Previous Posts: April 2009

Stand Up And Be Counted Dept.

Amazon.com: Vote For the Next Criterion Collection Blu-ray ReleaseTogether with the Criterion Collection, we're offering customers the unique opportunity to select an upcoming Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection. From now until May 25th, select from Au Revoir Les...


Amazon.com: Vote For the Next Criterion Collection Blu-ray Release

Together with the Criterion Collection, we're offering customers the unique opportunity to select an upcoming Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection. From now until May 25th, select from Au Revoir Les Enfants, Down By Law, Howards End, Kwaidan, and Picnic at Hanging Rock. The winning title will be released later in 2009.
I voted for Kwaidan, natch!

Tags: Amazon.com Criterion


Think Tanked Dept.

Op-Contributor - End the University as We Know It - Op-Ed - NYTimes.comThere's a lot in this piece which is pure wishful thinking (end the tenure system, what?!) but I liked the bit about doing things with the teacher's...


Op-Contributor - End the University as We Know It - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

There's a lot in this piece which is pure wishful thinking (end the tenure system, what?!) but I liked the bit about doing things with the teacher's wisdom that the teacher himself could never have imagined.


Tags: education links


External Book Reviews: Dogs: Prelude Graphic Novel 0: Stray Dogs Howling in the Dark

Dogs: Prelude is exactly that—a teaser for the main attraction to come, which explains why it’s numbered “0” and is entertaining without actually adding up to much. I suspect that’s not entirely the book’s fault, though: if you walk in...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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Dogs: Prelude is exactly that — a teaser for the main attraction to come, which explains why it’s numbered “0” and is entertaining without actually adding up to much. I suspect that’s not entirely the book’s fault, though: if you walk in knowing this is going to be all setup and introduction, it’s pretty enjoyable. That said, it’s still only a stage-setter: the real opening act comes in August, when volume 1 proper of Dogs hits the shelves. I have to be fair, though, and review what I’ve read and not what I hope to read.

Set in some unnamed European city, Dogs 0 compiles four stories about the intersecting lives of a whole slew of low- and no-lifes: gun- and knife-toting assassins, camera-snapping “information dealers”, doe-eyed mutant maidens in distress, and a couple of warring Cosa Nostra gangs for good measure. It’s got a fair dose of the absurdly over-the-top action spectacle of Black Lagoon (another fine Viz presentation), plus some of the noir grit and tough-guy moralism of Frank Miller’s Sin City. I wouldn’t yet put it up there with the former, let alone the latter, but my curiosity’s been piqued.

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Tags: manga review


External Book Reviews: 20th Century Boys Vol. #2

Every once in a while I have what I think of as an out-of-the-body experience at a movie … the events in the movie seem real, and I seem to be a part of them. [Such films] engage me so...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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Every once in a while I have what I think of as an out-of-the-body experience at a movie … the events in the movie seem real, and I seem to be a part of them. [Such films] engage me so immediately and powerfully that I lose my detachment, my analytical reserve. The movie’s happening, and it’s happening to me. — Roger Ebert, in his 1977 review of Star Wars

Four times in a row I sat down and tried to put into words how I felt about 20th Century Boys. And in the end I’ve resorted to quoting Ebert, because, damn it all, he said it best. The best manga make you forget you’re reading a manga. You are simply having an experience, one that stands off the page the way the best 3-D movies couldn’t ever stand off the screen.

The first volume of Boys dropped you right into both the story and Urasawa’s way of telling the story. Like his monster Monster before it, this one spans decades, continents, and whole families of characters, so just parking us at one end of the timeline and pushing us headfirst through the whole thing in chronological order wasn’t going to cut it. It’s told in timestreams as fragmented and cross-weaved as the plotlines for movies like Traffic or Syriana. After those so-called Hyperlink Films, where a word in one scene leads us to a major discovery in another, here’s Hyperlink Manga. In Boys, a single half-seen image can cut loose avalanches of memory and plotlines worthy of whole books unto themselves.

Read more

Tags: manga Naoki Urasawa review


What Next Dept.

And so now the list of NaNo '09 candidates is at four.4DW II: RPG Boogaloo (not the actual title)Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope (yes, the actual title; the name itself is indeed homage to Agoraphobic Nosebleed, who I cannot deny...


And so now the list of NaNo '09 candidates is at four.

  1. 4DW II: RPG Boogaloo (not the actual title)
  2. Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope (yes, the actual title; the name itself is indeed homage to Agoraphobic Nosebleed, who I cannot deny know how to come up with a great album title)
  3. the "samurai story", which plays out sort of like GoodFellas meets Gohatto, only not exactly
  4. another piece that is to paganism and "new religion" what 4DW was to otaku-dom, only in a much more serious vein.
The more I try to condense these things, the sillier they sound. Or at least funnier. Deliberately funnier.

