06 November 2010

Postscript to Rifftrax, Youmacon, and anime reviews:

Quite a bit of stuff to get through here tonight:

A bit of unfinished business with the Rifftrax on the previous Thursday: It seems that Mike, Kevin, and Bill are a bit bummed out from not composing music for Mike and the 'Bots to sing on MST3k, so they branched off to form the Rifftones. Their music isn't bad, it's roughly what you'd expect coming from MST3k... it typically consists of a joke looked at from all angles. Mostly it hits, sometimes it misses. With that said, prior to the Rifftrax they showed a "slide show" of sorts which was supposed to parody the slide shows that precede movies. The slide show was funny, though it looped three times (we were about forty-five minutes early to the show). But they did play Rifftones music, and the best one of the group was about sparkly vampires. It also happened to be the one that they started with and cut into.

Now, I wouldn't normally mention this except for the fact that we were there so early... when we walked it, it seemed as if they were playing a Gloria Estefan concert. To be truthful, I had no idea who it was, just that they were playing some sort of Hispanic/Tejano/Cuban type thing, but they went into one of those old songs that I don't remember except for the fact that I remember Gloria Estefan singing it. I do not know if this was Mike's idea of a Rickroll prior to the show or if they just did it at our local theater to be funny, though there were a couple of people who walked in and then walked out during the concert. Oh well, they missed a good show if they didn't come back.

Next, Youmacon. Conventions have changed in the time since I used to go to them in the early 2000's. Firstly, it seems that there are far more people willing to dress up for them. Next, there's such a WIDE range of anime out there anymore that there's a ton of different characters that people can dress as. When both are added together, people-watching has become such an amazing event, far more interesting than it was ten years ago. I spent large amounts of time at Chicago watching people, and almost could have saved the money and just sat outside the convention. (Considering the monkey wrench, which was the dual proms and the poor traumatized highschoolers, that would have been worth it absolutely.)

However, I am also very impressed by the AMVs that have been created lately. I enjoyed them back in the day, though there wasn't quite so much going on with them; they were all hard cuts and trying to match up scenes with lyrics. Now, especially with the on-beat tics, or the lip-synch, the snazzy edits, and everything else it's pretty amazing. Combine that with the energy in the AMV competitions and it's doubly amazing. I know that all conventions aren't like Anime Central or Youmacon, but that's the positive part. I may be hitting a couple of smaller ones in the area, KitsuneKon in Appleton and/or Anime Milwaukee, and I will be more interested in the viewing rooms, or the dealers, or a few other things... there's just so much going on, and there's so much energy at these things now. A convention is almost like a hit of adrenaline sustained for however long you're at the convention, and it is absolutely enjoyable to be plugged into such a scene.

Overall, I enjoyed ACen a bit more than Youmacon, but the main reason was that while ACen was at about four different hotels and a convention center, Youmacon was at one building-- the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. The facility is beautiful, but it couldn't handle all those people. The aisleways were cramped and it was difficult to get from place to place because of all the chokepoints (escalators and small walkways primarily). I'd still go to Detroit again in a heartbeat, and I am pretty certain that I will next year.

Whew, I'm still not finished with everything! Next, three series on which I want to write opinions.

The series I finished out of the three was Highschool Of the Dead. It's an anime that details what happens to-- you guessed it, high school students-- when a zombie outbreak happens. Recent media (Jonathon Coulton songs, Zombieland) have played zombies as humor rather than horror, but this anime plays the plot device pretty straight. It delves a bit into how people would change given a completely new world with which they may have to inhabit. It's fourteen self-contained episodes, and the ending isn't too bad considering what they have to do. I enjoyed that they played it serious, though they only did so for about three nights total. I'd be interested to see what happens six months, one year, three years in the future to everyone... the infrastructure, how to survive, what skills you'd have to learn, etc... but I realize that it is just an anime series. Of course, there's a pretty large roadblock here, and that's the level of fanservice. It's pretty high. If I'd have to guess a rating for this, it'd be R-rated, though that would be for the gore. As for the service... if you'd ever stepped into the shower and realized that you'd left something on the counter, so you stretch out as far as you can while still keeping one foot in the shower... the shower is the PG-13 guidelines, and the show stretches them as far as it dares. The point of all of this? That you would likely expect the gore, considering the fact that they're playing the plot device pretty straight, but that you wouldn't quite expect the level of fanservice.

The second show I've got at least a few comments on is Axis Powers Hetalia. I'd seen this show in the AMV circuit a few times, and it looked interesting. I finally had a chance to check out a few episodes though, and I definitely enjoy the show. It's got the zaniness of most anime, but now there's a bit of historical aspect to the show that's interesting. While it's a bit bad to see things brought to a broad stereotype, sometimes it's an honest assessment as well and helps to hold a mirror to things going on. I know that it's a fairly lazy allegory in that it doesn't require a whole lot of "thinking" in order to draw the comparisons, but on the other hand it's refreshing to not have to figure out what the creator's trying to infer from his drawings. There's still a ton of humor and I'd certainly recommend it, especially to someone who may like history.

Lastly, I attempted to watch Gundam 00. Attempted is the most important word here. I dropped it while watching Highschool of the Dead, because I was unable to really absorb myself into the series. I think it was because there was absolutely no narrative arc as of now, it's really pretentious and preachy currently because it seems that they've chosen their protagonists to be mouthpieces rather than fallible characters. The protags have a lofty goal, but through the first four episodes they're also undefeated and undefeatable. Worse yet, while the series is set "in the future", it's a very simplistic future that somehow has fewer of the issues that people deal with in the early 21st century. I may try to pick it back up after watching more of Hetalia, but I'm not too sure at this point.

So! That's it for now. I hope that the previous novella has made up at least slightly for the lack of updating through the last four weeks or so. Writing is still progressing, and hopefully we'll be hitting the editing phase shortly of the most recent project.

05 November 2010

A Few Reviews....

Hey everyone,

I was just surfing the net today, bored, and figured it would be a good a time as any to post a couple of mini reviews of games I've been playing of late.

Fallout: New Vegas -- I rented the XBOX 360 version of the game and was honestly shocked by how buggy it was. Fallout 3 had its problems but it very rarely crashed or stuttered in its framerate for me. Still, the story showed promise so I continued on until I reached a point where I guess I did something the game didn't expect and it flatly refused to let me finish a mission and froze.

I took the game back to Rogers for a store credit and was convinced by one of the guys there to try another copy of the game with the 7 day rental limit renewed and if the game still crashed for me, I could still get a store credit when I returned it. So I gave the game another try, it still crashed in that spot and so I decided to restore an earlier save and try a different path. To my surprise, when I actually reached New Vegas, the game actually starting being fun for me (occasional game freeze and frame rate stutter forcing a reset aside...)

The main story was a definite improvement over Fallout 3, you don't need to fight your way through bleak endless subway tunnels over and over this time just to get to your next destination, and thankfully the epilogues that were inexcusably missing from Fallout 3 are back, so you can once again see the consequences of your actions with the various factions and locations you encounter in the game.

The music, at least the default music that came with the game, was pretty lousy and I was pretty much keeping the radio off after the third rendition of 'Johnny Guitar' and 'Texas Red' or whatever the fuck that song was called. (I never thought I'd be pining for 'Butcher Pete'...) I understand getting Elvis songs would've been too expensive but I'd rather have had more 1940s/1950s era pop songs and such.

Anyway, the XBOX 360 version of the game was still a bug riddled mess and I can't recommend it in good conscience. I know they'll come out with patches eventually but I don't use internet on my 360 and even if I did, it still doesn't make me want to buy the game anytime soon. Most likely, now that I (hopefully) have a computer powerful enough to run the game, I'll wait for the PC version to drop in price, all the patches to be released, along with a bunch of cool mods, and buy it later. I'd recommend to anyone interested in this game to do the same.

Star Wars: The Forced Unleashed II -- Ugh. The first game had an interesting story with frustrating controls and a retarded camera. This sequel has a story that was rushed, dumbed down and thoroughly mediocre compared to the first with somewhat better controls and camera but far less epic in scope. I breezed through this game in about six hours or so, and had no interest in replaying on a harder setting or as Guybrush Threepwood, though I can imagine how that final battle would go:

Guybrush: You fight like a dairy farm... URK!!

Darth Vader: How appropriate. You choke like a cow.

Guybrush: *thump*

Darth Vader: All too easy.

Seriously though, this game reminded me a lot of God of War III and that's NOT a compliment. The graphics look pretty, yes, but unlike the first game which had all sorts of interesting enemies and characters, this one pretty much has you fighting the same five or six enemies throughout the entire game. Force powers are fun to use but it gets old after a while and targeting was still annoying at times.

As for the story, without spoiling anything, it seemed to have a point in the beginning but little to nothing was done with it till the very end and that only served to set up another sequel. The few characters that were brought in from the previous game were one-dimensional shells of their former selves. Rahm Kota was just another commander yelling orders in your ear, Vader was a generic video game villain and Juno had about maybe one or two lines tops and about forty seconds of screen time despite being the central motivation for the main character who clutches his head now and then every time he experiences a flashback to the previous game.

So yeah, I'll still enjoy the cutscenes of the first game from time to time but otherwise, I'm done with this series. I'll see if the upcoming 'Old Republic' is a worthy successor to KOTOR *1* or just another overstuffed MMO.

That's it for now, I have to go out shopping and do errands.

28 October 2010

Rifftrax Live Review - House on Haunted Hill

Hey again!

It's been four weeks again, and there hasn't been a whole lot to report. Real life has been taking turns patting me on the head and kicking me in the balls, thankfully more of the first than the second, but I'll be glad when everything calms down somewhat.

