Sunday, February 25, 2007

I blame Berkeley

Yes, that's right. I blame Berkeley Breathed. When I was little, one thing annoyed me about the local paper. Although they saw fit to carry Outland on Sunday, they couldn't be bothered to carry the daily. Unfortunately, that blame was misplaced, it wasn't the paper's fault. Breathed was only writing Sunday strips. So now I shall place the blame fully where it belongs. It's all Breathed's fault that people are deciding to give up the daily routine and just write Sunday strips. You know, a couple decades later.

It's also his fault he's not money grubbing enough to merchandise properly so I still don't have an Opus charm for my phone.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cloned animals are bad, mkay?

That's my take on the argument against cloned animals, anyway.

Why are people so concerned about cloned animals as sources of meat, milk, et cetera? Are we even capable of distinguishing that one is a clone? From the milk? I just don't understand it, but maybe the fact I won't ever find myself eating a cloned animal since I'm vegetarian is playing into it. I voted against banning horse meat for human consumption, too, though my carnivorous fellows disagreed. They know that eating horse and dog is bad while deer and pig is good. The second two have cloven hooves (among other things) after all. I'm obviously a nutter. Wait, wasn't cloven hooves supposed to be bad?

Of course, we've been cloning for centuries with plants. Remember the Irish Potato Famine? Remember why it was so bad? Okay, that's a case against cloning. But we're still doing it and consumers not only don't care, but they prefer the cloned fruits and vegetables. Where do you think seedless grapes come from?

Meanwhile, it seems no one is actually out to try to use cloning to produce an animal for general consumption. They want to take a prime example of the bovine form and clone it so more offspring can come from it. It's the offspring they want for milking or beef. And as companies come out vocally against serving you cloned animal product, they clam up tight when asked about the offspring of the clone.

Friday, February 23, 2007


He's at it again. Cheney is dictating what is "patriotism". Unfortunately, we live in a democratic society. Just as our laws come ultimately from the people, so do our principles and thus so does patriotism. If one man could go about dictating it, we'd be in a dictatorship.

I suppose he can say anything he likes. He's not harming anyone by it (hopefully, but ask the troops he "supports" about that). Being allowed to say what you want to is one of the founding principles that is more popularly held as patriotic to believe in.

Remember, it's not the speech everyone agrees with that needs protecting.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Ellen Goodman's posted up some interesting Newsweek numbers at the bottom of this piece. The current heartthrobs for Democratic nomination to President of the USA are people with faces distinctly different from those who have gone before. Their main problem is looking electable because everyone thinks "no one" would vote for them even though he/she would look past race or sex.

This electable issue is what it comes down to when I ask myself who it would be between these two. Should it be the woman the Republicans love to hate or the man who hasn't held public office for very long? Well, who got the vote first? That's who is more electable. It has nothing whatsoever to do with who they are.

But the Newsweek numbers are encouraging. Nearly everyone believes they would vote based on the person even if he/she is uncertain about the neighbor. Somewhat fewer would vote for a woman, but she didn't get the vote first either. Then again, the number of people I've heard say, "I'd vote for a woman, I just wouldn't vote for her," makes me wonder how many are honest with themselves when they say they would. If she were a man, would any of that bother them?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Town of Evening Calm in English

The Town of Evening Calm/The Country of Cherry Blossoms, which I mentioned last December, will be published by Last Gasp. I can't seem to find when that will happen, though. Amazon lists it for preorder. Whatever, I added it to my wish list.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Placebo Man

Tomer Hanuka's The Placebo Man collects the first 5 issues of Bipolar, which he writes and draws with his brother, Asaf. Small examples of their work can be found on their blog Tropical Toxic. If I was to choose one to look at the work of from those examples, I think I would actually choose Asaf. However, it is now Tomer that I see in a longer form with this book.

The stories are all unrelated to each other. He seems to want to tell multiple stories at once and at first that means that even the story seems to have unrelated elements. It is extremely disjointed. I get the sense that the author sees some connection, but I'm missing it. I don't even see a clue to it.

In the later stories, he feeds his need to tell more than one story by use of flashbacks. The stories flow back and forth in time almost freely, but the attentive reader can follow the changes since there are distinctive elements in each time. Instead of multiple stories running parallel, these later chapters are a single story running through multiple times.

Each story is still often hard to follow. Sometimes the time change is marked by the same image made up of different elements, which can give such a smooth transition one may not notice for a couple panels that there was a change. Sometimes the only transition is the flip of a page.

The art is nowhere near as polished as the pieces seen on Tropical Toxic. It is black and white a bit rough. Of course, few people spend as much time on a single panel when it's part of a large whole as they do when it is the whole. The characters are each distinctive within a story except in a few stories where they are specifically left indistinct without so much as hair to differentiate.

I found a couple of the longer stories quite interesting, especially "Telekinetic". A couple others, "I Love You" and "Zina & Me" set off my "oh no, not superheros!" radar. It's not that they are superhero stories, they just hint at whatever that is that puts me off Superman.

This is, at times, an interesting read. But overall it may be just a bit too weird. Even for me.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mushishi is about....

Okay, okay! I'll do it right.

Mushishi is a story set in a world very much like our own, specifically in Japan in a indistinct keyhole in time sometime in the not too distant past. Added to this world is the fantastic element of the mushi, a third form of being distinct from inanimate and living. The kanji used for "mushi" is formed of the kanji for bug the same way forest is formed of tree, but is just an archaic form of bug. This apparently isn't the first repurposing of "bug", so it must make sense in Japanese. Anyway, you've got to call them something.