Tags: NaNoWriMo writing


Book Reviews: Guin Saga Vol. 3 [Manga] (Hajime Sawada)

What we have here is a transitional volume of the Guin Saga manga, designed to get us out of one plot arc and into another. It spirits our heroes away from Stafolos Keep, out from the clutches of Count Vanon...



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What we have here is a transitional volume of the Guin Saga manga, designed to get us out of one plot arc and into another. It spirits our heroes away from Stafolos Keep, out from the clutches of Count Vanon (if that is Count Vanon, but that’s another story), and ends the raid of the Sem on the fortress — leaving behind plenty of tools for survival that our heroes will need as they cross the River Kes and head for … well, more adventure. As Indiana Jones rather testily said the first time around when someone asked him for details on his plan to wrest the Ark of the Covenant away from its Nazi thieves: “I don’t know; I’m making this up as I go.”

It does sometimes feel like they’re making it up as they go. Even though I know for a fact this whole arc of the story was completed more than thirty years back, and over a hundred other books have been written for the original series since. One odd little advantage of coming back to the very first books and revisiting them as manga is how both the audience and the creators themselves know what’s going to happen. To that end I’m noticing a great many changes, albeit minor ones, that seem to be along those lines — although I’m at a disadvantage since I haven’t read that far ahead. I think the total number of people who speak English and read Japanese who have read that far ahead (that I know, anyway) could be counted on one hand with plenty of fingers left over … and I have better taste than to bug Yanni about what happens. God knows he’s busy enough with his publishing company. Read more


Tags: Guin Saga Japan Kaoru Kurimoto manga review untranslated


Music: Suzume: 13 Japanese Birds, Pt. 1 (Merzbow)

“Merzbow’s back (you knew he would be) … ” So read the first few words of the blurb for another Merzbow disc, Merzbuta, but the same sentiment could apply to just about any Merzdisc. Just when you think the guy’s...



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“Merzbow’s back (you knew he would be) … ” So read the first few words of the blurb for another Merzbow disc, Merzbuta, but the same sentiment could apply to just about any Merzdisc. Just when you think the guy’s exhausted every possible permutation of his approach to sound (or music, or noise, or whatever term doesn’t shock you), he dives back in as if he were a fresh young thing still pasting together his photocopied album covers in his parent’s attic.

He’s also never been one to shrink away from the kind of conceptual productions that would make most other people wince, or at least shield their wallets protectively. The concept for the 50-disc-and-then-some Merzbox was madness enough, but he and the folks at Extreme in Australia banged heads to make it happen. The result was the single most ambitious documentation of any one artist’s output in a single commercial unit; it’s right up there with the Ya Ho Wha 13: God and Hair set, the Miles Davis archive box sets being produced by Sony, the 13-CD Kan Mikami set PSF put out, and maybe even also the Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs LP box set of the entire Beatles catalog. Read more


Tags: Merzbow noise


Crosspost To LiveJournal Updated

My Crosspost to LJ for Movable Type index template is now at revision 0.4. I added some features, cleaned up a few things, and am in general trying to make it as functional and convenient as possible.Future versions will, I...


My Crosspost to LJ for Movable Type index template is now at revision 0.4. I added some features, cleaned up a few things, and am in general trying to make it as functional and convenient as possible.

Future versions will, I hope, include slick stuff like automatically popping up the page when you post. So far the only way to do this seems to be to edit one of the templates within MT itself but that's only because I'm a n00b at actually hacking MT innards.


Tags: Movable Type programming technology


Cryptic Dept.

Here's an experiment for you: I'm going to solicit feedback about two potential works-in-progress without talking about them in detail. Or, rather, without spoiling anything. (It's still early. Forgive me.) The first is a sequel -- not a planned sequel,...


Here's an experiment for you: I'm going to solicit feedback about two potential works-in-progress without talking about them in detail. Or, rather, without spoiling anything. (It's still early. Forgive me.)

The first is a sequel — not a planned sequel, but sequels are like kids, I guess: who plans such a thing? — to The Four-Day Weekend. There was no sequel originally planned, but it looks like I have enough material for that, and maybe one more book, without the whole thing degenerating into a grinding wheel of repetition.

The problem: There is another story I'd very much like to write, a completely different one. It deals with a fellow who drifts by degrees into a syncretic religious community which turns out more and more to have the makings of a cult. As with 4DW, some of this is based on my own experiences but a good deal of it comes from observing folks around me.

Now: This other story could very well be absorbed into this 4DW sequel — made a fully-functional part of it. I'm tempted to do that for the sake of killing a whole flock with one AirSoft BB (okay, strained metaphor, I know), but I'm also not sure that's the wisest approach. It might be best for each story, on its own merits, to get the full telling and complement of conceits that each deserves — even though that means writing two entirely separate books with what might amount to a fair deal of crossover (shilling for repetition) between them.