I don't have the blog to complain though, I have it to provide my thoughts on a variety of matters, and tonight's post is about the Rifftrax Live show that my wife and I attended tonight. Tonight's offering was "The House on Haunted Hill", the 1959 version starring Vincent Price and a cast of also-rans from the B-movie stables. The film was riffed rather well, and I found myself laughing in quite a few spots. If I were to grade the film, I'd say that the first half-hour was a low A and the second half-hour a B or so... they slowed down a bit as the movie went on, and the ending was a bit jarring if only because it didn't seem as if the movie was over.

The Rifftrax guys also came up with two shorts to round the total to two hours, though. The first one was a weird little endeavor called "Magical Disappearing Money", which was very in-your-face in a variety of ways. It was aggressively 70's-ish. Additionally, there was a strange lady, the "grocery witch", who would tsk-tsk all the shoppers' choices for food. One poor kid had to make do with yucky corn flakes instead of his favorite cereal, a poor guy with Ambrose Burnside muttonchops couldn't buy his breaded zucchini on sale, and EVERYONE needs to know how healthy and cheap powdered milk is for them!

A second short was aired, this time a study of paper called "Paper for All". In it, a paper bag is happy that a sick kid spares his life, and so he tells us everything we never wanted to know about paper from "the great Southern [U.S.] forests". The most majorly jarring imagery here was the cartoon face that they drew on the paper bag, the trees, the logs, and everything else... it really almost felt more like a descent into madness than an informational short about paper. The first short was terrific, the second short was good.

The theater itself was nowhere near full, though; there were possibly ten to fifteen paying customers in our theater including ourselves. However, I would not be surprised if there were possibly ten to fifteen other customers in the whole rest of the theater, the parking lot was amazingly empty even if this was a Thursday night. As it was a rather small town that we were able to catch this in, I think that the live Rifftrax movie performed pretty decently.

As a live offering, it has many of the same benefits as the recent live Cinematic Titanic shows, you could hear a crowd reaction and it helped to make me laugh a bit more. The downside was that there were times that they wanted to put the riffers on screen and then times that they didn't show the riffers, which was a bit distracting. Cinematic Titanic keeps all the riffers on screen for the whole movie... I don't have a preference either way, but I would rather that they stick with one method and use it.

After seeing this, I would probably be interested to watch another Rifftrax Live offering, even if I may be going by myself. Considering the movies that they would have to be able to get though, public domain movies, I already know that there is little chance that it will be a recent one; so, if one likes older movies and Rifftrax, this would probably be a good time.

01 October 2010

Now, four weeks have passed...

Well, I now know what this blog will be like without my incessant complaining; silent. I don't know if this is an improvement or not, to be honest. I am absolutely thrilled that I really am far happier where I am compared to where I was. There have been bumps in our road, essentially all the transitioning costs plus the disposition of the house that we left behind in Michigan... but to be honest, these are not major issues that require a lot of emotion, they are just things to deal with and move on.

I am still trying to get schedules down though, and Meg and I are extremely close to finishing our first draft of the latest MSTing. I am still looking forward to watching more anime, attending Youmacon in Detroit during Halloween weekend, and posting when I have something good to say. Now, hopefully, the posts will be far more on-topic than before.

Cheers!

07 September 2010

First day:

It's been a couple weeks since the last post. There's been a ton of real-life stuff going on, as I'm sure that most people can imagine. As it is, I'm drafting this post from "work" (I'm in orientation, and since they finished it so quickly, I'm chilling my heels before the final step.)

So far, there's a ton of boxes that still need unpacking, and probably won't be unpacked because we have a bit less space than we did before. While we have two floors now, there's not quite as much room in the whole house due to the fact that we had a complete basement to work with. This time, we have a fraction of the space because the house's owner has blocked out space in the basement, and our old house had more basement space.

That's just as well, there was no way that I wanted to unpack a whole lot of boxes, I'm currently renting compared to purchasing a house for the next year. This will give us the time to put our finances in shape, get rid of our other house, and allow us to be able to save for a decent down payment. Even if it takes eighteen months to finish the deal, so to speak, it's definitely worth getting a nice place that we can put down a few roots at.

I hope that this will be one of the last places I will be working at, though even if it is not I still hope that this will be more than a five-year hitch. It'd give me the time to finish my Econ studies and go forward from there.

So, pretty soon, I will hopefully be able to get stable and have some time to do some more writing. I will be continuing with Megane 6.7 on the process of writing our latest MSTing, and there's still three series that I need to check out. I'm on a FAAAAST connection, and I will be trying to get a few storage drives to take advantage of the fact, so there will be some anime to watch. I will definitely be in (my old) town for Youmacon, during Halloween weekend, and the kids will be able to visit their grandparents at the same time.

I'm eager to get this page of my life in motion, to be able to enjoy life with my wife and family more, and hopefully this will afford me the stability that will give me time to write more too.

16 August 2010

Review: My HiME

I finished watching My HiME a couple days following the announcement posted on the 6th of August. However, things have been extremely busy for my family as well as me, and posting a review seemed to be an indulgence rather than a necessity. I felt that now would be a good time to post a few thoughts about this series, especially since that will allow my mind a good change of pace from all the logistics of the new position. Warning, spoilers will be posted below.

My HiME is, on its face, a bog-standard magical girl anime. There's actually quite a few magical girls hanging about in this series as well, twelve to be specific. It would seem that there are too many of them, and the show tends to agree. A couple of the magical girls serve as early cannon fodder rather than actual characters, which is not a shock. The show is actually a bit like a ripple from a stone... there's one main protagonist, two fairly up-front supporting characters, and a set of about four surrounding supporting characters that jump-start the final portion of the plot. It's a reasonable way to give us a good set of sympathetic characters and the characterization corresponds to the amount of time that the character needs on screen.

The characters are a bit pedestrian and nothing to really write one thousand words about. However, the plot and the series pacing were rather thrilling, I felt. There are the usual eight to ten episodes that set up the premise and put the pieces in place, and then an arc of about two or three episodes around the midpoint where the crew deals with what was in essence a mid-level boss. However, it did not feel like a mid-level boss on the first watching... it felt almost as if it was the final boss. I enjoyed that the show was able to build up the midpoint climax so well and that there really was a palpable sense of "now what?" that you don't usually see with other shows.

Of course, building up to the second climax necessitated a completely different style, and it was accomplished with what I thought was a rather gutsy move. The viewer was treated to a few views of the final baddies, including the reveal of one of the starting character's motivations... but the story almost divorced them from the first couple ramp-up episodes. They really didn't do a whole lot of active motion, they just sat back. The reason that the show did it, I thought, was to build a sense of suspense, for the viewer to wonder just what would happen from that point. Of course, some viewers may feel cheated from this type of plot decision, but I feel that it really allowed the show to breathe, it allowed the characterization to come forward while still ratcheting up the stakes. This form of plot did not last for an overlong time, it was deployed in a way to not be obtrusive or annoying and did not last long enough for this viewer to wonder whether or not these fellows really were doing anything.

One of the setting elements towards the end of the series was rain. This was a good context as well as a nice way to compare the plot. One knows that rain is coming when the clouds start to gather, thicken, darken, and the wind kicks up. In many storms, there is that quiet period where it seems that sounds are muted just a bit. When I've witnessed a few of those times, I always wonder exactly how a storm will come about, what destruction it may generate, and try to figure out a spot to ride it out...

...well, this is almost exactly how the second half of the show felt. There was that calm spot before all heck broke loose, and all heck really did break loose. To put it into plot and story context, and without trying to be TOO spoilerish about it, the story raised the stakes in ways that I completely did not see coming. Destruction absolutely abounded in the final couple episodes. I really sympathized with the characters as I thought about issues with the plot; the plot set up very unfair scenarios for some of the characters, and you could emotionally feel as drained as the characters were if you thought about these situations and the rules of the universe that the plot set up. I was extremely happy with the way that the stakes were raised and I think that it completely helped the plot.

About the only other spot that I could point to as not being thrilled with was the way the climax resolved and the epilogue. I almost wished that they kept some of the aspects of destruction, just to see how some of the main characters would react and to really get a good idea of their growth and future path. Considering the paths the plot took, it was almost as if a lightning strike set off a forest fire. I was truly hoping to see a few saplings in among all the ashes of trees. Alas, the climax and the epilogue pretty much took the status quo and completely gave it the rose-colored glasses routine that is fairly common in the genre. The epilogue reminded you fully that you were watching a magical girl anime, emphasis on the "magical" part. I almost could not believe that the same people who wrote the stakes so high and made such interesting decisions in the run-up to the climax wrote the epilogue. To put it into context though, this was nowhere near as terrible as the climax to season one of Code Geass

Overall, I'm definitely happy with the series and enjoyed watching it. I would give it a very solid nine out of ten, and could certainly be talked into an extra half-point sometime down the road. For those who like the magical girl genre and wanted to see a bit more grown-up take on the plot and story arc, I heartily recommend this show.

I've got both Mai Otome as well as Gundam 00 seasons one and two to see, but it seems that the summer of anime will be drawing to a close shortly. I can now count the number of days I will be working on both hands, which means that I can also count the number of remaining bus rides... and time will not be as available as before. More news to come, and posts whenever I can find time to write an update.

06 August 2010

Yes!!

I received an offer letter today. I'm not sure that I could have received a better offer letter even if I stayed in the market another six months. As it is, I am very impressed with the company and the culture, especially compared to BigConglomCoInc's dysfunction.

Of course, this will bring about its own set of new problems, challenges, and pitfalls. This position's most major upside is that I will not have the crushing money issues that I've dealt with... pretty much my entire post-graduated adult life. This is the place that I can stay for a few years and finally rid myself of the debt of being unemployed for all of six months way back in 2003.

