Monday, May 28, 2007

You are so young, So feel alive.

I didn't really feel like posting tonight, but I had to get Voxtrot out there. I think they're my new favorite band off of Daytrotter, even more than Aloha. They're kind of chill, personal, and when you listen to their songs, you feel like you're just sitting there with them playing, like it's a private show for you. I don't know, I wish I could explain it better, but they're very cool, and definitely worth checking out.

I've got a bit of a melancholy feeling, mostly coming from the end of a long weekend. Although I'm training myself, I'm still impatient about the future, and just enjoying myself for a weekend feels reprehensible. I've been described as the kind of guy who gets worried when everything's going well. I think that's accurate, as it's hard for me to relax.

Maybe this should be my movie post too. I saw two movies lately, Garden State and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, that I had been putting off for a while. Garden State because it has particularly sentimental memories attached to it that just wreck me inside. Eternal Sunshine because I heard it was a good movie, heard what the subject matter was, and thought it'd make me terribly depressed. Both are good movies that I'm glad I gave a second chance.

Garden State...As much as I had a grudge against Zach Braff for the aformentioned reasons, I really have to admit that he's crafted something poignant and beautiful here. Maybe it's not easily seen, the movie's very well polished and it feels a bit too clean at times to be dealing with what it's dealing with. Quite honestly though, I feel he's made the When Harry Met Sally of our generation. What I mean is, he's made a movie about romance that really cuts to the heart of the state of romance we've grown up with. His hero deals with finding his purpose and the subconscious drive he feels for it. The heroine is someone who's not quite damaged, but bruised by the world. Weird and easy to trust, she keeps pulling then pushing him away. I really do feel he's captured something here, and I hope this is the kind of film that ends up in film school echelons in fifteen to twenty years.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a bit differently made. There's no avoiding that it's got big name actors in it, but its so brutal and raw. You really forget what baggage you've brought to the film with each of their careers. Even Jim Carrey, who I've had a bit of a beef with since he abandoned hilarious comedy work for the dead-horse beatings of his feel-good movies. But here, damn, after watching the film you really do feel like you've been through the break up of a meaningful relationship. It doesn't come with the attached depression however, both because of the ending and the message of the film, which is that as much as we'd like to forget the pain others have caused us and curse them as bad people, they left us with some beautiful memories and they're just as wondrously flawed as we are. Kate Winslet has a line in the film, "Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own piece of mind; don't assign me yours." Just one piece that stayed with me.

So...two films that I didn't want to let in because they might hurt me, but both ended up making me feel better, feel a bit wiser in the end. Hmm. Imagine that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

And all the boys that avoided you, had somebody else's name.

A bit of an update, as I feel remiss if I go a week without posting.

- I am in full-blown "OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD NEW COMPUTER" mode. I'm finally feeling pretty good about the specs after a little research and a couple calls to change my equipment:

Thermaltake Armor Jr. Gaming Case w/420W Power Supply Black
550 Watt -- NZXT PRC-550 Power Supply SLI Ready
[Socket-AM2] AMD Athlon™64 X2 5600+ Dual-Core CPU w/ HyperTransport Technology
Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe nForce 570-SLI MCP Chipset w/7.1 Sound, Dual Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0, IEEE-1394 Dual PCI-E MB
2048MB [1024MB X2] DDR2-800 PC6400 Memory Module
ATI Radeon X1950GT 256MB PCI-Express x16
320 GB HARD DRIVE [Serial-ATA-II, 3Gb, 7200 RPM, 16M Cache]
NEC 7170A Dual Format/Double Layer 18X DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW Drive
12-In-1 Internal Flash Media Card Reader/Writer

The only thing I'd like to upgrade is the video card, but I'm way over my initial budget, and even I can't justify another $200 for the perfect card. I figure I'll wait and see how the performance is, and if I absolutely have to have the 8800 GTS 320MB (my perfect card), I'll sell the current one and pick it up.

- I'm also in full blown game buying mode, but here my list is comfortably plump:

Half Life 2 (w/CS: Source)
Far Cry
Oblivion
Battlefield 2142
Civilization 4

I may pick up Command & Conquer 3 when I get the new system and if my RTS bug is itching, however I think another Warcraft 3 playthrough (which...I think...I have?) would satisfy that just as well.

