Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Nausicaa Squarepants... 

I think I'll let this speak for itself:

Spongebob of the Valley of Wind? Kaze no Tani no Spongebob?


Okay, boys and girls, sing along now...

"Who lives in the Valley of Wind and flys free?"
"Nausicaa Squarepants!"


Noble and blue and messiah is she!


Nausicaa Squarepants!

Manga at Deepdiscountdvd.com 

Just a quick note for those that haven't seen this yet. Deepdiscountdvd has some manga in stock.

The selection isn't that good (lots of random numbers), but the price is nice, as well as free shipping. Also, I've ordered many DVDs from them in the past and they are pretty reliable.

There's 6 Akira volumes, most of them at $18 each. Most everything else is $7.18 each. Some GTO, Happy Mania, Kadocha, Marmalade Boy, Mars, ton of Peach Girl, Rave Master, Rayearth box set, Saint Tail, Angelic Layer, Love Hina, Ragnarok, CCS, and a couple of others.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer... 

Haha, guess what is coming to DVD? I think we still have that movie on tape somewhere, though I dunno if I could stomach something that sugary anymore. As people on the thread mention, the real question is this:

Where is the Gummi Bears DVDs? "Guuumi Beaars... bouncing here and there and everywhere...."

Also, aparantly some people just can't take the heat:

It's just a show about cute characters being friendly and happy. What's so scary about that? It's like I could wave a care bear at people and they'll be as scared as if I had some machine gun.

Unshelved and Read or Die... 

Hmm.. Johanna has a review of a strip called Unshelved, involving librarians. I think I must seriously check this thing out. I've loved libraries for pretty much my whole life, so I have a soft spot for fiction related to it. :)

For those that want a mix of superheros and libraries, the three-part anime Read or Die. I mean it involves agents of the Royale British Library, one of whom, Yomiko, is both an avid reader and has super-powers involving the control of paper. What isn't to like?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Returner... 

Well, I just watched the Returner, and what a great little movie this was! This isn't a big-budget film, and you've probably seen the whole "person comes from the future to save the world" premise many times already. However, this movie was refreshing in a lot of ways. Besides the good chemistry between the leads, there is a lot of cliches that either are avoided or subverted by the end of the movie.

It also has some healthy humor in it (the ending of a chase scene is hilarious!), and it doesn't go too over the top with the action (fighting is generally without wire-work) or effects (there's some explosions and crashes and stuff, but not all the time like in some movies).

The only part that brings things down a bit are the scenes from the future, where english is spoken. When english is your native language, the flaws in the delivery are more aparant then they would have been to Japanese viewers. Still, those scenes are pretty brief, and the rest of the movie more than makes up for them.

If you want a smart and fun little sci-fi movie, this is one to check out. It has some real heart to it. :)

Also, the DVD from Columbia Tristar has some really good extras (presumably from the original release) which are subtitled. An interview with the action coordinator and designer (mixed with images of his very detailed paintings). There's a split-screen with unfinished scenes on the top (unfinished cg, blue-screens, non-color-corrected stuff) with finished on the bottom. However, instead of one scene, it showed bits from quite a lot of them.

Best of all, though, was a video diary showing the filming of various scenes. This was a whole hour long, with footage from each of the locations! Narrating it was the director and female star, both of whom were very funny and had good information on what was going on. I think this was much more effective than the commentary over finished movie that you usually see on DVDs.

In the end, I was struck by how more I enjoyed the extras on this disc versus the Matrix Reloaded. Everything was much more candid and relaxed with a small crew, versus the huge army of people involved in Reloaded (many of whom seemed very style-concious with perfect hair, etc). I also didn't have to wait through glitzy animated menus to get to the content.

I think I'm going to have to buy this DVD in the future. For everyone else, I'd say rent it at least. It is by no means perfect, but it really is a cool movie. :) Now I just need to get ahold of the director's earlier movie called Juvenile, which was refered to many times in the diary. Looking at IMDB, aparantly he also directed the anime series Heat Guy J, which I've heard good things about...

Revolutions and more... 

So, Hollywood Video had their occational coupon for 3 videos cheap again. We ended up picking Matrix Revolutions, 28 Days Later, and the Returner. Stuff I passed over but will probably grab on the other coupon are Bubba-ho-tep, Adaptation, and Big Sky (err.. is that the name? The Tim Burton one..). Two annoyances were not having any of the original Spider-man, which Mom wanted to see (how can you not have any when the second movie will be out soon??) and only a VHS copy of Suicide Club, which I really really want to see. But I think people at work have Spider-Man and Adaptation, so I may just grab those from them.

Anyway, I watched Revolutions last night. Spoilers to follow:

I hadn't been in as much of a hurry to see it after the second movie, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It felt more like the first movie to me. While I liked a lot of the action scenes and designs and some of the questions raised in the second movie, some of it also felt a bit out of place (too much sex?) and overwrought (some of the mumbo-jumbo).

I was a bit disappointed that a lot of the stuff brought up in the second movie just seemed to be ignored or glossed over in this one, but I also liked a lot of what it did contain. The seige was pretty fun, with the mecha and Last Man Standing. You know, I think technology is finally at a point where live-action Gundam could be done without looking cheesy. Those mecha looked really impressive.

Super Brawl was fun in the Volcano High (fighting in the rain) meets DBZ way. Some of the flying scenes were really nice.

I'd say one of my favorite things was the design of the Machine City, as well as the God Machine. Those shots where you see Neo's point of view and everything is golden was beautiful. I wish we got to see more of the city, actually... The burning of Neo's eyes and death of Trinity also brings some measure of finality that I don't think the other movies managed..

The whole thing got me to thinking. I think the Matrix trilogy reminds me of the original Star Wars trilogy in a lot of ways. They were both on the cutting edge of technology, the both threw together a lot of influences into a melting pot. They had inconsistances and some hokey dialogue and mumbo jumbo at times. But they were fun, visually impressive and had some intereresting characters. They both reflect on the times they were made, one in space and one in cyberspace. I think if I had had seen the Matrix movies as a kid the same way I did the Star Wars, with nostalgia on my side, I think I might remember both as fondly...

Any thoughts on that?

I don't think they're as successful overall as the original SW trilogy, but then again much better than the newer SW movies..

Obviously there are huge plot holes in all the movies. People as batteries just can't be efficient. Why don't the machines drop bombs into Zion instead of bazillions of Sentinals which can't even shoot anything, having to rip stuff apart with tenticles? Still, if you ignore all that, I enjoyed the series more in the end than a lot of other people seem to have...

Also, I watched the making of specials, and wow, technology is getting scary. They have a technique for filming someone's face acting with 6 high-def cameras and using it to make a 3d model that looks totally photorealistic. A couple of the test shots gave me chills to see a perfect face moving in 3d on a white background.

It was pretty funny seeing how the bazillion Agent Smiths in the background of the super brawl were done as well. Doing it with computers would be too difficult, so it was a combination of dummies and stand-ins wearing silicon masks! The real people were in the back and had levers they could use to turn the heads of the dummies! Pretty funny stuff... It is also really interesting hearing the normal voice of Hugo Weaving, which sounds NOTHING like Smith.

I was also impressed seeing the rigs they used for the flying scenes, combinations of rotational belts that are used in circusing and special "tuning fork" machines. Also the amount of work that the actors had to do for the stunts. Weaving especially isn't the person you think of when you think action star.. :)

End spoilers

I also taped City of Lost Souls from Takashi Miike for a friend at work, watching the end again. What a fun odd movie this thing is. It really makes no sense on most levels, but there is so much style and craziness and an interesting mix of cultures (japan/brazil/china/some latin/american). This is a movie that heightens everything, making impossible things possible, but in a way that seems almost normal...

Saw a fun little short called The Chorus, about a guy who has a singing quartet that follows him around singing about his every experience. Really well done...

I also caught the second half of Cherry Falls, an interesting little indy horror film with some humor thrown in. A killer is stalking the town, going after virgin girls. While the police investigate, the kids decide to take matters into their own hand and stage a sex party to stop being virgins. However, this isn't a straight-out comedy, and there is some interesting characters, including the sheriff's daughter. Also, any horror movie in which a guy and lady are running from a killer and the GUY trips and falls is good in my book!

