Goodreads

I use Goodreads to keep track of the books I have read/want to read.  I love that site.  Before that I was trying to use Amazon and add books I wanted to read to a wishlist, but that was a pain to use.

When I started using Goodreads, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to rate books.  I didn’t have a method.  I seem to have developed one, and it goes like this:

☼: I couldn’t finish it (due to poor writing quality, poor character quality, the story having one or more elements which annoyed/bothered me, being dead boring, all of the above, etc).

☼☼: I managed to finish it, but only through the application of a considerable amount of willpower.  Or, I finished it, but I wished that I hadn’t bothered.

☼☼☼: Was ok.  If this is the first book I’ve read by a particular author, I’m probably not going to read any others unless someone is very, very convincing.  If this is not the first book I’ve read by that author, then I might continue reading if the others were sufficiently good.

☼☼☼☼: Was good.  Enjoyed the book, and will be reading more by that author.

☼☼☼☼☼: Was awesome.  Will reread.  Either own it or will own it very soon.

There.  That was surprisingly simple.

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Innocent Explanations

I love reading Birttany Diamond’s Analyzation/Commentary for the Star Trek TOS episodes.  I’ve already seen many of the episodes, but the commentary is hilarious.  Take “The Devil in the Dark.”  Her description of the monster:

The infamous monster lurches into view, and it looks like some sort of plastic…lava…rug…a Plavarug, if you will, complete with some poor producer’s nephew underneath it trying to give the damn thing some life.

(((Yay 60s really, really seems like an understatement here.)))

Also, she’s a Kirk/Spock shipper.  Which makes some very interesting reading, because I’d watched many of these episodes way before the idea of that ship had ever been introduced to my mind.  So she’ll say, what the hell, people, there’s no other possible explanation!   And…I’d read the scene completely differently.

Take another bit of “The Devil in the Dark”.  This is place where Kirk instructs his redshirts to, if they see the monster, kill it dead.  He then hands the guys over to Spock, who immediately tries to slip in something about capture-not-kill.  Kirk pulls Spock over to have a talk with him about this discrepancy.

Brittany’s take:

Kirk: “Mr. Spock…”

(((Oooooo, you’re in troublllleeee.)))

Kirk: “Capture it? I don’t recall giving any such order.”

Spock: “You did not, sir, I merely thought that if the opportunity arose-“

Kirk: “I will lose no more men. The creature will be killed on sight and that’s the end of it.”

Spock looks at Kirk for a moment.

Spock: “Very well, sir.”

(((Thus endeth Kirk’s obligatory captainly chiding and thus begins…well…hehehe…)))

He moves to leave.

Kirk: “Mr. Spock…”

Kirk: “I want you to assist Scotty in maintaining that makeshift circulating pump.”

Spock is taken back by this order.

Spock: “I…I beg your pardon, sir?”

(((When was the last time you heard Spock stutter? What was that, NEVER? Right.)))

Kirk: “You heard me. It’s vital that we keep the reactor in operation.”

(((The ‘You heard me’ was soft, somewhat low. For the rest of the line Kirk snaps up the captain tone for a moment, but that first line was, well, fascinating…)))

Kirk: “Your scientific knowledge-“

Spock: “Is not needed there, sir. Mr. Scott has far more knowledge of nuclear reactors than I do. You’re aware of that.”

(((Why, Spock, you make a brilliant point. Three brilliant, points actually. You are tremendously NOT needed to help Scotty, and Kirk even KNOWS this, so then why would Kirk offer up that exceedingly lame excuse?)))

Kirk’s eyes flicker downward for a moment.

(((We literally see Kirk change tactics right here. Stupid Excuse A didn’t work, so now he’s gonna try for Stupid Excuse B.)))

Kirk: “Mr. Spock, you are second in command. This will be a dangerous hunt. Either one of us, by himself, is expendable. Both of us are not.”

Spock: “Captain, there are approximately one hundred of us engaged in this search, against one creature. The odds against you and I both being killed are two thousand two hundred twenty eight point seven…to one.”

Kirk: “Two thousand…two hundred twenty eight point seven…to one? Those are pretty good odds, Mr. Spock.”

(((The SMILE Kirk gives SPOCK during that very last LINE is made of ADORABLE and SEX. Kirk can’t hold it back anymore, Spock is just too adorable with his numbers and his logic, he just HAS to start flirting.