So, really, that's what this comes down to. Do I tell two separate stories that might well fuse into one, or do I fuse them into one at the risk of being better off writing two?

I hate being vague, but I also hate ruining the fun.


Tags: dharma future projects question for the readers writing


Mutable Type Dept.

Work (both the paying and the other kind) have left me with less time than I'd like to just blog about casual subjects, but here's some musings about Movable Type:My kingdom for a decent rich-text editor. Unfortunately, the only way...


Work (both the paying and the other kind) have left me with less time than I'd like to just blog about casual subjects, but here's some musings about Movable Type:

  • My kingdom for a decent rich-text editor. Unfortunately, the only way to do this reliably seems to be to use Flash. One thing I hate about the RTE is my cursor keeps vanishing for no particular reason; maybe that's a Firefox bug (I'm using a nightly). And why is it so damn hard to insert a simple <P> tag in the RTE? Hit Enter and you get <br>, but hit Enter twice and you get <br><br> instead of <p>. Maybe I'll have to hack this behavior into it directly. Blech. (I've found I can cheat by switching into HTML mode first, inserting a <P> tag in the head of the post, then switching back — but that's, again, retarded. Less brain-dead workarounds are welcome.)
  • I'm looking into a couple of different plugins to do auto-linking to pre-existing lists of links — something Windows Live Writer does — but it would be great if one of them worked in the rich text editor itself. That would mean one less program for me to use, but I'm betting that would be more work than most people would want to undertake.
  • Customizing the fonts in the RTE and some of the behaviors therein was a terrible pain. I could do it, but the elements are all over the place — I had to edit a file here and a file there, with no rhyme or reason as to why things are so scattered. I'm betting the reason is not something that presents itself on a casual glance — I didn't develop the program, after all — but it is kind of bewildering to have to bounce across so many different files and directories and repositories to edit the behavior of what from the outside is one thing. (Again, maybe this just says more about my perceptions than anything else.)
  • I've been thinking about creating an actual paper book for it, perhaps something to go with the inevitable 5.0 version when it comes out. Consider that to be a "when I get my pension" type of priority, though.

Tags: Movable Type technology


Sleepy Eyes Wide Shut Dept.

Raizo Ichikawa as Nemuri Kyoshiro, the sleepy-eyed killer from a long-running series of novels in Japan, finally hits American video thanks to the good folks at AnimEigo.I'll see about working my way through this one when it comes out.Lions Gate...


Raizo Ichikawa as Nemuri Kyoshiro, the sleepy-eyed killer from a long-running series of novels in Japan, finally hits American video thanks to the good folks at AnimEigo.I'll see about working my way through this one when it comes out.

Lions Gate is also bringing us Hideo Nakata's period horror piece Kaidan (cf. Kwaidan).

Vertical, Inc. had to shelve their anthology of Oniroku Dan's S&M stories until next year, but for now there's at least one of the movies scripted from his stories: Secrets of a Desperate Housewife (nice title).

After Seijun Suzuki got blackballed for making Branded to Kill, he spent ten years in self-imposed exile. When he came back out, he made Story Of Sorrow And Sadness (no Amazon link yet), which was either a triumphant return the screen or a total cock-up depending on whose word you take. I'll have to find out for myself.

And just when you thought there wasn't enough Meiko Kaji to go around, Synapse rooted around in the vaults and came up with two, two, TWO from her catalog! Wandering Ginza Butterfly and Wandering Ginza Butterfly 2: She-Cat Gambler (god, what a title) both come out this May.

Annnnnnddddd ... AnimEigo's long-awaited domestic DVD edition of Yawara!, all in one set, comes out this may. This from Naoki Urasawa, the creator of Monster and 20th Century Boys and Pluto and so many other good things.


Tags: Amazon.com Hideo Nakata Japan links Meiko Kaji movies Naoki Urasawa Nemuri Kyoshiro Oniroku Dan Raizo Ichikawa Seijun Suzuki Vertical Inc.


External Movie Reviews: Claymore Vol. 4

Most stories about monsters follow a basic formula: you’re either predator or prey, so hurry up and pick a side. Or, you’re someone who stands between the light and the darkness, so it’s only a matter of time before...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


Purchases support
this site.

Most stories about monsters follow a basic formula: you’re either predator or prey, so hurry up and pick a side. Or, you’re someone who stands between the light and the darkness, so it’s only a matter of time before you fall on one side or the other. Claymore followed that formula pretty reliably without succumbing to it, thanks to two things: strong writing and storytelling (which boosts any stock plot out of the mire); and a willingness to mess with the dividing lines between the different parties in the story.