Today I had an amazing time at Forest Park, but more on that later. Right now it's time to watch the other two movies!

Friday, June 25, 2004

TP Media downloads (Princess Ai commercial) 

I didn't realize that TokyoPop had a media download page. In there is the new Princess Ai commercial, along with one of the normal manga commercials. Of note for the latter that it is a different one than what Newsarama had posted a while back, a trilogy of US, Japanese, and Korean titles.

[thanks to Yukino Miyazawa for the link]

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Sierra killed by Vivendi! 

Yikes, talk about some depressing news. In a restructuring move that got rid of 350 people, Vivendi just killed off Sierra without warning. This also gets rid of all video games relating to Hoyle products...

As someone who grew up with King's Quest (I loved loved KQIV as a kid), Space Quest, and all kinds of other things, it is sad for it to finally go under entirely. :(

Also, I wonder if this effects the new Leisure Suit Larry game that was announced at E3? I know it is being made by High Voltage Software, but was it for Vivendi or what?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Animated Princess Ai commercial sponsors Sweat... 

Well, I was watching G4TechTV tonight as I usually do. Eventually Sweat came on, which focuses on the connection between sports and video games. This episode involved wrestling, and while I'm not a person who actually watches wrestling much, I do find it fascinating at times...

At any rate, it was time for a commercial break, and suddenly came up a special sponsor screen with the Tokyopop logo on it and the announcer going "Sweat is brought to you by Tokyopop." That was pretty interesting in and of itself, seeing them in a sponsorship role. Of course a TP commercial followed immediately after, but it wasn't what I expected. Instead of a normal 3-series commercial with flying manga panels, this was fully animated!

A voiceover revealed that it was Princess Ai and gave several descriptive sentances while various scenes flashed from one to the other. Up until the end (where the actual book was shown with an "Availible Now!"), it looked like a commercial a new anime series. It went by fast, so I didn't get a real close look at anything (I'm sure budget would be more evident on further viewings), but it looked pretty flashy and authentic. I'm curious which studio animated it for them.

So, it definitely looks like they are putting a push behind this book and spending some money. I don't know if people will be dissapointed if they see the full-blown animation and find out it is a book, but it is certainly eye-catching. Licenses probably restrict them from doing this with most of their other series, but if this proves successful, perhaps they'll eventually do animated commercials for their other original titles like Peach Fuzz.

IMO, I can't help thinking that they'll try to push their own series more as time goes on. People always talk about manga companies not having to pay creators, but they also don't get any control. Tokyopop might have a manga title, while Bandai has the anime, Top Flite has the CCG, Mattel has the action figures, etc. If something like Princess Ai got popular, got animated, got various accessories made, that'd be a lot of money and exposure in TP's pocket..

Disney Indefinitely Delays Studio Ghibli DVDs.... 

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a big fan of Miyazaki's movie. So, you can possible imagine how ticked off I am at this news. I mean really, what in the world?? These were sure to sell a lot of copies and as Bubba points out, they are under contract to release all of the movies. I seriously hope this is just a minor delay due to some sort of internal trouble, but I am pretty uneasy considering all of the issues Disney is having these days. What a lost opportunity it'll be if these end up not coming out...

More manga reviews... 

A bit welcome to the world of blogging to David's Precocious Curmudgeon, who has some nice reviews up for Hot Gimmick and Sgt. Frog.

Also significant is that AoDVD added another 13 manga reviews over the weekend (scroll down to June 19th).

Lastly, Greg's wonderful iComics site now has a seperate pulldown on the archives page just for manga.

Good stuff all-around.. :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

CMX Press Release... 

John also got an e-mail with a press release stating the titles lined up for DC's new manga line CMX. While it hasn't been offically backed up, it certainly reads like it is legit...

Aparantly, the first wave will be Madara, Mekakushi no Kuni, and Eroika Yori Ai Wo Komete. Following those will be Gals, Tenjo Tenge, Monster Collection, and Akuma De Soro.

Also mentioned was that Jake Tarbox (formally of Raijin) was hired as the Group Editor.

This is great news, and it looks like DC is pretty serious about the line. I'm not familiar with all of these titles, but Tenjo Tenge is certainly a very popular title. I'm guessing it will shoot right up the charts. Gals is also a very good title, though not as well known as something like CLAMP. It seems like they're also trying to tie into other things, mentioning that one of the authors was the character designer for the animated sequence of Kill Bill.

I really really hope they do a good job with these and don't feel a need to censor or americanize everything. This could be big, folks... Already some manga fans are saying this will be their first time checking out a DC comic, and I'm sure the brand will help these out in comic shops (where Dark Horse does better relative to the other companies than compared to book shops).

Edit: Whooops.. the release also mentions Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne (which has a big following) and a title called Swan.

A boxing squid... 

Seriously, the second image of the squid battle from Street Angel is like the coolest picture ever! That should really be on a t-shirt or poster or something!

Hmm.. I think I'm going to have to really pick up this series pretty soon...

Ask an innocent question... 

First, Leonard asks a seemingly innocent question:
I've always loved comics, but for various reasons, I never was able to obtain any significant collection of them. I used to watch the old X-Men cartoon on Fox, and I'm interested in finding the comics that show was based on. The problem is, I'm not sure which is the one I'm looking for. The various amount of X-Men comics available makes my head spin. Did Marvel reset everything and start over? Are the X-Men comics I see now a new series, or a continuation of the stuff from the early 90s? Is it possible to get said series in a hardcover collection?

I am quite confused on this, and any help or a nudge in the right direction would be appreciated.

Many many responses ensue with explanations, ending with Leonard again:

So basically, the TV show was based on a collage of various events from the comics run throughout the decades? I was afraid of something like that, as it really kills my motivation in picking it up. I suppose I was spoiled by see it animated first anyway. Thanks for the info everyone. :)

You have to wonder how many times things like this happen...

Whistle (soccer manga) coming from Viz! 

I have to say that this is good news. Whistle is a soccer manga from Mitsuru Adachi, who has done many classic series such as Touch and H2. I believe some of his short stories have been published in the US previously, but not any of his other works. I've heard some complaints on Whistle not being quite as good as some of his previous work, but I'm not sure if that only applies to the anime or not (which was animated quickly for the Cup in 2002). In any case, nice to see sports manga on the way. Also, while soccer isn't hugely popular as a spectator sport in the US, lots and lots of kids play it for school, so I'm thinking this might still hit an audience...

On CLAMP and Marvel... 

Well, aparantly I missed big news during my productive weekend! None of people talking about this yet are really sure what it'll be. This could be anything from a limited series to cover artwork. Also, who knows if CLAMP will be writing or just drawing? Basically the clues are that it is a Marvel character, that it is "not someonely CLAMPy" and "It was said it was not SpiderMan. When people brought up Wolverine the topic was quickly changed". So, who knows at this point... the important thing is the fun quotes in the topic! :)

Maybe the end of the world will be saved by the X/1999-Men


Haha! You're all wrong! It's gotta be the Punisher :) And his Uzi will shoot cherry blossoms :)


Hmm... when you said 'obscure' just then, I suddenly thought of Captain Britain, a character who has a lot of magical type stories done about him, that would be messed up if it was him... but it won't be, considering what they've done to that character recently (Chuck Austen...WHY does Marvel employ this worthless hack?).


But can you imagine how cute a smelly, little, chibi-Wolverine would look? Maybe they will make a chibi-Hulk and a chibi-Beast and make collector sets. *_*


Maybe it'll be a return of the X-Babies! I loved those guys
(I've been out of the X-men loop for about 10 years now, so maybe they have reappeared in that time.)

As far as superhero companies go:
I neither like nor dislike Marvel or DC. I feel about them about the same way I feel about the publishers of fishing magazines. They don't really affect my life enough to register on the Harafan emotional meter.


I couldn't agree more. Indifference is all I feel until they do something worth noting for me.


I for one have more confidence in the black and white indie publishers. They are, creatively, the Western equivalent of the Japanese manga industry, IMO.


