Early May update

2017-May-10, Wednesday 09:37
dorchadas: (Link and Zelda sitting together)
So what am I doing in these, the last days of the American republic?

This Friday is another of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's and my Shabbat dinners. After the turning of the year, we decided that once a month we'd invite a handful of people over, eat dinner, and then discuss whatever that week's parshah is. This week it's Emor, Leviticus 21:1-24:23. We've tended to get really good discussion out of even the more "the lamps shall be made of beaten gold" parashot, and Emor has a lot of material in it. Some of it especially discussion-worthy, like the ban on people with disfiguring injuries from giving offerings to G-d. I don't find this to be as jarring as some people, because I don't have a universalist concept of G-d, but there's good commentary on it out there I've found that I'll try to bring up during he discussion.

I just went and found a bunch of Legend of Zelda icons and added them. Since I'm only using half my icon space, and since I'm on a quest to play through every Legend of Zelda game, I might as well. And maybe I need a Legend of Zelda tag, too... Hmm.

(done)

Speaking of which, I ordered a copy of the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time manga in Japanese! I've learned that the best way to get me to actually study is to make it an accompaniment to something I already want do--hence playing all these video games in Japanese--and when I idly posted about whether I should read it, [facebook.com profile] kelley.christensen1 mentioned that she had fond memories of reading it as a teenager. That's enough of a recommendation for something I already wanted to do anyway, and now it's in the to-read pile.

We bought tickets for [twitter.com profile] faylynne's wedding next month. Due to waiting so long because we needed to figure out [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's summer program schedule, they were more expensive than I was hoping. I was expecting $750 and it was closer to $900. Fortunately, my sister lives in Portland and has offered to put us up, so we don't need to also pay for a hotel. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd promised to cook for her to pay for our keep. Delicious!

We didn't do much of anything last weekend, or at least I didn't, and I'm looking forward to more of the same next weekend. Majora's Mask is longer than I thought, especially since I'm trying to get all the masks, so while I thought I would be finished already I won't be done until tomorrow at the absolute earliest. Probably more like Saturday.

I hope everyone else's weeks are going well!

Edit: It turns out that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has strep! The doctor said she's cleared for Friday, though, so she'll stay home from work tomorrow and then Shabbat dinner will continue as scheduled.

C2E2

2017-Apr-22, Saturday 16:25
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I'm not really a comics fan. I have a comics tag, but the Japanese it's translated from says manga, and the only convention tag I have is explicitly anime conventions. So when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd suggested I go to the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo with her this weekend, I was hesitant. Would I know anything that was going on? Would I find anything that interested me? Well, I do like cosplay, so I suggested characters that we both know:

Morgoth Bauglir and Sauron the Great.

Read more... )

Tokyo: Wednesday

2016-Jul-27, Wednesday 23:54
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and decided not to go back to sleep, since we would be traveling today back to Tokyo for to last phase of our trip. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I lay around in bed for a couple hours, packed up our souvenirs and clothes, and headed out to find some breakfast. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's initial idea of Cafe du Monde turned out to be a dud because the one in Kyoto Station only sold drinks, but we found a small Italian restaurant in the dining area that had a morning set with panini and coffee or tea. Mozzarella, tomato, and pesto panini is exactly what I wanted to start the day.

After that, everyone assembled, we reserved our Shinkansen tickets, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I bought ekiben from a small shop in the station, and we got on the bullet train for Tokyo.


On the inside. My knees are a foot from the seat in front!

I spent the Shinkansen ride catching up on RSS feeds and listening to podcasts, and after two-and-a-half hours we were back in Tokyo. We got on the Yamanote Line and all got off at our destinations--this time, we were staying near separate stops--and walked back to the Sakura Hotel, arriving about five minutes after check-in time. We got our rooms, put some laundry in the provided laundry machines, and settled down to let it run, though we did go to the conbini to get some snacks since several other people had gotten food and we probably weren't going to eat until later.

Once out laundry was done, we put it away or hung it as befit its level of dryness and wandered out to find Otome Road. "Otome" (乙女, "little girl, maiden") is slang for female anime and manga fans, and there's a part of Ikebukuro dedicated to them the way that Akibahara is dedicated to male fans.

Well, more to tourists looking for electronics now, but the historical connection is there.