SERIOUSLY…UNF.)))

Which is awesome, because I’d had a totally different interpretation.  I’m stealing the dialogue from a transcription I found online, because I am lazy.

KIRK: Mister Spock. Capture it? I don’t recall giving any such order.
SPOCK: You did not, sir. I merely thought that if the opportunity arose
KIRK: I will lose no more men. The creature will be killed on sight and that’s the end of it.
SPOCK: Very well, sir.
<Spock turns to leave>
KIRK: Mister Spock. I want you to assist Scotty in maintaining that makeshift circulating pump.
SPOCK: I beg your pardon, sir?
<I’d pegged Excuse A as bullshit, too, but I figured that it was because Kirk was worried that Spock would go all Greenpeace on the plavarug and either get himself killed or else interfere with the crew’s neutralization efforts.>
KIRK: You heard me. It’s vital that we keep that reactor in operation. Your scientific knowledge–
SPOCK: Is not needed there, sir. Mister Scott has far more knowledge of nuclear reactors than I do. You’re aware of that.
<Spock realizes that Kirk’s sending him to sit in a corner, and fights tooth and claw to remain in the tunnels.  He’s the only one who wants to save the plavarug, and so if he’s sent away odds are that all they’ll recover is a carcass melted beyond recognition by plasma fire. If he sticks around, he might be able to influence the outcome of the confrontation.  Also, Spock’s not the type to sit quietly whilst others are in danger.>
KIRK: Mister Spock, you are second in command. This will be a dangerous hunt. Either one of us by himself is expendable. Both of us are not.
SPOCK: Captain, there are approximately one hundred of us engaged in this search, against one creature. The odds against you and I both being killed are 2,228.7 to 1.
KIRK: 2,228.7 to 1? Those are pretty good odds, Mister Spock.
<Kirk lets himself be persuaded (and charmed, I’ll admit).  He figures that he’s made his point, and that while Spock may still be pursuing his pro-silicon-life agenda, he won’t actively interfere with the crew’s efforts to neutralize the alien. Also, he would probably prefer to have Spock watching his back.>
SPOCK: And they are of course accurate, Captain.
KIRK: Of course. Well, I hate to use the word, but logically, with those kind of odds, you might as well stay. But please stay out of trouble, Mister Spock.
<Kirk feels the need to make sure that Spock’s not going to go off and try to capture the alien himself, in order to spare it its date with the crew’s phasers.>
SPOCK: That is always my intention, Captain.
<Yes, yes, loud and clear, Captain.>

So.  Yeah.

That is why I like to read her commentary.  I don’t necessarily agree with her conclusions, but it opens my mind to the possibility that even the scenes which seem the most cut-and-dried (to me) might actually have something completely different going on.  And I won’t ever know.


Moyashimon

I rather like the manga Moyashimon, but I’ve only been able to get hold of the first two volumes in English.  I looked on Hulu for the anime, and ended up with a live action TV show based off the manga.  So.

Moyashimon: the live action TV series, a review.

For those who don’t know, Moyashimon is about a guy called Sawaki who can see anthropomorphically personified microbes.  The story starts when he goes to an agricultural university and finally meets people who believe him when he says he can see bacteria and viruses.

Weird superpowers are fun!

I had a number of problems with the TV series:

1. The guy who plays Sawaki makes the character seem more spastic than he is in the manga.   When the brewing vats tipped and spilled hiochi into the air, live-action-Sawaki stood there screaming and windmilling his arms like a maniac.  He also tended to make weird faces.  And whisper at the bacteria hovering around him to shut up.  In short, when Hasegawa thought Sawaki was lying about seeing microbes, I was on her side.  There’s a club on campus composed of people who chant “bentora, bentora, space people!” with little to no provocation.  Sawaki seemed like he belonged there more than in a biology lab.

2. The chick who plays Hasegawa wasn’t convincing when she was at her most testy.  This is a character who, by default, is annoyed by the idiots she is surrounded with.  The live action Hasegawa felt like she was just going through the motions.

3. It’s always a big deal when an American live-action movie take some cues from comic books (Sin City, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Kill Bill), but I’m coming to realize that it’s not an unusual choice for Japanese TV shows.  With that said, I found it disconcerting in the TV show when the characters suddenly started walking faster because it had been sped up, or Hasegawa’s face started glowing red because she was angry.

