Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Old Yeller - A solo adventure for levels 1-4

Among the people who come from broken families there is an oft repeated saying.

My friends are my family.

It's almost like mantra for us. Friends said it with conviction twenty years ago, and different friends say it with conviction now. I've said it many times myself.

We say it because we don't have actual families. We know it's not quite accurate, but we hope it will be. We're social critters. We need to feel connected and loved. So we project a prophecy outward, and pray it self fulfills.

The problem is it rarely works. The combination of timing, chemistry, and personal commitment required to pull it off is extremely rare. The most common result is complete failure; someone simply disappears.

Paths diverge and people vanish. Sometimes they fall. Sometimes you push.

The next most common result is limbo. People wander forward, together but apart. Everyone is in contact, but there's no actual substance to the friendship. New families, new jobs, new hobbies and interests.... priorities shift like glaciers, slow and irrevocable.

This is where it falls apart me. I just can't stand it. I don't like human bookmarks. They're placeholders in an hourglass that can never be flipped over. Which brings us back to "Go" again. Everyone collect $200.

My friends are my family.

There will be a purge soon. For most of my bookmark friends, and it's stunning how many they number, these are the last days we'll ever know each other. It's not malice that brings us to this final rail stop.

It's social economics. I can't afford to have a family full of almost empty chairs. They can't afford another significant person in their busy lives. I'll miss them, but I miss them now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Life after Little Wooden Boy...

My anime collection is nearing the terabyte level. There will be a celebration. Sometime in the spring.

There's never a good time to stop and list all my recommendations. I'm always in the middle of new series and always telling myself I'll attend to the "master list" in due time. My friend Roland and I were talking about anime the other day... and I realized the time to make some list, any list, is now.

Some of these will be old, some will be new. I'll even throw in one or two current suggestions. In all cases... I mean "when watched in order" and the subtitled version with the original Japanese voice cast. The first series on the list, for instance, is almost unwatchable in dubbed form.


Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi - One of my all-time faves. Abenobashi basically dares you to declare it juvenille and silly...

Mushishi - Low key paranormal investigations in provincal Japan. Lots of neat stuff goes on in this one.

Now & Then, Here & There - This is a tough one. You can't not recommend this series, because it's really unique and well done. But it's also a deeply brutal story that revolves mostly around little kids.

Denno Coil - The best cyberpunk ever constructed in any medium. So relentlessly brilliant that you'll feel terrible for not thinking of virtually everything that happens for all 26 episodes.

Edo Rocket - A fireworks maker tries to build a rocket to get a friend home to the moon.

Code Geass - Robot tactics/fighting, high school drama, world domination story with more characters than you could fit on a steamboat... very well done and home of the most advanced plotting I've seen since the Watchmen. Their trick is different than Moore's highly synchronized clockwork storytelling, but no less impressive. This is currently in its second season and is being fansubbed by Eclipse.

Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya - A deranged chick starts an after school club with no discernable purpose. Very funny and strange.

FLCL - If there were some way to describe it to you, I would try. It's six episodes and possibly the coolest thing ever animated. It seems short, but then you have to watch it several times anyway, both to understand what the hell just happened to you, and to bask in the amazingness... so it actually works out to be about normal length.

Clannad, AirTV, Kanon 2006 - The old joke "I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me." is finally brought to the dreaded "five over five" status. All three of these are done by a company called Key and they all alternate between funny and heartbreaking. I'm just a huge fan of Key. Also noteworthy (!!!), they have excellent, clever, three dimensional leading male characters.

Read or Die - Both the three part mini-series and the full length television series are excellent. Highly recommended. Sort of a British spy meets pulp level metahuman thing they've got going on. It's eccentric, heartfelt and imaginative.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni - There's three of these now, and I'm not through the third one yet... they're all very (very) dark civic horror stories. They're roughly Lovecraftian in pacing, and they're oddly veiled behind a bunch of total lolicon characters... but all of them so far have been very intricate and well conceived.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha - The first two series of this are great. Imagine the best days of Beta Ray Bill being relived by a nine year old girl. It's like that, but to be honest Thor never had fights this good. Remember to drink each time you furrow and say "Damn."

Magical Girl Squad Alice - Amazingly, this series is nothing like the previous anime that began with "Magical Girl". Alice is more like Alice in Wonderland meets the old American cartoon movie "Wizards". Every episode is ten minutes long and there are fifty something total. It had neat art, a lot of good ideas, and an interesting storyline.

Rocket Girls - High school girls get drafted into an underfunded space program. It's impossible not to begin this series with a facepalm, but then it turns out to be a charming story with a lot of really cool educational stuff about rockets. This should be the first anime on PBS.

Bokurano - Part giant robot battles, part sci-fi horror, and part dramatic vignette. It's not a happy story, but I liked it a lot.

Paranoia Agent - A murder mystery presented through a lens of Bhuddism. Another of my all-time favorites and another anime that flops like a thrice bashed fish after dubbing.

This is really just scratching the surface. We could go deeper in many directions, but these anime are all solid. And there's a lot of anime that is perhaps more foundational, like Bebop and Ninja Scrolls, but presumably you can find that with any "best of..." google search.

I've watched tons of anime, so if anyone has questions about anything specific, don't hesitate to ask. I suggest bittorrent and www.fansub.tv as good places to look for free fansubs.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The World of Burning Ears

Sarah Palin is too ordinary to be qualified. If being mayor of a little, moose adjacent town is laughable, imagine what they must think of us. I'm just a broke writer. My friends certainly aren't as "special" as a small town mayor. They manage hotels, go to college, design web pages, work in cafes, etc. I had been under the impression that all people born under our flag were gifted with unlimited potential and equality. I thought one of the great strengths of American freedom was the beautiful idea that anyone, representing any of our widely varied hopes and faces, could become anything they wished to be. I must have misunderstood something.

Well, at least I'm not involved with the real idiots - the community organizers. What a bunch of incompetent losers... ok, wait. Charity work doesn't count as community organization does it? How about years worth of essays trying to impart a more reasonable sense of perspective to the world around me? What about my mom's job with the LA County Park Service? Helping local families find and enjoy public parks is different than community organizing right? I mean just because she's technically organizing sections of her community... No, I'm certain that Rudy Giuliani, a man I've spoken well of for years, did not just laugh as he made fun of my mom.


Everyone's gotten awfully comfortable insulting me. That's an interesting way to try and make friends. I can't say I care for it.

There's a knock at the door. It's Ralph Nader. He jabs you in the eye with a pencil and says "Sorry it took me so long. I had to ride my bike."