So, today seems to be rather more open than I had initially anticipated. I’m not surprised, of course, but it does leave me in the interesting position of not really having that much direction for the evening and weekend. I do have some plans, though.
Before that, I should probably mention that I finally got around to seeing How To Train Your Dragon last night. It’s a gorgeous movie, and extremely well-paced. I had some serious issues with the voice acting– seriously, why does every Viking sound Scottish? Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson are great actors, but c’mon, there’s a freaking limit. And I have to wonder why Hiccup sounded like he was thirty-seven. But, in truth, all that was forgiveable by the fact that it was just so wonderfully written for the most part. The progress of Hiccup and Toothless’ friendship never feels forced and never feels one-sided; you can see that they’re genuine friends by the end of the film. The rest of the village children… not so much; Astrid in particular does a personality-180 at such dizzying speed that it completely wrecked her character. Still, the final battle was suitably impressive, and its resolution a nice change of pace from most other kids’ fantasy these days. I’d heard rumblings that there was to be a spinoff television series and possibly more movies, both moves I’d greatly support.
Speaking of well-written children’s fantasy, apparently Season 2 of Wakfu is also well underway. So that’s good. It’s appalling to me that there’s been no talk of a North American localization for the series, even as Square Enix is handling the MMO. Appalling, I tell you.
Anyway. Last April, after Tekkoshocon was over, I took on what I called the “Rush to Judgment”– a pair of posts where I went through a dozen anime series’ first episodes, and wrote down first impressions. This was the second Rush– the first one had been for video games, which unfortunately didn’t work out so well. Anyway, this weekend I’ll be doing a new Rush with ten series I haven’t seen the full first episodes of. It’s worth noting that, of the twelve I watched last year, I only got through three full series (Baccano!, Slayers Next, and Ah! My Goddess Season 2), so a 25% rate isn’t that bad.
The list for this year is as follows:
Day One: Key The Metal Idol, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Strike Witches, Nerima Daikon Brothers, Gao Gai Gar
Day Two: Slayers Try, Haibane Renmei, xxxHolic, Squid Girl, Shattered Angels
The posts should be up on Saturday and Sunday; I’ll likely be liveblogging them, so if you catch the first RSS feed update, be sure to come back later in the day.
Next, I set out my list of games that I was going to try to get through during 2012. I’m shooting for a goal of 40 Clears again, and I hope to get through one or more of them before the Tekkoshocon Flyer Rally on the 14th. I’ve also set up ten additional “Extra Credit” games. The thing is, fully 25 of the total games on the list are long-form RPGs or SRPGs, so I’m not entirely sure how I’ll manage to get even half of the number of expected clears. I have a backup, though, what I’m calling the “Trump Card”: Demon’s Souls. If I manage to complete that nightmare of a game, I’ll call the year an unqualified success. But first, though, I’m starting to get deeper into the new Professor Layton title.
As an addendum: there’s someone in my apartment complex with a 3DS as well. The only reason I know this is because I managed to get a StreetPass tag from this person when I left my machine at home in the charging cradle. This is a remarkable coincidence, I think. I kind of wonder if I know this person… probably not.
Finally, in addition to the nerdery nonfiction writing, I’m also going to take some time to revise some of my older fiction outlines in order to prep them for eventual rewriting. I took a look back at the very first NaNo I attempted to write, a fantasy story, and found that, while it was flawed, it was still salvageable; I just need to think back about some of the ideas that I’ve had in the meantime and see which are worth welding onto the original plot, and to see what bits that I patched on are no longer necessary. I also want to take another stab at fleshing out the sci-fi universe I was working on, and seeing if it should or already does fit in with the universe set forth in “A Civics Lesson” and “Frangible Time”. Actually, writing that last chapter of “Frangible Time” might be worth doing, too– likely in February.
Anyway, that’s the plan for this weekend. Things are going to get very busy very fast with regards to the rest of my activities, so this may be one of the last few weekends I get to myself before Tekko prep causes all hell to break loose. I intend to enjoy it.
