May. 25th, 2017 08:42 am
chronovore: (Default)
I have a soft spot for '70s-'90s anime, and love the character/mecha designs and such, but anime seems to have increasingly crawled up its own ass in an ouroboros-like attempt to appeal to its already-overserved core audience.

Urusei Yatsura or Ranma appeal to EVERYONE. Crayon Shinchan is funny to everyone. But girls whose legs turn into battleships, or an academy for lesbian witches begins from an intent which itself is highly suspect.
chronovore: (Default)
 Beautiful World by Devo just came on, and I felt compelled to post in that LJ way, which is now the Dreamwidth way, and that's way good. 

"Makes me want to say, 'It's a beautiful world!' for you, for you, for you! It's not for me!"

Had a fantastic weekend out with a friend who is leaving for Tokyo soon, and another who lives in Tokyo but came down for BitSummit 5. So many inspiring people and experiences there. Stayed at 9 Hours again, for the win. It wasn't as cheap as previous times, but still a clean and relaxed environment to crash at. 

Here's an answer I recently posted on Quora about working in Japan:

It’s rough. I worked in US game development for 8 years at five companies, and then over 10 more years in Japan at one company, before returning to US game development. From nearly every angle, developing in America is more rewarding than in Japan.

The salary is lower in Japan. I took at 15% pay cut from my US Art Director salary to take a corporate Director position. Some friends have taken closer to 50% pay cuts when joining a Japanese developer.

The hours are consistently longer in Japan. In 20 years, I’ve worked crunchtime in a number of companies; Japan demands more. A non-crunch workweek was ~50 hours but, prior to delivering builds, 60–65 hours was common, and we would be in 70~80 hours a week across 7-day-weeks for the last several months of any project.

Consideration from the company for the individual is largely unheard of in Japanese dev. It is culturally normal to see one’s efforts as part of the group’s, and this mentality of course carries into the workplace. It is critical to get tacit approval from superiors, because one is making a decision for the company as a whole, not just on one’s own responsibility.

On the positive side, my Japanese teammates were consistently hard working, diligent, faithful, and consistent. They would deliver on promises consistently, and largely communicated well when things were not going as planned. As a manager, I never felt left in the lurch. 

chronovore: (sweater)
I gave up and put on the air conditioner today, when a waterfall of sweat was running off my arms despite sitting directly in front of a fan.

This country is trying to kill me. 
chronovore: (sweater)
This morning, Tom Cruise was in Japan as part of this "Loop Tour" to support All You Need Is Kill's launch next Friday. I felt compelled to watch, as this is apparently his first-ever appearance on a Japanese morning show.

There is ONE WOMAN who is responsible for most or all of the Japanese translations of American films. This senior citizen is apparently the unquestioned queen-god of this niche, and has some kind of political stranglehold on it. She also manages to get herself attached to any major star who comes to Japan and, unlike other translators, gets a name credit shown, is featured on camera, etc. She is, essentially, a celebrity after a fashion.

So she's on with The Cruise Missile this morning, and translating everything back and forth for him -- but seated across from him is Mari Sekine, an announcer who speaks native English after having attended International School and graduating from Emerson. But the native speaker is relegated to speaking Japanese to Cruise so that the self-aggrandizing "translating talent" can fulfill her role.

I don't know why, but it bothered the shit out of me. Something about dealing with established hierarchy over competence, or respecting political barriers rather than embracing efficiency, I suspect.

Yeah, that's it. I can feel myself getting riled up all over again.

Anyway, movie opens next week, and I'm looking forward to seeing it.
chronovore: (sweater)
Previously felt like, Oh, hey, I'm awake at a bright-and-early 05:30, it must be summer.
Then I saw swarms of mosquitoes outside and thought, It's really summer now.
But then last night I woke up to being barnstormed by mosquitoes at 02:00, 04:30, and 05:00 and am fucking knackered for it. NOW IT'S SUMMER.
chronovore: (sweater)
A few weeks ago, Wolf Children aired on standard broadcast TV. It was a moving, modern fairy tale about a woman who loves a wolf, and bears him two children. The movie mostly follows her efforts to raise them, trapped between two worlds, two very different "cultures." It was surprisingly sensitive and nuanced, and the art was really impressive.