I'm not sure if I'd covered this topic before, but due to this time of being unemployed my family lived on credit cards rather than an income. One of the many credit cards we've had through that time has a high balance on it, though it's only between 5k - 10k. Now that federal law tells credit card companies to publish the amount of time it takes to pay off a credit card, we have been informed by this ONE company (we deal with about three or four total, multiple cards) that if we pay the minimum, we will have repaid our debt five times over with the interest charges and it will take us until age 60 to do so. This is *multiple* decades, for those of you who think I'm already archaic. And this is the story with more than a couple other credit cards that we've had to deploy in order to make up the difference between poverty and semi-poverty.

Well, I can do without that kind of crap, and I will finally have the path with which I can take in order to do without that kind of crap. There are challenges, but the ability to move from my area of the country with highly depressed wages, getting away from BigConglomCoInc's idiocy and backwards business methods, AND getting more money... is a win-win-win in my book.

So... you'll still probably get status updates from me about the transition, but you don't have to endure too many more whiny posts from me. To bring this post back to some semblance of being on-topic, I am five episodes away from completing My HiME and I have been pretty happy with the plot and developments leading to the final battle. I must admit that the show has taken a turn or three that I did not see coming, and I love when shows do that. I'd far rather be kept on my feet than fed clich├ęs, even if the plot twists could have been handled better. Queued up following this is Mai Otome. Hopefully, I will remain as excited to go through to the sequel as I am to finish the first series.

03 August 2010

One down, one to go:

Another quick post, because this current swing is not through yet. I have felt as if I was in some sort of weird movie through the last two days, though. I hope that there will be some calmness as I finish the last few steps and head back home. Even if there is nothing of note to report following my post today, there's more than I can put down within the next fifteen minutes prior to my next appointment. Suffice it to say that the cancelled flight was very unhelpful. I still have to deal with the airline provider later tonight, so I won't be blabbing until after everything's said and done... there's still time for rectification, or a full-out double-barreled frontal assault.

In the next couple days, there will be time for either one extremely long post or a couple of broken-up posts about this extended weekend. Unfortunately, there is not much in the way of a content update except that Megane 6.7 and I are moving ever closer to finishing the first draft of the latest MSTing, and we may also have a target for the next MSTing already. For those people who remember the past few reviews I put up, we found a story that has a newer series as its focus. We're still kind of looking it through, but hopefully if we think that it has good potential we'll be able to gain permission for the story. It's not a very long story, so there's a distinct chance that we will have a fairly decent turnaround through the next few months. (No promises though.)

It's heating back up out there again, so stay frosty!

01 August 2010

Going abroad:

Not a long post tonight, it's already 10:30 and I need to be up by about 5:30 in order to get ready for interviews starting tomorrow. Already, there's been a few bumps in the road, the most major one is the rental car for tomorrow. Hopefully I can get that rectified following the interviews.

Of course, I get to the room and check the TV out while I'm ironing my shirt. I kid you not, on channel 7(WMLW) is a showing of Roadhouse. I wonder if that's some sort of sign.

More to come tomorrow.

29 July 2010

So, it's almost Friday and I'm still at home.

I'm not sure anyone's ever been happy about a cancelled flight before, but I think that my cancelled flight and my missed interview on Friday could have been one of the best things that could have happened. I will explain.

Originally, I had a schedule of flying to Wisconsin on Thursday, attending an interview on Friday, flying back Friday, staying at home Saturday, flying to Wisconsin on Sunday, interviewing on Monday, and flying back on Monday. Whew, that's a ton. But, tonight's flight was cancelled. Not delayed, cancelled.

At first, I was bummed out. Missed interviews are never a good thing. On the other hand, I started to really analyze the situation. Firstly, it is absolutely not my fault that I can't get to Wisconsin, it's absolutely Delta's fault and I certainly hope that the possible employer won't hold it against me. Next, I will be in Wisconsin for the other interview on Monday, and only an hour away or so. So, I can make an offer to the first interview and tell them that I'll make my own way to Wisconsin as long as they can arrange a single flight back. That shows the employer that I'm not only flexible, but able to help them out when things go bad.

Better yet, I get Friday as an off-day to have fun with my family. This was not in the cards before, but now it is. There was a bit of a question about whether or not I'd even be going on Monday, but everything was set up almost at the last minute today.

The only fly in the ointment is that the first employer needs to be able to make time for me Monday afternoon. There could still be ways that this plan may not work, but it seems that there is a lot of upside possibilities with what happened tonight.

So, to sum up... I may be getting a free day tomorrow, maybe impressing a possible employer with my ability to work with them and make plans on the fly, and still attending the other interview too. If only all cancelled flights could lead to so many positives. More news in a couple days.

28 July 2010

The waiting game

I almost wrote this blog post two days ago. It will likely be word-for-word as what I had planned back then, too. It's due to the fact that there's absolutely no updates throughout the beginning of this week. All *four* of the companies I am waiting on have pretty much kept me cooling my heels. One of them was justified, which is the interview I will be conducting at the end of this week. However, I feel as if I should have received information back on the other three. I'll repost the scoreboard to keep confusion at bay:

First place: Company with third interview, no change from mid-last week due to the fact that the next meeting is planned.

Second place: Company with first interview, they called last week and had stated that they would set up a face-to-face with me the following week but have not provided an itinerary or a confirmation as of yet.

Third place: Company with second interview, it's now been eight business days--a full week and a half--since my last contact with them.

Fourth place: Company with first interview given in the second half of last week, was told that I would be contacted at the beginning of this week.

Last place: You know these people, I've talked about them more than enough.

(For those scoring at home, the new second place is due to the conversations I'd had with the company last week, where they had told me that they were really looking for someone with advancement potential because they want to give them the opportunity to advance. Between that and the huge lag in time between interviews, old second place became the new third place)

Of course, I've been given even more ammunition through this week as to why last place remains in last place, which just makes information regarding any of the above that much more sought after. I've been clicking on my mailbox once every five or so minutes throughout the first three days this week. As a matter of fact, I'm late to my next click.....

....still nothing. Waiting stinks. It's really a bummer when you realize that while the very place that you work at and earn money at is a major consideration for you but HR has so many other issues to deal with.

This post will be SO dated in about two weeks.

Postscript: The other issue that's currently worrying me is that they've put bus funding up for a vote here in town. There's been a couple of stories posted in the newspapers and on the news which actually have been misleading and completely not helpful. Of course, I am biased in a very specific direction on this issue. If this vote does not pass, I will have an extremely hard time trying to figure out how I will go back and forth to work on a daily basis, especially since I have come to depend on the bus and I definitely do not have the money to purchase a vehicle, keep it gassed, and provide for upkeep.

I am scared that the vote will go badly as well, because Detroit itself is not involved in the voting, just the suburbs around Detroit. The biggest travesty is that the vote is only to *continue* funding the buses, not to raise taxes. I don't know why such a system would have a time limit, especially since you have to have a major outlay in order to start a system and if the system is abolished, there's no more buses and you have to figure out how to get rid of them. If the system is then reestablished, you have to buy vehicles all over again! Uggh, I know what has happened through the last few years when I depend on people to make correct decisions the first time, BigConglomCo has taught me that people are selfish jerks that don't listen. I hope to heck that this is yet another time that BigConglomCo is wrong, but I really am apprehensive.

So, therefore, on to the first-place job and hopefully some sort of prosperity that I can actually go forward with!

26 July 2010

Review: How to Train Your Dragon

This blog came too late. In the late 90s through the mid 00s, the Internet had a few forms... there was Usenet, message boards, and internet sites. It would not have been horribly difficult to be able to create a website that reviewed MSTings in a format like this; after all, even the "new releases" link on our webpage is nothing more than a faux-blog which provides links to our latest MSTings.

However, push-button publishing really didn't take off until the tail-end of online MSTing's popularity. The SVAM message board could have been close, and even allowed for the review and critiquing of MSTings, but that is also a long-gone artifact of the Internet, not even accessible anymore.

This means that I need more than just MSTings to be able to put up topics on this blog. It's why I've been putting up real-life faux-drama like my job search, and pseudo-reviews such as the anime series I'd been watching lately. Today is no different, though it is a review about a movie that is now in the second-run theaters.

How to Train Your Dragon never really showed on my radar, though I do enjoy animation. I think it's because the trailers they make anymore really aren't aimed at me, there's only so far you can take the same repetitive joke. However, the rest of the family went to go see it a couple weeks ago and reported that it was terrific. So, having nothing much to do on a Saturday evening, we all went once again.

Without giving too much of the movie away, I really enjoyed it quite a bit. The animation is a ton of fun, you can tell that the animators had a blast trying to figure out all of the various possibilities of dragons. You had tall ones, skinny ones, short ones, fat ones... one memorable scene is of dragons that look (and act) a lot like squirrels. One of the characters was a walking encyclopedia on dragons, and it makes you think that there could have been a bit of success if the animators had just scrapped the movie idea and created some sort of card game like "Magic the Gathering" out of all the sketches.

The animators did know what they were doing with the animation though, and that really shines through. I quite admittedly enjoyed flying with the main character and his trained dragon through the skies, far more than that CG'ed up Avatar movie. I suppose that this could be another proof of the "uncanny valley" principle, but I suspect it's something deeper, which is the biggest issue I have between the two movies.

In Avatar we're confronted with a jarhead Marine protagonist who seems none too bright and barely cares that he isn't. With extra irony thrown in, he's a broken Marine, as he is currently injured and in a wheelchair. This would not be an issue except for the fact that he goes to a *jungle planet* (which presumably doesn't have wheelchair ramps) yet has not even attempted to train himself to be a gunship pilot, or a mecha pilot, or even operate the remote-controlled bulldozers. He doesn't CARE about any of that, and presumably doesn't have the intelligence to do so.

