October 2017

The Orville: meh

A couple weeks back, Brickmuppet mentioned the new Trek-ish series The Orville, “tentatively optimistic” after watching the first two episodes.

I was… less enthusiastic, and the only thing I really liked was seeing Adrianne Palicki out of uniform. Still, not every SF show can hit the ground running like SG-1, so I set my DVR to record it, which it promptly failed to do.

Fortunately, Hulu has it, so I was able to watch episode 3. Well, about half of it, until the stupid was too thick to scrape off the screen. There was one honest-to-gosh funny line out of the captain’s mouth, but I’ve already forgotten what it was about.

Fundamentally, the problem was that I had no investment in the setup (I hesitate to call it a “plot”) or the characters, and it was written like a bad ABC Afterschool Special.

Bortus was introduced as a member of a single-gender species, but this episode changes that to “all-male species capable of sexual reproduction without the help of females, who are quite rare but play no part in reproduction since they’re given sex-change operations at birth, because females are smaller and weaker, exactly like humans.” (which raises the question of how precisely they’re “female” to begin with…)

So, first they created a species that’s Not Like Us (which has all sorts of story potential), and then immediately made them Exactly Like Us But Gendercidal (which is a Women’s Studies dissertation). I stopped watching when Kelly tried to make her case in court based on applying a universal concept of “female” across species in a way that doesn’t even make sense for Earth, much less an SFnal universe.

Also, Alara Kitan is a terrible character, mostly because the concept is so poorly thought out that Halston Sage could be a terrific actress and still end up buried to her neck in manure. They might as well have named her One Trick Pony.

So, it’s not good SF, and it’s not good comedy. I don’t see any reason to watch the rest of the season.

R.I.P. Hugo Awards

(nonsensical, counterfactual, hate-filled) Eulogy via bongbong:

This year’s Hugo Award winners have been announced, and the prizes overwhelmingly went to brilliant women like NK Jemisin and Seanan McGuire, to the eminent satisfaction of all those who saw the right-wing, misogynist, racist campaign to make science fiction inhospitable to brown people and women, took countermeasures, and for two years in a row, demonstrated the field’s inclusiveness and commitment to quality, rather than pandering to reactionary panic over the prospect of a future that breaks with the shameful past.

Apropos of nothing...

“You’ve got no alternative Seymour old boy
though it means you’ll be broke again and unemployed
it’s the only solution it can’t be avoided

Dubious capsule toys

Honestly, I’m not sure I’d want to put 5 bucks into this machine. エロ過ぎる = ero-sugiru = “too sexy”.


Now, if it dispensed pokemon balls containing horny monster girls… oh, wait, that’s an anime plot.

Good enough...


A nice example of the common use of the 吾唯足知 expression. There used to be a shop in SF Japantown who sold these basins, but not in such a nice stone.



What's J Watching?

The answer is “not much, really”. I bounced hard off of The Orville (which one of my friends actually thinks is great, proving that he’s taken one too many shots to the head (“Hi, Rory!”)), and there really doesn’t seem to be anything else on cable that sounds even vaguely interesting.

Restaurant To Another World
For the most part, nothing really happens in this well-drawn, slow-paced series about why a little hole-in-the-wall Tokyo restaurant really shuts down one day a week. Relationships between the owner/chef and his fantasy-world customers develop slowly, and it looks like there are even a few honest-to-gosh spoilers coming, but for the most part it just drifts along with diner-of-the-week stories and some rare mild fan-service. Next up: the restaurant gets a clothing-challenged second waitress.
Legends Of Tomorrow, season 2
Finally catching up on this show, and wondering why I bothered. I already knew most of what happens, the writers have a pretty shaky grasp of the historical eras the team visits, the main villain was more interesting when played by the other actor, Nate is dull even with powers, Vixen’s WWII-era attitudes appear only when convenient to the plot, etc, etc. I think I’m pretty much done with the Flarrowverse.
Mauser reminded me this existed and I never watched it. Short, fun, mostly stand-alone episodes, with cute character designs familiar to anyone who’s seen Hand Maid May et al. It’s a pleasant diversion.

Coming Soon

Kino’s Journey
The only new anime series that I have any interest in right now.
Alice & Zoroku
I really liked the first few episodes, but got sidetracked and haven’t gotten back to it yet. Definitely one worth finishing.
Sometime I’ll get around to marathoning the first season, and quite possibly the second. What little I’ve seen of it has been a decent reimagining of the comic, but I just haven’t been in the mood for it yet.