I agree with your assessment of both Marvel & DC and the Indie scene. I'm tired of the perpetual nature of most of the "Big Two's" superhero books, where everything just runs in a circular fashion with little development and no end in sight. The indie books have a much more personal nature to their storytelling and tell much more well-crafted stories. Poison Elves, Strangers In Paradise, Queen And Country, and/or Blue Monday offer me more in one issue than about 98% of everything Marvel & DC have put out in the last 5 years...

As for me, I don't know what to think as of yet. The announcement is just way too vague. While I'd hope that they'd do something totally original, sounds like it'll be an existing character. Not all that surprising, but still disappointing. I do hope that they'll have a measure of control in the project and that it is something like a mini-series that can go to GN form quickly. Otherwise, how big will the market be for it? CLAMP is a huuuge name in the manga world, but I think many manga buyers will be hesitant of monthlies. Hardcore fans will go out of their way to buy it, but more casual fans won't even know about the title unless it is visible to them.

I guess we can hope that they make a big deal out of this and promote it out the wazoo and that it actually ends up being good!

Female manga fans vent on press coverage, releases... 

Go to this page and scroll down until jennwen's post. Some highlights...

jennwenn starts things off:
Its starting to annoy me how every article on the manga industry makes it sound like "Oh my gosh! GIRLS read comic books! *gasp*" like we're some dumb, simple-minded, money-churning machines or endangered species.

At first, I thought it was great how they focused on a readership that was often ignored. But lately, the "attention" seems a little vapid. At least that article's tone was not that bad.

I'm sure I'm not the only girl who went into comic book stores before manga made inroads into the bookstores. I should just deal with the fact that a female comic-reading audience of the current size is new for the US. Not everyone is used to it, and I understand it makes sense to focus on new "trends" (but its NOT just a market trend!!!). If only the media and certain manga companies would stop being so darn condescending in their PR coverage and the choice of titles they release!

EDIT- And romance isn't the only thing girls care about or want to read about. Gah!!!!

sumiyax agrees:
What's amusing is that they are talking about it a lot, and doing nothing. Nothing. Advertising is still aimed at boys. "Shoujo" Amerimanga is written by boys. Translation adaptors are often boys. Boys 8-24 are still the hot target audience. Maybe that's part of what makes it feel so vapid.

Also, it seems like you'd have to have your head stuck under a rock at this point not to know that girls read manga, but people still act and talk like it's shocking. Isn't it time people got over the whole concept that girls like entertainment?

and Alexandria:
Well, I think it is easy to explain why people are so shocked that the female population has embraced manga. American comics are typically male oriented, since it is engrained in the american mindset that comics of any kind would appeal to males more than females, manga does have a cetain novelty to it for the mainstream press because females are embracing something that is traditionally thought of as for men. Also the fact that Manga can get a market that american comics cannot touch shows the fact that manga is legitimate and is here to stay because try as they might, american comics cannot appeal to women. Something that Manga has done in only 3 short years.

As people grow around it the fanbase will gradually grow.

jenn again:
Do US manga distributers REALLY know what girls want to read? I don't want to see magical girls again, or another shoujo romantic comedy, or girls who are supposedly "strong female role models!" but have very little character or true struggle.

I've seen it mentioned in several articles that the targeted female audience are 16 years olds and younger tweens. That's another reason the "shoujo" manga bothers me. I'm not 16 anymore. What is there for me?

Lastly.. Jake Forbes of TP comes into the fray to defend manga-ish US comics:
This may have been true in the past, but it's very quickly changing as more and more girls(and other non-Japanese) grow up reading manga. Of TOKYOPOP's 6 announced original manga projects, half are by women and there are many more projects written and/or drawn by women in the works. In the 3'rd Rising Stars collection (due out this week or next!) 7 of the 10 entries are by female creators (up from 3 in vol. 1 and 5 in vol. 2). And most of these creatore are very young (as young as 15, and their work is GORGEOUS!). Three of the best-selling American manga to date--Death: At Death's Door, Shutterbox and Blue Monday-- are by women. The manga market is still in its infancy. While the past 2 years have been huge for the category, the 10 years before that manga was a tiny niche of the shrinking comics market. It wasn't even until 1996 that a shoujo manga series was even published in America (and there wasn't any selection until 2000). Imagine what the artwork from creators male and female will be like in 10 years when these new artists have had a diverse selection of manga readily available from the moment they started reading. If the submissions we've been seeing at TOKYOPOP are any indication, the future of American-created manga will definately be golden...AND gender-balanced.

I find it pretty interesting that the third Rising Stars collection will have 7 out of 10 female creators! I think that'd beat out most contendors in Johanna's Chick Check segment. :)

Monday, June 21, 2004

Comparisons of Diamond May #s to Past Data... 

Well, the numbers are up for May (though for some reason labeled as April). I've always been most interested in market share, so I decided to try to do some analysis of the numbers. Obvious, this is tricky since companies just have lighter months at times. Someone who is on the chart can just not be there the following month and then re-appear. To help combat that a bit, I did four different charts. The first is from April to May, the second is January to May, the third is last May to this May, and the last was a timeline on the manga companies (not counting Dark Horse). I've only compared dollar share and position on the chart, since that seems a bit better judge of success, IMO. For the percents changed, I put the cutoff for coloring at about half a percent.

April 2004 - May 2004 Comparisons
CompanyAprilMay% ChangePos. Change
Marvel38.50% 34.92%-3.580
Dark Horse6.72%5.99%-0.730
Devil's Due1.37%1.88%+0.51+3
Slave Labor0.48%0.36%-0.120
Aspen MTL
Random HouseN/A0.33%+0.33?+2 (new)

January 2004 - May 2004 Comparisons
CompanyJanuaryMay% ChangePos. Change
Dark Horse7.04%5.99%-1.05%0
Devil's Due1.39%1.88%+0.49%-2
Slave Labor0.51%0.36%-0.15%-1
Aspen MTL
Random HouseN/A0.33%+0.33%?+2?

May 2003 - May 2004 Comparisons
CompanyMay '03May '04% ChangePos. Change
Dark Horse4.94%5.99%+1.05%+1
Devil's DueN/A1.88%+1.88%?+14?
Slave Labor0.46%0.36%-0.10%-4
Aspen MTL
Random HouseN/A0.33%+0.33%?+2?

Manga Focus over time
May '032.04%1.40%N/AN/AN/A
January '041.63%1.73%0.53%N/AN/A
April 2.37%1.91%0.53%N/AN/A
May3.12%1.64%0.38%N/A0.33% (new)


What can we gather? Well, Random House has now officially appeared on the list. A good start, considering they only have four titles out so far. I'm pretty sure Tokyopop has the highest share it ever has had. If they can keep it up, it might really start to overtake Image. We'll have to see whether they drop back down next month or not. Most of the other companies seem to be on a downward arc right now. Viz is lower than it was in January, but last month was decent. Same with ADV. Will have to see whether it was just a light month for these or not. ComicsOne hasn't made it onto the list for two months now..

Image has really taken a hit since last year, but has been relatively stable over this year. The same goes for CrossGen. Actually, I was surprised that CrossGen has been holding on since January. With news of a content freeze and bankruptcy, I'm thinking it'll slide in the coming months, though.

Anyway, I hope someone finds this helpful. If people like this sort of thing, perhaps I could put the data into a database and generate some of these stats and comparisons automatically using PHP. Could also do some things like compare the average share of several companies over a given span of time, which would be really time-consuming to do by hand...

Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals... 

You know, I was reading Greg McElhatton's review of Perez's run on Wonder Woman, and I was struck by how interesting it sounded to me, which surprised me a bit. Then I realized what it is...

The dual fact that Perez was very involved in both the writing and drawing and that the story itself sounds very self-contained, in its own world. The concept of an ancient race of Amazonian women who've been apart from the world where one of them gets thrust into the modern world while fighting against other creatures and gods of Greek myth sounds really interesting.

I think that once this is proving that the shared world concept is something I have a hard time with in general. When I think of the times I really got involved with a lot of superhero stories, it was mostly in animation. I loved Batman: TAS, with the noirish Gotham city and villains unique to Batman. The same goes for the old Fleicher Superman cartoons where Superman was an anomoly, a powerful character (strong but not able to move planets) who fights thugs and the occational mad scientist. X-Men was fun with the mutant concept and themes of tolarance and militarism, the Xavier vs. Magneto dynamic...