Through the course of the movie, we seem him gain an Avatar body through sheer dumb luck (hey, your brother's dead and you're close enough genetically to serve!). He proceeds to learn how to work it within only seconds movie-time, as he's running within a few frames of waking up. This same jarhead proceeds to learn how to integrate himself into a new culture and even learns a new language in scant months, which is presumably more difficult than learning how to pilot one of the many contrivances that would make it worth having a handicapped gun-toter. In the process, he gets two new flying birds, one the Big Red Plot-Contrivance Chicken, and becomes the de facto leader of all the tribes.

Almost all of that growth feels like it happens off-screen and implausibly. I relate all of that because it seemed so out-of-character and was, to me, the example of trying to fit a square peg (non-curious, unable to help himself jarhead jock) into a round hole (having to learn and adapt to way too many new things simultaneously for someone who barely cared when he got there).

As far as I'm concerned, How to Train Your Dragon did it the right way. The protagonist is shown to be a curious person who puts the plot into action due to his characterization... he refused to kill the titular dragon. The parts where he and the dragon are shown to be growing in trust to each other are actually rather sweet, and they're not without bumps along the way. I felt happy for the protagonists (for the dragon is certainly one of the protagonists) as their journey was shown on the screen.

This really is the best comparison I can make. Avatar had bogus contrivances and a protagonist that had a very badly-written characterization. Graphics can't save that. Of course, all movies have contrivances... you have to accept that there is a unicorn in the garden before you can have adventures with the unicorn. On the other hand, you can *explain* the unicorn and as long as the reason sounds somewhat plausible, audiences will make the leap of faith to accept your premise. How to Train Your Dragon had its own leaps of faith, but it did the best it could to allow this moviegoer to accept what was going on and to enjoy the concept.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. MSTing is both a blessing and a curse, because while it really forces you to think critically about a piece of work it is hard to turn the critical thinking off. Ultimately, while I cannot give my opinions of good new MSTings to read or discuss much about the field of MSTing, I can at least attempt to think critically about movies, anime, and other things. I can then post opinions and rationale about these works and to try to take you readers into the critical thought process as to why some things work and why some things may not work.

MSTing, after all, is nothing more than witty critique about a piece of work that seems to have fallen short of its target. In order to draft those jokes though, you have to try to identify what's going on, what kinds of images the author/screenwriter is trying to convey, and hopefully craft a joke that relates the image to something humorous, all while trying to stay one step ahead of the audience's first reaction.

Ultimately, I am certainly recommending seeing How to Train Your Dragon, even if just once. I enjoyed the story's heart, the characterization, the humor, and the main pull is just all those dragons. They range from mean, snarly, and noxious to weird to cute. The setting is just fun to be in, and the movie really zips along (barely 100 minutes). It's a terrific popcorn flick and the kids'll love it too.

On tap, some updated status by the end of the week regarding MSTings, my current real-life exploits, and still going through My HiME.

23 July 2010

Interviewing continued:

I must admit, I'm actually somewhat amazed. I received another call yesterday afternoon for an introductory interview, which makes the fourth company that I've received some kind of contact with through the past three weeks. I honestly can't name another time in my life when I had even two active interview requests at the same time, much less four. Of course, not all of them will pan out... I can't do two jobs at the same time. I'm not even sure *one* of them will pan out. However, I must admit to being excited because at this point I'm not even sure where I'll end up in even three months.

As I think about the situation, I'm not unhappy about that. I'm actually kind of geeked... currently, there is some uncertainty in my life, but it doesn't revolve around whether or not I'll be able to pay the bills. It is actually about where I can hopefully find a better place to be able to pay my bills, and a new place to explore and enjoy.

I know that if things go south and the opportunities dry up, I will look back on this post wistfully. Especially since the worst position I've got on my docket is still better than the one I've got. However, I still have a semester here if nothing positive happens in any of these job interviews.

I think that going ACen really gave me a kick in the pants. Part of it was the convention. When I'm around all that art, it really just jolts the brain into gear, it makes you look around and think. The other half was just the ability to take a bit of time away from my job to reexamine exactly what it currently means to me. I believe I mentioned this already in a previous post, I drove home Sunday absolutely depressed due to the fact that I knew I'd have to go to work on Monday. I was essentially alone with that thought through 200 miles and four hours. At the same time, I was driving a vehicle that had so many things wrong with it, we couldn't get it repaired with our current funds. Additionally, I was hoping against hope that the tailpipe wouldn't fall from where I wedged it up into the auto body to avoid it dragging on the pavement. It amazed me to think that I had to specifically save and scrimp just for the $100 of gas and food when other people are able to drop that kind of money on nothing more than a whim. Especially people who I know are less capable than myself when it comes to work.

All of that really put my current work situation into stark focus. While I would absolutely like to finish my Econ degree first, I just cannot work through another four years of short funds and a pitiful work experience. Yeah, this may sound like petulant whining to some people, especially those without options, but I've certainly put my own time in to grow my career and I think that I've worked for too little for too long.

If any of you guys out there had a hand in trying to get me interviews, my thanks in advance. I know that both you readers and I will be grateful when all this process is over.

20 July 2010

More waiting...

There's another set of Rifftrax that I received a short time ago that need reviewing, and plenty more episodes of My HiME that need watching in order for me to review. Just like the last post, this title has a double meaning too... I'm waiting on answers, and you're likely waiting on reviews. There seems to be a very good opportunity for me coming up, I will be travelling next week in order to speak face-to-face as a third interview. Additionally, while the other position hasn't answered through the previous two days, I obtained another phone call. I think I may need a scoreboard in order to explain all of this out:

1st place: Job with third interview, face-to-face next week.
2nd place: Job with two interviews, awaiting word if a third interview is requested, have been cooling my heels through two business days (and a weekend, which makes it seem like forever).
3rd place: Job with first interview coming up in the next couple days.
Last place: BigConglomCoInc. and all the crap they put me through. (They're always in last place, even when they're the only one.)

Thankfully, of the three, the job in first place is the one that I would choose if given a choice. Of course though, I'm waiting just like you guys are. I swear I've been doing some stuff, like riffing on the newest MSTing Megane 6.7 and I have been writing as well as watching a few episodes of My HiME, I happen to be through episode 8. I don't have any other strong opinions about it, though the cast of magical girls seems to grow greater by the show. Nothing but an observation... I don't mind a large cast to some extent.

I will be dragging the laptop along with me next week, when the interview happens, I'll be sure to stick something on the blog when I get a chance. I think my toes would cramp if I kept them crossed for the next several days.

16 July 2010

Playing awfully coy

The title actually refers to two things. Firstly, I definitely don't want to get my own hopes up, but I felt very good about both interviews today. I think I did well, and while I received semi-vague promises from one for a third interview and a follow-up call from the other asking my availability for a follow-up interview, I have nothing *specific*. Therefore, it's still life-as-normal. I can absolutely say that I am happy with the way I interviewed though, and I would not be hurt if either job fell through because I know I did my best and I can't name any other time in my life that I've been able to handle interviews better. I can happily say that it's just a matter of time, whether it's weeks or months... just time separates me from hopefully a fulfilling career where I can support my family better.

The other thing that's playing awfully coy is My HiME. It only took four episodes for My HiME's protagonists to fall victim to lecherous "underwear thieves". The writers and director of the show are all surreptitious about the characters they've made, hinting very heavily about the fanservice and trying to get to some point without going too far. One of the protagonists accidentally flashes a male student, ever so barely off-frame, who nosebleeds very stereotypically. Later in the same episode, a minor female character notes... nay, dwells on and shows every single type of lingerie the protagonists hang out on strings of Christmas lights in order to trap said underwear thieves. In episode five, there's reference to loli chasing. All of it adds up to time lost actually fleshing out a plot by going down backroads not necessary.

In the first few episodes, please do not make fanservice the primary push of a series. It makes me not interested, because I want a plot. I enjoy the magical girl angle, having been a Moonie for a decade and a half. The weirdest thing is that I'm a Moonie yet there's almost no plot there, just repetitive minion battles until the boss finally trots out. So, the point is that it doesn't take a whole lot to keep me happy. I hope that there's more substance in the next few episodes.

Tomorrow, suit and shoe shopping. Even if both third interviews fall through, I need some new interviewing clothes for the face-to-face that *doesn't* fall through.

15 July 2010

A pause in the Summer of Anime:

I've noticed that I've been quiet for the previous week and a half. There is a good reason for this, though. It's because no one cares to hear about my mad general skillz in "Rise of Nations". I always tend to fall into that game for a couple months at a time since getting it a few years ago. No more comments will be uttered, I'm sure no one cares. I have been watching My Hime through episode 4, but I have no opinions as of yet (except for how grown-up Mai Tokiha's seiyuu sounds, it's almost off-putting to hear an adult say some of those splutters and exclamations).

Additionally, I've finally made some headway in job hunting. Things seem to be coming to a head Friday (tomorrow), I've got a lot of talking to do in the morning and the afternoon. I'm hoping for the best from both.

It seems like it's going to get hot again, so stay frosty!

06 July 2010

The "no new news" update:

Just what it says above. About the only thing of note, other than the lack of responses to my resume, is that I've finally received my copy of Mai Hime and I will likely be starting that shortly. My last note is that I echo all Megane 6.7 related below about "Danger on Tiki Island", it's a very solid Cinematic Titanic offering. The jokes were great, there were a few terrific riffs (Mary Jo stepped up big time when the female lead first met the monster), and the crowd had a good energy about them. If I were to have only one complaint, it would be the rapid-fire riffing that started the show... it's almost as if they threw everything against the wall to see what would stick.

It's been HOT the past few days here, I'm hoping that the heat will break soon. I'm not sure if I've been quite so irritable as I've been the past three days. My one day off (5 July) was not enjoyable in the least because of all the heat. I can't wait for Friday and cooler temperatures, it's a group Rifftrax night... talking to Meg while Avatar and its accompanying Rifftrax plays behind.