There are some other problems, though, and I don’t know where to place the blame for these.  As the TV series covers more ground than the first two volumes of the manga, these problems might be due to the manga.  I can’t tell.

4.  The love potion.  What the hell?  That entire episode was just wrong.  Why did the professor give them the aphrodisiac (aka “love potion”)?  Why did they think it was ok to use it on other human beings?  Why were the bacteria cheering them on?

5.  Hasegawa under the influence of the love potion.  She scratched Misato up so badly that he was a quivering mass of PTSD by the time morning rolled around.  That’s horrible, not funny.  Here’s a bit of wisdom from the inimitable Mr. Rothfuss, released into the world via a column he used to write for his college newspaper.  A girl wrote in, saying that when she found out a guy who’d been flirting with her was already in a relationship ,she hit him with a one pound block of cheese.  She wanted to know whether she should feel bad.  Here’s part of Rothfuss’ response:

There’s a guy and a girl. They hang out, flirt, “and beyond” doing the relationship dance. Later, the guy finds out that the girl already has a boyfriend. She’s been lying to him and leading him on, and generally taking advantage of his trusting nature.

 

So the next time they’re together, the guy is seething mad. He keeps it under control for a while, but eventually a comment makes him lose his cool. So he takes whatever is in his hand: a coffee mug, a wrench… whatever. Then he hits her with it. Hits her so hard that she falls down and can’t get up for several minutes.

 

Now the question: should the guy feel bad? Seems pretty straightforward to me.”

6.  Misato and Kawahama are budding criminals.  They rope Sawaki into stealing food from the agricultural fields all the time, and they always get caught.  What the hell, Sawaki!  Just say “no”.  Also, they rip people off every chance they get.  And then they get caught.  Really, the biggest evidence the show gives for aphrodisiac being the real thing is that Misato and Kawahama weren’t crucified by an angry mob after selling some of it to the student population.  If it was a dud, they would have been found out.

7.  Is the Kei thing canon?  I can’t…I dunno…why?  “I wanted to try being another part of myself.”  I’m not convinced.  And, um…what did happen that night at Sawaki’s apartment?

It got better about halfway through, though the season/series finale was the sort of thing I’ve come to expect from anime and manga.  It sacrificed logic and pushed all its budget into “heartwarming”.  For me, though, logic makes my heart warm enough.  I couldn’t help but ask things like, if Hasegawa’s father’s goons prevented her from leaving the room while the house was being invaded, how was she able to get past them and down to the pool after Sawaki fell off the roof?  And, after having his house invaded by Agri-U students, Hasegawa’s father let her go back to the university?  That’s, like, the opposite of what I’d expect from such a misogynistic and hidebound man.

So.  Um.

If you don’t have the sort of moral qualms that I do, then you might actually like the series.

SOPA and PIPA

Today, the internet is broken.

It is broken in the way a downed power line is broken—it is temporarily inconvenient, but not permanent.  At one time or other, we’ve all had to live a couple hours (or perhaps even days) without internet, electricity, or running water.  We dealt.  We read an ink-and-woodpulp book, organized our kitchen cabinets, played board games, frantically packed formerly refrigerated food into coolers, lit candles, brushed our teeth using bottled water, and lit the natural gas stovetop with matches.  It was possible to continue like this for the couple hours—or the couple days—it was necessary, but our lives felt as though they were on pause.  We granted ourselves leniency.  Clothes could go unwashed, shopping could go undone, and emails could go unread while we waited for our lives to resume.

These were short term fixes.  These compromises were only acceptable because we knew they would come to an end.

It may seem silly to some people—the conflation of internet access to that of electricity and running water.  But at one point in the not-too-distant past, these too were considered novelties.  Now they are considered basic human rights.  And for those of us who are lucky enough to have constant access to running water and flowing electricity, what is the internet but constant access to information?  Whether we are filling water balloons or quenching thirst, playing Wii or baking dinner, watching cat videos or organizing a revolution, the frivolous uses should not be allowed to detract from the practical, from the necessary.

Let’s ensure the internet does not suffer a permanent blackout.