When it first came to prominence, I said that Blu-Ray was not going to supplant DVD in terms of the average movie viewing experience. I still stand by that, but the truth of the matter is that I have bought a handful of Blu-Ray movies since then, and have in some cases willingly sought them out. I have some very strict criteria for what gets bought on Blu-Ray, though.
1) Nothing older than 2008 will be bought on Blu-Ray unless it’s remastered, out of print otherwise, or offers some benefit over a DVD copy besides picture quality. Anything older than about 2008 probably wasn’t filmed with any kind of HD resolution in mind, and so it’s pointless to waste the money in order to see high-resolution film grain.
2) No TV series will EVER be bought on Blu-Ray. This is so I have the option of ripping the series to my iPhone or iPad and watching it in a mobile environment.
3) The only movies I’ll buy on Blu-Ray are ones where the visual effects are strong enough to necessitate the high quality. So far that’s been Inception, Summer Wars, and the new Star Trek. The Rebuild of Evangelion movies get a pass due to the CG and the fact that they’re the tinkered-with re-release versions and not the theatrical ones.
4) When possible, buy them used. This is just common sense.
The sole exception to the rules has been the ROD boxed set, but even that grudgingly fits Rule 1 because Aniplex decided not to release a DVD version. I only picked it up because I was able to get a decent deal on it, dropping it down to what the individual discs would go for on eBay. But it was still under protest.
I don’t think that the format has legs enough to completely supplant DVD. What I’m seeing more and more stores do, however, is scale back their physical media sections considerably owing to the fact that there are more people streaming stuff online, and owning a disc is seen increasingly as an oddity. Yeah, I do kind of hope that streaming catches on, but I still like the idea of having a physical disc on the very likely chance that contract squabbles take away a movie I want to see just before I want to stream it. Streaming services are too fragmented and volatile right now for me to entrust any of them with my sole desire to watch new movies and so forth. Maybe that’ll change, but I truly doubt it.
So I happened to catch Summer Wars‘ showing in Pittsburgh today, at the Harris Theater. On one level, I want everyone reading this to go see it if it happens to be in your town soon (and I mean that, Zeitlers and Duffys). On the other hand, don’t watch too much of that trailer on the site linked above. What it doesn’t spoil outright, it completely misrepresents. This is a complicated movie, so bear with me while I try to get it all down before I go into what I hope won’t be a Tim Rogers-esque stream-of-crapciousness steaming pile of paragraphs.
Okay, so the first thing that the movie is about is OZ: a virtual world, along the lines of our reality’s Second Life, which has permeated society to such a great degree that it has supplanted the bare-bones World Wide Web. Think what would have happened if computer technology jumped from command-line telnet and GOPHER straight to the Matrix, or the Metaverse, or The World. It’s still all just people sitting at terminals, but the implication is that the electronic realm is still just a communications tool: e-mail, teleconferencing, and other applications we’re using today, in our world, are in the movie’s world under the purview of OZ.
However, at first the fact that OZ exists is seemingly brushed aside in favor of a couple of high school students, Kenji and Natsuki. Kenji is a part-time telecommuter working for OZ administration, and is noted to be a talented mathematics student who just barely missed being able to represent the nation in a global competition. Natsuki convinces Kenji to accompany her to her family’s reunion in the countryside as July winds down to an end, initially not telling him that he’s to pose as her fiancee in front of the family’s matriarch, Sakae. Sakae’s 90th birthday is coming up as well, and the family is quietly afraid for her health. Well, about as quietly as about a zillion relatives can be. Sakae is Natsuki’s great-grandmother, and so the celebration is for the extended family. Of course, Sakae herself is sharp enough to see through Natsuki’s deception almost immediately.
