December 07, 2007

This is how Civilization Ends

Chobits is a series that didn't really speak to me when it first came out. The magical girlfriend genre has little appeal to me as a concept. Combined with the the look which seems equal parts shuojo and moe' and I was pretty sure this show was not aimed at me.

Recently however, the series has intrigued me.   The reactions of certain female anime fans to a male classmate who expressed an appreciation for the series was interesting ...being best described as a "Body Snatcher Point and Screechtm".

What little I'd seen of the show had been very high quality, and the show seemed to actually be dealing with some interesting concepts.  Finally the show was one of Geneon's properties and the recent collapse of that excellent import studio made buying the series a sort of now or never proposition. I'd gotten volume 1 as a promo some time back and after watching it I was hooked. I put the remaining 6 on hold at Worlds Best Comics and purchased them piecemeal before and after my injury.This show is well drawn, with very high production values. I'm  not often their target audience but CLAMP tends to produce thoughtful, interesting stories and this is no exception.

The Premise:

Humanoid androids "perso-coms" are filling the same niche as personal computers are in our world. Of course, possessing opposable thumbs, being ambulatory and sometimes anatomically correct, they are filling other niches as well. They are sophisticated machines and while some of the newer and more lifelike models seem to mimick sentience quite well they are just that...machines. They are also becoming necessary to day to day life, or at least daily life has progressed to the point that not having one can be a serious handicap. Which brings us to...

 

Hideki Montasuwa who has lived all his life on a western style farm in Hokkaido has decided to pursue a college education. To that end he has just moved to Tokyo to attend a cram school...which has taken most of his savings. He looks at purchasing a persocom but they are far out of his price range. Hideki is introduced as a decent ethical fellow trying to overcome considerable obstacles. He is a fairly well realized, likable character. He is a fish out of water in the big city and utterly out of his depth regards computers, especially persocoms. The show really begins when he discovers...

 

CHI!! who...which...is lying on a trash heap as Hideki walks by and is brought home by him in the hopes of gaining internet access to better facilitate, studying, job-hunting and thoughtful analysis of internet pr0n sites. The main issue with this cunning plan is that Chi is pretty much incapable of anything except saying "CHII!!"hence her/its name. As Hideki has no idea how to program the thing he tries to teach it to get around as he might a child. This has better results it really ought to. As to why an appliance should be on the character list....it is revealed early on that Chi is operating...without an operating system installed. Our protagonist seems to have something quite special on his hands...perhaps someone...and the ethical quandaries that implies. This astonishing discovery is thanks in part to....

Shinbo Hiromu who is a classmate of Hideki's and fairly adapt at personcom maintenance. This likable chipper and helpful fellow lives a few doors down from Hideki in the same 'Maison'.  Utterly stumped by Chi, he enlists the aid of .....

Minoru Kokobunji "M" a 12 year old prodigy who is one of the worlds formost experts on persocoms. He met Shinbo via a chatroom and is willing to help Shinbo and Hideki find out about Chi. Though in some ways wise beyond his years, his youth and insecurity (as well as his technical prowess)show in the fact that he has scratch built a persocom replica of his dead sister....

Yuzuki who is, of course, just an appliance...that is our story and we are sticking to it.

She has been programmed with all the knowledge of Minoru's dead sister. It is unclear if this involves anything akin to a brain tape but her knowledge of his sisters habits is stated to be uncanny. She is far more advanced than the average persocom. However, it turns out she is less advanced than Chi...she cannot access Chi except to determine that she is operating without an OS...independently. She seems to be quite capable of some types of initiative that occasionally mystify her creator. She is a far more advanced persocom than say....

Summomo, who is Shinbo's personcom, only around 100mm high, she has limited processing capacity, but is basically equivalent to a tiny ambulatory laptop programmed to be exceedingly cute. This would likely still not endear her to...

Yumi Omura , a teenage barely-legal young lass who works at her fathers pub where Hideki eventually gets a job. She is bouncy, optimistic and seems to like Hideki. She also has a deep and abiding distrust of persocoms. She is cute as a button and has all sorts of fashion sense but this still cannot make her nearly as hot as...

Takako Shimizu, Hideki and Shinbo's Teacher at the cram school. Outgoing, witty and sharp as a tack, Takako is a superb teacher and a very cool person. By a strange twist of fate, it turns out that she lives very near the Maison run by...