Please, everyone, stay frosty!

30 June 2010

Review: "Code Geass", season 1

There's going to be some massive spoilers in here, but that's because I need to write these things down in order to fully express all my opinions on Code Geass.

As I've been watching new series through the last few weeks, I've been hit by the fact that it has taken me a while to get interested in certain shows. As stated before, I needed some effort to get into watching Azumanga Daioh and Fate/Stay Night. I was lucky that Haruhi started with a show that was right up my alley, though it could have also been the order that the episodes were run, as research on the Internet has indicated that there are two different ways to watch the first season of Haruhi.

Code Geass only took an episode. I was already hooked when they started talking about a foreign power invading Japan and imposing their will, making the citizens generally miserable yet there's nothing that the citizenry can do about it. I drew so many parallels to my current work situation, covered ad nauseum below, that it wasn't funny.

The main character, Lelouch, could care less for the most part though. He just wants revenge. In a major way. (Yes, this is another parallel, deal with it.) His father, the Emperor, seemed to have a hand in his mother's death and his sister's subsequent disability (paraplegic and blind). In the first episode, he is put under the titular "geas", in that he can make any person obey his instructions once when Lelouch desires it. Lelouch is out for revolution in order to attain his revenge, and he's not squeamish in the least about trying to obtain it.

His opposite number is his childhood friend, Suzaku. Suzaku was the son of the late Japanese prime minister, the one who committed suicide which effectively surrendered Japan to Britannia. Suzaku is ethnically 100% Japanese, but would rather enlist (and take orders from) the Britannia Empire. He believes that through his work, he can change Britannia to be better from within. And by the way, Suzaku ends up piloting the best mecha in the show.

Yes, it's a mecha show. It's also a bit of a political intrigue show. There's a high-school setting, domestic scenes, shoot-em-up scenes, philosophical scenes. There's really something in here for everyone. There's fanservice (once episode 15 really gets it going, there are more than a few instances of "why did that girl just take off all her clothes anyway?"), bishounen, and about the only thing it's really missing is the cliche cute anime mascot.

The main conflict in the series though is the eternal waltz between sudden action and collaborative action. The show tells us that sudden action can be the wrong action, but collaborative action can be bogged down in bureaucracy. To be honest, while watching the first season, I was extremely curious to see if they would resolve the intricate ballet... where on one hand, you have the proverbial "nail that sticks up which should be hammered down" in Lelouch, while if the other side won it would be due to a traitor who betrayed his homeland. Is it best to trust power and work with power to try to bend its aims and goals, or is it best to directly confront power and risk having power defeat you totally and possibly make your life worse?

I loved the message and the plot, and I really enjoy watching shows where you have all the knowledge yet the characters don't. I'm interested in the interplay of characters when they're not fully informed and it also promises a dynamic denouement. Lelouch needed to keep his underground life a secret from all, and that part of the plot was terrific in my opinion. I enjoy a good Tom Clancy novel, so the political stuff was right up my alley as well. The mecha wasn't terrible, the fanservice was fairly decent as well, and the fight scenes were mostly fun.....

However, there are many warning flags with this one. In full disclosure, I was rooting for Lelouch, because while his goals were slightly abominable and the way he treated people was not the greatest at times (for example, triggering a landslide to defeat an army with superior forces but also not warning any civilians below), I absolutely could not stand Suzaku. Hard-core spoilers are definitely ahead here. Suzaku actually killed his father rather than to let Japan resist... but now, he's absolutely a cog in the machine, nothing but a tool who never can resist an order from the same imperial power that now absolutely mistreats his fellow citizens. Lelouch called him out on it, asking him how he's able to reconcile his absolute hypocrisy in killing his own father while saying that no one else is able to break the rules.

Suzaku, you're a complete ass and an utter fool. I meet so many people like you in my daily life, tools that are more than content to let others suffer as long as you're fine. For all the sermonizing Suzaku did about changing from within, he didn't do a single thing about actually changing anything. As a low-level flunky, he couldn't. In essence, he was a hypocrite that never put his money where his mouth was throughout the whole series, and he was supposed to be the alternate protagonist.

The other major complaint that I had with the series is the semi-famous sequence involving Princess Euphemia in episodes 22-23. This set into action a series of events that seemed very poorly written. I looked through Wikipedia and found that there was a second season commissioned of "Code Geass", and it would have been roughly the time that these episodes came out. I do not know if the writers changed the plot in order to make a hook for the second season or it the plot was supposed to have hashed out this way, but I was amazingly disappointed. In essence, the goal of creating a semi-independent Japan was moving along due to the inside efforts of Princess Euphemia and the outside influence of Zero/Lelouch. However, in an idiot plot twist, Lelouch accidentally told Euphemia to kill all Japanese (in jest) and his power forced her to obey.

Firstly, I was sincerely hoping to see what would happen with peace. That was Lelouch's primary objective, though his secondary objective (revenge on Britannia's royal family) was still unmet. I would have enjoyed seeing his conflict over this matter, to find out if he was to gain support for a second go-round or go rogue. I would have really enjoyed seeing him lay out his reasons in front of Suzaku and to see Suzaku's inner conflict. The series could have really ended well then.

But, it didn't. The final fight for Tokyo was attended by characters thought LONG dead that were reintroduced as living possibly one episode before. It was attended by new super-mecha that didn't even exist until after episode 22. It was the most slapped-together ending I've ever seen. Again, being an enthusiast for Lelouch, it did not help to see an ending which seemed to be going against him... but dammit, I don't like winning or losing by plot hole, and there were some really craptastic contrivances marching across my screen in episodes 24 and 25.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I'd ever rewatch the series because I know where the ending will take me. I may just watch through episode 22, because while there was still some unbelievability, I like the intrigue, secrets, mecha fights, but I can't tell you how much I despise the ending. It took a quality show, one I'd rate 9 out of 10, into a 6. Yes, same as Fate/Stay Night, and to be perfectly honest the Achilles' heel of the first season ending of Code Geass turned out to be worse than the characters I saw in Fate/Stay Night

I am not watching the second season of Code Geass. I do not like plots that start contriving themselves, because it tends to be a runaway reaction. I feel that watching twenty-five episodes is a good indication of where a series will go in the following twenty-five episodes. However, I will absolutely say that through episode 22, it's a terrific series, and I will be making up my own ending much like the 'bots did following MST3k's "The Girl in Lover's Lane".

28 June 2010

The downside to art:

Within the next few days, one of my coworkers will be leaving BigConglomCoInc. for the greener pastures of the east coast. He's been a friend of mine through the last two years, and he's a conversation starter. He's always got an opinion, and every once in a while I can really catch him off-guard with a good riff. It's great, he's the type that takes the two seconds to try to catch up with me, and once he does you can see the realization.

It's doubly disappointing for me, because I'd been looking for new employment (as all you folks know) for the previous three years. I wanted to be the one leaving, because it's far easier in that position... there's something to look forward to. In essence, he's leaving the island and the rest of us are trying to find our own boat off. Of course, the knife in the guts is that he managed to find a luxury cruiser, he'll be making almost double my salary at the new position.

For my wife, she's dealing with her own separation, and it's also not one of her making. One of her good friends, a mother with two children who introduced her to some kids' groups and the one she could call if she was feeling down, is also moving away. Her friend's husband was let go from his job, and he had to scramble to find another one. They'll be leaving for Arizona this very morning (28 June 2010). They left a few reminders though, they had three cats and did not want to transport them immediately... so the cats are all living temporarily with us.

This brings me to the point of my post, the downside of the art that I've been immersing myself in. The best art, in my opinion, is art that is able to make you feel. Sometimes you're able to celebrate, to feel better, to enjoy... but art is also good if it is able to make you feel sad, sorry, nostalgic, or any other emotions. Unfortunately, the "down" emotions are magnified in my circumstance due to all the things going on.

I know that if I were to feel nothing over this that I may as well be half-dead. I'm not wishing to feel badly about my friend and his amazing good fortune, and I really don't... except that I don't want him to leave. I don't want my series to end, because I really enjoy the characters or plot... but everything has an ending and nothing lasts forever. I suppose that in finding analogues from anime plots to what's going on with me, I should both be heartened that I'm not the only one going through this as well as to see that there is an ending, even if my life isn't a tidy twenty-four episodes counting finale.

As you may note, this has left me more than a bit maudlin, though at this point I'm throwing everything I've got into the search. I put through twelve applications between Thursday and Friday last week, and I look forward to another week of at least twenty to thirty applications. According to my lucky friend, he'd been searching from February and finally found something starting mid-July. (Of course, I remember that the interviews for his July job started in April.... ) I hope that I am able to locate something quicker, especially with the classes that I would rather not start than to go halfway through and have to cancel.

On the other hand, life is worth living and I'm building my own path. The difficult part is finding out whether or not it's a sedate little trip or a roller coaster. Emotions may be high, emotions may be low... but between life and art, I know it will be an amazing trip regardless.

22 June 2010

Final grade: Fate/Stay Night

Still a 6. I stand by every last word I said about the characters, with only one revision. Only the Japanese could come up with a gender-swapped Arthur and Bedivere and really change the lessons of the Legends of Camelot... from "don't trust women" (Guinevere) to "if King Arthur's in your tub, she may have to cover up her naughty bits lest you get excited." (twice during Fate/Stay Night)

Next, I believe, will be Code Geass. Dunno when I will start, but we'll see how things shake out. The Summer of Anime shall continue.

21 June 2010

Update on life and Fate/Stay Night

Hey again folks,

So far, I'm at episode seventeen of Fate/Stay Night. This show is as plot-driven as Azumanga is character-driven. (Okay, warning, possible spoilers ahead here too)

It's a good thing that Fate/Stay Night is more plot, because I'm not crazy about the main protagonist. From what I was reading online, the source for Fate/Stay Night was a hentai videogame, which was first cut back into a videogame, which was then adapted to the screen.

