September 30, 2012

Don Missed One

Don has collected a series of links purporting to document the decline of humanity.

He missed this
.

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More Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online, despite its stupid premise, continues to impress me.

Asuna, the female lead, is particularly well realized. She's not a shrinking violet. She does not exist to show how awesome the male lead is. Asuna is a full fledged hero in her own right who at this point has unambiguously saved the heroes ass once more than he's saved hers. Unlike Kirito, Asuna was not an experienced gamer and certainly not one of this games Beta Testers, yet she has through sheer determination become at least his equal. She helped form and is now second in command of a guild that is fighting its way through the upper levels, she is however quite close to burnout when she meets Kirito for the second time.

(She's so buff that she could even afford to buy up her cooking skill to the max...my God, she's perfect!)

On the other hand, Kirito, the male lead WAS a Beta Tester and as such is something of a pariah. The beta testers were deeply resented by the other gamers because they knew where everything on the lower levels was, and they did not share with the other players or train them.  Kirito did do a bit of mentoring, but is haunted by the mistakes he made early on and at one point early in the series he abandons clearing the game to schlep amongst the lower levels where his skill levels (about 3 times what is common in those regions) make him almost godlike. He spends several episodes doing good deeds and trying to be a hero with decidedly mixed results before realizing that his place is on the "front lines" and heading back.
At this point he's far past any areas he covered in Beta and so has no innate advantages. Though far from perfect he's an interesting and decent person, however he is weary and close to dispair when he by chance, encounters Asuna for the second time.

Kirito has developed as a character quite a lot over the course of the series but its the relationship between the two that is most interesting.


Teamwork! The secret to taking down high level monsters.

These two people really complement and complete each other. They have one of the more realistic and mature relationships I've seen on TV. This is a sad commentary on something since it is a...cartoon...about a virtual relationship...in a video game... but its damned nice to see.


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Bakemonogatari Continues.

Episode 3 almost entirely consists of a quiet conversation in a park. The dialog is interesting, though I'm not sure the subtitles are doing it justice. While intriguing, the episode really reinforces my belief that this show cries out for a good dub.

Compared to the previous episodes the character designs are occasionally off model in this one...


I almost feel shafted by this.

While mostly a character episode they did manage to work in some completely unexpected Kung-Fu fighting.



One thing that did not come out in the first two episodes is that our hero, while quite smart and well intentioned, is a bit of a doofus.

This is a seriously odd show.

I'm not sure that it's good.

But it is quite clever and I'm liking it.

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September 29, 2012

Simply Amazing

In the blogosphere, we frequently find links to stories like this, this and this, which are just damned appalling.

Its's important to remember however, that while rare, there are stories from the opposite end of the spectrum as well.

Read the whole thing. There's more here.

These are two really impressive people.

Hat tip to Cdr. Salamander .



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September 27, 2012

Oh Look..the Live Science Headline of the Year

Nazi-Acquired Buddha Statue Came From Space






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September 26, 2012

All is not well with this world.


Colleen Doran has a post on the importance of trademark and I must say that...I cannot unsee it.  To assure us that this atrocity IS personal she also links to this.


In other news, there is a pending bacon shortage. A BACON SHORTAGE!

Not only that, I realized that I'm fresh out of tar and feathers.

With the car in the shop, I'm unable to stock up so I decided to check on the Japan/China situation and blundered into this.

I then decided to put my bagel to the side indefinitely and just look for images to use for reaction shots and macros for the blo....

...OH HELL NO!


If you don't get this piece by Poly-M...Congratulations. It was a test and you passed.




We'll ask an artist for her opinion on these matters.


I think I'm in agreement with Mio on this.

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Another iPhone Problem


Art by Ramune

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Comics Can Have a Positive Impact

Wonderduck has a poignant post on the impact a well written comic can have. Go read the whole thing.


...then go buy Yotsuba@!.

It really is that good.

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Ninjas Needed!

Star Turtle Village is in Peril!


We don't have enough ninjas!

Now is a most excellent time to start playing Billy Versus Snakeman as Star Turtle Village needs Ninjas. With its huge number of options it is ideal for a beginning player and has all sorts of bonuses and perks for established players as well.

Just click on this here banner here

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Be the Ultimate Ninja! Play Billy Vs. SNAKEMAN today!