California weather

Today’s weather conditions…

Sadly, the smoke from the Napa/Sonoma fires does not smell like wine, at least not at this distance.

Public Service Announcement

Saya Kataoka (片岡沙耶) announces her new video in a most appealing way:

Speedforce considered harmful...

…to my interest in the Flarrowverse.

When Arrow launched, I wasn’t really interested, and when I finally got around to trying to stream the first season, the only things that held my interest were the beautiful women and two excellent actors (John Barrowman and Paul Blackthorne).

Flash, at least, wasn’t dominated by an unsympathetic jackass with enough issues to staff a large psych ward, and not only has two of the most beautiful women on television (and many others…), but a fully-fleshed-out cast of interesting characters, including an awesome dad and a complex, well-portrayed villain (season one). Also some terrific tie-ins to the earlier Flash TV series.

The fly in the ointment has always been the portrayal of speedsters. Simply put, the writers have no idea how velocity and acceleration (and deceleration!) work, so they make up numbers that just don’t make sense, and write stories where Flash is simultaneously too fast and too slow.

A typical scenario might go like this: Barry is standing in Jitters with Joe/Iris/Cisco when something comes up, so he activates his speed and leaves, instantly vanishing from sight without being noticed. Seconds later, halfway across town, he’s facing a human being armed with a weapon that requires aiming (Captain Cold, Doctor Light, whatever), and spends a minute or two dodging blasts while the team comes up with a plan.

…instead of using super-speed to simply run up behind them and whack them on the head. Or pants them, tie their shoelaces together, wrap them in duct tape, and/or just write IDIOT on their foreheads with a Sharpie.

This is painful, but I’m willing to put up with a certain amount of it given the limitations of the format and the genre. Also, Wentworth Miller did an awesome snarky job as Captain Cold, so I’ll cut them some slack just for that. I genuinely like the cast, and the show embraces the essential absurdity of Flash’s comic-book history.

But I just finished streaming season 2 of Legends Of Tomorrow, and their handling of the Speedforce made the Flash writers look like super-geniuses. Specifically, in episode 14 (Moonshot):

Eobard Thawne, the season villain who’s desperately trying to outrun the fact that he was erased from existence in Flash, and who has repeatedly made expert use of his control over the Speedforce to spank the heroes like a bunch of spoiled children, is completely powerless when he’s not on Earth’s surface.

This is presented at first as if “he can’t do anything with his speed in zero-G”, allowing Ray to beat him in a fist-fight, but he’s still restricted to human speeds while they’re stranded on the moon, then again when he’s imprisoned on the Waverider (despite its artificial gravity). But he trivially vibrates out of his cell as soon as they’re back on Earth, something that never occurs to the idiots imprisoning him.

Bathtime Buddies...

No, not the kind with cheesecake. Last month, Wonderduck stumbled across an onsen-themed set of rubber-duck capsule toys (which reminds me, “no, Amazon won’t ship it internationally, but I have a reshipping agent that I use, and I have some other stuff that needs handled that way as well; I just need to update my account with them, because we’re moving our office”).

In the comments, I linked to one of the many bucket-o-duckies products on Amazon Japan. Here’s what it looks like when someone puts them to good use:


The Gifted, episodes 1 & 2

I hadn’t been planning to watch this, but Scott mentioned Amy Acker and Jamie Chung, and indicated that this was not the limit of its potential, hinting that it might not even suck as a show.

So far, it does not in fact suck, and the eye-candy department also includes 18-year-old Natalie Alyn Lind’s peaches-and-cream cutie Lauren Strucker and Emma Dumont’s hot/crazy Lorna Dane. And as I said to Scott after watching the two episodes back-to-back: “Whoever choreographs Lauren Strucker’s power poses is my new best friend.”

The odd thing for me, though, is the male cast. While watching the pilot, I kept thinking, “oh, it’s the guy from… wait, no, no it isn’t.” So, to be clear, this series does not star Robert Duncan McNeill, Corin Nemec, or Billy Zane.

On Harveywood...

Once upon a time, there was a magazine called Perfect 10. The claim was that it offered high-quality nude photography of women who hadn’t been under the knife. The second part of that claim was mostly true.