This sparked an interest in Mamoru Hosada, its director and co-writer. Last night we watched Summer Wars, a neat mostly present-day piece where the main difference from our world is a shared virtual space called Oz, where pretty much everyone in the world's 10,000,000,000 people (maybe this is near-future?) has an account. This story mainly follows a couple of high school students: a flighty high school girl who has brought her friend, a bookish underclassman, to work part-time at her family farm.

This film relied more prevalently on CG, with swaths of the movie taking place in this virtual reality which is largely a super flat styled space, with simplified and stylized avatars roaming throughout its multipurpose environs. The bulk of the real-world portion takes place in the countryside, the journey to which is itself worthy of note: As the characters leave the city, they move from bullet-train to standard train, to trolley, to bus... exemplifying the gradually lowering technology and modern convenience until arriving at the farm, itself a turn-of-the-century relic of traditional Japanese architecture.

The girl's family is very well-realized, with a number of interesting characters being portrayed across a number of traditional character types. While the two main characters were fairly realistic in their presentation, the surrounding family relied more heavily on dramatic archetypes; surprisingly this worked well, despite the contrast.

The film is, despite the grand scope it eventually enters, a coming of age tale writ large. It has strong undertones of how we are all interdependent, reliant on each other. Oddly there is another theme about how "the old things are better," showing analog methods to be the most reliable ways -- when the majority of the world is unable to access their bank, work, and school accounts online, the grandmother pulls out old letters and postcards to reach out to her real-world network of people to help. She calls them on a rotary phone. The boy, a math olympics champion, relies on a pencil and paper to reverse-engineer a necessary password at a critical plot point. However, the film itself ignores the fact that the grandma's phone is connected to all her fellows' by a digitally linked network which is only possible through technology, and the boy's efforts on pencil and paper could only have been sped up by a portable calculator. It's possible I missed a plot point where the grandmother's phone use /is/ detected on the digital network, and possibly the math savant's phone has a calculator but he fears not use it because it's networked... but seeing as the pencil-and-paper method is employed before Things Go To Hell, I'm guessing it's just a desired affectation to enforce the theme.

The reason I'm blagging on about this is that it seems so ironic: to realize the full vision of this movie, the modern contrivance of CG is used to amplify the visuals all over; not just the VR world, but many items in the "real" world are rendered into it rather than being hand-drawn. In addition, the movie has relied heavily on Korean studios for the production -- outsourcing, another step away from tightly linked small studios in Japan, to the broader, cost-sensitive world of distributed development. I'm not saying it is wrong, but it is a shade ironic.

It is, without a doubt, one of the best animated films I've seen. It is a fun ride, with a good message at its core, despite some unintentional irony.
chronovore: (sweater)
Japan suffers from Galapagos syndrome, or something like it. Cable never took off here; Broadcast Satellite dishes were more popular than cable delivery. There was never a revolution from brick-and-mortar rental stores to mail-delivery a la Netflix, and while digital PPV had an advertising push last year between Hulu and DMM, I'm not sure how many people actually use them. Most surprisingly, in this land of vending machines, the RedBox model has not appeared yet.

I guess I'm saying the video distribution model doesn't really sync up with anything else.
chronovore: (sweater)
Ubume no Natsu - I've had this DVD for a dog's age, finally decided to watch it, so I could get some more j-horror in me. Bad move! This is not a horror movie, it's a talky j-mystery with little or no actual scares.

Ringu - I remember this as being much more unsettling. I remember when they showed the faces of the corpses, how terrified they looked, and this time, it seemed undistorted. I thought the scenes had been manipulated so the faces were torsioned out of normal capacity. Having seen her recently on TV, Matsushima Nanako does not appear to have changed in the intervening years, which is a little disturbing. The video sequences are still quite effective, but it's not quite there. I probably will choose not to re-watch Dark Water (Honogurai no Mizu no Soko Kara) for fear of having it fall flat.