By this I don’t just mean how friends can become enemies (or vice versa), or how predator and prey can change roles. Claymore started with three roles (human, yoma, Claymore), added a fourth as it went along (Awakened Beings), and then hinted the four are more like points along a line than four separate things. Claire found out before how even her own augmented body can be the same way — how her borrowed arm can be Awakened all by itself, and how even someone who might seem to be well on their way towards becoming an Awakened Being can do a U-turn and come back to humanity.

None of this stuff would add up to much unless it involved people we cared about. Claire didn’t inspire much caring at first glance: she was about as emotive as a pencil (and carried about as much body fat as one, too). But over time, a funny thing happened to both her and us: she became someone worth caring about, and we started having that much more of a reason to care about her. What few emotions she mustered were directed mostly at Raki, her young sidekick, and as of the last volume her emotions finally culminated in a kiss and a line of dialogue (“Don’t say you don’t care if you die”) that is probably as close to “I love you” as she’s going to get in this lifetime.

Read more

Tags: anime Japan review


Chip's Challenge Dept.

Nice piece in the Philly Inquirer about Samuel R. Delaney:To sci-fi and beyond | Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/05/2009Dhalgren marks a transition between Delany's earlier and later works, which deal more directly and aggressively with social power. Myths, Delany believes, are...


Nice piece in the Philly Inquirer about Samuel R. Delaney:

To sci-fi and beyond | Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/05/2009

Dhalgren marks a transition between Delany's earlier and later works, which deal more directly and aggressively with social power. Myths, Delany believes, are "committee constructs" written by many hands and approved by the powers that be, which means they tend to be a conservative force. "Myth is what society can bear to tell about itself," says Delany. "But usually, what's far more important is what the myth leaves out, the things society can't bear to talk about or face."
That last bit stuck in my head as potential hero story material. I have not been actively working on that project since Tokyo Inferno kicked off, but it's still in the back of my head, annoying me as it must.

Tags: hero links Samuel R. Delaney science fiction


Sundown Dept.

J.G. Ballard, ‘Empire of the Sun’ Author, Dies at 78 - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.comBallard was one of my favorite examples of a "difficult" writer -- difficult in the sense that he dug up all the things about life...


J.G. Ballard, ‘Empire of the Sun’ Author, Dies at 78 - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com

Ballard was one of my favorite examples of a "difficult" writer — difficult in the sense that he dug up all the things about life in the here and now that made him squirm, and made you squirm along with him. I can't say I ever read any of his books for pleasure, but that kind of wasn't the point.


Tags: links writing


Upstream Dept.

Bandai's Sword of the Stranger gets a domestic BD release. I think they have something like four SKUs of this coming out. Ditto Mamoru Oshii's Sky Crawlers, which if we go by his pedigree, is going to either be great...


Bandai's Sword of the Stranger gets a domestic BD release. I think they have something like four SKUs of this coming out.

Ditto Mamoru Oshii's Sky Crawlers, which if we go by his pedigree, is going to either be great or unbelievably boring with zero middle ground.

The movie that goes to 11 is now the BD that goes to 11. Come on, it was only a matter of time.
Everyone reading this knows I had my issues with Advent Children, but I can't deny it looked great — and so a fully tricked-out BD edition is on its way.
If we get a BD of Rockers, then I'd love to have one of The Harder They Come as well.

Tags: Amazon.com movies preorder


Unreality Dept.

I normally don't pay attention to reality TV (isn't that an oxymoron, anyway?), but this is worth talking about.You've probably seen the clip of Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent" by now (linked in the article below), but Jim Emerson...


I normally don't pay attention to reality TV (isn't that an oxymoron, anyway?), but this is worth talking about.

You've probably seen the clip of Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent" by now (linked in the article below), but Jim Emerson (in "Reality: What a concept") has seized on it as a way to talk about what he sees as the hollowness and hypocrisy of trying to extract heartwarming moments from shows fundamentally based as much on ridicule as they are anything else.

The whole thing is worth reading, but I'm chomping out this quote from the comments for discussion:

... the people who made ridiculous assumptions about Susan Boyle based on her appearance in a TV reality show contest are congratulating themselves on Learning A Lesson — and are lecturing others about it.
I brought this up to a friend who replied "Well, what if they really did Learn A Lesson, and they're just being clumsy and tasteless?" My answer to that was, we have no way of knowing whether or not they were sincere about such a thing — because in order to know that, you have to see what people do when no one else is around to keep score. And that's not something you can fit into the context of a reality TV show, and maybe even TV period.

But above and beyond everything else, the lady has a fantastic voice.


Tags: dharma links


Fundoshification Dept.

