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Archive for August, 2009

blueseed-beyond

(The following is a review I posted at Netflix for Blue Seed: Beyond, the sequel to the wonderful anime Blue Seed.)

The original Blue Seed is my favorite anime; it has everything I like about the form, Blue Seed Beyond, however, doesn’t live up to its predecessor. These three episodes feel more like a coda or an epilogue –or even an afterthought– than a true continuation of the story of Momiji and the TAC.

The first two episodes tell the story of a reappearance of the arigami, only this time as a mad plot by a US scientist. (Blue Seed has always had a hint of Japanese nationalism to it.) While all the main characters appear, and we learn what has happened to most of them in the intervening two years, the story is quite rushed, especially in comparison to the pace of the original series.

The third episode is unrelated to the first two: the women of the TAC travel to a Japanese hot spring to enjoy the baths, and a terrorist plans to blow them up. The highlight for me comes when Kome, my favorite character, tracks the bad guy to his lair. Things go wrong and her reaction is typically “Kome.” The animation is good, though sometimes strange. At times, Kome looks like an identical twin to Momiji. The rest of the characters look mostly like themselves from the original series, however. The voice acting is adequate, though the English-language actor for Kusinagi just doesn’t compare to his predecessor.

It must be noted that this series give in far more to “fan service” than the original series: Momiji has grown from a flat chest to a very full “C” (thus killing one of her humorous anxieties from the first series), while all the women of the TAC regularly run around semi-nude. I’ve no objection to nudity or sexuality in anime, but this much feels out of place and, indeed, gratuitous in Blue Seed. Parents who let their kids watch the original series might want to preview these episodes.

Overall, for those who are new to Blue Seed, rent the original series first; it’s surprisingly good. For fans who have already seen the original, rent Blue Seed 2, but don’t expect too much.

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From Andrew Sullivan via Razib Khan, maps of the continental United States showing the distribution of the seven deadly sins. For example,

lustMap

The American southeast seems particularly “steamy.” I imagine Mark Sanford accounted for most of South Carolina’s contribution. And, with apologies, but Nebraska and Iowa seem uniformly boring. 😉

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Here’s a link to a great post by Big Hollywood’s John Nolte on Jimmy Cagney and what’s arguably his best movie, White Heat:

“White Heat” remains as powerful and entertaining sixty-years on because the goals its creators are grounded in the modest, timeless idea of gathering together the most gifted of artists to tell the best story possible. That might sound like an old-fashioned concept among the sophisticates, but long after the intellectual fad of postmodernism joins the hula hoop and the lava lamp, [Cagney’s] Cody Jarrett will live on.


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And I love the headline:

Man with Spears tattoo steals earring-wearing dog

Fri Aug 21, 7:47 pm ET

WILTON MANORS, Fla. – A man with a tattoo of Britney Spears‘ name on his arm or neck allegedly stole a Chihuahua with pink earrings from a South Florida gay bar. Brian Dortort, 48, said Thursday he has spent weeks searching for his 4-month-old pooch, named Hudson Hayward Hemingway. The dog, about the size of a softball, was in a specialty pet bag.

And I thought these things only happened in California… For the rest of the story, click here.

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Noodling around on Google Maps, I searched the Casitas Pass and saw a link to the Albertson’s in Carpinteria. Look at the picture below, and tell me if you can spot something a bit off about it….

Google Oops

I know people are fleeing California, but I didn’t know a whole town had relocated.  Tongue

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I haven’t watched this in a couple of years, but tuned in tonight for two episodes: Battle Corn and Battle Duck. Sadly, both featured Iron Chef Bobby Flay, whom I detest. Oh, his recipes look great, but whenever I see and especially hear him, I develop this urge to smack him until he cries. He just comes across as such a whiny punk. (We’re talking TV personae here. He may be a great guy in person.)