What nobody counts on is the black sheep of the family, Wabisuke, returning after a ten-year stint abroad in the United States. Pittsburgh, in point of fact– he’s supposedly a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. (This got a lot of laughs and applause at the showing this afternoon.) Anyway, he’d been in the bad books of the family after selling off a plot of land to fund his education, then running off to the US. Moreover, Wabisuke is adopted, and not everyone in the family takes a kindly eye to it. Natsuki, of course, is infatuated with him, and in fact modeled Kenji’s cover story on him.
After a chaotic first night at the reunion, Kenji gets an odd e-mail on his phone: a string of numbers and the phrase “Solve Me”. It’s late and Kenji’s searching for some way to keep from feeling completely hopeless, so he solves the problem– a ciphertext puzzle along the lines of the “Squeamish Ossifrage” puzzle of yore– and goes back to bed.
And that’s when everything goes to hell.
Suffice it to say, everything is connected, and while it may just have been a coincidence that Kenji has arrived at the door of the Jinnouchi clan, he’s practically part of the family by the end of the story. But getting there involves the world almost ending.
Seriously. It’s better than I make it sound. Trust me.
Anyway, from a technical standpoint the movie is a glorious change of pace from even the most beautifully animated series of late, mostly due to MADHOUSE’s ability to use CG in an anime and not have it look horribly out of place, but in no small part to the use of the Superflat design aesthetic. Think Andy Warhol taking a critical eye to generic manga and anime, and deconstructing it by exaggerating its fakeness. Scenes set in OZ are completely unreal, both in their technical complexity and in the sheer whacked-out-there character designs. Even still, the avatars are animated fluidly and stay on-model, except to prove the point of how fake the world really is; most of the combat involving the Harvey-like rabbit-man King Kazma highlight this very well. Scenes set in the real world of Ueda and the environs are, on the other hand, amazingly well done. The human character designs are diverse, but with some familial similarities that make certain characters look a little too much alike (in more than one case I couldn’t tell Natsuki and an aunt of hers apart, even though I had made a mental note of one of the ‘hints’ in the design).
The story isn’t bad either, and that’s where I’m going to have to put an end to the “professionalist” portion of this post and start getting subjective. I mentioned up there that I hoped that my own extended family would see this movie, and it’s not just because I know they’re keeping an eye on the blog and that sort of thing. The scenes where the entire Jinnouchi family is sitting down to dinner are something that, if you happen to have a large extended family like we do, will seem so very familiar to you. Between the kids and the food, the conversation and the community… it’s very hard for me to describe just how much that can mean to someone. A line late in the film highlights this, but sadly it’s way too much of a spoiler to mention here. (Seriously, knowing it’s coming wrecks the entire film.) There are other elements to the movie that sort of echoed with what I know of “family”. You’ll see, I hope.
If there was any doubt that people can be affected by even the silliest, most inconsequential little bits of fluffed-up entertainment that we can find, this film would erase it. I didn’t find out until later, of course, that the director came to this project after doing The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which is another fantastic movie that I think everyone should watch at least once. It’s strange, thinking that even now we have to defend the artistic merits of a medium.
Which brings up another interesting point about media. Throughout the film, OZ isn’t referenced negatively or positively. It’s simply a fact of life by that point, like how we view the radio, or television, or movies. As a society, humanity doesn’t think that a television is an inherently evil thing. It took quite a while to get to that point, but the point is that the method of communication is a neutral thing. A voice on the radio commands no greater influence than a voice in person. If we can afford that level of acceptance to a select few media, what makes newer media– newer ways to share and convey information– so scary to society? What causes people to be so afraid of a computer, a video game, a text message?
In the end, Summer Wars is a fantastic movie that warrants a lot more attention than I think it’s going to get. The film never descends into melodramatics, and it remains cheekily self-aware even as the fate of the world rests on this peculiar yet not unknown to us family. If it made the art-house circuit a few more times, I would line up every time it came back here… then again, technology has caught up with us yet again, and the DVD is slated to be out in February. If it can’t make it to a screen near you, I highly recommend at least trying to grab the disc.