- My friend Mike Huang from my anime club had a post a while back on his anime blog (Anime Diet) about easy to watch shows getting...watched a lot more than heavier, serious fare. I suppose upon a momentary rumination this is quite obvious. I regret I've fallen into this trap as well. The latest episodes of Claymore and Darker than Black go unwatched, I'm making slow progress through Bakumatsu (though this may also be due to how it falls apart a fair deal after the first ten episodes). Meanwhile, I'm all but caught up on Lucky Star and Hidamari Sketch. Not really something I feel bad about persay, just a phenomenon that I must admit strikes me as well.

- I rewatched Garden State and...well, perhaps I'll leave that for another post. It'd do good to have a movie review post, as I talk about movies so much.

- Daytrotter. You should all be checking it regularly (and RSS Feeding it, if you're hip). Free studio songs from the best up-and-coming indie bands. New songs go up practically every day, as far as I've noticed. There's a wealth of amazing music to catch on here. I personally recommend Aloha as a good start. Listen to "All The Wars" and tell me that you can stop.

- I think watching my spending and cutting out fast food has honestly fattened my wallet. Although I made some major, major purchases this month, I'm still pretty comfortable.

- My brother has plans to travel to Japan in August. Of course I want to go and he'd love for me to go. Whether this will interfere with quitting plans at my current job (or turn into a job hunting opportunity) remains to be seen, but I just found out about it.

- I started taking St. John's Wort every now and then for the deepest blues. The jury's still out, as it does help, but it's made me feel weird on occasion.

- Hrmm. It's 12:20 at night, but I really want a cup of tea. Shall I get one? I shall. Sleep be damned.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Adhesive Love

Ahh, Stone Temple Pilot's Tiny Music. Another musical memory, though more vague than Radiohead. I picked it up freshman year of high school, and it calls up all those misfit, escapist feelings.

I've heard people say this is one of their worst albums. Maybe that's just because this was the last album before they broke up? (The whole Talk Show/Scott Weiland period. Then got back together again...) I love it though. Every song is a different musical landscape, and I love how they wander back and forth from driving, hard rock to soothing, quiet, dark melodies.

Funny story, I actually saw Talk Show in concert as they opened for Aerosmith way back when. I'd be hard pressed to remember one of their songs now though... For me, STP has always been more about the sound/melody rather than the lyrics. I don't know if that means Weiland is extraneous or not, how much of the music he actually writes, but I think this album epitomizes the best of their sound and it's my favorite.

This just in.

Even on a day as fucked up and horrible as mine is, there can still be some good news: Rev. Jerry Falwell dies at age 73.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

僕らの見えない未来

- I've been fiending, waiting, and dreaming of my new comp for a while now. Possible changes in my summer plans would make the purchase very close, as in getting it early June. I'm planning to buy one from iBuyPower, and these are the current stats I'm looking at:

AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ Dual-Core
1 GB of Ram
GeForce 7600 GS 512MB (which I can hook up my brand new 22" widescreen monitor to via DVI)
320 GB HD
Dual Layer DVD Burner

I think the 22" monitor deserves its own post, but not quite. I've been wanting a 22" widescreen monitor for longer than a new computer. I've been waiting for them to drop below two hundred dollars. Just so happens Woot had an Acer refurbished one for $199 this past Monday and I bought without a second look back. It's shipped and on its way, and I can't wait!

- I've just today been thinking of what games I want to get for my new comp. My list so far includes Half-Life 2, CS: Source, Oblivion, FarCry, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, STALKER, and possibly Civ 4/C&C 3. I've never really had a comp that could run top of the line, mind-blowing graphic intensive games, so this is going to be superb.

- On the Anime front: Bakumatsu has cooled down a bit. It seems they lost their direction around the 10th/11th episode, and I feel that the story isn't as cohesive. Perhaps it's because the majority of mysteries have been revealed, and now it's just a matter of seeing the series resolve itself. Terra E is still goddamn amazing, and I'm hooked.

- I was really jonesing for some more music from UVERworld, the band who does the opening song for Terra E. Went and grabbed their album, and it is superb (the parts without the unfortunate rap/rock songs). This is my current favorite off the album, ゼロの答. I haven't had my face rocked this hard since AKFG and the Rewrite opening to Fullmetal Alchemist.