In comics, I enjoyed the first volume of Ultimate Spider-man, with Peter and his friends and villians spawned out of his surroundings. I get the feeling I'd probably be less interested if tons of others from the MU started to show up...

Obviously, interesting things can come out of a shared world, but I think for a lot of series, I'd really rather they were just their own thing. IMO, it waters down the uniqueness of any one thing, and makes comparisons to our own world more difficult. I mean the concept in X-men of people around the world getting mutant powers over time is very interesting. There's enough to work for all kinds of things, without needing people bitten by radioactive spiders or cold-war supersoldiers or beings from other planets to be in the same universe...

Having a family go into space (the first ones) and be mutated by radiation, then go fight creatures on other worlds. That is pretty interesting...

A guy who gets super-speed from a lab experiment? There's many possibilities in that. The Flash tv series may not have been the most amazing show ever, but it is certainly something that can be taken in different directions...

It just seems to me that so many of these concepts are interesting in and of themselves, and it is too easy for someone to go grab another character from the world in order to cause some temporary excitement, instead of developing something along the lines that story has already established. I mean a lot of the series do manage to be relatively self-contained at times, but then why not go all the way with it? You can still re-invent the concept as time goes on (how many versions of Astro Boy have there been?). You could still have cross-overs in some alternate world...

I guess I just wonder what would have happened if all these great concepts from Marvel and DC had stayed in their own worlds and developed along their own lines. We might have had some real changes as time went on, and I think more interesting new series as each one couldn't rely on past series..

Just some thoughts...

Sunday, June 20, 2004

A productive weekend... 

Well, unfortunately it hasn't been productive in terms of blogging, but I got a lot of other stuff done...

Before the weekend:

Friday was the monthly Dog Bite meeting, where I got to do a lot of yoing and jitter-ring-ing, while unfortunately picking up about 8 mosquito bites when we went outside to escape the heat.. ;) Everyone loves the trick Boomerang on jitter rings. I must make a video of that to show off with.. :)

On my sites and CMSs:

Yesterday I did a lot of work on re-designing my skill toys site. The site is currently really bland looking, a bit confusing to navigate (though better than the last iteration), and just doesn't provide enough information and flexibility. For instance, you can't search or sort by different things. Each video entry doesn't list what codec is being used or the yo-yo. There's also just too much on one page in some cases. Also, the text guides are still using the old system and aren't integrated in correctly.

See, originally there was static pages. That was way too difficult to update as I added more videos and wanted to change the style of the pages. I ended up moving to Perl/CGI which read in flat text files. That helped, but it proved a bit of a nightmare to modify the design as time went on and I forgot how it all worked. Eventually I discovered Cocoon, which is a really interesting document publishing system.

I had recently learned more about XML and XSLT (a method of transforming an XML document into another kind of document). Cocoon sits on your web server and uses a series of metaphorical pipes that you connect together. For instance, if you go to access a certain html file, it might grab two xml files, combine them together, and then transform it into XHTML for the final output to the browser.

The big problem proved to be that it runs on Java and most of the hosting places out there (including the guy hosting all my yo-yo stuff) don't support Java servlets (using Tomcat or whichever). I was able to generate html files on my machine and upload them, but that was a pain and also prevented any kind of interactivity from happening (searching, sorting, etc). Even more troublesome is that I'd have to manually edit XML files to update the site. This wasn't so much of a problem in the past, but I'm more busy and scatterbrained lately, and I'm also more used to stuff like Blogger, where you can log in from anywhere and change stuff.

Now, I just found out that there is a CMS (content management system) built on Cocoon called Lenya, which is pretty nice judging from the online demo. A good interface, support for multiple language versions of pages, multiple users with workflow (one person approving another's content), keeping track of past versions of pages, etc.

Now, that runs into the trouble again of hosting Java... Like Cocoon, it can output static pages, but there's the lack of interactivity again. I think what I may do is try out Lenya for updating my woefully out-of-date personal pages (I'm not even going to link to those... heh). That would be a normal site without on-the-fly database stuff and a simple search box could be done with google or some php engine that can search normal html files. I could also use Coppermine for a gallery and WordPress for a blog. Would be good for experience...

Now, going back to the skill toys site, I started looking around again at CMS systems, this time concentrating on free LAMP (linux apache mysql php) solutions. What I am going for is way different from a portal community setup, so stuff like phpNuke was out right away. I looked at Typo3 and was impressed by how powerful it is. Still, it seems a bit backward in certain ways and very driven by one person. I may still go back to this eventually...

Currently, I'm thinking eZ Publish may be the way to go. There's one or two things I'm not into (charging for a WYSIWYG editor), but I shouldn't need that and the system itself looks very sound. I like how it is built with a lot of libraries you could use on your own, which makes the base of the CMF (framework), which is the base of the CMS. Talking with someone in the chatroom also made me hopeful...

But what is really selling me on it is this case study which is from a book on the system. I was really impressed by how much the web design company in it has their act together, the way they methodically figured out and implemented everything. It is a real inspiration, and no matter which system I end up using in the end, I'm going to try to follow their standard.

On that note, I got a bunch of blank pages and started to design. I can see it starting to come together, and just got a binder to hold everything. Then I'll try to make real html files for pages with the final design and graphics, filled out with some real examples. I'll probably post those online for various people to see and comment, and then finally implement into the CMS. If I can manage to do all that, I think it'll end up looking nice and be a breeze to update in the future...

Regardless of everything else, I may still try to get WordPress up and running on my domain and transfer my blogger and haloscan content over to it. I really like the features it has, and it'd be nice to get everything onto my own server where I could control it a bit better...

On video editing:

So, I've been wanting to make some fancy clip videos (lots of tricks to music) and instructional videos (slo-mo, onscreen text descriptions, etc). My DSC-P72 camera actually takes pretty decent video (640x480 mpeg1), so I now have source material as well. I used Premiere at school a long while ago, but in a fit of morality and curiosity, I decided to explore free options. So far, most were pretty disappointing. Zwei-Stein seemed potentially powerful, but an almost unusable interface. I couldn't get ABC Videoroll to really do anything. Jahshaka seems to have potential but is in a super-alpha stage and a very odd interface. Couldn't get it to do anything either. I still need to check out AvidFree DV, which looks like it'll work well, but be limited to normal quicktime output. Video Factory, might be good. I know it has a lot of features taken out in the free version, but it could be enough for what I need. iMovie is supposed to be good, but no Mac at home. I may fuss with it at work some time.

However, interestingly enough (and somewhat depressing actually), Microsoft Movie Maker 2 is pretty decent. Can import lots of formats, can do cuts and dissolves and titles and a sound track. Can easily split videos and do slo-mo and grab still frames. Obviously not as easy to work with as Premiere, but it works. The main downside is only saving as WMV, howevever you can save at a very high bitrate. Then you can convert to mpeg or avi using TMPGEnc (look at the batch menu for saving to avi), which works pretty well.

As an experiment, I took one trick that I recorded and combined it with slo-motion and text overlays to create this video (in Divx). Check it out if you want to see me yoing. :) As a morale boost, I mentioned it in the forum and was immediately asked if it could be posted on the Brazillian forum. Maybe I'm on the right track.. :)

On e-mail:

I finally finally got all my e-mail organized. I think I had 3 or 4 thousand in my mail program's inbox (built up over many months), with another 500 or so in the webmail. I chucked the spam and made a bunch more folders to organize stuff. Still needs a bit more work, but I'm glad I got through all of that. I really need to finish setting up SpamBayes. I'm kind of paranoid about filter programs, but I like its methodology (spam, not spam, and unsure, instead of just just spam/non). Still, it is kind of interesting when are down in the trenches looking at the various kinds of spam and how it evolves. Pegasus is pretty good about being safe to open e-mails, so I don't have to worry on that end.

I actually made a folder of some spam that I found funny or more odd than usual, and I'll see if I can post some of those. :)


The combination of really wonderful weather and getting stuff done was quite nice. I hope everyone else had a good weekend as well. :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Othello coming from Del Ray... 

Well, two new titles coming from Del Ray, both shoujo. While Wallflower sounds like it could be ok, I'm not really much for makover type stores. What interests me a lot more is Othello.