A dispassionate viewer can tell these things, because as I have continued the series it's become more of a harem-building as it goes along. So far, the harem count is at five. There's still eight episodes left for that number to go up too. I mention this because this is one of the few subtypes of anime plot that to me is just unbelievable. There's really no analog to this plot in Western drama or shows, yet it pops up every once in a while in anime. It must just be a cultural or wish-fulfillment thing that makes this subgenre tick.

It's a shame, because the rest of the series has been pretty decent with the overall story. Even if the main protagonist is a doofus, the plot they've built around him has been interesting and there are some nicely-animated fight sequences.

I'm too late to stop watching, as I've covered two-thirds of the show and I am curious how they will resolve the plot. I'm almost to the point of fast-forwarding some of the scenes though, and have only held off because I figure they may attempt to advance the plot while I'm least expecting it.

I think I spoiled myself finding both The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Azumanga Daioh as the first two series to jump back into anime with. Both were fascinating and while they each had a couple of slow or dull spots, I remain very impressed with the product as a whole even a few weeks later.

If both shows were a 10 (forced to choose, I'd pick Azumanga by only a hair), this one is treading a 6. The odd part is that it started at a 6, getting into the plot nudged it into a 7, but the main protag took it back to a 6, the harem stuff started knocking it down further, but the fight sequence in Ep. 14 was terrific and gave it a notch back. There's a LOT of ground for this one to make up, and unless the ending is stellar (or completely terrible) I don't think the 6 will be changing.

The worst part is that it could've been a solid 8, something that'd be worth revisiting every once in a while and would be worth looking up fanfiction for. The plot of the show, the overarching story driving the plot (even the super-magical MacGuffin) could lead to many interesting stories, but not with these characters. Hopefully, the remaining third redeems it somewhat, but this may be my final review depending on how it ends.

Work, as if they couldn't have tried harder, has become worse. It is now tied to the fact that all of us peons have had our status change, from salaried to hourly workers. Now, the almighty clock becomes our enemy, as if we hadn't had enough enemies to choose from to begin with. Of course, it's only the lowest-level of workers that this is happening to, our management is so not hourly because they'd be like given eleventy billion hours of overtime weekly because of all the awesome work they do.

The worst part is that they've "assured" us that our salary and none of the other perks (vacation time, insurance, etc.) will change in the future. This gives me zero confidence, because they've already changed a major fundamental piece of my compensation and I won't be the least bit surprised to hear, six months from now, "We've got to change you all to put you in line with other hourly workers." I've played the hourly game exactly once, as a contractor a long time ago. I'd never wanted to deal with it again. Every single job since then that I've taken has been salaried.

Now, without any choice, I'm back to the tyranny of the clock. Making peanuts. Watching others get big bucks due to work relationships rather than due to effort and/or ability. And now, the sledgehammer is close enough to all our heads to be plainly visible instead of lost in the fog (or hidden behind management's back). At least this final swing is slow enough that hopefully moving out of the way (i.e. finding another job) is possible, though this absolutely puts my educational plans in a complete bind.

Thankfully, lately, we've been able to resolve more than a few issues. This weekend, it was the below family issues... they're finally mending, and it's something that we don't have to spend time feeling bad or worrying about. Now, it's just this. I hope that the same magical fix-it tape that's fixed the other problems below is not out of tape yet.

16 June 2010

New Cinematic Titanic QnD Review!

(Warning: Contains mild spoilers)

"Cinematic Titanic: Danger on Tiki Island" w/ Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Josh Weinstein and Mary Jo Pehl. -- You know, as much as I love Rifftrax, movies like this bring back warm and fuzzy memories of the golden age of MST3K and CT has brought us what I feel is their best live effort to date.

This movie has Percy Chiseljaw, Booby McHorny and Wally Cleaver arriving on BLOOD ISLAND to study radiation or something and encounter a native flannel wearing tribe lead by a shriner with a really hot daughter that have ‘returned to the old ways’ by sacrificing their virgins to appease the island’s screeching hentai tentacle trees and a monster that resembles a pile of melted tires who moans like a porn star. Meanwhile, a bald man named Goro (FINISH HIM!) plays tour guide for our heroes as they visit a midget sanctuary/slave labor camp, run by Mr. Rourke as played by Ricky Ricardo and... that’s all I’m going to reveal here. This is one GOOFY monster film that’s perfect for riffing, with plenty of WTF moments.

The movie is also a little more mature than the last two live films with occasional (really cheap looking) gore, a bit of bondage with flashes of ‘almost’ nudity and a great deal of cleavage, 70% of which is MALE, but damn that other 30% is nice. There’s an odd yet funny moment during the riffing where Joel just flat out asks the audience why guys are so attracted to women like Booby McHorny, not really expecting an answer.

(Crow: Boobies, the deciding factor in many a hasty marriage.)

Anyway, all the riffers did a great job with this one, especially Josh Weinstein and there were very few, if any, flubs this time that I noticed. The few dull spots that occured during riffing were thankfully short-lived this time around as well. Overall, Very Highly Recommended!

(Additionally, this CT release includes a short 17 min documentary featuring the Cinematic Titanic performers as they share their thoughts on each other and their experiences with CT as well as comments from fans leaving the theater after the show. While the documentary is a bit self-congratulatory, you can tell these people share a great deal of affection for each other and their fans as they playfully snipe each other’s flaws and Trace mockingly threatens to sue a young fan who shares his name. Frank Conniff has a funny story about coming up with a riff that he was unable to say without bursting into uncontrollable laughter and when he finally did deliver it flawlessly during a live performance, it was greeted with dead silence from the audience. ;P)

15 June 2010

Azumanga Daioh : The Review

I lied... I was able to finish Azumanga Daioh through this morning. I will likely have spoilers in the next few paragraphs, to outline what I thought were some of the good points and the bad points of the series, but I will keep in general in the first two paragraphs.

I think the main reason that I enjoyed the ending of the series is that I was able to really get to know and enjoy the characters. As mentioned before, in order to keep attention while introducing characters, the show falls back on humor that at least wears on me after a bit. On top of that, there are three characters that will also be off-putting to begin with, and they end up keeping you off-balance for the majority of the series. (Far later, one of the main characters actually shows signs of growing up and being more mature, which ends up making you just as off-balance as seeing her to begin with.)

I had a hard time continuing after watching the first few episodes. After about the fourth or fifth episode, I thought that it would be more entertaining to finish my last play-through of Dragon Age, and even trotted out my five-year-old copy of Rise of Nations to play afterward.

However, I gave Azumanga a couple more chances, and I feel that I was definitely rewarded for the effort. I enjoyed watching this show quite a bit, enjoyed engaging with the characters, and definitely feel as if I wanted to see more of it after having completed it.

(Spoilers will start here)

While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was in some respects a "start over" show, where the status quo will be preserved even if it takes a couple episodes, Azumanga Daioh has a strong current of change to it. The characters themselves are shown through the course of all three years of Japanese high-school. The last couple episodes tie up loose ends to show that the characters have survived and thrived in high school and that they will be entering the uncertain world of post-high-school, but that they will try to stay together as best as possible.

The characters do grow to some extent through this time. As mentioned above, Tomo in particular learns toward the end of the series to be more considerate of her friends and to not do things "just because", which is off-putting to the others considering her actions through the first twenty-three episodes. Sakaki overcomes her issues with cats. Chiyo is able to come to terms with the fact that she's not an elementary-school student.

I think that one of the most endearing parts of this show is the fact that the characters grow rather than stagnate. I know that I felt more emotionally invested in watching the show because of this aspect, and I can certainly understand where all of the fanfiction for Azumanga is generated from, because of the wide range of personalities and the care given to the fictional characters. The show's high-school setting is very poignant to this growth because high school is where one really starts to become an adult rather than a child, and having to navigate that rocky terrain can be difficult yet rewarding at times.

I'm not sure the show would have worked past high-school... if it attempted, it would have had to change just like the characters did. I can only imagine the cast if they tried, because it truly seemed that the only main characters that would remain together are Yukari and Minamo at the high school. The other characters graduated and will be scattering to the four winds, but not before one last blow-out trip to the amusement park for celebration.

Celebration is a good word for the show in general. Azumanga Daioh really is a celebration of growing up, of friends and a slice of life. Not only am I happier for having seen the show, but this is one that I will gladly show my eight-year-old daughter. It will not only entertain her, but show her that life is your own story. Life is not an episode of anime-- you can knock all twenty-six Azumanga episodes out comfortably in a week or two, compared to the three-year time period it covers (you've probably noted this from the last four blog posts)-- it's something that you write as you go along. Life can be hard, it can be pleasant, and you meet the strangest people... but knowing that it's a journey to try to enjoy is a good message.

The ultimate example of this, I suppose, are my family's weekend plans. We are driving separately, as we bought the new car and our old car is being sold to my brother-in-law. At the same time, on Saturday, we will be celebrating my wife's ten-year anniversary of being in remission from cancer (non-Hodgkins lymphoma). At the same time though, my wife is currently estranged from her father, who was her primary care-giver and the person most responsible for her recovery. He will not be to the party that he in part helped to make happen. Life can be a bittersweet collection of events, and while we close two chapters (car, cancer recovery) we will still be living through others (the estrangement, my job search, going to school, children in school, baby, etc.)

Now, especially considering most of the posts I place on this blog, not everything in life can be celebrated especially while you're still living in the moment. On the other hand, I suppose that since my final episode hasn't happened yet, there's always a plot twist to come. Toward the end of the series, Yomi was unable to pass exams for her backup college choices, and her stress was shown as the others passed into college one-by-one. In the moment, all she can see is the task ahead. Past the moment, she's able to reflect on the task. There are future challenges for her, with college and moving away, but those can be treated as they come rather than life-and-death issues. It's hard to stand back in the middle of problems and appreciate what's going on, but there's always time and opportunity to do so.