In this world, we follow the wandering of Ginko, the mushishi. Literally, it translates as "bug master", where master is meaning one of great learning (mastery), not some sort of controller. Where he exerts any control over the mushi it is clearly by virtue of knowledge. Our hero cuts an odd figure in this past land with his Western style clothing and hair already white. These elements are meant to make sure he doesn't fit into his world, which is odd since he always seems to me to be someone who can find his place anywhere.

Not everyone perceives the mushi, but they are pervasive throughout the world and their existence leads to visible consequences. When these consequences become harmful, Ginko goes to work trying to fix the problem. However, the great variety of mushi means there is much to know about the mushi and some "cures" must be discovered while others are already known. This leads to a rich tapestry on which to paint the stories.

The stories themselves are often described as reminiscent of a Miyazaki movie, which can't be hurt by working with Miyazaki. I personally find it has the feel of a mythology. Each story may contain elements of great tragedy or happiness or anything in between. Each resolution is muddled by the complexities of the world. They do not live happily-ever-after, but they generally live successfully-ever-after which is a far more satisfying tale for me.

Volume 1: The stories in this volume are from a time when Urushibara was not yet working regularly on the series. Sometimes this shows in inconsistencies in the setting. This does not take anything away from the stories for me because each one can easily be taken on its own. As well, sometimes the art suffers from her inexperience but one is usually enjoying the story too much to notice.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mushishi volume 1

'Tis an odd thing to read a different translation of the same material. It makes one think one is an authority on something one really isn't. You see, in spite of not actually being able to read the language, I can now pick and choose which one I like best and claim it's the right one! Unfortunately, I think I like the amateur one best. There is... a little more flavor to it, or something. But this clouds the viewpoint on the professional work.

That work is still quite wonderful. Come May 1st there will be stories out that I haven't already seen translated by some English teacher in Japan for the love of the book.

I go and spoil it a little below, but it's still a great book that everyone should have the fun of reading.

Although there is one spot in particular I could nitpick... and the people translating the anime also went the way the amateur translated it (but they were more amateurs and had the amateur manga translator's notes to help them out.)

It might have been (errantly) smoothed out. In the last story, The Traveling Bog, we see from a piece of the girl's memory (which she doesn't seem to be telling Ginko) how it really was that she met the swamp. In being thrown into the flood to appease some god, she is told her mother will be cared for (amateur) or that she will save everyone including her mother (professional). The fact that she's being tossed into a turbulent river in flood can't be adjusted to modern sensibilities, besides it being set in the past so why should it need to be, but assuring the audience that everyone will be saved doesn't help. At least if her mother will be ensured care in the coming years, she gets something out of it.

Anyway, it's all in the details. The brew seems a little less spicy than it did before and I do like my spice.

more movies!

Of course, YouTube isn't the only place to find videos. Other places will even let you keep them when you're done watching, but they tend not to provide code to embed the film piece. Check out the adventures of a piece of paper trying to fit into a world of origami animals!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

meaningless posting

I've got to learn to start posting random bits from YouTube. Everyone else is doing it. I got this from Yet Another Comics Blog. Hooray for librarians that blog.

And I start to understand why I've once not noticed someone wasn't speaking English when they were speaking Swedish.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

radioactive punk

This is what's caught my eye today. Not that I want the toy or anything, even if it is anatomically correct. (No one seems curious enough to verify that claim, but neither would I be.) But it certainly is a curious piece so I wonder what it comes from.

Where it comes from is apparently a comic strip buried away in punk culture of the late 1970s that influence practically everyone. Or at least Matt Groening. Now there's a few books (they don't look to be collections of the strips) around in what I shall call highly collectible form ($30 for 40 pages, oversized hardcover books that are out of print even when only two years old). But I may have to pursue whatever the LAPL has hidden away and see what all the fuss is about.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Father knows best

"Even after we controlled for religious characteristics, women physicians were substantially more likely to say doctors must give all information and refer patients," the LA Times quotes one Dr. Farr A. Curlin saying. They were studying the information provided by doctors on these three controversial procedures: "having an abortion because of failed contraception; prescribing birth control to adolescents without parental consent; and 'terminal sedation,' a legal method of pain relief for dying patients that falls short of euthanasia, though in the process of relieving pain it may also bring death more quickly."

I notice that two of these three are procedures specific to women. (Whatever happened to the pill for men?) It doesn't mention any discrepancy between giving information on those procedures and the last, which would be an interesting nuance to note. Is there some reason why the male thinks he's so much more likely to be right about what is the correct choice in another person's life?

It is perfectly alright to have your own moral values. It is quite another thing to impose those on someone else when it has large effects on that life. A doctor is charged with giving a patient all the accepted options, not just the ones without controversy. A patient is not charged with following a doctor's personal morality.

Quite a few months ago, Ellen Goodman argued on the crime perpetrated by pharmacists refusing to dispense drugs on moral grounds. It is so easily argued. Making choices that can be detrimental to another's life when that person is doing nothing illegal should have consequences. Yet we make more and more laws which are essentially protecting the powerful over the powerless.

Well, the doctor is not father and he or she doesn't know what is the best option for another's life. I hope the power trip these doctors get from withholding information is a good one, because someone else pays a hefty price for it.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Mushishi -- the begining

Mushishi came out Wednesday and I picked it up Thursday. Not sure how prestigious this prestige format really is. Mostly it's just got cover flaps. There are no color pages, but the original only contained color as a solid blue background for lighter blue writing on the title page. One set of pages clearly originally contained color in the magazine but were not reprinted with color. I would have liked to see that righted with this publication, but it wasn't. The next book has two stories that start with color pages. They better do it right!

I do so love Urushibara's watercolors. Although I'd forgotten how much her art has grown over the years that she has been doing this manga. At one every two months, this book of five stories is nearly a full year of work. (And we get the next one in just three months' time!)

Next, to actually read my treasure. It's only been since late June 2004 that I started looking forward to every prospect of seeing more of this series.