I knew a number of Playboy models who’d been asked to appear in the magazine when it was getting started, and without exception they were creeped out by the founder and his auditions. Basically, he wanted a private show before he’d consider paying them to appear in his magazine, despite the fact that they were all experienced professional nude models with ample portfolios.

The one that sticks out in my memory was a Playmate from 1989 who was well-known for her lush natural figure, and was extremely popular in Playboy’s videos and special editions. He invited her in and asked her to show off the goods, then rejected her for “just not being pretty”.

Gosh, I wonder how he treated women who weren’t already successful models! (actually, I don’t, because I heard rumors about that, too…)

The consensus was that in his mind he was the next Hef, but in reality he was sleazier than Guccione.

My opinion of Hef is colored by my Playmate acquaintances as well, in a mostly positive way. Even decades after posing for the magazine, a lot of them retained affection for the man, often in a “god bless him” kind of way. There was a lot of bitterness about the company’s actions over the years, and there were plenty of less-affectionate stories, but for the most part, they still liked Hef.

Now, this was a self-selected subset of Playmates still willing to associate themselves with their centerfold and show up at autograph shows, but at the time that amounted to more than 1/3 of the women who’d ever had a staple through their navels, so if even half of them still liked him, he was no Harvey. A lot of former Bunnies had good things to say about him, too, and their experience working in the clubs.

The other comments that stick out in my memory were the ones that I started to hear after Hef moved his wife and kids into the mansion next door and restarted the partying. All his old pals from the glory days showed up and expected everything to be the same, and the result was that the younger Playmates stopped showing up unless they were still under contract, because being hit on by old men creeped them out.

One fresh young model who’d been getting popular in the newsstand specials found herself banned from the parties (and further work with the company) when she failed to return the affection of one of Hef’s Old Pals. And he made it clear to her that this would happen if she didn’t put out, because he knew people.

Not that it was all one-way. When Leonardo DiCaprio first showed up at a mansion party, he was so smothered in eager models that he could barely breathe through their titties. And this was no more surprising than the other stories…

Side note: the single most common story I’ve heard about mansion parties was not about anyone’s behavior, but about the fact that there was only one set of bathrooms available to the guests. Ask a Playmate about the mansion, and the first thing you’ll hear about is the long line to pee.

Dear Tor Books,

It’s been a while since I’ve bought anything you publish (your fault, not mine), but you still have Steven Brust, and despite how badly the “author connection” conceit intruded into Hawk, I’m still willing to buy the Vlad Taltos novels in hardback rather than your horribly overpriced ebooks. Vallista leans a bit too heavily on earlier, better novels in the series, but I did read it in one sitting, and while the claim that it answers Vlad’s long-asked questions is bullshit, it does address some things fans wanted to know about how his world works.

But, and I mean this advice constructively, please fire the fucking morons who write your blurbs. This little bit of prose from the book jacket is 300% bullshit: “full of swordplay, peril, and swashbuckling flair”. No, no it is not. Introspective gothic mystery set in a house on a hill, yes; swashbuckling and swordplay, not so much.

Admittedly, it’s not the worst I’ve seen from Tor. That distinction belongs to this ludicrous description of The Three-Body Problem:

“A covert military project. A secret war revealed as the worst fight that humanity has ever faced. Baffling mysteries. A series of ultra-science weapons, each more powerful and fantastic than the last, including one technology described as more important than nuclear bombs. Aliens that may be saviors, or invaders, or both.”

Separated at birth...


Warning Label: Yumi Nakano

As usual, the presence of the kanji 歳 preceded by a number serves as a warning that the young lady in question is on the dangerous side of cute. Healthy, though.


Dear Playboy,

If the question is how to appeal to men, Mr. November is not the answer.

Dear Amazon Japan,

Classification errors galore.


Best Girl: Pinky or Froppy?

My Hero Academia didn’t sound like much when I first heard about it, so I kind of forgot it existed. Over the weekend, I was bored and it was available on Hulu, so I watched the first episode.

Then all the rest. It’s pretty good, well-drawn with some genuinely interesting characters, and despite the immensely tedious recaps that pad it out, the story doesn’t suck.