(spoilers over)

I suppose one of the greatest parts yet hardest lessons of life is to appreciate the plot twists and the changes of seasons... and to remember the happy parts of plot twists and seasons already experienced. Like all good art should, I'm touched by the creativity and the message. My biggest hope is to find more shows like Azumanga Daioh as I watch anime. I can say that I'm happier having watched it than not, and extremely happy that I afforded it the chance.

As with all my reviews, your mileage may vary. I'm sure that by now, whatever readers are hanging out know my tendencies and my likes/dislikes. Suffice it to say that though I'm the jaded sort, I liked this one more than a bit. I've got action queued up next, in the form of Fate/Stay Night. I think I will take a bit of a break through the next couple days before starting it, probably to accomplish some writing and to try to get into a different mindset, work has been extremely stressful lately and troublesome and leaving it behind has been more difficult.

< A! >

14 June 2010

Another "We're still here" post.

It's barely been a week since the previous post, but I thought that a short update would be appropriate. Megane and I have been working on the most recent MSTing through the last couple weeks, and we've come up with some decent stuff. The process has been a bit slower, and it is due to the length, but on the other hand I'm still happy with what we've done so far and I think that it shouldn't take many months, only a few.

I mentioned to Megane, and I am happy to post on the blog, that Azumanga Daioh has absolutely grown on me as a series. I needed somewhere around four or five episodes to get acquainted with the characters. There are a few good moments in the first couple episodes, such as Chiyo and Osaka "practicing" volleyball together. However, it seems that the show kind of picks up for me around the tenth episode or so, when you've got a decent idea of all of the characters. The show has zany humor, uncomfortable humor (mostly Kimura, though the cracks about Yukari's driving are a bit unsettling too), and character-driven humor, mostly Osaka and Tomo.

The problem I had with this show was that I only enjoyed the zany humor, and even then I'm not crazy about a lot of it. However, once I started seeing the character-driven humor along with the zany humor, and understanding it, I really started enjoying the series. I will have a more complete write-up of Azumanga Daioh when I finish, which will likely be in a couple days. Just like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, I get the distinct feeling that this series is ending a few episodes too soon, which is a bit depressing.

For me, I'm able to get into these shows lately due to the fact that I'm seeing myself in some of the characters. For Haruhi, it was as Kyon. For Azumanga, it's as Yomi. Of course, it seems that many series need a character that represents a status-quo, someone who is moved by some of the zanier characters so that you can see the impact of what these zany characters do. At any rate, I know that I will definitely enjoy delving into some of the fanfic for these shows because these are characters that I enjoy. If not for the enjoyment of characters and situations in shows, would there be any call for fanfiction after all?

Still no traction on the job front, though I have my classes for next semester laid out. Another micro-econ class, which I tend to enjoy... and then econometrics for winter, featuring the professor I'd been talking about through the beginning of the year. Man, I definitely did not want to see more of that professor, but I suppose that I have no choice if I want to be able to get through with a masters' degree. Such are the challenges of life, I suppose, though I feel somewhat fed up with the same challenges. I really feel as if I'd already stepped up and done what was necessary and needed, yet there's never really a positive result. (Hence, the statement about wanting a "win" for a change.) Hopefully, opportunity will come knocking on my door shortly.

No real opportunity to review Rifftrax lately, there's HP4 but I haven't had a chance to get a copy of it. I hope that Mike and the crew will pick up the output soon, and yeah it's me asking for it while telling you guys "a few months". At any rate, stay frosty folks!

08 June 2010

Gleecap

I attempted to get together with Megane, fully understanding that I would talk with him during my wife's viewing of Glee. Of course, I tell Megane Wednesday, rather than Tuesday... so, since he's not here, a rundown of the schmaltz that comprises both "Glee", the show, as well as the average season finale of a first-year show which needs writers desperately.

We join "Glee" already in process...

0:06 ...as they cut into yet another replaying of "Don't Stop Believing". Considering how many times I listened to that song in the promos of the show....

0:07 "Nine months ago, we sucked". Nothing's changed.

0:07:30 The faux-stalgia ain't working on me. I remember all of the crap that brought the show to this point, all the idiot plot points and nonsense. And now, a Journey medley. If only I wasn't a closet 80's fan, I'd denounce it for the numbskullery it is. (As it is, it's Glee singing Journey, so I can hold back my enjoyment very easily)

0:09 I get to watch my first Eclipse trailer commercial. It's everything that the past two movies was and then some. About time, I'm in the mood for some killer cheese, and this stuff has already proven to be epic. "How are you fixed for some jangly, shoe-gazing music?"

0:12 I knew that the "twist" was in here, the mean cheerleading coach is now the "impartial" judge. Knowing for a week hasn't helped me believe it any more. This show asks too much from my suspension of my disbelief.

0:13 "It's not about winning, it's about us." Every button must be pressed. I wonder if the pregnant cheerleader will be going into labor shortly.

0:14 Journey's only other song, ever. ("Forever Yours, Faithfully")

0:14:30 I'm struck, the female "lead" (Rachel) is wearing a Haruhi hairband. Heh, random moment of the night I suppose.

0:16 Long notes, the fingernails of the world's chalkboard.

0:16:30 "Any Way You Want It", a Rock Band favorite. Not enough to make me forget that the girls are wearing space-cadet inspired golden aprons.

0:17 The crowd's behind them! Is Al Michaels announcing?

0:18 One of the few reasons I enjoy "Don't Stop Believing", other than the weirdly hilarious chorus, is the line "born and raised in south Detroit". I dunno why, but if there's anything that can more express dead-end loser, what is it?

0:19 Ooh, mom and daughter reconciliation! How could I forget the long-lost relative angle? Better yet, it's the pregnant girl! And her water just broke, what a shock. I swear that the above bit about the buttons was written before this.

0:23 "Unnatural History"... no main complaints about the show per se, but shouldn't it be on SyFy or ABC Family rather than freaking Cartoon Network? (Full disclosure: I would probably watch it as an anime, but on the other hand there's so many different directions they could take it in as an anime rather than the goofy kid currently grinning maniacally at me.)

0:24 Queen. "Bohemian Rhapsody", to be specific. I can deal with Journey by mediocre singers, but Bohemian Rhapsody is SO Freddie Mercury, I'm absolutely unable to accept any other versions, even if it's supposed to be an allegory about pregnancy. Of course, it's EXTREMELY unsuitable for a dance choir, as I'm currently experiencing.

0:27 "Bohemian Rhapsody" with glowsticks. Yeah, that's what it was missing. Oh, and every single glee club member is in there with her. I couldn't even smuggle her mother and my sister in when my wife was giving birth last time.

0:28 I finally realized that this is the guitar solo of the show. As played by Stephen Hawking.

0:29 I think I just heard Luke screaming at the end of Episode Five.

0:29:30 So, "choir" is all about one soloist singing for the whole song except for the exceedingly short backup portion at the end of the song. I could use the headbanging beaver at the end of "Loaded Weapon 1" right now.

0:31 Knight and Day. Tom Cruise action. Is there any scenes where he's sad about Goose while trying to pass some gas? I can't see any situation where this isn't cheesy either.

0:34 Haruhi's back and trying to manipulate others. It's so close yet so far to the real show. Speaking of a suspension of disbelief, Haruhi and the rival coach being mother and daughter was a amazingly large leap of faith.

0:36 "Kiss my ass, Josh Groban". There's one redeeming portion of the show, even if Sue voting for her own school is foregone conclusion number.... eight by now?

0:38 And Sue announcing the winners, when one of the judges is a newsanchor and therefore a professional announcer.

0:39 Must say, I'm semi-surprised by the announced winner, though not terribly. Legit arguments for both sides. Though this means that the horrid version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" wins. Hollywood majjic!

0:41 An advertisement for Toy Story 3. I hope fervently that this isn't the beginning of the end for Pixar. Considering this and the Monsters Inc. sequel, I'm not sure.

0:42 Huge on ABC Family. There doesn't seem to be much of a plot other than the large girl telling everyone that she's not changing for their benefit. Decent message for one show, not for a series of them.

0:43 Fox drama, teenagers asking whether or not they want to keep a baby as if they were talking about a cell phone plan.

0:44 Let's set up the next season's drama. And let's make sure to keep the creepy female teacher square in the center of the drama by having her hook back up with the choir teacher.

0:45 Here we learn about how we've all grown since the beginning of the series. I learned that I should listen to the GI Joe lessons at the end of the show more often! With bonus faux-stalgia.

0:47 We've dredged up something from the 50's or early 60's, at least from the sound of the arrangement. Bonus points for something I haven't heard before that's older, but it's still THESE PEOPLE singing it, and the choir teacher biting his tongue in order to provoke tears for the camera.

0:48 I would like to give a shout-out to a group of people who really need to receive kudos, which are the musicians backing these actors. They've done a good job, and the underrated part of any show is the music (rather than the actors they've placed out front as "singers"). Thanks, you guys, I've enjoyed the music at least.

0:50 I'm watching the bastard child of Eminem and Justin Timberlake for a Yahoo ad. I'm amazed that the level of talent is dropping by the second.

0:51 Chevy Traverse, only starting at $29,999. I think that you need three incomes to make it in the U.S. anymore.

0:52 "Raising Hope" on Fox, about a doofus trying to raise a baby. Gramma's wearing a bra, and some unidentified lady is unable to speak. Can't wait for that to go the way of "Sons of Tucson".

0:53 The reveal showed that the show wanted it both ways anyway. Just as above.