Mononoke Hime - This movie gets better with repeated viewings. My god, what a thrilling adventure, rich, nuanced characters, and basically everything you could want from a Ghibli movie, except a sense of humor. There just aren't many laughs in the movie, and that's a shame. Suspense, action, even intrigue -- it has in spades. A lush, wonderful movie.

Super - Rainn Wilson can act, and is a hilarious, brave guy to wear that much shitty spandex. Liv Tyler plays a borderline attractive, trashy, doomed addict with perfect pitch. I wonder how many role models she's had on hand for the role, because she nails it. Kevin Bacon is also great, but that's like saying "the sky is blue." Kevin Bacon is always great. Ellen Page looks like a young Sigourney Weaver without her baby fat, which is a good thing; the hyperactive, poor-impulse-control comic store grrl is a good role for her. It's a shame it's just slightly out of her reach, acting wise -- at least compared to the other performers. I enjoyed the more realistic take on superheroes; more realistic than Kick-Ass, but at the same time, the resolution is not particularly believable.

Ending spoilers:spoilers under cut )

As-is, it is still a very enjoyable, disturbing film. There's a great essay on it by The Hulk if anyone can stand reading pages of all-caps.

chronovore: (sweater)
Not a bad movie, but a few too many conceits at the end. The film ends several times, which was kind of neat. The scary school was a fantastic backdrop, as always, and some of the camera work was so suspense-inducing that I found the hair on my arms rising and a big smile creeping across my face.

The acting is, across the board, typical for a Japanese drama, which doesn't lend much to the found-footage nature of the film. Even if none of the scenes were improvised, I think they could have increased the tension in the acting by just telling the actors that occasionally things were going to happen, thus keeping them more on edge.

There's a sequence in the middle which plays a bit with time, which was really creepy and fun.

The ghosts, overall, were scary, but didn't make much sense in the overall theme -- I suppose I should be thankful to not have everything explained for me, but there were some things which were so over-explained that the missing bits just feel thematically off.

3 out of 5 shrieking aidoru
chronovore: (sweater)
I'm going to rename the game here and now: UNHAPPY WARS.

What is WRONG with Japan, can't grok networking to save their life. The game is plenty of fun when it works right, but even after a sizable Title Update (42MB), the wait in the Lobby has three separate countdowns, and always stalls on the last part of the last countdown, one unit short of completion, for a duration equal to all the previous counts combined. Sometimes, at this point, instead of proceeding to the game, it kicks me back to the main menu, but there is no way to know if it's going to crash out or continue to the delicious fracas without JUST WAITING FOREVER for the result, on "11/12," or "17/18," or "8/9."

Also, right after the Title Update, there was an interesting PVP match where I couldn't damage the enemy team members, but they could cast beneficial spells on me, so there's some kind of binary bit for who is enemy vs. ally, and it got flipped. We played for about 10 minutes before the game crashed. I've had three or four other matches which had gone quite long, but crashed out before completion. Of course, none of these will count toward completion of its grindy "play more than 100 games" -- ffffuuuu...

There's a fair amount of gameplay success/failure tied up in Gear, and good Gear is not awarded randomly; truly sweet items seem to only come from MtG-style Booster Packs of virtual cards, and buying those costs money. Recently the game offered free Tickets (IAP currency) to try, so I think some people were able to see what the nice items are... This is a "first hit is free" kind of gift.  
chronovore: (Default)
Last night, as I was climbing into bed just after midnight, I heard a shrill noise coming from at least two of my walls. The racket was pretty subdued inside my house, which has double-paned everything and substantial insulation, so I was surprised to hear much of anything. It soon proved to be coming from outside; my first thought was that my neighbors' heater fan had hit some kind of resonant frequency with our own, or something which would provide that kind of high-pitched feedback. I opened the windows, and it seemed at once to more clearly be some kind of constant alarm bell.