Loincloths hot among Japan woman | Video | Reuters.comThe latest in "women's liberation" is a product making a comeback in Japan that makers claim allows women to ditch tight-fit underwear -- loincloths....


Loincloths hot among Japan woman | Video | Reuters.com

The latest in "women's liberation" is a product making a comeback in Japan that makers claim allows women to ditch tight-fit underwear — loincloths.

Tags: Japan links


I Just Drifted Into This Dept.

Books of The Times - Manifesto of a Comic-Book Rebel - Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s ‘Drifting Life’ - Review - NYTimes.comTatsumi is of course the man behind The Push Man, Abandon the Old in Tokyo and other works....


Books of The Times - Manifesto of a Comic-Book Rebel - Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s ‘Drifting Life’ - Review - NYTimes.com

Tatsumi is of course the man behind The Push Man, Abandon the Old in Tokyo and other works.



Tags: Japan links manga Yoshihiro Tatsumi


I Talk In Pictures Not In Words Dept.

Art Review - A Ukiyo-E Master in the Art of Subtle Protest - NYTimes.comWell worth a read for the historical context as well as the art....


Art Review - A Ukiyo-E Master in the Art of Subtle Protest - NYTimes.com

Well worth a read for the historical context as well as the art.


Tags: art Japan links ukiyo-e


Atomu Powered Dept.

A new trailer is up for the CGI Astro Boy movie. Look fast for the cameo of Osamu Tezuka (sort of)!...


A new trailer is up for the CGI Astro Boy movie. Look fast for the cameo of Osamu Tezuka (sort of)!

2389-01.jpg


Tags: Astro-Boy / Tetsuwan Atomu Osamu Tezuka


Stark Horse Dept.

THE BEAT » Blog Archive » Some trimming at Dark HorseRob Simpson was recently laid off at Dark Horse. Simpson, an industry vet who formerly worked at DC, was the Senior Editor in charge of Dark Horse’s prose books...


THE BEAT » Blog Archive » Some trimming at Dark Horse

Rob Simpson was recently laid off at Dark Horse. Simpson, an industry vet who formerly worked at DC, was the Senior Editor in charge of Dark Horse’s prose books line, which includes original novels, nonfiction, a series of Playboy Interview collections and various fantasy novels...
Among the fantasy novels was the Vampire Hunter D books (I think); I hope this doesn't mean D's headed for scanslation limbo.

Tags: Dark Horse Comics Vampire Hunter D


Eisner's Folly Dept.

AICN Anime made mention of the Eisner Awards for 2008, with some manga-themed material: Best U.S. Edition of International Material—JapanCat Eyed Boy, by Kazuo Umezu (Viz) Dororo, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical) Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, by Naoki Urasawa (Viz) The...


AICN Anime made mention of the Eisner Awards for 2008, with some manga-themed material:

Best U.S. Edition of International Material — Japan
Cat Eyed Boy, by Kazuo Umezu (Viz)
Dororo, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, by Naoki Urasawa (Viz)
The Quest for the Missing Girl, by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
Solanin, by Inio Asano (Viz)

The one that people seem to be most hung up on is Cat-Eyed Boy, possibly because it's one of those titles people were not all that fond of to begin with. I know it's a "roots" title, but that doesn't mean it'll automatically garner an audience — but the award is about the quality of the adaptation and isn't strictly about the underlying material.

One could argue that it would be better to give recognition to better titles overall, but then you get into the more difficult question of what the award category is really for. I like the fact that at least one of the Tezuka / Vertical reissues made it to the list, since just having his stuff in English at all is a blessing.

I plan to check out Cat-Eyed Boy at some point; for all I know the conventional wisdom about it could be completely wrong.


Tags: Jiro Taniguchi Kazuo Umezu manga Naoki Urasawa Osamu Tezuka Vertical Inc.


Never Sleeps Dept.

I spent Saturday with my folks in Jersey, celebrating the birthday of a family friend, and then from there swung quickly through Manhattan to test out a theory I had about whether or not Google Street View was any good...


I spent Saturday with my folks in Jersey, celebrating the birthday of a family friend, and then from there swung quickly through Manhattan to test out a theory I had about whether or not Google Street View was any good at helping me find curbside parking in a given neighborhood. The short answer: Yes, but bring change anyway, just in case. (Free parking on weekends is not totally dead in the city; it’s just one of those things that I’ve come to not count on at all.)

I swung through Book-Off — saw that one coming, didn’t you? — and nabbed a few goodies, among them the original novel of The Year of Living Dangerously.

Also snagged the first few untranslated Guin Saga books:

IMG_4636

I’m planning on filing the originals next to the U.S. editions and using them as self-teaching tools, along with my copies of the Oldboy manga and a few other items that aren’t exactly classics (Sakura Taisen, cough cough) but are fine for the sake of readability and comprehension-building.