0:54 The snark in this show is the high-school equivalent of House adult snark. Every once in a while, you can see that there's a bit of an adult trying to get out, but it needs to grow up desperately.

0:56 This odd thing they call plot, the weird bet thingy or whatever it was that was threatening the glee club is called off on another "surprise" twist. The choir teacher yelling that they've got another year almost completely matches what the cast did when Fox announced that they'll continue paying these actors for this thing.

0:57 One last chance for something more recent than 2000.... oooh, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Swing and a miss, on a pitch bouncing to the plate. One of the most major reasons I enjoy watching AMVs, as stated before, was to hear new and exciting music. As far as the music, I like the 80's stuff... but sung by their artists, not "reimagined". Give me something new and interesting, I've heard the rest of this stuff too much. This is yet another reason I will absolutely defend "House" and pile on this show.

1:00 "So You Think You Can Dance" results. Glee is Shakespeare compared to "Dance".

So, one more year of "Glee". Thankfully, I have Season 1 of "The Mentalist" to watch from Netflix next...

01 June 2010

Very slight update:

It'll be quick, I promise. I am an avowed proponent of free commenting. I love comments, though to be truthful there aren't too many here. However, I've been getting spam comments on a very frequent basis lately, and I'm getting a bit annoyed at the fact that it takes a while to take them down.

I'm absolutely not taking away anonymous comment settings. However, I am putting up one of those evil little "enter the letters" boxes, because I need to cut down on the robo-spam. I hate them myself, but I truly dislike seeing someone put the verbal equivalent of throw-up on this struggling little blog.

If there are any readers out there who disagree with this action, please be sure to put it in comments. (Ha!) Actually, you can also email me through the address at the website, though you may have difficulty being heard through the spam that thousands of robo-mailers have already deposited there.

Very little status updates to provide, other than I'm almost through the second play-through of Dragon Age, postponing watching more Azumanga Daioh because I've been in a funk for a while. I located a copy of Fate/Stay Night, though I am not sure if I will be checking it out soon.

Work is the same... it's either I don't put myself out and get what little satisfaction I can from my job, or I attempt to actually do work thinking I may get rewarded for it and usually get smacked down for presuming such an audacious thing. So, the job search continues as does registration for year 2 of 4 for master's degree. I could really use a win right about now, I've kind of forgotten what they feel like (and this is pretty much 85% of the current funk.)

If there are any series that any of the readers can recommend to get out of a funk, I'd be glad to know. Drop a line, I'm curious to know what I should attempt to review next.

27 May 2010

More Azumanga

Above, an episode of Azumanga Daioh (Episode 3). Below, Notepad, for drafting a blog post. I suppose it's good news for me that I would rather watch Azumanga Daioh than draft the blog post, but I think it's because you folks know me by now, I'm easily distracted and still trying to get this whole blogging thing down.

I think that I truly spoiled myself, though... I watched the last three episodes of Season One of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and it hit all of my sweet spots. A weird, out-there plot. Interesting characters. A running narrative commentary. Humor, good music, and it carried an interesting message. I could even see the parallels with some of the characters and people in my own life. It was a show that I really did not want to finish watching, yet Season One ended. I will likely be checking into getting Season Two as well, and crossing my fingers that they make more episodes as it is such a recent series. (I guess I will have to content myself with finding some fanfic, with the bonus that I will be enjoying the good stuff and likely riffing the bad.)

Azumanga Daioh is not all of the above for me, at least not yet. On the other hand, it is interesting enough for me to keep my attention, and the shows seem designed to allow someone to keep going in the series. As the original source material for Azumanga Daioh are four-panel short comics, the show stays very true to the formula by presenting four- to five-minute segments that sometimes are barely connected. This does mean that if you're not crazy about a segment, just wait it out and something else will happen shortly. (This is the ultimate "short attention span theater")

This show is one that appreciates and sometimes revels in sheer zaniness. There are segments where you wonder exactly where the joke is going, only to have people laughing for no reason. There are lots of explanations for jokes too, and people who enjoy anime in-jokes will completely understand and enjoy Azumanga. Much like what Megane 6.7 and I do, generating humor in very small areas, Azumanga assumes that the viewer will have a background in some of the references that it will be riffing on.

I am sure that I will have more opinions as Azumanga Daioh unfolds on my screen. The semi-interesting ones I will share here, while the boring ones may be edited out.

Postscript:
Reasons Life is not like Anime, #495:
What came out of the hole in the Gulf of Mexico would have been infinitely scarier, far more violent to humans, but likely more interesting.

25 May 2010

Review: "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya"

Hey, stuff you guys may want to see! While Megane 6.7 will review recent video games, I'll put up a review of a four-year-old series. I'm still getting the hang of this blogging thing.

Following ACen, I picked up the anime bug again and decided to nab a copy of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya". I'd seen it more than a few times in AMVs and have also seen a few fanfics of the series, so I thought it was time to check it out. So far, I have watched eleven of fourteen episodes and I think that it is a terrific series, and definitely recommend it.

I'm fairly sure that I'm behind the curve on this one, as it has been out for a while, but here's a thumbnail sketch. Kyon is entering high school when he falls in with Haruhi Suzumiya, a high-energy girl who still believes in childhood stories of aliens, time-travellers and espers. She's the flighty type who can't seem to stay committed to anything. She creates a club, the SOS Brigade, whose goal it is to find mysteries. Quickly, she manages to rope in Kyon as well as an alien, a time-traveller, and an esper into the club, though she does not know their true identities. By the way, she's super-powerful and can change the universe according to her whim. However, she doesn't know that she's super-powerful either. And Kyon is our intrepid narrator, a normal person caught up in the craziness.

I truly enjoyed the show after seeing the first episode. It concerned a student-made "movie" which was not only a parody of many animes I'd seen, but also included Kyon doing his best impression of a Mike Nelson rifftrax. Kyon's narrative style and character are very evocative of the MST3k form, though he doesn't necessarily riff as much as provide a counterpoint to the action. He's got snark to spare and the shows following were funny to boot. I suppose my only gripe has to be with the fanservice, it seems almost as if it's a bit out-of-character and tacked on to the story. I don't mind fanservice at all, but I mind if it's transparently fanservice.

If you can engage your mind a bit past the story itself, the situation and the show becomes one of great interest. Who has more power in the world, the person who is able to bend it to their will or the person who chronicles what happens and is able to put their own spin on the proceedings? The plot itself is a looming question, because there are certainly episodes where Haruhi unknowingly brings her will to bear in order to make disastrous things occur, but all of the characters hint at a point in time three years prior without being specific. This has the makings of a dynamite 52-episode epic, though I don't know if there will ever be one....

Which brings me to the final thought, the fanfic. The story itself started as fiction, as Japanese light novels rather than as manga or anime. Therefore, it is very suited to further writing, especially with the way that it is open-ended. The anime itself only covers six months of Kyon and Haruhi's first year, and the main issue (Haruhi's powers) are never really dealt with unless they become a problem. As a result, I can certainly foresee that the fanfic that could surround this universe may be very divergent yet still true to canon, and everything from light comedy to epic dramas are in play.

I know that I may have to drag Megane in kicking and screaming, but as I try to catch more of the recent stuff I will likely try to find fanfics that go with it. As of yet, just off the top of my head, the only 'fic that we've MSTed that contains only anime after 2000 is "Dragon of the Night". Even then, Megane and I were pretty much taking it as a story rather than as a Naruto story--we were certainly unable to comment much on the plot or the characterization of the original source because neither one of us have ever seen more than an episode of Naruto. There's definitely a large collection of Ranma / Sailor Moon 'fic, but after our current Sailor Moon project I will definitely be on the lookout for some newer series and writing. I think that riffing on newer stuff will make my own MSC 3001 series more of a complement to Megane's MST6.7 series, as we can be both old school and more recent while still collaborating with each other.

As far as myself, I've never really been able to get into the newer anime. This is mostly because I've not had time or money to be able to devote to it. My original gateway anime drug was Ranma 1/2, where I ended up getting into Sailor Moon and then a few around 2000 (Fushigi Yuugi, BGC 2040, Trigun, Nadesico, Love Hina). Since anime is expensive and I had a dial-up connection for many years, keeping up with it has been difficult at best. Now, fansubs are torrented (thank heaven) and box sets retail for the price of ONE VIDEO back in the late 90s. Two Ranma tapes back then were worth more than the Haruhi box set now, and I even recall buying the second Ranma movie for $29.99. (Thanks, VIZ, for killing my interest by killing my pocketbook.)

Other than a single divergence into "Scrapped Princess", when my significant other and I spied a $4 tape at a deep discount hut, I've been pretty stagnant. I think it's time to start hitting the Amazons and fansub torrents again, and try to get a bit more up-to-date both for enjoying the art and stories, and also to keep finding new ideas to champion.

On to the real-life paragraph. I rejected the position I interviewed for on Thursday. This was due to this new practice of hiring temps as a "probationary period" rather than self-hiring. I may be an arrogant person, but I feel that my experience and resume should count for something greater than temp-to-hire, especially since it would be extremely easy for a company to tell a temp "no" after the contract term is expired. I have a family and just cannot take that risk for a few pennies more. I would do temp-to-hire, but I would rather do it for a position that has a greater compensation and is located out-of-state. On the other hand, my economics study (as mentioned in the previous couple posts) is still going on too, so I feel that at least at present I can be patient rather than throwing myself on the mercy of the first company that comes along with a few extra dollars. (Total difference: $7,500 yearly, which is about $600 pre-tax per month..... but I would need to lay out FAR more money in commuting and in gasoline just to take the job.)

Past this, the only progress has been in episode count. I will likely have a short blurb after I finish "Haruhi", and the next series queued up is "Azumanga Daioh". Yeah, I'm *really* getting recent, eh?