The story of a shy picked-on 16-year-old girl who finally snaps and gains an assertive split personality (whose actions she can't remember) is quite an interesting concept. It actually seems a bit of a subversion of the cliches of the "magical girl" genre. Instead of a little girl being able to be older and a singing sensation due to a magical mirror or something, we get a story with a lot more of an edge. There is still escapism involved (what person in that position wouldn't want to suddenly become their opposite?), but also potential for a lot of darker themes..

The involvement of a Visual Kei band (and her dressing up as one of the members) also will probably up the gothic factor quite a bit. For those that don't know, Kei bands are kind of like extreme versions of 80s hair bands in that the visual is very important, but the styles vary from gohic to others, frequently with major androgny going on, and music ranging from rock to punk to classical. A quick primer with some pics here.

Anyway, a review of Othello is here, and a page devoted to it here. I think this is one that I'll have to pick up for sure...

Manga not just for girls... 

You know, as someone into this stuff for some years now, a quote like this really blows my mind:

Manga does not appeal just to teen girls.

I mean, seriously, stop and think about that. How far have things really flip-flopped that a news article could have a quote like that? It doesn't say that manga isn't just giant robots and graphic violence and sex... it doesn't say that manga isn't just for kids. It says manga isn't just for teen girls. It is a mindblowing shift not just from normal comic perceptions, but anime/manga perceptions. Even anime tends to have some sensationalistic aspects left over from fandom of the past in writeups (like bringing up Akira or La Blue Girl), but manga has managed to really diversify before being exposed to the public, side-stepping a lot of those issues, putting it in a very good position.

I mean, all Tokyopop needs to say in an interview is "unlike the superheroes of western comics" and all kinds of assumptions automatically come to their aid. US comics really do have an uphill battle for publicity when it comes to terminology and "framing" of the issue...

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Fansubs, Scanslations, Translations, and YKK... 

So, besides the normal manga information going around lately, this article also tackles the touchy subject of manga scanslations. Interesting to see it brought up in a news article like this. The author skirts the hard facts too much: "While scanlators operate somewhat outside legal boundaries"... (there is no "somewhat" about it), it is interesting for instance to see that Tokyopop isn't denouncing it in public:

"Frankly, I find it kind of flattering, not threatening," says TokyoPop's Steve Kleckner. "To be honest, I believe that if the music industry had used downloading and file sharing properly, it would have increased their business, not eaten into it. And, hey, if you get 2,000 fans saying they want a book you've never heard of, well, you gotta go out and get it."

So, what's my stance on all of it? Well, first I will admit to having downloaded fansubs of anime (video with subtitles) as well as scanslations (images with translated text) in the past. I got into fansubs right before I got a DVD player, and the combination of that and the site AnimeOnDVD catapulted me straight into anime fandom. It was quite an experience being exposed to all kinds of different shows and basically just going for anything with a title that sounded interesting. It is amazing what a total lack of hype can do for objectively viewing a show. I remember I almost didn't grab any Card Captor Sakura since the title sounded like some Pokemon clone and then being blown away by the actual show. Being able to see old classics like Rose of Versaille and Legend of Galactic Heroes was very nice as well.

My thing is that it is certainly illegal and you're kidding yourself if you think otherwise. As far as personal morals go, I certainly respect Chris's (owner of AoDVD) phrase that "anime is not a right". I don't think it is my special right to see anime that hasn't been licensed yet. However, I do think it can be a positive thing in moderation. My method was mostly to not download an entire series, and to try not to watch the stuff too many times. That'd give me a preview, similar to borrowing from a friend (which I've also done), which would encourage me to buy the whole thing later on if I liked it. I'm not one of those strong souls that has the commitment to buy every title they watched, even if they didn't like it, but I don't feel too too bad on that count. I figure I will spend what I can afford and put it toward what shows I will actually enjoy...

Now, fansubs lately have been more troublesome in that a lot of people are really taking it as free content and their right to have, as well as groups continuing to release series even after they are licensed. I think that is going to lead to more crackdowns in the future, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since so much anime is automatically coming out these days anyway (especially with US companies starting to joint-fund series in Japan).

In that way, I think the scanslations have more in the way of a high ground, in that the sheer amount of titles in manga are so vast, as well as so many titles out there that are less commercially viable. Unfortunately, many groups concentrate on big name Weekly Jump titles that will surely be licensed anyway, but there are still some groups out there concentrating on more obscure and older fare.

However, I think it is important to emphasize that there is another alternative that is even better in a moral sense. Groups have released text "scripts" that translate only the dialogue in manga. In that way, you can buy the actual Japanese edition and refer to the translation. Obviously, that is kind of a pain, but you are supporting the creators and frequently you are getting a good deal, since manga is so much cheaper in Japan than it is in the US. I haven't gone the step of buying any Japanese titles as of yet, but I may give it a shot eventually.

In fact, the series that I almost did that with is Yokohama Kaidashi Kokou, of which you can read here if you should so desire. This is probably my favorite comic of all time (and the original OVA is wonderful as well), edging out Nausicaa. The only thing stopping me at the moment from getting the Japanese volumes is that it seems the climate has changed so much lately that this might actually get licensed. For instance, flipping through ARIA the other day, it seems to have a somewhat similar tone of calm daily life in a setting somewhat different from our own. Kino's Journey is an anime that sounds superficially similar as well. But YKK is also exactly the kind of series that wouldn't have had any attention in the past, and could use the exposure of a translation, IMO. Hopefully it'll become irrelevant pretty soon.

The fact is that one of the biggest reasons why I don't download anime and manga anymore is that I've bought so much official US releases that I have a backlog. Why should I go through the time and trouble of downloading big files of lesser quality when I haven't even finished watching/reading what I already own? :)

In finishing, as much as I hate encouraging someone to do an illegal act, Yokohama KK is seriously a magical series. The wistful melacholy, quiet contemplation, the beauty of nature and ruins of civilization... It just connects with me on so many levels. The story in which Alpha goes into the countryside to take some pictures (which was one of the stories also animated in the OVA) is one that I think will stick with me for the rest of my life, as it felt so much like some things I've experienced myself. This is one of those series you'll probably either love or be incredibly bored by. No big action sequences here...

5gb pocket drives... 

While the fact that 400gb SATA drives are coming out is pretty neat, the part I find most fascinating is the 2.5/5gb pocket drives that were also announced. As someone on /. mentioned, you could easily put a whole OS onto one of these and boot from it on different computers (many support booting from USB now). Things are really starting to get pretty crazy now. I wonder how expensive they'll be? Of course many people have been using iPods for portable storage lately, but it seems like these would have the potential to cost a lot less...

Firefox 0.9 

According to Slashdot, Firefox 0.9 is now officially out. It'll probably be a little bit before I upgrade, but the fact that a bunch of people on slashdot (which is notoriously critical) are saying that browsing is significantly faster than 0.8 on a modem is very encouraging to me! Performance has been making leaps and bounds as the versions have gone by, and it sounds like it is really getting there now...

POV-Ray turns 3.6 (Nostalgia alert!) 

Yikes, talk about a blast from the past! The classic raytracer engine POV-Ray (Persistance of Vision Raytracer) has a new version out.

This is a real piece of my own personal history. When I was really really little, Mom subscribed to this b&w newsletter that had various software you could have sent to you on diskette by mail. We got several games and other things through it, but one thing we'd never gotten around to was POV-Ray. Still, it was something that stuck with me.. an interesting 3D image and the promise of being able to make your own via its language.

Fast-forward some years later, to the days of BBSs and then the internet. I was finally able to download it for myself and jumped into the world of 3D. I had already done some programming, so the thought of using a programming language to create images was facinating. At the time, it was a difficult thing to work with, some of the more complex demo scenes taking many minutes for a single pixel to render at full-res.

I never got amazingly far with it, but I fiddled with it for a long time. You can check out my old raytracing page here, a time capsule from 1997. I'm still pretty proud of the Christmas scene and mechanical pencil model, which were created entirely in a text editor.

I was always the sort to want to try to help out, and I had seen a list of 3rd party utilities for the program that was very out of date. I took it upon myself to make my own list, which ironically enough is now is the same position as that older list I had seen. Man, it has been seven years now. How the time flies!