Eden of the East: The movies

So Eden of the East has two movies which take place after the end of the anime.  I watched them both.  I wasn’t that happy with them, especially the last one.  They were all,

idealism++;

awesome insanity–;

But I should note here that the overall insanity level remained the same.  They just got rid of the hilariously nonsensical parts and replaced them with…just plain nonsense.  We never found out why Takizawa felt the need to be naked when he wiped his memory the first time.  We never even got a good explanation for why he wiped his memory the first time (people thought he was a terrorist so that made him sad?  WTF!).  The whole series was a bit too free on the memory wiping.  What was it supposed to accomplish?

And then, during the supposedly happy “we won!” montage at the end of the second movie, we get a short clip of the video-camera-Selecao about to get prison raped while in the holding tank of an American police station.

I repeat: WTF.

And don’t even get me started on Taki’s half-assed I’m the dude behind Careless Monday and I’m going to steal all the NEETS away if all the rich old people don’t give up their money.

Wut.  The.  Fuck.

Stupid Loure

I’m insanely annoyed.  Shu took up the violin and played a beautiful song yesterday.  Her book identified it as “Loure”, by Bach.  I thought that was enough to go by.  No!

This song does exist; I can find videos of people playing it on youtube.  But it doesn’t seem to have any more details to its name, and I can’t find any recordings on iTunes or Amazon.  I want to own it, damn it!  All of the results are “French suite” this and “partita” that, which is wrong.  I can’t find it using any of the searching-by-humming sites, but that’s not surprising because I tested them with this minuet which I know I was doing correctly and they couldn’t identify it.

Ugh.  I want that song so badly my ability to spell has deserted me.  I just had to google how to spell “results” correctly.  I was stuck on “resaults”, or maybe “resolts”.

Ugh.  I want that song.

Sometimes I draw the wrong conclusions

Remember the “Life’s a moving Target” ads?  That slogan never made sense to me.  I see it, “Life’s a moving Target”, and I feel compelled to add, yes, because you keep missing it.  That doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to imply about your customers.

Anyway, I was reading wikipedia’s synopsis of the anime Eden of the East, and it starts out with:

“On Monday November 22, 2010, ten missiles strike against uninhabited areas of Japan, claiming no victims. This apparent terrorist act is referred to as “Careless Monday” and disregarded by most people.”

Turns out most of these two sentences is either highly misleading, or flat out wrong.  I know this because I watched the anime.  I watched the anime because I thought that “Careless Monday” seemed like a hilariously blasé way to refer to ten missiles blowing up bits of your country. My first impression was that it got its name due to something like, Oh, someone was careless with their missiles on Monday.  Turns out it was because the PM gave a speech and said, “Oh, I’ve been careless.  Apparently.  I can neither confirm nor deny whether I was careless with my missiles or careless enough to let someone else’s missiles through, though.  Uncle.”

Most of the above quote is either highly misleading or flat out wrong.  Hmm.  This is kinda fun.

Anyway.  I watched the anime, and I kind of liked it.

Plot: It was weird enough to be interesting, and occasionally bizarre enough to be hilarious.  Some bits fell through, though, because I never understood why he felt the need to be naked and holding a gun in front of the White House (of all places) when he wiped his memory.  Maybe we’ll find that out later.  Maybe not, though.  The series seemed to have a fascination with getting male characters naked (though certain areas were always tastefully blocked out with white scribbles, lulz).

Dialogue: I made do with the dubbed version on Netflix, which is always a pain.  I found about half of the things the characters said to be either cliché or unconvincing.  I’m not sure whether that’s due to the voice actors, the translators, or the original dialogue.  None of the voice actors made me want to tear my ears off, but that’s faint praise.

Animation: I’m very picky about how my anime and manga look.  I’ll usually judge whether I’m interested in an anime by how the characters look in the cover art (see Darker than Black and XXXHolic.  I decided to watch both due to nothing more than screenshots).  That’s why I was on EotE’s wikipedia page in the first place; it was in my Netflix suggestion queue and looked like something low on sparkles, shiny, and fanservice.  With that said, I was very happy with how it looked.  The two main characters really reminded me of something out of a Miyazaki film, though, thanks to their almost nonexistent noses.  That was kind of odd.

Though it does get an extra point for introducing (or reintroducing) me to the acronym NEET.  Suddenly Gintama’s obsession with acronyms for useless old people makes sense.  Ish.