I went downstairs, my wife confirmed that it had only just started, so I went outside to look. There is one small apartment complex on our block, which is otherwise single-family residences -- typical houses. The apartment has a lot of turnover, so no-one really knows anyone in it. Like most Japanese apartments, it has a foyer with a locked front door, and an intercom from which people can buzzed in.

The buzzer was stuck on "open." I tried the door, it swung open. I tried to manually reset the deadbolt: no luck. I tried pulling the door shut to realign whatever mechanical or magnetic lock might tell the thing that the door had opened and closed: nope.


I went back inside and told my wife about everything I tried. She said, "So someone might have forced it open?" I guess...  "So it could have been some kind of bad guy?" I... hadn't really thought about that. Hm. I don't know what to do. You can't sleep with this, can you? "Sure, I can." So it was off to earplug land for me.

As I lay in bed trying to find how to get away to get sweet slumber to enshroud me in its purple cloak, I instead saw a bouncing light shining around my room from the window. I hopped up to see some sort of local Barney Fife running down the street with a flashlight, trying to find the source of the sound. Later, there were police cars. I'm still not sure what happened.
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I'm using an 8GB USB keychain drive for my Xbox 360 GamerTag account and some Rock Band content, so I can bring it to work and play during lunch without using up the company's 20GB HDD's storage space.

The 8GB unit was 3000 yen three months ago. I have been keeping an eye out for 16GB so I can carry more stuff around - I've got way too much Rock Band DLC, and I'd like to drag my music game data to my sister's place, so I can play there as well.

Locally the prices on 16GB USB drives has been unwavering in the nearly 6000 yen mark for months. Months. Today I've found myself scoping Amazon to order stuff to have it waiting for me at my sister's when I go to visit. It dawned on me that there may be a price difference. Lo and behold! Amazon's displaying really cheap prices. So cheap that I may even get a 32GB unit and enjoy the extra partition to sneakernet stuff from various machines and then use the 360's media features (sometimes my home wireless network appears asthmatic).

Japan really does ass-bash its consumer population. It's just nuts.
chronovore: (mouthy)
I'm just sayin'.

Yeah, I know it's likely just a formality, and they're feeling about as remorseful as the other times when "もうしわけございません" is used... which is not particularly rueful. It just boggles my mind that these notes and, by extension, going home on time is such a rarity.
chronovore: (Default)
I was out of the USA in 1993 and 1994, so I missed the last two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Despite Japan having just about every popular American TV series available for rental, TNG has not been available from any of the local places. A friend at work is a big fan though, so he lent me his Japanese-region collection of Season 6 and 7.Yahoo!

My wife is willing to watch all manner of SF with me; we watched Millennium from start to finish in the US, all of Evangelion (and we both hated the ending together). She loves Fringe, enjoyed The Lost Room, and Firefly. But my wife hates Star Trek. She can't deal with aliens who are only differentiated by skin tone and some funky prosthetic glued to their forehead.

So I can't watch them with her, she's not interested; and the friend at work didn't want me to keep his pristine, perfectly kept mint collectors' edition sets for a year. And I didn't want to either, since my son has a tendency to get into my office, rifle my toys, and generally explore a lot. And by "explore" I mean "take apart, apply stickers, and otherwise damage."

Thank goodness for Handbrake! I've ripped all 30 or so unseen episodes to .h264 MP4 files and am watching them during my commute on the train each day.

Picard has the only haircut which has aged well. Troi and Crusher's hairstyles are pretty frightening, and Deanna Troi's jumpsuit, horrible even at the time, is leagues worse now. Dropping her in science blues was a good decision.