But POV-Ray itself is still alive, and of course you don't HAVE to use a text editor. Plenty of other programs can export to it... I'm glad to see that it is still plugging along..

As an aside, even if you have no interest in modelling yourself, go check out the Internet Raytracing Competition (IRTC). This amateur graphics competition has been going on for ages now. Many kinds of graphics programs are used, but there is a strong POV-Ray presence. Each round is a new topic, and while there are winners, it is mostly for fun and feedback. Submitters are encouraged to vote and leave comments for others, and many people include the source of their scenes. Some years back, they also started having an animation competition.

Good stuff, and in amazing coincidences territory, I just noticed that 2002 had a round with the topic of "Worlds Within Worlds"! What a small world it is...

[via Slashdot]

Monday, June 14, 2004

Now with non-Atom feeds through FeedBurner... 

Hey, I just found out about a pretty handy site called FeedBurner. Basically, it allows you to take a feed on your site and convert it to another format. As we know, Blogger only supports the Atom format, which is not as well supported as RSS. This site sets up a url for you which reads from your feed and converts it to another format on the fly!

If you look over to the right, you should see another feed listed under the Atom one. Now, there are different possible settings, but I decided to try the adaptive one. Basically, the feed will detect what your aggregator client is, and serve the content in a format it can handle. Technically, I shouldn't need to list the Atom feed anymore, but I don't know how reliable the site is yet (in terms of uptime, etc).

It also doesn't seem like an elaborate scam, since it doesn't insert ads into the feed, and even providing an e-mail address to them is optional. I think you can set up ad options for yourself that they can take a cut off of, though, which is probably how they might make money. They seem to also have various tracking stats you can do as well (don't know if there are gotchas for those features... I opted for the basics).

So, for those of you who have a client that doesn't support Atom, give the link a try and tell me if it seems to work ok.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

My NER Adventures 

Alright, time to try to write about my adventures today before I forget! Today was an amazing time all-around, and I'm so happy I was able to attend. NER is NorthEast Regionals for yoing, happening in Northampton while sponsered by A2Z.

First, a little personal background. So, I'd been waffling for a good while on whether to compete. After working on compulsories a while, it seemed like maybe I'd have a shot to freestyle as well. The website said you couldn't do binds for compulsories, so I lubed my my original Night Moves to make it more responsive. That made it good for suicides again, so I ended up deciding to use that for a freestyle.

The day before yesterday I started seriously trying to figure out freestyle music. I almost used a song by Brad Sucks (Look and Feel Years Younger), but I think I'll keep that for a future clip video. Instead, I ended up using Ghostchaser by Atari Teenage Riot. The crazy energy of ATR was helping me plow through things.. :)

Last night I burned a cd, plugged headphones into my dvd player, and made a bunch of flash cards with tricks I know. Luckily I have a website, so I could re-learn old tricks of mine.. ;) I spread those out on the floor and slowly put something together until about 1am last night. Seemed shakey but workable. Didn't fall asleep 'til like 2:30, and kind of woke up at 5, so not much sleep..heh

Also, at A2Z yesterday was Steve and Rick and Jim, which was a very pleasant surprise. I got to try the Freehand MG, which is very nice. Very little friction during grinds and smooth and stable. Don't tell Steve, but I actually dropped that $400 yo-yo on the ground once! ;) We also discovered that Steve has nearly withered away to nothing from too much travel (though he's sporting a new tatoo). Eat more Steve! All the kids were in a signing mood, so I actually ended up signing a couple. The great irony was that one was a Black Mamba, who I actually demoed for a looong time ago. ;)

Anyway, back to the day at hand. Got at the Arts Center in Northampton around 8am, and everyone was lined up in a little hallway inside waiting to get in the main room. I think there was some issue where the organizers were locked out for a while, so that had delayed the setup of sound systems and food and everything inside. You could tell right away that it was going to be a big competition from all those people crammed in that space!

Finally we got inside (along with getting a nifty orange/black Lyn Fury with NER caps), and it was a very nice area. I was worried about lighting, but not only was there big windows in the back, but big glass windows in the ceiling! There was plenty of light. It was almost like being outside at times. The weather was great also! All I can say is, it was a good thing they didn't have the competition at A2Z this year, because turnout was incredible! A little over a 100 people actually signed up to compete, and then there was the family members and general spectators. I got some pictures, so I'll try to get at least a couple up later. It was crazily packed!

Lots of really cool people were there. The club regulars (Nick, Brett, Andre, etc.), lots that I see at Dog Bites (La Weird One, Vargas, bazzwazzle, Brighto, etc..), some very infrequently seen (Dana, Higby, the judges, Ouch, etc.), and lots of new people. yoyo4food (Shane Karen) was there and is a very impressive off-string player, as well as having good style in general for freestyles. Frank Dif-e-yo was there and I got to try a mini yo-yo that he made that plays really really well. Peter is a great player and seems to have come completely out of nowhere. Meeting Justin Webber was very cool. He has foot skillz! I met a lot of great people whose names I don't remember (for instance one who most definitely was Not Japanese!.. maybe Nathan was his name??). Hopefully seeing the official results list will refresh my memory.

It was so packed that the ladder compuslories and 1A ones happened at the same time. A little crazy since we thought we had more time, but it was all good. Steve literally judged me while lying down on the job. :) He also aknowledges the evil that is Black Hops.. ;) I got 31 out of 50 in the compulsories, which was OK. I was right between Nick and Brett, which was fun. I think the highest person only got 41, so I think everyone was having trouble. The huge crowd probably didn't help the nerves any! Bazz was off by only a point or so from freestyles. That's always a pain, but I'm sure he'll get in next year...

There was a little scoreboard of local records for a couple of different tricks. I managed to do 88 reps of vertical punches (1-handed), so that was pretty cool. I considered trying to beat the 250 planet hops, but it'd just take soooo long to do it... I think Dana had two records at least (11? suicides and something else). I believe someone got over a 2 minute sleeper, which is good considering you had to actually return it to your hand..

A2Z had a big table set up with everything from yo-yos to juggling equipment to some gyro rings. The NEYY had some really nice t-shirts for sale (Got String? and some others). I probably should have bought one, but oh well. Tons of people were going around getting their t-shirts signed. Got to do like 5 of those, which was fun... There was also some people selling various kinds of popcorn.

There was also a Safe Zone area taped off that was more devoted to teaching people who were starting off, a very good idea. Lots of yoing and diabolo in there...

So, most of the time was just hanging out and having fun. Watching people and sharing some tricks. Did some juggling for a while and was doing not too bad at the 5 balls (10-20 throws sometimes). Seemed like I was the only one attempting that many, which was kind of an odd feeling! However, there was a good guy who was doing 4 balls and very nice form on Mill's Mess who turns out is at the UMass Juggling Club. I was one of the first people local yo-yo people to cross over to the club, but it has been so long since I've actually attended. I have to get back there! There was a little juggling conference when me, him, Devon (who can also do 4), and Weird One.

I did a bit of experimenting with the yo-yo/juggling stuff that I haven't tried in a while. Besides the normal looping in one hand (or hopping or punching) and two balls in the other hand, I managed a couple of reps of loops behind the back while juggling. Also, using one ball, you can circle the looping hand with the ball, which is neat... Speaking of looping, Higby's Speed Beetles were very nice. Now if only pads didn't wear out so fast...

One thing I've been trying to make an attempt to do lately is break out a jitter ring. It is really getting to me that barely anyone is using them anymore, so I think any kind of visibility helps. There was about 5 kids or so that ended up trying the rings a lot (coincidentally, three of them got trophies in the ladder!), so that was cool. I hope some people at least buy some Gyro Rings from Jack. I need to get one of those to judge the performance... I was doing well with boomerang, which everyone seems to love (goes up and down the arm) and I remembered some Eclipse tricks and finally remembered how to do Punching Bag. Weird One got a lot of footage, so I dunno if maybe it'll appear online some day...

Speaking of video, there was one guy with a real official-looking camera that did taping for a while. Not sure if he was from a news station or if he was hired out or what? There was a camcorder on a tripod and several people with smaller hand-held digi-cams. I'm guessing we'll see some freestyles online from at least one of these people eventually.

