“Sadly, I know many people who used to smoke marijuana. None of them leads a happy life any longer. One is now employed as a rocket scientist and the other works for Microsoft. Nothing says ‘I used to smoke dope’ more than working for Microsoft.”

— Mr. Cranky reviews Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle


Maburaho, Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, and Haibane Renmei. What do they have in common, apart from seiyuu Junko Noda?

Not much, really, except that I was watching them at more or less the same time. Maburaho is a pretty standard harem comedy, with lusciously drawn girls, some good voice acting, and a plot that falls apart if you so much as look at it. The director knows his fluff, though, and the show makes no pretense of being anything more.

Daphne is equal parts action, comedy, and fan-service, with a plot that could actually be pretty good if they shared it with the viewers. It has the potential to be more than fluff, but the first-time director has pretty much blown the pacing. The first two discs are spent introducing the cast, and a good chunk of the third is consumed by two lengthy, apparently-unrelated expository lumps (one of which is both dreadfully boring and immersion-breaking). Maia is an engaging heroine, and some of the other characters are nicely rounded (yeah, that way, too), but the plot crumbs are just too scattered right now.

Haibane Renmei is so good it hurts, literally, which is why it’s nice to have some fluff around when you need to recover your equilibrium. To discuss it is to spoil it. You just need to set aside an evening or four, relax, and let the story unfold.

What’s bad about them? Beware spoilers!


Adventures in pop culture

Last night, I stopped at the Valley Fair mall in San Jose on the way home. It’s a common Silicon Valley shopping destination. You can find all sorts of high tech toys there, and there are large Apple and Sony stores. They even have a kiosk that sells the Rosetta Stone language software I’m fond of. I had an iPod Shuffle clipped to my shirt, and a shiny new Sony Playstation Portable sticking out of a bag.

In a nearby store, the clerk looked at my Shuffle and asked what it was. She said she’d seen two others recently, and hadn’t asked their owners. I said “iPod Shuffle”. She said “what’s an iPod?”. I explained. She thought it sounded difficult to use, since she’s just getting started on that “Internet” thing. I told her how easy it was to set up, and pointed her to the large Apple store for free demonstrations.

As we finished this discussion, the next customer in line noticed my PSP. Recognizing the logo, he asked if it was “some kind of Playstation”. I explained, and his eyes widened at the concept of a portable Playstation. I pointed him to the large Sony store for free demonstrations.

Then I escaped to the security of my car, before someone asked about my cellphone…

[note that both of these people were under the age of 35]

Tuning in the Red Cross

Apple has chosen an interesting method for supporting the current hurricane relief efforts. They’ve made it possible to donate to the American Red Cross through the iTunes Music Store.

They also used their regular iTMS weekly updates mailing list to announce the link.

Foothill Follies

I’ve made a lot of progress learning Japanese with the Rosetta Stone software, but I decided that it’s time to work on the area that it helps least with: speaking. Since I’m working in Palo Alto again, taking a class seemed like a good idea, and Foothill College seems to have a good program, with flexible hours. Sort of.

Their first-year class is offered in evenings, which will work great for me. The second-year class appears to only be available at 8am, three days a week, which is not so good. Even without taking into consideration the fact that I live 75 miles from the campus, I’m not much of a morning learner.

Worse, the Intermediate Conversation class that can be taken alongside the second-year class starts at 8pm on the same days. If this isn’t an error in the online course catalog, it’s pretty stupid. They don’t have the schedules for Winter and Spring online yet, so I suspect I’ll have to talk to someone in the department to find out if this is typical. If I can continue their program in the evenings, or even later in the morning, I will; otherwise, I may have to drop it after the first year.

Kill Bill, Part 1

Saturday, a friend was flipping through channels and left this running. I’d never gotten around to seeing it, since I generally consider Tarantino an overrated hack. After a few minutes, I was mentally apologizing to George Lucas for the things I’ve said about his ability to write dialogue. Fortunately, we were soon able to get back to something more interesting.

Last night, I got bored and found it on cable again, and watched some more. I felt like I was slowing down to watch a train wreck. I didn’t enjoy it at all, but a question just kept running through my mind: “has it hit bottom yet?”.

The answer was always “no”.

History is written by the winners moonbats

While in the book store last week, I picked up A History of Japan, by Conrad Totman. I didn’t make it past the preface before the bullshit was too deep to wade through. Quoting:

Today we find ourselves at a point where the level of human exploitation of the ecosystem appears to be throwing the entire global biome into crisis. The Earth is now home to well over six billion people, but in fact this small planet's current biological production is not remotely capable of sustaining those people in the manner to which they are accustomed, much less the manner to which they aspire.

This, he says, is why he decided to write a book about Japanese history. Skimming ahead and checking the reviews, it appears his “ecological” approach to history taints the contents from cover to cover, coloring both which facts he chooses to include, and how he interprets them.

I have rarely felt the urge to return a book to the store based on its content, but a historian who so thoroughly injects his personal politics into the material simply isn’t worth reading.

Tentatively, Haibane Renmei

I’ll be watching it through again once I’ve recovered from the first time, but meanwhile I can’t help thinking about it. Much of my speculation is sure to change as I watch again and argue with others (coughcough), but this is where I’m going with it now.

Beware! Spoilers abound.


Spam that almost works…

Got three of these today so far:

Subject: Best prices for complete Thundercats and more
Subject: Sabrina the Teenage Witch DVD giveaway
Subject: Whole series of transformers on dvd

They’re selling bootlegs, obviously, but there were no concealed URLs, no viral attachments, no embedded images. For junk mail, they’re positively wholesome; the closest thing to obnoxious porn was that they listed “The Nanny” as an available series…