously have to lie down for a while and rest my brain by thinking about manga or CSS or something between episodes. Following a TV narrative in English is a form of mental exertion to which I am unaccustomed.

4) I think someone’s icon spoiled me about a character death. But it’s a character I want dead. So I seem to be okay with the whole thing.

Spoilery stuff:

Continue reading “Avatar up to ep 2.16″


Jun 04 2008

Earthquakes!

Tag: japan,personal — 12:15 am

Damnit, earthquakes. You’re kinda cool and everything, but I needed to get some sleep tonight.


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