First off, the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD thing. There's scarcely a warm body drawing breath by now that hasn't heard the news: Toshiba's thrown in the towel, and HD-DVD is soon to be an abandoned technology. I banked on Blu-ray as of last December or so, and I'm grateful I made the "right" choice — but at the same time I'm worried about where all those players and discs are going to end up. With any luck there will be some kind of recycling or reclamation program to make sure all that plastic, polycarbonate and metal doesn't simply end up in landfills. (If anyone knows of such a thing, tell me about it and I'll post it here!)
Obviously the next step after this is disc media vs. downloads, and to some degree it's already been tilting in that direction (see my column at InformationWeek about this very issue) — but I still think solid-state manufactured discs are going to be a bit more immediately useful, especially where video is concerned. (Come on, Criterion, let's have some HD titles! Bring on Ran and Days of Heaven!)
Books: I most recently finished Rohan Koda's Pagoda, Skull & Samurai as my last bit of extracurricular (non-work, non-anime) reading. I didn't like it as much as Samurai Banner, unfortunately (same publisher); the author's style seems to be deliberately and heavily reminiscent of the formalized, long-monologue style of a stage play. It gets wearying after a while, even if the subject matter he approaches in these three stories was right up my alley. Best if you're already a die-hard fan of Japanese history, like me, but not really for the casual reader.
Also read, but not yet commented on: Yasushi Inoue's Lou-Lan, a collection of shorter pieces in much the same style and approach as Tun-Huang, but there are a couple that stand out explosively. My favorite: "The Rhododendrons," a portrait of a truly sad and pathetic man who has thrown his whole life away for the sake of his work. "Man was meant to work furiously to the end," he writes. "What else? Not just to bask in the sun. Not just to be happy." It is work which gradually reveals itself to be nothing more than a systematic way for him to hide from the messiness and bustle of life, to deny himself the joy he feels he does not deserve.
(I'll post a longer review of these books if time permits, but the way things are tilting most of my free time for reviews is being taken up by AMN work — for now, the capsule summaries will have to do.)
- Robert Rich and Lustmørd, Stalker: "Illbient" is the word for this kind of fearsome driftwork, and these two have both been working at the outer edges of what's emotionally possible with sound (if in totally different ways) for long enough that I expected nothing less than great things from them when they sat down together in the studio. I got them. Headphones especially recommended for this.
- Alien Sex Fiend, Nocturnal Emissions: A lot of ASF fans hated this record when it came out, but I find myself quite liking it: it's "acid Fiend", I guess, and there are tracks on it that I like better than almost anything else I've heard from Nik & Co. so far ("On a Mission", "Big Blue Moon", "Tarot", "Warp Out"). Color me biased if you like, but them drum machines and synths has me by the frontal lobes.