 

Chitose Hibiya, Hideki and Shinbo's landlady, obviously modeled after the hottest anime babe of all time, Ms. Hibiya is exceedingly helpful in helping Hideki with Chi particularly providing clothing for the persocom.



This show is really interesting in a lot of ways. Superb production values, great characterizations and some interesting ethical issues.It has a low key often subtle plot and the humor is generally cute.  It kept me engaged almost to the end. However, the last two episodes wrapped it up rather clumsily, the ethical issues raised earlier were largely discarded by people....going against character and the main romance story is a bit creepy.

 Much of the problem stems from the abbreviated ending. This is the opposite of their problem a lot of manga adaptations have as they must drag to avoid overtaking the manga and produce filler if they do. In this case, it seems the show was truncated to fit the 26 episode format. (A bit more development might have answered several questions and even made the "romance more palatable")

For all that it is an interesting series, and touches on but doesn't explore some intruiging issues.

* Chi gets a job. (no spoiler, it is the title of an episode) How does this work? SHE gets paid and it is implied that persocom owners doing this is not uncommon. It is also implied that this is recommended for people who must leave their PerComs at home...to keep them from getting bored. (aieee!) The implications for low end entry level work are not good. (That Hideki allows her to keep her earnings, indeed insists that she does speaks well of him)

* The end of civilization. No need to deal with those annoying Mars/Venus compatibility problems. You can  have your very own Jennifer Connelly or Johnny Weissmueller and they won't talk back or take half your income in a divorce....no kids of course...In the show people & their persocoms are shown holding hands more as the series progresses.(Mark Stein has presumably  moved into his bunker at this point) as a thoroughly geriatric society collapses in 30 or so years.

* What is the threshold of sentience?

It is a creepy series and the rewatchability is rather low as a result of the abbreviated ending.

Still, all in all it was worth a watch and I found it interesting.

(Thus my misogyny is confirmed I suppose).


3 Bricks

UPDATE: I should point out that one of the saving graces of this series is that the writers UNDERSTAND the wrongness of the main "romance". I felt that the ending rather ignored some of the charachter bits and glossed over a LOT, but Jonnathan Tappan (who points out my omission in the comments) says that the manga offers, if anything, less resolution.

UPDATE2: Author has thoughts on the high production values here, and heartilly disagrees with my squeamishness here.

 Thinking about one of the "weirdos"and his falling for an android: One of the plot points involves a charachter who "married" a persocom. He felt she was really alive and "she" apparently did emulate human behavior well...interestingly, she sturned out to be defective with a hard drive problem that caused her to loose data. This "fuzzyness" may have served to emulate human behavior better than a fully functional program...until of course it became debilitating. This is another of the subtle bits I like. A LOT of thought went into this show.

Regards the well founded criticism of my getting too far into the weeds on this, there are 2 things to remember. 1: The series does inspire some thought. 2: I am a geek.

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66 Years Ago

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December 06, 2007

Huckleberry Blogburst

 I've commented more than once on the implications of the migration of the William Jennings Bryan Progressives to the Republican party.

Driven from the Democratic party by the venomous anti-Christian rhetoric of the Maoists that took over their party in the 60's and 70s, they were welcomed with open arms into a Republican party which was eager to return from the political wilderness.

Despite their vast differences in views of the role and function of government embracing these people was rationalized on the grounds that we surely had common cause against the USSR Additionally, the intense anti Christian fervor of the far left was in direct opposition to the values of a Republic founded on a presumption of religious tolerance.

Now it seems we on the right may be reaping the whirlwind for this decision, as the most upwardly mobile candidate in the Republican field is Mike Huckabee.

A successful governor and a likable, apparently decent fellow, he seems to have utter antithapy towards limited government and is no friend of science.
Indeed, he is one of THREE (!)Republican candidates who takes the Bryan position on evolution. That we had three such people (and still have two) as serious participants in the parties nomination process is a bit worrisome to say the least.

Huckabee does not seem to be a bad guy and as unpalatable as they are to many of us, his big government programs in Arkansas (a state with REAL problems with poverty, environmental nightmares and various other Clinton legacies) largely DO fall under the 10th amendment...different states have different needs...that's the point of Federalism.