So, X division was the first set of freestyles. Lots of great stuff in there. Higby was memorable for a very funny routine using a radio as a prop, a unicycle and some fun tricks. He's a real performer. Dana is the freehand king, and Shane did well at offstring (like 7 yo-yos went flying, but still pulled off a lot of good stuff). Robb Kitts did the only AA freestyle of the competition. He wasn't happy, but it was well done. Lots of other good freestyles in X as well...

Lots of really skilled people in 1A. Eric nailed his freestyle and Alex did amazingly well considering he hadn't planned anything and didn't remember most of his own tricks at the beginning of the day..heh. Nick and Brett have come a loooong way and their freestyles were definitely better than mine. Going back further, but Nate's come a long way also. Too bad Jordan and Auger couldn't make it (or Eric Girardi for that matter!). Mark had the beatbox style going and Peter was pretty amazing. Andre of course had the thumb grinds and gyro flops amongst other tricks.

To gripe just a little bit, I know contests are extraordinarily hard to set up, but I hope some things can be a bit better finalized ahead of time next year. The website implied that you had to do the ladders to be state champ, when that was only if no one from that state was in 1A. It specifically said binds were not allowed in 1A compulsories, only to find today that they were in fact allowed. Site said you could enter any combo of divisions, but I was told yesterday you couldn't do both 1A and the sports ladders, but then today two people who won the ladders also were in 1A. Something like 15 freestyles versus 10 is no big deal and understandable based on time restraints of the day, but some of the other things above can really affect how someone has spent their months preparing for a contest...

On the good side of weirdness, Brett got a 3rd place trophy for 1A compulsories. None of us are sure how this happened as it seems numerically impossible based on what we thought people scored for compulsories, but they confirmed it on the computer.. I guess things will become more clear once official results are posted.

What about me? Well, I did get to freestyle, which was nice to know I was able to do. Got to use pretty unusual freestyle music (which Vargas appreciated..heh). The process of putting together a freestyle was also good in that it reminded me of the tricks I know. Still, the freestyle itself didn't go as planned. I knew from the start that there was pretty much no chance of placing in the top three, but I wanted to do something that was OK and highlight certain tricks I know. But things really were not cooperating. I missed a lot of tricks early on and then got a knot, having to switch yo-yos. That really threw me off and I was flailing around to try to fill time with some sort of tricks. I don't now.. a couple of people said I did ok, but to me it felt like I only managed to do like three combos in the whole freestyle successfully. However, I did manage a trick right at the beginning that Nick created the beginning for and me the end, and I also did Mr. Punch, which I hadn't even been planning to do! (NM was too responsive to risk it, but with the Speeder it didn't matter). So, I don't know if I got last place in the freestyles or what. I guess we'll see when full results come up..

If someone has a video of my freestyle, I'd really like to see it. Also, please let me see it first before putting it online. I'm not sure yet if I want anyone else to actually see this thing..heh

But anyway, this was a great day overall. Lots of great people and performances. Oh, and I can't forget Steve's freehand demo! This was the last performance of the day, and Steve just totally nailed it! This was pretty much a perfect freehand performance, and I really hope someone puts a video of it online soon. You've still got it Steve!

Other random tidbits? Brett named a trick after me! Woo! :) Dana and Rob totally convinced that the other had won the X division. The hilarity of Rob having to tighten the belt on his pants, anticipating being turned upside down on stage..heh. A very strange chocolate cup-cake with bubble-gum frosting? Several instances of wall panels almost falling over. Juggling at walls. Ouch failing at trying to pronouce people's names. I was seemingly the only one to actually give two copies of music to the music people. I think Nate was prepared though (thanks Nate!). My voice is now officially quite horse from having to speak at a decent volume.. ;)

Also, a big thing I've gotten out of this all has been inspiration. Seeing Nate using the Lyn for freehand made me realize that I have two lyns now and I should really practice free hand. There's so many cool tricks out there these days!

Also, I saw Rick doing AAA yesterday. After that, I watched the AAA video again with Alex and Paul and was doubly inspired. Now that I have more butterflies, I should really try especially some of the sidestyle AAA stuff. I also discovered I can do suicides right-handed when using a responsive Night Moves. I shall have to practice...

Hmmm.. I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff. I took pictures especially at the beginning. I'll have to see if I can post them eventually. Many thanks to Jack and Precilla for continuing to support yo-yos for all these years, and to everyone else involved in the competition. It was a great time, and I'm even more hyped up for Worlds now. :)

Franklin Skewers Identity Disc... 

From Franklin:

My own take: Identity Crisis No. 1 is cheap, manipulative and, at times, just plain stupid. Like, what is Firehawk doing taking part in a stakeout? She is on fire. The bad guys ought to be able to see her.

Go Franklin :)

Update: Whoops, forgot to change the subject line!

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Daisy Kutter 

Wow, anyone else catch CBR's look at Daisy Cutter? This looks like a real winner to me. First of all the artwork is gorgeous. It manages to be both expressive and cartoony (iconic), while not seeming silly or too derived from manga. The shading is really well done and everything is crystal clear. I surely wouldn't mind if some other people decided to copy this style. :)

The story (former criminal now runs general store, and gets sucked back into things) is nothing new, but looks like it'll be done well judging from the preview. Also, the combo of old west and technology seems to work, and I think his description of the odd culture storm of places like California probably apt. Cowboy Bebop manages some of that feel, which he refers to as well...

Lastly, from all the discussion of "all ages" really meaning "for kids" much too often, this looks like an entry solidly in the former. I think Kibuishi has a real winner on his hands. I hope it manages to do well enough to finish its run...

I may actually get the monthlies for these, which is saying something for me...

Friday, June 11, 2004

Waldenbooks adventure... 

Well, after work last night, Mom mentioned that the Waldenbooks in Eastfield Mall was having a sale and that the manga section was bigger than it used to be (the one in Holyoke/Ingleside Mall was usually bigger). I decided to go and look for myself, and ended up staying for a good amount of time.

Before actually getting to Waldenbooks, there was another shop I can't remember the name of (Last Minute Gifts or something like that?), which is like a better version of Spencer Gift. It had mind games, board games, puzzles, magic tricks, and lots of nostalgia. I'm really tempted to get some of the geeky shirts of classic cartoons that just have a stylized logo on them. There was a pretty nice Thundercats one among others.. I collect playing cards on and off and they had some fun ones of Scooby Do and G.I. Joe. They even had a servicable yo-yo section with some yomegas and duncans and a trick book and video. Pretty good compared to most stores that totally abandoned them afte the last boom...

Anyway, on to Waldenbooks. In the sale section was origami and caligraphy books I'd already bought in the past, but also just about all the Calvin & Hobbes books for $5-6 each. You may want to check out your local Waldens if you're in need of some of these. I didn't actually pick them up, but perhaps I will eventually. My best friend growing up was really into C&H and I was always curious about getting into them myself...

On to manga. I was really impressed by both the selection and how well stocked the titles themselves were. Almost every series in there had each book from #1 onward. It was on one wall with three cases side by side. Each one had 8 shelves of manga (foot level to above eye level!), for a total of 24 shelves. Each case actually had nine shelves, with the ninth at the very top having the American titles (really had to reach for these). Mostly Marvel hardcovers, Sandman, Hellboy, and misc. things (like a neat Transformers guide book). Interesting to note that the Nausicaa volumes were also up there (along with some artbooks like the Peach Girl one).

Across the way was two end-caps. One had gothy stuff and How to Draw Manga. In the goth was some fun books I can't remember the name of. These are nearly picture books (run spot run feel), but with a very subversive girl as the subject. Also a little book form Tim Burton and a bunch of Skelaton Key books. The other endcap was mostly plushies (Grunty!).

Sooo much stuff to chose from. Both box sets for the re-released Card Captor Sakura. All of GTO to date. All of Azumanga Daioh. All of Berserk. Battle Royale, Hellsing, Sgt. Frog, etc. A couple of US titles mixed in. As far as Marvel Age goes, there was one volume of Spidey, but unfortunately no Runaways or Sentinal..