For established players or new players that just want to be at a village from the very beginning, then Fractale Village is the place for you! Established and ruled by the benevolent Pixy Misa, Fractale is a quiet, serene village hidden deep in the heart of math.

...Oh and all the nonjas are cute girls (well, except for Archie).

Just click on this banner if you want to learn math ninjutsu...

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Be the Ultimate Ninja! Play Billy Vs. SNAKEMAN today!

Billy Versus Snakeman is a simple browser based MMOG in which is set in a universe composed of offbeat parodies of anime shows. You start as a lowly genin, dreaming of ninja awesomenes. However, as you rise up the ninja ranks, you gain new goals that take you on bizarre adventures, involving, wasteland scavenging, soul reaping,  monster fighting.  hanafuda, majong and darts as well as exciting careers in the fast food industry. It has a limit on how much you play a day ( you have a very limited amount of stamina) so you are only on about 15 minutes a day. Thus there is no danger of one getting eaten by the game and becoming one of those online gamer after-school specials..unless one were to play multiple characters.

Oh, wait...

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September 25, 2012

SERIOUS SUPER SOAKER SKIRMISH SLIGHTLY SHORT OF SENKAKUS

Japanese Coast Guard cutters have intercepted Chinese fishing vessels and patrol boats making a run for the Senkaku islands and engaged them with watercannon.

However, the Chinese vessels were not PRC, they were ROC.

Yes, the REPUBLIC of China, better known as Taiwan, also lays claim to the islets. and a small task force of patriotic Taiwanese fishermen sallied forth to make sure that this unspeakable mess got even more complicated. Taiwanese patrol boats, which had been escorting the flotilla gave covering fire with their own watercannon.  It appears that no one was injured.



The Taiwanese fishermen are concerned because if the 200 mile EEZ around the islets is strictly enforced, they would loose the bulk of their fishing grounds. (The islands are just over a hundred miles from Taiwan. )

China Daily implies there was no intent to land, just a peaceful protest to assert fishing rights. However Want China Times says they expressly refused to rule it out..

China Post has been covering this since the protestors left Taiwan and has this to say..

Chen Chun-sheng, chairman of the Su'ao District Fishermen's Association, emphasised that the purpose of the operation is to protest Japan's "nationalisation” of the island chain and also to advocate the rights of Taiwanese fishermen. The operation was made possible with a NT$5 million (US$170,500) donation to subsidise fuel costs, Chen said.

(Emphasis added)

China Post link is via AMPOTAN, who has much more including  information on the individual who is suspected of chartering the fishing boats....a Taiwanese businessman who made his fortune on the mainland and who has (allegedly) been taking over Taiwanese media outlets and making them pro-PRC mouthpieces.


Taken by itself the Taiwan-Japan dispute is not too worrying and can likely be resolved with some fisheries treaty.   However, these things never happen in isolation and with Mainland China and Japan having such a high stakes dispute over the islets this becomes something of a spanner in the works.

In other news Korea is suddenly playing hardball with their erstwhile ally over a dispute involving  a completely different set of even more Godforsaken  rocks .

Interesting times...

UPDATE: I'm sure this means nothing. More (without the sensationalist headline) here.

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September 20, 2012

Ummm...Dude?

Really?

I don't even...



Filched from Don who nicked it from RSM who despite being a journalism major knows basic chemistry better than the people at Dominoe. This is of concern because if their chemistry is THIS bad then they might think Zyklon B is a vitamin.

Buyer beware.


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So, What About Those Fishing Boats

The Chinese media is claiming that the fishing fleet that left for the Senkaku Islands mentioned in this post was apocryphal.

Information that a large number of Chinese fishing boats are heading for the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture is false, the chief of a Japan Coast Guard office in the southern prefecture said Tuesday.


It seems that a fishing season opened which much like the Alaska season involves a mad dash to sea, that this happened in the middle of the current crisis was run with by the press.

Note that this is a Chinese newspaper and I'm not hearing this anywhere else yet so take with adequate salt.

Indeed, Asahi Shinbun is reporting that the Chinese are keeping several patrol boats and several hundred fishing boats "in the vicinity of" the Senkakus. This means that they are not there now, possibly over the horizon, but could rush the islands at any time.

A senior official of the Japan Coast Guard said the agency was already braced for a more aggressive maritime offensive from China, considering the moves it has recently taken.