However, Huckabee is unlikely to differ markedly from any Democratic administration on domestic issues except in the details of his attempts at social manipulations. He'll simply have a largely different set of personal behaviors targeted for harassment. Given the financial crisis that seems to be looming in 20 years or less, a certain frugality is called for. This is not in keeping with Huckabees political philosophy. Conversely, certain emerging technologies (including biological ones), infrastructure projects, energy policies and maintaining capabilities in areas like manned spaceflight require shrewd investment and an understanding of the cost benefits and science involved. The decisions made in these areas will determine if the US is competitive in the future or goes the way China and Portugal did.

Huckabee seems utterly unprepared for many of these issues and his stance on evolution indicate a fundamental unwillingness to learn.

We are in a long war against a virulent and violent strain of Islam. This requires a willingness to use force when necessary but also understanding WHEN it is necessary. This is one of the great threats of he age and requires considerable adeptness at diplomatic brinkmanship and diplomacy in general. None of these are Huckabees forte. One thing we are trying to avoid is to give the Wahabbists and extreme disciples of Shia the religious war they are trying to forment. A Baptist minister in the White House may not be the best way to achieve this. This is NOT to say that a minister, who, pretty much by definition, has years of training in counseling and conflict resolution is inherently incapable of doing this job, far from it, but it requires being informed, and being INTERESTED in being informed. Alas, Huckabee doesn't seem to be.

Alarmingly, as Rand Simberg notes here, Huckabee may be eminently electable. His populism and integrity may appeal to many Democratic voters wary or weary of Hillary and he'll have many of the Religious conservatives sown up. Additionally, he might get enough people on the Republican side to vote if not for him, against Hillary... F

rankly, it is hard to make the case that he'd be the worse of those two choices....neither are likely to be good for the republic but Huckabee does not seem malevolent.

feh...

More thoughts from Commander Salamander.

 Bookworm and Powerline make an interesting comparison of the differences between Huckabee and that paragon of foreign policy acumen Jimmy Carter...(*spoiler*...Huckabee seems nicer...that's it.)...and over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler relays some lucid points on the importance of science comprehension in a POTUS.

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December 03, 2007

Space Coasties!

  Over at Encyclopedia Astronautica, Mark Wade has compiled a story that has almost everything.

The US Coast Guard

Icebreaking

The Cold War

Space Capsuels

Garbage Bombing

...and Ramming Speed!

Go read the whole thing!

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December 02, 2007

Mishap at Space Mountain

Oh the humanity!

Via: Across The Board

 

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I Should be Shocked

....yet I am merely disgusted and angry...

Colleen Doran posts on two recent events that put both many things into perspective.

I had been well aware of the teacher who after going all the way to the Sudan to help the Sudanese was rewarded with prioson and death threats for having students with the temerity to name a Teddy Bear "Mohammed". This story has been all over the internet. I've been remiss in not mentioning it. There is interesting action in the comments as well.

Note that the Muhammed Teddy Bear has been taken off E-Bay....as "offensive". How it was more offensive than the actual story is unexplained.

The main thrust of Colleen's post regards this horrific story that I had not heard before. A young french boy raped raped by Arab men (one of them HIV positive) in Dubai and the difficulty of finding justice, in part because (as one of her commenters put it) pitching is not a crime but catching is. More here.

From the ADS comments section.

....I would like to mention the other boy in the story, whose first name I know, but will not use, as the boy is still living in Dubai, and asked that his name not be used. Probably rightly, most of the focus has been on Alex, but this other boy must have been as traumatized as Alex by the events of that night. And the boy must be as brave as Alex, if not a little bit braver, because while Alex had to leave the country for his own protection, this boy, for whatever reason, still lives in Dubai, and still wanted to testify at the trial of his alleged attackers....

One gutsy kid.

Quote was exerpted from a comment by one Elmer Sackman who may be affiliated with this site advocating the boycott of Dubai.

This is just awful to say, but I'm not sure that is a good idea...

Keep in mind that the United Arab Emirates is widely regarded as one of the most modern of the Arab nations. Now, that is truly damming with faint praise. However, they have been very helpful against Islamic extremists (who take a murderously dim view of their modest social advancements)and from what I've been able to find out they ARE the least oppresive Arab state in the region aside, perhaps from Bahrain.

A boycott of the such a comparitavely modernized nation would send the message that "We're dammned if we do dammned if we don't...so why stand up to the people who will behead us when everyone else will pull the rug out from under us."

Carrots are as important in bringing about change as sticks.