(tip: don’t marathon this show unless you have a convenient and reliable skip-forward button)

No Man's Sky revisited

After Shamus wrote up his one-year-later look at the ambitiously flawed No Man’s Sky, I decided to take another look myself. Before I’d even consider it, though, I made sure that I had workarounds for the most crippling of its misfeatures. The Pride of Euclid mod makes it possible to travel around planets at something other than a crawl, and nmssavetool allows editing save files to fix the ridiculous inventory limitations and reduce grinding by about 80%.

With the original nmssavetool, I had some canned jq scripts to do basic useful things: add cash, add an item to inventory, and report or change the current ship/multitool seed (a purely cosmetic cheat that changes their procedurally-generated appearance to something cooler).

The author has baked all those and much more into the new version, so that you can start a new game, save once, and then upgrade yourself to be capable of playing the parts of the game you like, whether that’s exploring new star systems, fighting pirates, or questing. There’s also a Java-based GUI save editor that makes it easier to do things like reorganize your technology in the inventory grid to maximize bonuses (a feature of the game that is still nearly impossible to use legitimately).

On that note, there are now two quest chains, and they’re not nearly as fragile as they were before (although one of them is broken in 1.38…); the new mission generator gives you some short-term goals, as long as you work around its bugs. They even turned the useless portal-ish items into a direct clone of Stargate’s stargates, complete with whoosh.

I can honestly say that, with mods and save tools, it’s now a decent $15 game. Unfortunately they still charge $60 for it, so unless you see a big sale, don’t buy it. And if you buy it, get some mods and a save tool, or you’ll find the fun parts separated by tall grindy mountains; Shamus’ articles cover a lot of that, and I agree with pretty much everything he said.

Confessions of an Invisible Girl...

I tend to skip the OP and ED for most series after seeing it once or twice (or in the case of Noir, “frantically stabbing at the remote to escape that damn song”), but while watching the second season of My Hero Academia, I always watched the first ED. Great focus on the girls, with a matching song.

Between this and watching the two OVAs, though, it’s clear they haven’t thought much about Invisible Girl as more than comic relief. She’s always invisible, but objects touching her body are visible, so her hero costume is “full nudity with gloves and boots” (which she takes off for stealth). And there’s no hint that she has any sort of enhanced toughness as part of her quirk.

So, in the training scenes where they’ve all been running around and then an explosion raises a huge dust cloud, her sweaty naked body should collect a coat of dust. And when they’re getting bounced around by explosions or running through rough terrain, she should end up covered in (invisible) cuts and bruises.

Based on the condition of the other students at the end of the “Training of the Dead” OVA, she must look like a mummy from all the bandages they’d need to patch her up. I think she needs to have a chat with gadget-girl Mei about coming up with some transparent defensive gear; a sports bra and short-shorts, at the very least. That would also make her future hero career less of a gropefest.

Porch Cats update

(previously, previously, previously, previously)

Scrawny has become sufficiently comfortable that she not only accepts skritches every day, she leans into it. She hasn’t reached the point of initiating contact, but she keeps getting closer to it.

Whitefoot has been joined by another similar-looking cat who’s still not the white-socks-and-soul-patch cat from the original crew. This one actually has some bouncy kittenish behaviors, but is also dumb as a post when it comes to figuring out where the food is. His behavior has earned him the name Dumas.

Whitefoot and Dumas are playing dominance games with the others, although no one has been stupid enough to challenge Scrawny over the cushions. They do try to take her food, though, which has led to some hissing from her and interference from me; there’s a good chance that her increased tolerance for affection is related to this.

Tubbs has been frozen out. The other three basically camp the porch all day, and he’s too skittish to approach when I’m putting out food, so he just sits in the bushes looking hungry. Haven’t seen Caramel for months, and Smoky hasn’t shown up since Dumas joined the crew a few weeks ago. I’m thinking of changing the timing of the automatic feeder to give them a chance to at least get some dry food, but I expect Whitefoot and Dumas to quickly adapt; they seem to always be close enough to hear my front door or car door, so they’ll definitely hear the noise from the feeder.

If I ever get some cover installed over the back porch, I could put a second automatic feeder back there, but I keep putting that project off (17 years and counting…).


Found a dead rat conspicuously placed in the yard near the front door. Big healthy one, too, so the gang is earning their keep.

Also, Dumas turns out to be skritch-tolerant as well.