We went east through Ikebukuro Station and into the shopping streets past it, and after navigating past a few pachinko parlors and under an overpass, we found it:


Not visible: rows of capsule machines.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd dived into the capsule machine and won a Sailor Moon keychain on her first try, and then we entered the shop. It turned out that the main Animate shop had moved and this was the cosplay annex, for all your costuming needs. Cosplay in Japan doesn't have the same do-it-yourself impetus that it does in America, so there were pre-made costumes for a variety of characters. And pre-styled Sailor Moon wigs. Imagine a market big enough to support that niche.

The store was pretty neat but there was basically no way for us to get anything back to America without ruining it, so after a quick look, we checked the internet for where the main store had moved to--about 300 meters away--and walked there. It was a gigantic shrine to all things nerd, with a correspondingly large population of shoppers which [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was happy to see were indeed mostly women, and we looked a bit around the first floor.


Uh, I'm not hungry, thanks.

Unfortunately, the crowds also meant there was a giant line for the elevator, and we pledged to come back during a less busy time and went back to Ikebukuro Station.

During Tokyo rush hour. Oops.

Actually, it wasn't that bad. The station was packed and so was the incoming train, but nearly everyone got off at Ikebukuro. We even got seats! And then fifteen minutes later, we arrived in Akihabara and met up with the others.


Neon and moe.

[livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat wanted to check out a hobby shop called TamTam a bit off the main drag and, hoping for Japanese tabletop RPGs, I went with her. It had an extensive collection of model kits, model trains, replica military gear, and basically everything I'm not really interested in. After casing the joint, I told [livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat that I was going to head back and went off to find the others.

After dodging the maids and "schoolgirls" handing out fliers, I found everyone else at Kotobukiya, a hobby shop closer to Akihabara Station. It wasn't just entirely animu and mango stuff, though--there was an entire floor devoted to superheroes and Star Wars. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd bought a Captain America towel, and would have bought a Black Widow statue if she hadn't been worried about transporting it back to America.

We were going to go to Super Potato, famous retro game store, afterward, but Google lied to us and it actually closed at 8 p.m., so instead we wandered around in search of dinner. After a couple of false starts, including one restaurant I'm almost positive turned us away for being foreign, we found a place called Tsuki no Shizuku with izakaya-style small dishes and a touchscreen ordering system. They also had green tea tiramisu.


Amazing.

Full of food for only ¥1919 each, we went on to the Sega Arcade building, which in the way of modern Japanese arcades had almost no racing or fighting games and was overly full of UFO catchers, card-based games, and Gundam battle pods. Okay, admittedly the last one there is pretty amazing, but at ¥500 a play it's not super practical for more than a play or two.

Instead, I challenged [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek to Taikō no Tatsujin:


Locked in combat.

Unfortunately I ended up with battle damage on my hand, because the "1812 Overture" on hard is many more drum strikes than someone who doesn't actually play the drums at all is used to. That didn't prevent me from coming within 2% of my friend's score, though!

Despite a thorough search I hadn't found any danmaku games and some of the others were getting tired, so we called an early night. Early for Tokyo, anyway. We got back at 11:30 and it looked like the part of Ikebukuro we're staying in was just coming alive. But not us.

Steps taken: 14669
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
...is called Let's Speak English (though I keep reading it as "Let's Speaking English"), written and drawn by an ALT in Japan. It's a collection of 4koma comics about her life there, with plenty of episodes I recognized from my own time in Japan. Like how the centrality of rice to the traditional Japanese diet leads to odd ideas about American eating habits, or the questioning looks from small town residents who wonder why the outlander is there, or the problems of a language barrier, or how super bent-over old people actually exist.

They do, by the way. One had her hat blow off into a ditch while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I were walking by and she refused all of our attempts to help. I hope she didn't get stuck down there...

Obviously a lot of my like comes from recognizing the situations she finds herself in, but it's written for an audience who doesn't live in Japan so it's not an inscrutable mess for everyone else. I'm kind of tempted to contribute to her Patreon campaign, since this is the comic I've been looking for ever since Life After the B.O.E. ended.
dorchadas: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] marianlh's post about the cutest little rust monster reminded me of the webcomic Dark Places and how sad I was that by the time I had discovered it, it had stopped updating. Late in its run, though, there was an expository page that really caught my attention:

Dark Places background comic


That comic really got my imagination firing, combined with Exalted setting elements and some concepts from the Avernum series of games, and it mixed into (I like to think) a great campaign pitch.