- I'm really proud of how I've been able to hold off on junk food this week. I brought all my lunches to work, and resisted the urge to get late night Hat on the way home last night. I tell myself that any money I save is going towards the computer, so that's helped, but honestly I rarely have discipline in this area so it's welcome all the same.

- Going to Nucleus last night really reminded me how I need to collect more Range Murata work (Here too). I really want at least one more statuette of his, and looking through the Robot books, I have to have all of them now. From the looks of it each is a collection of little stories Murata has written/illustrated, but each is completely different in its art style. From schoolgirls playing in the lushly overgrown ruins of Shibuya, to a Heian-era princess being escorted to assume her throne by the twelve animals of the zodiac, to a blood and guts secret agent/assassin story, to my personally favorite, a post-apocalyptic wanderer story drawn entirely in this twilight, soft blues and purple style. Simply amazing.

- I am having the most difficult time finding episodes of the Nodame Cantabile live action series. It's nowhere online...and I want it so bad! This is one of the funniest, most wacky/cartoony shows I've ever seen. I cannot believe how much effort they put into the characterization; I honestly feel like I'm watching a live-action manga.

- I've become entirely addicted to iGoogle. Beyond finally discovering the glory of RSS Feeds (being able to open up Google and check if there's any episodes of my favorite anime out), I've got a bunch of other fun gadgets up. There's my US/Japan clock, Japanese word of the day, Shakespearean insult of the day, CNN/Reuters headlines, Movie times, NewEgg deals. It's even got my Teahouse theme up with little Mr. Fox enjoying a bento/sushi lunch in the shade of some maple trees. I've found my new killer app.

Well, I'm off on a Costco run today. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 4, 2007

In My Place (Part 3 of 3, or The Siren Song of the Animated)

I thought for a while about what to write. This is the third part of...something after all. I thought about writing on lingering outsider feelings I realise I should have outgrown. I thought about writing on how I still don't really know what to do with my life, when I understand no one has it all figured out at my age. I thought about writing on my love of languages (which I think I will still write about, perhaps when I have the time to get really passionately into it...)

Then I figured, well, I've gotten huge into anime again this season, so why not write about that? There are so many good shows to talk about. Honestly this has been the best season for anime in a long, long time. Typically I'll follow one or two shows at most during a season; this season there are six excellent shows I'm following, with another two to three more that are pretty good and may develop further. Here's my list!

- Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto - Here I am at the very beginning of my list and I'm already fudging it a bit. Bakumatsu technically started in the Winter, early January. However, it's just now finishing up, and it's the best show I'm watching at the moment, so I think it fits. Bakumatsu is a samurai period drama, set in the mid 1860s when Japan was opening up and transitioning between the Tokugawa and Meiji governments. There are several supernatural elements hovering in the background (ancient evil artifacts, and ancient societies dedicated to guarding them) which are close to causing outright civil war in Japan. The main character, Akizuki, is searching for one such artifact, when he crosses paths with a kabuki troupe bent on revenge. They decide to work together for a time, and find themselves in an increasingly intricate web of deceit and traitors, all out for themselves in this tumultuous period. All the typical praises stand for Bakumatsu: superb characters, well-written plot, detailed setting, all times ten in this great series. However, if I had to mention two points which really get me jazzed watching this show... First, the kabuki troupe performs plays every couple episodes, using these tales to publicly reveal the misdeeds of the one they seek vengeance on. I LOVE that Japanese theater is making its way into an anime like this. It's such a rich and deep tradition that has gone overlooked in the recent Japanophilia craze, and I'd love to see more of it. (I'm currently dreaming of a Mushishi-type show, featuring a travelling Bunraku troupe, sort of a scaled down version of Bakumatsu. That would be SUPERB.) Second, I cannot stress enough how well written the plot and characters are, and there is one central character in particular who was just revealed to have conflicting loyalties halfway through the series. It's so well written that this is honestly the first time I can ever remember being on the edge of my seat, furiously wondering what an anime character is planning next. In short, I am hooked.

- Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight - Okay, I'm getting all my Winter-still-continuing series out of the way up front. This also happens to be my second favorite show at the moment. GUMS (Oh my god, what a horrible acronym which I've never seen/realised until this moment.) ...Manabi is essentially a simple story: set in the near future in Japan, a young high school girl transfers into a small, sleepy school, and single-handedly reinvigorates the entire student body with her energetic attitude. I have a hard time telling if Manabi is an acquired taste or not. The reason I love it is, the animation is AMAZINGLY well done, and two, it's just...so...cute. Being an anime fan, I don't think I could help but develop a taste for sweetly saccharine, feel good stories. Manabi is decidedly one of these. Manabi (the titular character) manages to cheer up her friends and bring them together at every turn. There is no situation she cannot fix by being determined and optimistic. It sounds like a very simple show, and perhaps it is, but really the pure intensity is what's so appealing.

- Terra E - Once in a while, I'll be proven wrong about a series I start watching, and I must begrudgingly admit it's awesome. This is one of those times. The plot concerns a future Earth where society is controlled and regulated by a mysterious government which attempts to weed out psychic/reincarnated souls called Mu in the populace. Those Mu who have managed to escape have formed their own rogue/guerilla group that fight back from the fringes. So enters our hero, Jomy, who may be the most powerful Mu to come along yet, and a key to the resistance's continued fight. The first episode of Terra E sets up the future society and shows Jomy going through his normal high school life before he takes the Waking Day test (a test everyone must undergo to enter adulthood in this society, and the secret screening method to find Mu). This first episode was terribly bland, and follows a terribly bland day at a stereotypical anime high school. However, immediately afterwards the series really takes off. The Matrix-esque plot has been done before, so it's nothing new, but here it is done so well that one can't help but get engrossed. Jomy is so well written, you're there again, believing in every moment of his rebellion against this new life that's been forced upon him. You really want the Mu resistance to succeed, even as we're shown how divided they are by different leaders pulling at the reins. This show is not reinventing the wheel, but it exudes quality.

- Nodame Cantabile - Take one part lightly silly school romance, one part passion for the world of classical music, and mix. It's a misfit school romance set in a music college. Chiaki is the male lead, a musical virtuoso, but with a bad personality, looking down on every other student around him. When he clashes with his main professor, he's demoted to the "special" professor for loser musicians. It's here he runs into and gets inexorably tied up with Nodame, a young pianist who's as airheaded and silly as she is naturally talented. He begins to come around, helping her to become a more disciplined musician, and she inadvertently helps him open up. It's fun, silly, touching, real, and you can't help but love the characters and their quirks.

- Darker Than Black - I would've never watched this show if I hadn't caught it in my anime club. A strange mystical event occurred in Tokyo five years ago and the government has since erected a hundred-story wall to surround the affected area. Human beings with psychic powers are beginning to appear around the world, and battling each other for turf, mystical artifacts, and information as to what's behind the wall. Another familiar plot, but this series has a great setting and tone; dark, gritty, and real. The psychic beings are clearly drunk on their power and it's broken their minds, as they essentially stalk each other as serial killers, methodical and ruthless. This series uses my favorite brand of "magic" as well; none of the powers are flashy, but feel like they could actually fit into reality. For example, one character can teleport matter from one point to another, wherever there is other sufficient matter to replace it. When he does this, there's no brilliant flash or crackling lightning. He simply touches the object he wishes to move, and the matter in the area of teleportation morphs into it. It's magic that could fit into the "real world". All in all a very cool action series, definitely worth watching.

- Hidamari Sketch - Hidamari is obviously an Azumanga Daioh clone, but it doesn't care. It does very well with its premise. Four girls live in the same dorm and go to the same art school. As they live their lives and try to get their assignments done on time, they're very wacky about it. The series has its funny moments, but where it really shines is in the art direction. The artists have used the premise as an excuse to experiment with different drawing styles and backgrounds. They'll even use collages of real world objects as still shots within the show; for instance, every time we see one character's desk, it's a real desk, with real art supplies arranged on it. It's always interesting to watch and see what they'll do next. Oh, and it features one of my favorite nonsensical opening songs in a long time, all about art supplies and narrated from the point of view of an art teacher giving assignment instructions to her class.

Phew. Well, that's a good deal of the anime I'm watching at the moment. (But not all of it...) I have a feeling I'll be blogging about anime more often, now that I'm very much back into the medium and one of my anime club friends has his own blog that tends to fascinate me. So if this is your cup of tea, be sure to check back for regular anime ramblings. Thanks for reading this far! ...And I'm off!