Yeah, I missed a day. Not on purpose, I can assure you. Plus, the previous two days have been kind of terse. Maybe I ought to start there and explain a little.
Some of the weirdness that’s been going on these past two or three weeks has not stemmed from the move, but from the fact that at work, we’ve been wrapping up a release candidate. Friday was the last day for that, and as a result I ran into a situation where I needed to make a 30-mile trip into the unknown on Saturday morning in order to deal with some of the fallout. I had literally no idea where I was going, and if I hadn’t got there before noon, the goal would cease to exist. Fortunately, a) I had the GPS unit, and b) I woke up at 5a anyway and got there at 10a. So my store of adrenaline was pretty well gone by noon. My car wasn’t damaged or anything; the trip was smooth, though there was a small detour.
So that brings me to yesterday afternoon, the first point since… oh, July, where I had the weekend to myself and no major obligations left. I did a little bit of cleaning up, but the majority of the day was spent right where I am now– on the couch. Unfortunately, you know what they say about inertia, and around 9p I was asleep. I woke up at 11p to get a blanket from the bed but other than that I was done. (Sue me, the couch was already warm and the bed was not.)
Today, really, should be more of the same; I’ve got to take a quick run out to get groceries for the coming week or so, and later on a friend or two will be over to help test out Rock Band 3 in local multiplayer. Because if there’s one thing that I really want to do today, it’s rock.
So, I suppose, that means I’m going away. I hope you don’t mind. But, for tomorrow’s post, I promise you, I’ll be back in time.
………….all this has been a really convoluted excuse for saying that I also watched the Back to the Future Trilogy yesterday.
Gonna have to keep this short because I didn’t get to sleep until late last night– or rather this morning– but I did go see Iron Man 2, which was awesome, and I managed to snag a copy of Picross 3D for the DS as well. If you’re into puzzle games at all, or have a DS and a commute or some time to kill now and again, this game is well worth the budget-level layout (and I was very surprised to see Nintendo priced it at $20). Be warned, though, it’s really, really hard.
So I spent this night in anticipation of the “lucky” Final Fantasy… by watching the “unlucky” one, The Spirits Within. I still maintain it wasn’t a bad movie, just one that (like, well, most movies) over-promised and under-delivered. The project was ambitious and unfortunately ten years ago the tech just wasn’t there. It is now, which is why we have stuff like the gorgeous (yet, in terms of story concepts, absolutely wretched) Avatar.
That’s part of why I can’t bring myself to hate TSW or Avatar nearly as much as I “should”. To me, those films represent technological leaps that might be a bit over-reaching, but at least they’re trying something different. Would I prefer that a good (or, hell, let’s split the difference and say “not awful”) story go along with them? Of course. But the thing is, if you can only put your money in the writing or the visuals, while writing might get you Oscars, the visuals are going to get you butts in seats.
Let me say this, though. I don’t hate James Cameron. I can’t. The guy directed Aliens. I mean, that alone should be good for at least two or three stinkers. Then he did The Abyss and Terminator 2. The guy’s earned his right to write obnoxious furry wish-fulfillment, if you ask me.
In 2002, I started what would eventually become the capitalized “The Collection” from some pretty humble beginnings: I had a single “CD tower” of Playstation 1 and 2 games, probably about four feet tall and barely a foot wide. I also had a handful of boxed up retro systems, and maybe a dozen or so anime DVDs (with a modest amount of VHS tapes as well). Obviously, I expanded; as most of you all know, I also had to sell off roughly 95% of my games and anime during a downturn between jobs. Today, the Collection is the largest it’s ever been, and it’s in no danger of having to be sold off anytime soon.
I don’t like to brag– particularly not about stuff that I own– so that’s not the purpose of this post. Most folks don’t see their piles of video games and movies and suchlike as collections– they see them, primarily, as just “stuff”. If they want to get fancy, they may refer to it as a “library”. Really, though, these are cop-outs: if one is really serious about becoming a collector, then there can never be a point where you just have a pile of discs. You have to start early, so that it doesn’t get away from you. I’ve been throwing around terms like the Reclamation List and all that for years now without really explaining the thought process behind it all; I figure, now that the majority of the work is behind me, it would be a good time to take a look at how I built up even this modest collection and how I go about expanding it.