"We need to deal with it,” the official said.

The primary duty of fishery monitoring ships is to prevent illegal operations by fishing boats.

But a source close to the Japan Coast Guard said the reality is different. The source said Chinese fishing boats tend to move upon the instructions of a monitoring ship.

"With a single command, fishing boats could head southward (to the Senkakus) all at once,” the source said.

The Japan Coast Guard has assembled 50 patrol boats around the Senkaku Islands in case Chinese government ships or fishing boats enter Japanese territorial waters. Many of the vessels have been sent by regional coast guard headquarters across the country.



So...

If there's a war, the first battle will be fought by the respective countries Coast Guards.

This could turn into a HELL of a real mess real quick.

The JCG is a crackerjack service but coping with hoards of civilians who cannot be harmed but must not be allowed to land while dealing with warships is a thorny problem.

One dead fisherman and China might claim causus belli.

This is a dreadful situation that could spin completely out of control either by an error or a simple boating accident.

As for China's domestic situation, nothing I'm hearing is good.

Ampotan has more.

Then there is this.

The secret of brinkmanship is to stop short of the brink. The danger is that the ground can shift as one stands on the edge. That happened one August 98 years ago and did not work out well for anyone involved.

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September 19, 2012

AVAST...


...all ye hearties.
Come let me tell you a tale.
I searched so far fer treasure,
that ah've seen the whale
.


Smartly dressed Cut-lass be Chikaki from Bodacious Space Pirates.

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Arrrrr Maties...Ye Know What To Do



This 'ere scrimshaw be done by Rakuen-No-Musume

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September 18, 2012

Sword Art Online

From one of the more uninspiring series concepts in an uninspiring season comes...a surprise!



Its the year 2022, and a new MMORPG is coming online. This one has the latest in interface technology. namely a VR headset that operates through direct neural stimulation. The game is from a well regarded developer and highly anticipated. Our hero, who goes by the online handle of Kirito was one of the games Beta Testers. He logs on and mucks about for a bit, gives pointers to a new player and then tries to help the new player log out...but he can't.
There is no log-out option.
Enter the godlike online Avatar of the games developer who informs the 10,000 odd players that this is by design, and that he is informing the world of his deed. Oh....and if they die in-game their interface helmets will fry their brains. If anyone tries to unhook them, the helmets fail safe will kill them (which happens immediately to over 200 players as frantic loved ones watching his broadcast fail to heed his warning).

Now about 9800 people are stuck in a virtual Tolkienesque world. before he logs himself out, the madman leaves them with one tenuous hope...his assurance that they can escape if they clear all 100 levels.
***********
OK let's say right up front that the premise of this show does not inspire confidence.

Sword Art Online greatly exceeded my expectations however, and at 11 episodes in, I'm going to recommend it.

This show has exceptional character development, not only of the male lead but also of Asuna, the heroine, who is smart, tough and genuinely heroic. Although she's not present for a good portion of the show she is surprisingly well realized and has grown noticeably as a person during the course of the series. Asuna  is one of the best female action leads in years.

Kirito, the male lead, is the main focus of the story early on and develops noticeably in the first few episodes. He is run through the ringer, but Kirito, while far from perfect learns from his mistakes and does evolve as a person.  His development is actually quite believable. Kirito is also smart which is always a pleasant surprise in these shows.

The show can be grim. The premise means that there will be a body count, but it is not gory and there is an optimism that runs through the whole thing.  The show  touches on things like ostracization, survivors guilt, ethics, love, the definition of happiness, and the difference between bravado and courage far better than one has any business to expect from a cartoon...let alone one about being stuck in a video game.

I am astonished to be so thoroughly enjoying this show. I just hope that they don't completely bollox it toward the end, as is the fate of so many initially good shows.

However, with much of the staff of Moretsu Pirates involved, I'm allowing myself a bit of optimism here.

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Meanwhile...

While the Arab world burns, the China/Japan dispute over the Senkakus is heating up.

Japanese factories in China were shut down yesterday as the anti-Japanese riots escalated. More here and here.


Nicked from Ampotan

Meanwhile 1000 Chinese fishing boats are sailing to the Senkaku Islands and daring the Japanese Coast Guard to stop them.

More on the Senkaku dispute here and here. Scary stuff.

...but wait...there's more...