Another thing I stumbled across was — okay, nostalgia time — the soundtrack to the anime version of Peacock King. It's all hard-driving guitars, smoldering ballads and Emulator / CMI synth sounds, all guilty pleasures of mine. (They even made a live-action version of the story in Hong Kong, which I should cover one day if I can ever find a decent DVD of it.)

IMG_4644

On the way back to the car ....

IMG_4602

IMG_4615

IMG_4628

IMG_4622

As the Beatles once said, "A fine time was had by all."


Tags: anime Book-Off family Guin Saga loot NYC travel


Inner Ear Dept.

Thought I'd quiz people about what music to look at next... Another Lustmørd side project,Terror Against Terror, which I hinted at in my Isolrubin BK review. Geinoh Yamashirogumi's Ecophony Rinne, the first installment in the trilogy that included the soundtrack...


Thought I'd quiz people about what music to look at next...


Tags: 9353 Chico Magnetic Band Geinoh Yamashirogumi Lustmørd music noise psychedelia


Music: Crash Injury Trauma (Isolrubin BK)

Most anything with the “dark ambient” or “illbient” labels can be traced back to Brian Williams, aka Lustmørd, even if he’s not all that thrilled with such a descriptor. He’s also managed to balance a career of providing scores and...



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Most anything with the “dark ambient” or “illbient” labels can be traced back to Brian Williams, aka Lustmørd, even if he’s not all that thrilled with such a descriptor. He’s also managed to balance a career of providing scores and effects for Hollywood movies (hey, it’s nice work if you can get it!) with creating albums of music that summon the void in the space between your speakers. It wasn’t hard for me to become a fan of his work — it got to the point where all he had to do was wave a hand in the general direction of a record and I’d pick it up.

That explains how I ended up with some of the more truly curious records in his catalog. Exhibit A for the prosecution: his strange techno / dance / illbient (ill-beat-i-ent?) one-off project Terror Against Terror (Psychological Warfare Technology Systems) so named for a track from one of his earlier discs, and which due to record-label incompetence ended up floating around in limbo for almost four years. Exhibit B: this even more oddball disc, “an ode to the terrible cost of society’s love affair with cars”, as Soleilmoon’s press release put it. Read more


Tags: industrial Lustmørd music


Sonatine Dept.

Ebert gives Kiyoshi Kurosawa's new movie Tokyo Sonata 3 1/2 stars: Tokoyo Sonata :: rogerebert.com :: ReviewsWhat we seem to have are the outlines of a traditional family drama, in which tensions are bottled up, revelations will occur and a...


Ebert gives Kiyoshi Kurosawa's new movie Tokyo Sonata 3 1/2 stars:

Tokoyo Sonata :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews

What we seem to have are the outlines of a traditional family drama, in which tensions are bottled up, revelations will occur and a crisis will result in either tragedy or resolution. But that's not what we're given by director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, best known for upscale horror films. He almost misleads us in the early scenes, by framing the family dinners in sedate and orderly compositions. We believe we know where "Tokyo Sonata" is going. We are wrong.

Tags: Japan Kiyoshi Kurosawa links movies Roger Ebert


Blotchy & Ebert Dept.

Thoughts on Bill O'Reilly and Squeaky the Chicago Mouse :: rogerebert.com :: News & commentDear Bill: Thanks for including the Chicago Sun-Times on your exclusive list of newspapers on your "Hall of Shame." To be in an O'Reilly Hall...


Thoughts on Bill O'Reilly and Squeaky the Chicago Mouse :: rogerebert.com :: News & comment

Dear Bill: Thanks for including the Chicago Sun-Times on your exclusive list of newspapers on your "Hall of Shame." To be in an O'Reilly Hall of Fame would be a cruel blow to any newspaper. It would place us in the favor of a man who turns red and starts screaming when anyone disagrees with him. My grade-school teacher, wise Sister Nathan, would have called in your parents and recommended counseling with Father Hogben.
There are many reasons I am a Roger Ebert fan. This is one of them.

Tags: epic win links Roger Ebert


Eyezapoppin' Dept. (Guin Saga Anime, Anyone?)

The Guin Saga anime has appeared. And from what I can tell, it is good. I don't think an American licensing deal has been set up yet, but I'd bet the phone lines between the U.S. and Japan are burning...


The Guin Saga anime has appeared. And from what I can tell, it is good. I don't think an American licensing deal has been set up yet, but I'd bet the phone lines between the U.S. and Japan are burning up right about now for the sake of one. For now, we have the novels to keep us busy (and the untranslated manga, too), but I'm already filling a jar with change for when the DVD / BD comes out domestically.

That said, the show looks a little something about like .... this: Read more


Tags: anime epic win Guin Saga untranslated


Moth To The Lightbulb Dept.