So, take that comic as the backstory, but replace the dwarves with the Mountain Folk (with artisans removed). The Fair Folk are obviously the Fair Folk from Exalted, who swept in from Faerie, threw down the kingdoms of men, and reigned in madness from their thrones of bone and crystal and shadows until they were overthrown. Subsequently, humanity grew more and more xenophobic and paranoid, eventually developing into the Empire from Avernum. With the discovery of the great caves far below the surface of the world, below even the furthest reaches that the Mountain Folk dare to go, the Empire had a place to dump its malcontents, its Faerie cultists, its political dissidents, and anyone else that the Imperial power structure thought were a threat to the survival of humanity. Player characters being notorious malcontents and threats, the game would start with them being dumped through the portal into Avernum.

PCs would be god- and elemental-blooded (descended from various spirits), fae-blooded (descended from the Lords of Madness and their human slaves), ghost-blooded, demon-blooded, and Mountain Folk exiles, who are exactly the kind of people who wouldn't fit in on the topside unless they slot into some highly-specific roles in society that suitable PCs probably don't come from. Put them down in Avernum, which has the standard D&D-esque paradigm of a society on the edge, with civilization as precarious points of light in the midst of a vast, unexplored wilderness filled with dangerous monsters and mysterious terrain, and let the adventures roll in.
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
I've been reading a webcomic for three months that I just stopped reading, and the reason why drove me to write about it.

Let me explain. The webcomic is Quantum Vibe, which was mentioned on RPG.net as pretty good, though with a libertarian bent. "Well, whatever," I thought. "I read Atlas Shrugged[1], I can read this if it's recommended on somewhere I trust the opinion of." And for a while, it did work. The story starts out with the main character losing her job, running out of money, and then being hired on as the assistant of a famous scientist who seems excessively paranoid about his newest assignment for no obvious reason, having to perform really suicidally dangerous tasks like diving under the corona of the sun to detonate some nuclear bombs in order to get some data for his experiments... All in all, it seemed to get off to a really promising start.

Then the Lunar arc happened. The characters started talking about the Lunar government, and that's when the ideological hammer came out. It started with having to go through Lunar customs, which is weird and odd and Lunars (loonies?) do it but no one else introduced has because apparently people living in fragile habitats floating in the endless dark of space don't care about what people are bringing on board? Then the main character is pulled aside for a "random screening." Then at the money-changer, it turns out a post-scarcity civilization still uses gold-backed currency but Lunars are weird because they use FIAT CURRENCY. Then this happens.

That's about the point where I threw up my hands and closed the tab.[2]

I think the problem was the bait-and-switch. I wouldn't have minded if the entire comic had been like that from the beginning, since then I would have had that warning and wouldn't have had all my exceptations changed out from under me. Like I said, I read Atlas Shrugged. And I certainly wouldn't have minded if it hadn't turned into an Author Tract. Changing after I got invested both felt like a betrayal and got really annoying in the way any preaching is annoying when you aren't expecting it.

In writing this, I also realized something else that annoyed me: Lunar society isn't contrasted with any of the other future societies because up to that point almost nothing is described about them. Earth is a cyberpunk hellhole ruled over by a bunch of megacorporations where the population has been genetically engineered into a caste system...and that's about all that's revealed, so Lunar society is a transparently obvious critique of modern America with out-of-control cops, corporations bribing the government, two tiers of justice depending on whether you're rich or poor, a ban on the carrying of personal weapons without a permit, FIAT CURRENCY, etc., etc., etc. So the two societies we know anything about are dystopic, and the main character's habitat is apparently a libertarian paradise which maintains its liberty by virtue of not having to tell us how it actually works.