All this is happening as Chinas's prospective leader remains missing.

 There's a lot more here and here over at Ampotan which is covering the situation via the local media.

Their coverage includes this interesting tidbit...





This photo appeared on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter. Photographs such as these don’t last long on the Net in China. It reads: Chinese people! What should we oppose? No wage increases. Public officials make large profits from illegal land transactions. We can’t buy a home. We die because we can’t go to a hospital. We can’t die because graves are too expensive. We use all our assets to graduate from college and still can’t get a job.

There are 30 grievances in all. I don’t see any about the Japanese.



Hat Tip Ace

There's a bit more going on than just a territorial dispute, but the mobs anger is a monster not readily put to sleep once awakened.


...and this is possibly the most chilling quote...
"The Mao Zedong era was better, because most people were equal. The methods of the current government are ugly.”

Wow.

If that's a common attitude, then he and others may indeed discover the true meaning of ugly.

Lets pray they don't.

Interesting times indeed.

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Well, I'll Just Take HER out of my Rolodex

This VOCALOID concert from a couple of years ago was an glorious bit of stagecraft and still impresses.
However, I liked this particular song a heck of a lot more before I found out what the lyrics meant.




I had no idea the character was supposed to be such a bizarre, spoiled, high-mai debutante. What were they thinking?

OTOH, it's obvious that the pixel-prima donna wouldn't give me the time of day...which means that in at least some ways this VOCALOID is just like real women!

This is practically AI.

Next Len and Rin will be passing a Turing test.
The end times: They are here.

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September 17, 2012

Grrrlzz

It seems there really are none on teh internets.


From Sword Art Online episode one, which, despite its uninspiring premise, is actually turning out to be kind of interesting.

UPDATE:
OK maybe a few.
Also: Why haven't they starved?

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September 16, 2012

Oh So THAT'S How It's Done

I noted this in passing the other day on YouTube and I wondered..."How?"
The second opening credits song to Nichijou simply does not seem to lend itself to a trance version in any way shape or form.

Turns out, it's easy as pie...



...just don't have any idea what "Trance" means.

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Bakemonogatari EP 1

Crunchyroll has now started streaming Bakemonogatari in a possibly futile attempt to have its sequel (Nisemonogatari) make sense.

I'd heard generally good things about this series so I'm giving it a shot. I must say I was unprepared for the sheer SHAFTacular SHAFTieness of this SHAFT production.

How SHAFTy is it?

This is the staircase at the school....
This is a hallway in the same school...
Yes, SHAFT tends to be aggressively surrealist in its art direction and this show rather maxes that out. It's quirky look accentuates the otherworldly feel of the story. The use of "lighting" is particularly effective.

Despite its striking visuals this is not a show that relies on imagery to tell a tale. It is VERY dialog heavy...and text heavy...with episode one having several flashes of 'textposition' that are onscreen for such a short period of time that they frequently defy even the pause button. Despite this one annoyance and opening with one of the most gratuitous panty-shots I have ever seen this is a pretty intelligent and intriguing show.

Our hero, Kyomi Araragi...
 ...is a senior at the academically challenging and architecturally improbable Naoetsu High School. He's your typical high school senior with the minor exceptions that he's smart and organized enough to be vice president of the student council and he's a former vampire, having spent much of his junior/senior vacation as a blood sucking creature of the night. He's better now, but struggles with lingering eosophobia which frequently makes getting to first period on time a challenge. 
His closest thing to a friend in school is...

 Tsubasa Hyakawa, the student council president. She she is helpful, smart, adventurous in her choice of undergarments, frighteningly well organized, an exceptional student and quite down to earth. Araragi has immense respect for her. She shares homeroom with...
Hitagi Senjogahara, who our hero recently saved by catching her when she fell down the schools spectacular stairshaft....a kindness for which she is less than grateful.
Hitagi is never without adequate school supplies despite never carrying a bookbag or purse and indeed is a very good student notwithstanding a lingering illness that has caused her to miss much school. Hitagi is a bit underweight and is not particularly sociable. In fact she's a very private person to the point that one might consider her a bit crabby. Despite this, our hero attempts to befriend her which sets in motion a series of bizarre and painful events.

   This is an odd show, but it is a clever and even thoughtful supernatural adventure and thus far I'm really liking it.

Next ep streams in 4 days.

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