On a national level there are pretty much a selection of bad choices. Let it slide...or push them into the arms of the Wahabi monster consuming so much of Islam in the area...

Terrible...Worse

That doesn't mean that citizens can't sign petitions and make their voices heard. Indeed this might be the best course of action and, indeed, a better one than any options that governments have available.

I'm going to vomit.

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This Christmas From K-Tel ....The Dali Lama Sings!



This is the most awesomest thing ever!

OK...
...perhaps that is hyperbole...

...but I suspect that the Dali Lama is unlikely to want anybody killed because of it.

HT: Don
(Where does he FIND these things?)

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December 01, 2007

Coyote Ragtime..D'oh!

For some time, I've had a partially written review of the Coyote Ragtime Show floating in the ether of blog purgatory. A combination of school, and other distractions as well as a severe case of Apathy towards the show have kept it there.

Now Ubu Roi has forced the issue with a long thoughtful and justifiably merciless disquetation on The Coyote Ragtime Show.

The show is an animated 70s action flick containing all the absurdities that implies and rife with with elements from American, Japanese and Hong Kong flavors of that particular dish. The show is almost a stream of consciousness of random encounters and complications. Of course, many of the impossibilities (long conversations during a 6 story fall) are anime tropes as well, that they are noticed as such is a testament to the shows failure to engage the audience after the first episode...

And the first episode IS good.

Tough as nails detective Angelica Barnes has been given a license by the president of...the...er...galaxy or something...to bring back the super criminal known as MISTER. She has arrived on a backwater planet to check out a lead in the local maximum security prison.

She is met by Chelsea Muir (superbly voiced in the dub by Monica Rial) who is arguably the most likable character in the show. Ostensibly a detective, Chelsea was almost certainly either an affirmative action hire or was given a commission in the vain hope of a quid pro quo involving her ample bosom, for Chelsea is barely literate and exceedingly scatterbrained. She is not dumb, however. It is strongly implied in the English version that she is dyslexic. She is a brilliant mechanic and has an eidetic memory. Her knowledge base and skillets are eclectic and unsystematic but what she is good at she is very good at. She is also idealistic and principled, which on this corrupt world would likely have gotten her fired or worse if Angelica Barnes opinion of her hadn't shifted from contempt to admiration. (By the end of episode 1 she signs on as Barnes assistant...gopher...something).

                        

The two arrive at the prison to investigate the possibility that MISTER is incarcerated there, for a DUI of all things, when..

Suddenly....loligoth paratroopers...12 of them!

 

 Ah yes, Madame Marciano's 12 sisters, ruthless female android (?) assassins, each equipped with a different example of 20th century gunpr0n and dressed in costumes exhibiting varying flavors of gothieness ranging from debutantes, to maids to punkers to.....chimney sweeps....

Yes boys and girls by combining gunpr0n and cosplay with murderous maidens of mayhem the producers were able to cover bases on at least 30 different fetishes in one villain team!

This should have been the best series ever!

more...

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What IS a Carbine Anyway?

James Rummel has the answer.

 

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Troll Slain!

This is rich.

Evil rightwing asshat comments on the Boots and Sabers blog, advocating the assasination of teachers and, amongst other things, speaking highly of the Columbine killers.

 ......Kids like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold members of the Young Republicans club at Columbine. They knew how to deal with the overpaid teacher union thugs. One shot at a time! Too bad the liberals rip them; they were heroes and should be remembered that way.” 

What an unspeakably vile comment!

Well, this comment was reported to the police by a teacher who makes it his biddness to keep tabs on scary and sketchy sites like Boots and Sabers.

The police responded, and the Boots and Sabers bloggers, hoping no doubt to prevent mayhem, provided the police with the trolls IP address.  

'Right wing wacko' turns out to be the former president of the local teachers union, (or as he might say, an "overpaid teachers union thug") most likely trolling as an agent provocatuer. His 'sockpuppet' is a sub literate soldier who denigrates teachers.

The whole story is at Boots and Sabers. It should be noted that the B&S guys, while, working with the police on this, are expressing misgivings about the fact that the loon is being locked up.

It is apparant that the fellow is not a threat, just lying leftie scum, which is not a crime any more than it is to be a truthful nerdy right wing loon (for which there is much rejoicing!).

So, given the facts do you think they were right to give out the IP addy? If not why not? Also, do you think the teacher should be incarcerated for internet hijinks? Why or why not?

Hat tip: Instapundit

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