While looking around the internet for other people's opinion on the topic, I found a Charles Stross essay about how space is often cast is a frontier. In American fiction, the big frontier we always think of is the West back during the days of Manifest Destiny[3], and so space is often cast as the Wild West. But when you think about it, space is really nothing like the Wild We-


...>_>

But seriously, the usual categorization is Earth groaning under bureaucracy and extreme regimentation, while the true free spirits head out to the asteroids or the outer colonies or whatever to make their fortunes away from the panopticon and obsessive nit-picking of all those dirtgrubbers. But really, this makes no sense. As Stross mentions, on Earth it's easy to strike it off alone and go live in your own community in the wilderness because there's actual wilderness where people can live. In space, the environment is actively trying its level best to murder you literally every second and only constant effort prevents your horrific death by decompression or asphyxiation or radiation poisoning or any of the other ways to die that are really unlikely on Earth. To avoid that, any government in space is way more likely to be a dystopian hellhole than to be some kind of minarchist utopia. And I guess Quantum Vibe does have 2 hellholes to 1 utopias, so that's a start. But one of those is Earth, which gets no points because it doesn't need a dystopia to maintain its very existence.

Summary: Bait-and-switches are terrible, especially if you initially expected it but were lulled into a false sense of security.

[1]: I am aware the Objectivism and Libertarianism are overlapping circles on the Venn.
[2]: Though finally noticing the author's Twitter feed on the side of the page didn't help either.
[3]: To the extent that those days are over, anyway.
dorchadas: (Gendowned)
I finished reading Nausicaa last night. The ending was a bit odd in comparison to the rest of it ("Killing is bad, except those guys. They all need to die so we can live." What?), but overall it was quite well done.

I also recently found the Japanese edition of the old NES RPG Crystalis, titled "Godslayer: Haruka no Tenkū no Sonata" ("Godslayer, Sonata of Distant Heaven"). It's even more based on Nausicaa than I remembered. I mean, I knew it had the direct homage in the poisonous fungal forest filled with insects, and the remnants of the old pre-destruction world who are working to save the new world from behind the scenes. But, for example, in Crystalis, the first little girl you talk to says, "Welcome to Leaf, the Village of Wind." In Godslayer, she says, "ここはかぜのたにのむら" ("This place is the Village of the Valley of the Wind") to you. That's a bit more direct. I wonder what other things I find as I go through the game?

The hilarious part is that the save system didn't work, so when I hit "Continue" I started from the beginning without going through the intro, so I never picked a name, so everyone is calling me "データーなし," which is pretty much the equivalent of saying, "Hello, [insert name here]." I giggle every time one of the NPCs addresses me.
dorchadas: (Jealous)
I don't understand how insurance repricing works. I got a bill for around $800 from the doctor today. Okay, not surprising, he's a specialist. What was surprising is how far down insurance reduced it: $180. That's to $180, not by $180. And most of my bills are like that. Either health care is obscenely overpriced and only people with good insurance are getting anything remotely approaching a fair price, or my doctor is going to go bankrupt.

It's probably the former.

I saw 300 tonight. It was, in a word, badass. If you took pure badass, and let it ferment for a while, and distilled it into celluloid, and then wrote on it with a brush made of awesome it would still not be as badass as 300 was. I can kind of see how people could see it as slightly racist, or as a right-wing power fantasy, but I don't think it's something most movie-goers either wouldn't pick up on, or wouldn't care out. Perhaps they should...but oh well. THIS! IS! SPARTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

So, webcomics. What makes webcomics so awesome? Probably the fact that they're unbound by syndication rules and most of them don't make any money, despite what their writers might want. Anyway, I just know that webcomics have raised the bar high enough that most of the comics in the paper are unfunny trash to me currently. I've found some--like Zombie Hunters--that are great, but which would never make it in a normal newspaper.

I've been thinking about making one, but I can't draw worth crap. I might be better at it than keeping a on writing a story. Speaking of, I need to finish my NaNo...
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
(that's "Happy new year")

Now that I'm no longer puking my guts out, I can actually post! I had food poisoning (or something) on Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm not sure how it could have been food poisoning, since I've been on vacation with my family and have been eating all the same things they've been. It could have been the flu or something, but no one else got it. Oh well--at least I'm over it now, except for some latent stomach unsettledness that props up when eating. I was able to eat curry just fine a couple days ago, though, so I think I'm pretty close to normal.

It is perhaps a mark of my geekdom that I view the ability to read the note in this PA strip as evidence of my progress in Japanese.

And now, off to play Ōkami and FFXII.

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