All three are showing signs of wanting to find out what’s on the other side of the front door…

Padding and Distraction

Songs written specifically for the credits of an anime series tend to be so carefully designed for a 1:30 runtime that it’s difficult to expand them to full-length songs, or to come up with a fitting live video featuring the performer. Two notable successes are the OP songs from Kannagi (which I can only find in a low-res version on an obscure Chinese video site…) and Bakuon, both of which make full use of their quite appealing singers.

The folks responsible for the My Hero Academia ED song Dakara Hitori Ja Nai, however, clearly had no idea how to seamlessly expand 1:30 to 4:20, and the video director wasn’t content to rely on the appeal of the five pretty young women who make up Little Glee Monster. The result is… interesting. I count at least three kitchen sinks.


I taste bias

538 ranks Halloween candy, and I call chocolate-covered bullshit. Rolo, Krackel, Junior Mints, and Haribo Gold-Bears all beat Baby Ruth, and Bit-O-Honey didn’t even make the cut. I blame the DNC and Hillary’s campaign for funding this transparently absurd attempt to defame honorable American candies.

In other news, the staff of 538 has way too much time on their hands, and way too little legitimate data to crunch.

Dear lyrics sites,

Since there are dozens of you endlessly copying each other’s errors, all focused on SEO rather than quality, I know there’s no chance of submitting a correction and getting it propagated, but here’s one anyway.

In the Jackson 5 song I Want You Back, his brothers have some solo lines (Jackie and Jermaine, if I can still keep them straight after all these years…). The first set is pretty obvious, “forget what happened then/let me live again”. The second one, as rendered on lyrics sites, is baffling: “spare me of this cause/gimme back what I lost”.

Not only is the rhyme off, it’s meaningless. When I asked Alexa to play it for me just now, there’s a faint-but-clear “t” at the end of the first line, making it “spare me all this cost”; also, “give back what I lost”.

Why was I listening to a song that’s nearly as old as I am? Because I just found out Little Glee Monster covered it, of course. There’s no music video, and the fan-taped versions have bad video, bad audio, or both, so instead I’ll link to them performing with Earth, Wind, and Fire.

…and embed the original Jackson 5 version after the jump.


What's Okina Kamino up to these days?

The Asobi Ni Iku Yo novels ended at 20 (I haven’t gone back to see how/if he wrapped it up). Cattail Output (the spinoff featuring an undercover Melwin) only ran for 4. He had another long series Hashire, Ute that was up to 12 books, but I don’t know much about it, apart from the loli cover girls.

It looks like his current series are mutants and yet another boy-goes-to-fantasy-world story. And this:

At least I hope it’s a series. “Machinegun with Elf and Bikini” has clear potential.

No Man's Sky: Pinky's World

[note: Steam has a 60% off sale for Halloween. I think $24 is still a bit high, but a lot more reasonable than $60]

Out of the tiny number of people still playing No Man’s Sky on the PC, there exists an even-smaller number who have completed the main quest in Permadeath mode, and of those, a very small number of masochists who chose Raging Galaxy as their destination and ended up in Calypso.

So, for those dozen or so players, if you want to travel through a portal and visit someone’s base to either get the Steam achievement or pick up a decal, come to Pinky’s World:

Just watch out for the Bone-Stripping Acid Storms (not a euphemism).

Pinky’s World (PC, Permadeath Mode, Calypso Galaxy)
Portal Address 201103513B8C (038B:0082:0D12:0011)
Base is 3:30 due East.

(I also left a Comm Station with these instructions at the de-facto message-board portal 111111111111)


Monster Report

One last group of little monsters just now, and I think I’m done for the night. 126 kids (according to a quick review of my Arlo cameras), so I went through 55-60 pounds of candy. The porch cats were determined to hang around even though they wouldn’t let any of the kids within ten feet of them. During one of the lulls, Scrawny even came into the house and poked around a bit before heading back out, which was a first for her.

Some things never change. About ten years ago, my next-door neighbor’s daughter picked a Halloween costume that showed off a sudden growth spurt highlighting her growing resemblance to her hot mom. New neighbor in the same house, and this is the year their daughter was ready to show off. If dad doesn’t already have a shotgun, he really needs to pick one up soon…

(and, yes, I overbought, but not as badly as last year, so I won’t be feeding the office well into January this time…)

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”