Roger Ebert's Journal: ArchivesOne of my editors at the Sun-Times once asked me, "Roger, is it true that they used to let reporters smoke at their desks?" This wasn't asked yesterday; it must have been ten years ago. I...


Roger Ebert's Journal: Archives

One of my editors at the Sun-Times once asked me, "Roger, is it true that they used to let reporters smoke at their desks?" This wasn't asked yesterday; it must have been ten years ago. I realized then, although I'm only writing about it now, that a lifestyle had disappeared. When I entered the business in the autumn of my 16th year, newspapering seemed the most romantic and exciting thing I could possibly do with my life. "But honey," my mom said, "they don't pay them anything." Who cared? It involved knowing what was going on before anyone else did, and putting my byline on top of a story telling it to the world. "Roger Ebert" is only a name. "By Roger Ebert" are the three most magical words in the language, drawing my eye the same way a bulls-eye attracts an arrow.

Roger got paid, all right: in experience, the kind of thing you can't buy anyway.


Tags: links Roger Ebert


External Book Reviews: Black Jack Vol. #4

There is no one best thing about Vertical, Inc.’s ongoing reissues of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack. It’s a panopoly of good and best things. Not only are we getting a pivotal manga title in English, it’s one from a man...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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There is no one best thing about Vertical, Inc.’s ongoing reissues of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack. It’s a panopoly of good and best things. Not only are we getting a pivotal manga title in English, it’s one from a man without whose work we probably wouldn’t have manga as we know it. It also serves as a crash course in old-school / roots manga reading — if you like this, there’s lots more to like in the same vein, and not just from this author — and, before I get too swamped in what sounds like an academic discussion, it’s fun. If the story of a black-market surgeon who gets paid in suitcases full of banknotes and heals the parts others doctors do not reach doesn’t turn your head, then go get yourself checked out; you’ve probably stopped breathing.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Black Jack by now, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly — even if some of those fools come in the form of his paying patients. Or, as is the case at least as often, patients who don’t pay, but whom he treats out of his burgeoning sense of duty. It’s easier for him to say that seeing someone in pain offends his sensibilities than to admit he’s an idealist. Consider “Lost and Found”, the episode where Black Jack uses a little under-the-table emotional manipulation to ensure one of his patients pays up — although it’s more for the sake of convincing the other man about what’s really most important in his life. Or “From Afar”, where Black Jack uses competition between surgeons as a ruse to save an innocent boy’s life. Read more


Tags: Japan manga Osamu Tezuka review


A Pox On Both Houses (Of Parliament) Dept.

On why Japan is a wreck: Op-Ed Contributor - Japan’s Crisis of the Mind - NYTimes.comPretty biting stuff, and I suspect it'll ring plenty of bells with those who have been disappointed with Japan's idea of progress being apparently synonymous...


On why Japan is a wreck:

Op-Ed Contributor - Japan’s Crisis of the Mind - NYTimes.com

Pretty biting stuff, and I suspect it'll ring plenty of bells with those who have been disappointed with Japan's idea of progress being apparently synonymous with pouring cement over things.


Tags: Japan links politics


Treasury Dept.

Art Review - 'Art of the Korean Renaissance' - Korean Treasures at a Crossroad in Metropolitan Museum Show - NYTimes.com...


Art Review - 'Art of the Korean Renaissance' - Korean Treasures at a Crossroad in Metropolitan Museum Show - NYTimes.com


Tags: art Korea links museums travel


Keep Back Six Shaku Dept.

The geisha are apparently on the way out, too. In Kyoto, a Call to Not Trample the Geisha - NYTimes.com...


The geisha are apparently on the way out, too.

In Kyoto, a Call to Not Trample the Geisha - NYTimes.com


Tags: Japan links travel


Phew Dept.

A good weekend was had by all. Went down to my friend Sarah's house for her birthday, enjoyed games and good cooking, Chinese buffets and Japanese import PS2 games. It's taking more time than I thought to get caught up,...


A good weekend was had by all. Went down to my friend Sarah's house for her birthday, enjoyed games and good cooking, Chinese buffets and Japanese import PS2 games. It's taking more time than I thought to get caught up, but I should be completely back to business by tomorrow. Look for some new material by then, in a couple of different departments.


Tags: reading travel


Exhale Dept.

Deep breath out … The last few months have been horribly busy -- work, writing, some new projects started and old ones finished -- and one of the consequences of that has been a little less activity here. But some...


Deep breath out …

The last few months have been horribly busy — work, writing, some new projects started and old ones finished — and one of the consequences of that has been a little less activity here. But some good news came my way (a king-sized tax refund, among other things), and I also have some new material in the pipe that's definitely worth talking about (Bashing being one of the first).