Battle Corn was an “eh” struggle for me. I rooted for the challenger on principle (Down with Flay!), but the dishes didn’t thrill me. Particularly when they broke out the sea-urchin roe. Blech. 😛

Battle Duck (from 2005), on the other hand, was a great fight featuring an ingredient I love. Duck simply isn’t served enough in America. Both chefs made mouth-watering dishes, but Chef Ming-Tsai happily won.

Both episodes, however, paled in light of the memories of the original Japanese Iron Chef, which was a bizarre, marvelous mix of elite cuisine, and Japanese pop culture and national pride.  What an odd, wonderful, and engrossing show that was.

Allez cuisine!

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Actually, I’ve been back for a couple of days, but yesterday was rather a lost day. Ever notice that it often takes a day to rest up after a vacation? Odd.

Regardless, from Tuesday last week through this Monday instant, I was in Indianapolis for the GenCon Game Fair. I’ve been going a long time – every year since 1985, in fact. For much of my life I’ve been an avid player and referee of roleplaying games, and GenCon is the Mecca for such games – as well as board games, card games, miniatures games, and computer games – and much more. And while I don’t participate in the hobby much anymore (though for a while I wrote professionally for the industry), I still go every year as much to see old friends as to play games or buy toys. Roughly 20,000-25,000 people show up each year, which is quite a number of proud, self-proclaimed geeks and dorks to gather in one place.

Be afraid, be very afraid. 🙂

As usual, I had a fun time. This year, like the last few, I worked part-time at the Heliograph booth, played one game (a fun Call of Cthulhu adventure presented by the MU Skulls – my character went insane and died. Good times!), and spent the rest touring the Exhibitor’s Hall and socializing. Following are some observations.

Recession, what recession? The halls were jammed with people. On the weekend, I sometimes felt we were walled in by bodies around our booth, and even Thursday was busy. I don’t know what sales figures were for exhibitors, but my guess is they were very healthy. People may have saved on hotel bills, however; Sunday night in Indianapolis was emptier than usual.

While not many new products caught my eye this year, there were a few.

Gamers Rule has a very clever offering called Dungeon Deck. By drawing a few cards, you create a complete small dungeon and quest in 30 seconds, perfect for a quick game on the fly. They were our neighbors at the show and good people, so give Dungeon Deck a look.

Woodland Scenics, most associated with model railroading, demonstrated a very nice terrain modeling system applicable to wargames and RPGs.

Bucephalus Games was selling the Psychic Plush Lab Rat, which, as you can see from the picture, is more aptly named Cthulhu Rat:

DSC00278

Who could resist something so cute? (Click for a bigger pic.)

On the downside, I also had a look at the preview of the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) from Fantasy Flight Games, under license from Games Workshop.

Ugh. As I wrote elsewhere:

This is not a roleplaying game. Oh, players can add roleplaying to it, just like you can add roleplaying to Monopoly, if you want, but this is not an RPG in the real sense of the word. It’s as much a roleplaying game as Mordheim was.

And the price-point? $100 for a game limited to four players? Insanity. An FFG representative at a seminar at GenCon had the brass to suggest that the GM and players could split the cost. Oh, but if they want new powers and new careers, they have to buy later expansions.

Like I said: It’s Mordheim. Or maybe Talisman or Heroquest. But “WFRP 3” is not a roleplaying game. And I think it’s going to be a big bomb for FFG and GW.

WFRP is my all-time favorite fantasy roleplaying game. It had it all: simple yet colorful mechanics; dark, sometimes farcical humor; and a dramatic setting with real depth to it. This tosses all that to make a glorified board game. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen’s smackdown of Dan Quayle, “I knew WFRP, and this, sir, is not WFRP!”

Sad, very sad.

Outside the convention, the city of Indianapolis was its usual, welcoming self. A friend and I had an excellent meal at the St. Elmo Steak House on Tuesday, then repaired to Victory Field to watch the Indianapolis Indians play the Columbus Clippers. (The Indians lost, 4-2.)

They’ve also done a very nice job with their new airport, though its proximity to the old airport can be a cause for confusion for the unwary….

So, now I’m back and vacation is over, but I’m looking forward to next year.

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