A nice thing was seeing some new series I hadn't had a chance to check out yet. Aria involves a future Mars that has been terraformed but was done wrong and now is 90% water. One of the cities is much like Venice and the story involves a woman who becomes a gondolier. This seems very laid back and reminds me a bit of Yokohama Shopping Trip Log. I'll have to look into it more.

Suikoden III is I think based on an RPG game? It actually looks pretty interesting, though. Involves a young lady whose has been raised to be a knight, but whose father died years ago from war and now the same has happened to her mentor. Will she continue on a path of death or try to find a new way? Artwork was nice (nice lack of fanservice from what I could see), and I like the concept... I'll have to see if I can get more reviews on this..

Immortal Rain seems a story of re-incarnation and revenge, with the main character trying to kill an immortal being. Concept has the potential to be dull (hard to tell without reading at least the first volume), but I really loved the character designs and artwork. A bit of an older style almost a bit like some of Miyazaki's designs.

Speaking of interesting designs was Model. I like the concept, of a young artist who gets the ultimate model for her paintings in the form of the otherworldly beauty of a vampire. The expressions on the people seem a little weird from what I saw of it, but the designs and poses on some of the vampires especially I found pretty striking.

Duck Prince looks like it has the potential to be fun. This is shoujo and takes a common shoujo concept of body transformation, but in this case it is a guy who gets transformed into a super-attracting guy. Seems like there are strings attached to the transformation (I saw that he switches back and forth). Looks like it goes for a lot of laughs as well as drama. Still, I'm a bit hesitant as something like this could send the wrong messages if not done in quite the right way.

There was one that I can't remeber the name of involving androids that seemed a bit interesting. The artwork was a bit reminicent of Shirow actually, but like the GitS movie, there's lots and lots and lots of nudity in there. I dunno, could be a dud.. hard to tell for sure.

So, with money for just one thing, what to buy? I almost went for the first Azumanga Daioh or Aria. Angel Sanctuary I'll probably look into pretty soon. But I have a bad tendancy to keep buying more and more new #1s without continuing what I already have. I decided to try and put my foot down and continue something I'd already started.

I liked the first volume of Hellsing and the second was out. Ditto for Sgt. Frog. I could have grabbed one of the newer Kindaichi mysteries. The third volume of Please Save My Earth was out (but this is still there territory the anime covered, so not much need stuff for me in it yet). In the end I went for Berserk volume 2.

I have to say I did not regret it! Lots of action, some insight into Guts' state of mind, grotesque villians (if you thought the ones in volume one were icky), and some interesting characters, not to mention the Gehelit. And geeze, talk about a cliffhanger ending! (I got a 15% coupon whose use starts on the 24th. I think I'll use that on the 3rd volume if I can manage to wait that long..)

Certainly isn't a series that'd appeal to everyone, but it is working for me. I like the fact that Guts isn't just a typical anti-hero (let me brood and be a jerk so I can look cool). Instead, he comes off to me more like a real tortured individual who went through some major trauma to get how he is now. Seeming like he doesn't care about people isn't just some act. He has to delude himself into this state just to stay (relatively) sane. I look forward to the future volumes (that I hear take place mostly in the past) to see his origins.

I'm also really curious just to see things pan out in the curent timeline. Already, this bad guy is way tougher than the last one, and I'm not sure he's going to be able to pull off a victory on his own in the same way that the first one panned out. I have some suspicions on how things might resolve themselves in this case, but even that could end up in very different results...

Thursday, June 10, 2004

M@AoD reaches 100 manga reviews... 

I hadn't blogged about this originally because they wanted it under wraps until it was ready, but lately they've been linking to manga reviews on the homepage, so I'm guessing the word is out. Animeondvd.com has always been a good resource for information on anime in general and dvds specifically, through both their reviews and forums.

A while back they created a manga forum, which proved popular enough to get split into a General and Recommendation forums. The next logical step was to make a site specifically about manga. That site is here.

Now, obviously it isn't totally finished yet. News isn't being posted to that page yet, the studio directory isn't finished (not all companies list the upcoming volumes), and things like the manga forums and license list have been previously availible.

The big thing is the reviews, which are located here. There are several reviewers, and most of the reviews try to cover specific things (packaging, artwork, sfx, translation, proofreading) in addition to the story itself, as well as pricing, isbn, pages, release date, ltr or rtl flow, etc.

It is still filling up with reviews, but I saw that a recent one (for Maison Ikkoku #5) has a database number of 102, so there is a fair amount in there already.

So, I'd say it is something to check out. AoDVD has been going strong for some time now, so this isn't something that'll just stop being updated in a couple of months. It is already a helpful resource and should only become more so as time goes on...

Fanta meets One Piece news... 

Haha! Aparantly Fanta's website lets you take some news stories in other languages and put your own subtitles on them. Very funny stuff. Thanks Freddo!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

More on the Linkin Park fumetti... 

Jonah Weiland at CBR has the most info. to date on the upcoming fumetti for LP's new animated music video. It seems like not only will there be the comic portion, but lyrics and some other material that is exclusive to the volume.

Seriously, no matter what you think of the band, Tokyopop just has to make a killing off of this. This is the band where pretty much every song on their album is being made into videos due to popularity (I saw an article where one of the band members was complaining that fans and radio were starting to latch onto another single already but not EVERY song could become a video..heh). Tokyopop might be more exposure from this than the TV commercials...

Elsevier lets scholars post their work outside of journals... 

This is pretty interesting news. Aparantly Elsevier is one of the big publishers of scholarly journals, and have recently stated that they'll alow authors to post a version of their findings on their own website and that of the institution involved.

Lately there's been some controversy in that with journals being so expensive (and only getting more so over time) that many libraries and others are having trouble affording them, causing a restriction to people being able to access the information.

In response, there have been initiatives like the Public Library of Science which aim to create quality journals while not charging for access or redistribution.

Elsevier seems like they are trying to head this sort of thing off by making their own system seem a bit more open. Of course it isn't totally open and finding the info could be tricky, but I'd hope that someone would make a resource which links to all the individual authors' and institutions' documents.

Still.... I'm not expert on how the system of review works in science circles, but it seems a shame that the current methods seem so restrictive. I know the journals provide and important resource by weeking out bad findings, but some of them are just so expensive (when Lessig was on TV a while back, I think he said some can be as much as 10k a year to subscribe to). Plus, if certain research is funded with tax dollars, I think the public should be able to view at least those findings in an easy way..

[via Copyfight]

Stradivarius cello almost becomes a CD rack... 

Hah... luckily this is a story that we can laugh about, due to the happy ending. :)

One Piece is now 4Kids... 

Yikes, anime fandom is in a huge uproar. The One Piece anime finally got licensed, but the company that did so is 4Kids! With all of the violence in this series, it seems unlikely that the show will get on something like Fox Box without some very severe edits going on, as well as possible name changes (though most of OP's names aren't too Japanese).

Now, there have been some bright spots lately. Funimation usually makes the DVD for 4Kids, and recently 4Kids gave them permission to release uncut DVDs of Yu-Gi-Oh and Shaman Kids. Unfortunately, things like name changes will still be present in the dub, but the subtitles should be accurate. Not a perfect situation, but a lot of people thought 4Kids wouldn't allow this to happen. It also seems like Tokyo Mew Mew won't be renamed to Hollywood Mew Mew after all.

Now, two people from Funimation posted on the thread saying this was the first time they heard about the aquisition either, which is making a lot of people nervous. However, I'm not so sure that has any bearing on whether they'll do a release, since Funimation is usually involved to some degree with all of 4Kid's DVD releases. Hopefully they will be filled in as time goes on...

The great irony here is that Funimation used to be a reviled company with a lot of issues. Lately, they've done a lot better with their releases (like YuYu Hakusho and Blue Gender) and people are hoping that Funimation can "save One Piece". How times change!

In any case, it will still be a shame if One Piece is stuck on something like Fox Box instead of Toonami or even Adult Swim. I'm really enjoying the manga, and it'd be cool to see the anime on TV relatively unedited. It seems like that is not to be...

Viz might launch its own anime channel? 

Well, it looks like Viz is doing research into maybe launching their own anime network. If you think you have the skills to be a Sales and Marketing Assistant, check out the job opening.

[via treatment on AoDVD]

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