I should note, though, that it’s perfectly okay if you don’t want to be a collector of DVDs, games, whatever. That’s fine. It’s not something that everyone can do or has an interest in doing. The thing is, of course, that some folks out there do want to be collectors, and there’s some stuff that I wish I knew when I was setting out. That’s the purpose of this post (actually, by the time I’m done, it’ll probably feel more like a lecture).
So, without further delay, let’s start with ( The Ten Commandments Of Collecting… » )
In the end, taking up media collecting as a serious hobby can be rewarding and fun, but it can also be really nerve-wracking if you’re not prepared for it. Obviously, I’m not setting myself up as an authority or anything, but these are all just stuff I’ve found out since starting the Reclamation project. It all comes down to what you get out of it; if you want it just to have it, or if you want it to watch/read/play it all at some point.
Okay, so I now have the three new pieces of furniture I wanted in order to do the living room redesign, and to make the best use of the space (plus to open up room for the third, and very probably final for this apartment, media shelf once the Collection warrants it, which is probably going to be around January or so). Not only did I employ mad spatial estimation skills to get all the crap into my car in more or less one trip, I also rocked the raw nerd strength needed to get the boxes down the stairs to my apartment. (Those of you just joining me, this means pretty much the exact opposite of how badass I made it sound.)
I like putting things together, so ordinarily I would say that the hard part is over, and the fun was just starting. Unfortunately if I did that, I would be a liar. Y’see, I’ve kinda, well, lived in my living room for the past three years, and in all that time I still haven’t taken down the folding table that I’m currently using as a computer desk. The only improvement, really, has been that I replaced my very sketchy console-rack-bridge-thing with a proper media stand at the beginning of the year. As a result– and a natural consequence, completely justified by my being a single guy– there’s a lot of stuff here that needs to be organized and put away into my small and nearly empty storage space across the hall. I initially thought I was going to be able to just do the rearrangement all on Sunday without any stress. Yeah, that might not be happening. I suppose that if I’m really lucky and handy with getting the stuff packed away tomorrow night (read: I don’t decide to just blow it off and go see Ponyo like I had originally planned) I could still have a workable living room on Sunday evening. The odds of this actually happening are ridiculously slim.
Ah well. It’ll get done eventually. In the meantime, listen to the sweet serenade of the origin of my new desk.
Okay. Really, I’m going to bed early. Fortunately I have someone who can take calls in my absence tonight…
…uh, on second thought, maybe you’d be better off e-mailing me, and I’ll get you back in the morning.
I finished up watching Moon Phase last night and this morning. Overall I liked the series, but overall it had some serious problems with pacing and staying even-toned. The constant whiplash between comedy and terrifying situations– for example, pans dropping on peoples’ heads during one of the major fights near the end– made it difficult to pay too much attention to it. However, taken as a whole, the series has some great moments, and it’s acted very well by everyone involved. If you can take the back-and-forthing, it’s worth a look. As I’d mentioned before I unfortunately trailed off, Full Metal Panic is next on the list. There’s certainly some whiplash involved there, but overall it sounds pretty darn good.
I’m also considering, once I’m through more of the anime list, going through Babylon 5 again– I’ve been watching bits of it here and there since last summer, only getting me near the end of Season 2, but it’s been a good use of time regardless.
The Collection page needs a serious update… however, I’m probably going to hold off on that until I’ve got everything documented in Delicious Library. What worries me most is that I may need to, eventually, add a third shelf– which requires not just putting it together, but likely a complete re-layout of my living room. I’ve honestly been meaning to do that for a while anyway, but I’d expected that I’d be in a different apartment when laying it out again… Ah well.
Catch you folks tomorrow.