  • Natsume Sōseki's Ten Nights of Dreams, both the book and the movie. The latter features, among others, Yoshitaka Amano.
  • The second new anthology of Edogawa Rampo's work, courtesy of Kurodahan Press. Plus one or more of the movies made from stories in the book: Daydream, Watcher in the Attic, etc.
  • Go Shibata's startling Late Bloomer, which came to my attention thanks to Ebert's review. (Ebert himself no longer being capable of speaking, I imagine the movie had particular resonance for him.)
  • And the next Guin Saga manga, which cannot come out fast enough.

Also, courtesy of Subway Cinema:

"Krazy! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games" is on display at Japan Society until June 14 and this brain-blast of an exhibit includes several anime screenings. Go to their site for the somewhat complicated screening schedule - it takes a minute to figure it out, but since they're screening films like PAPRIKA, MIND GAME (don't miss it!) and PATLABOR 2: THE MOVIE (amongst others) it's worth the brain power you'll spend.

They're not kidding about Mind Game, by the way. That gets my marks for being the best animated film not currently available in anything other than an import edition.


Tags: anime Edogawa Rampo Go Shibata Japan Japan Society Kurodahan Press manga movies Natsume Sōseki writing Yoshitaka Amano


External Book Reviews: Samurai 7 Vol. 1

Samurai 7 isn’t a bad manga, just as the anime of the same name isn’t a bad anime. But I had the same problem with both of them: Why remake Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai—arguably one of the greatest films ever...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


Purchases support
this site.

Samurai 7 isn’t a bad manga, just as the anime of the same name isn’t a bad anime. But I had the same problem with both of them: Why remake Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samuraiarguably one of the greatest films ever made in any language or era — and add little or nothing to the original story but length and convolution? I’m not against remakes in principle — I’m against them when they don’t add anything.

When Kurosawa’s estate licensed Yojimbo — another great movie of his — to Bandai for an anime remake, that wasn’t as problematic since Yojimbo was itself a remake, albeit a distant and uncredited one, of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest. Bandai went back to the original novel and used that as the most direct inspiration for the final product, and ended up with one of the more underrated shows they’ve ever put out. It’s a textbook example of how to do this sort of thing right.

But Seven Samurai was an original — a template-setter rather than a template-follower, like John Ford’s Stagecoach or Hitchcock’s Psycho, or (oh, irony!) Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, also slated for a live-action remake. Why remake something that’s peerless? Because there’s money to be made from a name brand, be it Kurosawa or Seven Samurai, and after a long enough time all the sacred cows eventually get ground up into hamburger.

And so now we have Samurai 7, a franchise that included a TV series, a video game, and now this manga adaptation to round out the product line. What’s curious about Samurai 7 is how it manages to be faithful to the original story without ever quite recapturing the original’s electricity or spirit. It has the words, and even some of the notes, but somehow not the music. By itself it’s perfectly okay, but in the shadow of its older brother it bulks terribly tiny — and I hope you’ll forgive me for saying that there is literally no way for me to review one without talking about the other. If you’re like me, you’re going to have a hard time getting used to the idea that this new Samurai story is more or less about guys cutting spaceships in half. Read more


Tags: Akira Kurosawa Japan manga review


External Movie Reviews: Shigurui: Death Frenzy

The mark of a skilled executioner in feudal Japan was to be able to slice off the head of a victim and yet still leave it attached to the corpse by a single shred of flesh. Here is a story...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


Purchases support
this site.

The mark of a skilled executioner in feudal Japan was to be able to slice off the head of a victim and yet still leave it attached to the corpse by a single shred of flesh. Here is a story that operates with the same level of merciless and inhumane skill, the better to systematically drain every ounce of humanity and compassion out of its characters.

It will also cause most people — those who aren’t gorehounds, anyway — to lose their lunch. Maybe even the gorehounds, too.

I’m torn. On the one hand, Shigurui is brilliant and artfully assembled — as much a cold-blooded dissection of depraved human behavior as it is a showcase for it, about how culture and circumstance and social abstracts can turn people into total monsters. On the other hand, it’s just nasty. People are disemboweled, dismembered, beheaded; have noses and jaws and faces torn off, sliced off, smashed off; are burnt, blinded, disfigured; raped, groped, tormented.

And yet this isn’t a cheap piece of exploitation trash like Eiken or Colorful!. Everyone involved had serious intentions, and believed they had good reasons for doing what they did: to hammer home how the almost coolly abstract “way of the sword” in classical Japan was bought and paid for in terms of mangled bodies and ruined lives. The whole package has been put together with consummate craft. It is brilliant and horrible at the same time, and while I do think it’s worth watching I’m not sure anyone — not even a fan of this material — needs to see it more than once. Read more


Tags: anime Japan review samurai



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