I'm looking forward to catching up. The show is still oddly inspiring.
chronovore: (furious)
At work we have fingerprint reader locks at the entrances leading to the building's common spaces such as the elevators and hallways leading to the building's restrooms. Unfortunately they are kind of a pain in the ass, because the registration of the fingerprint alignment is quite finicky, and the bond between the glass and finger does not work well if the proffered digit is overly dry, there is no user feedback from the lock while it scans (Is it reading now? Did that go through? Is it active, or is it warming up to read? Do I need to try again?), etc. I've joked that, if these locks were used in a horror movie where the main character is fleeing from the monster or alien, in movies they always open at the last minute but with these locks the character would just get eaten. They are really uncooperative locks.

So it's quite a stroke of when I'm returning from the restroom and someone else is leaving the dev floor. All they have to do is push a button and the door unlocks, but from the opposite side you have to go through Fort Knox procedures to get back on the floor to work.

Sometimes, however, there will be someone standing on the dev floor side, waiting... they can hear the beep-beep-beep of my employee number being entered, they can then hear the long delay after those beeps, while I fumble my finger around on the glass, trying to find a position that the lock accepts my fingerprint. They're planning to open the door, but they're waiting for me to do it. WHY? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? PUSH THE FUCKING BUTTON AND OPEN THE DOOR. DO YOU THINK HANS GRUBER IS OUT HERE WITH A BAND OF TERRORISTS, ABOUT TO KICK IN THE DOOR? DO YOU THINK HANS FUCKING GRUBER IS GOING TO BE WAYLAID BY A FINICKY FINGERPRINT LOCK? OPEN THE GODDAMNED DOOR FOR ME, JOHN McCLANE.
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Interesting weekend for me: even with the wife away on a business trip, the kids were both largely angelic... but I worked hard to make it easy for them. Saturday I made breakfast for them; the boy loves pancakes and maple syrup (the real stuff) but at some point the girl decided the smell of them makes her nauseous. In the afternoon I took them and their cousin to a children's art show where they built a giant cardboard fort while I looked at a bunch of kids' work on the walls. We had an early dinner and then attended karate for two hours.

During that Saturday I managed to chalk up a number of injuries; I nearly fell down the steps again while trying to close a window on the landing. Pulling rice out of the microwave, a jet of steam opened up on one finger and gave me a searing jolt. Then I went to karate and hurried into a very bad backward roll; managed to conk my own head as well as put my 94kg weight onto my neck. Then one of my favorite black belts gave me a 10 minute clinic on resisting his joint locks, which mostly turned out to be ways to make me squeak like a bagpipe.

Everyone slept pretty well that night, though I was still paranoid about mosquitoes after that other incident.

Sunday morning, the girl rose earlier than the rest of us and helped the neighborhood kids gather and centralize newspapers for recycling. As a reward, she was able bring one of her friends over for the afternoon and play. In the evening my mom-in-law took all of us to a hotspring for a soak and dinner. This spring is about 30 minutes drive into the mountains, and has air that is more cool and clear than near our home; soaking in the outdoor tubs is something I could do for hours. Dinner was great; I had a smörgåsbord of various pickles and a little grilled fish, as well as some spicy tebasaki and some cool nihonshuu served from a chilled shoot of bamboo. Lovely. It was a great way to get all of us recharged for the week ahead of us. Only a few more days until I get my wife back.

(And in the "this cannot possibly fail" category, I'm thinking of making a hard rock band with costumes made out of steak and ribs and calling it MEATALLICA.)


Sep. 26th, 2009 03:11 am
chronovore: (mouthy)
So it's 03:15, and I've spent the last 2.5 hrs. hunting what turned out to be four blood-filled mosquitoes. They were lucky, then they were really unlucky. If they'd just snack and be on their way, it wouldn't be so bad, but even engorged they'll keep buzzing and biting. I've got four new bites, and the boy has at least two. The girl sleeps under a mosquito net because she's a princess (and smarter than I am). So. Yes. I'm tired; I'm tired to the point where it feels like nausea. But I hunted them all down (knock wood) and made several bloody stains on the wallpaper and my hands.

We had the housecleaner dust all the window screens today. Silly me, I turned off all the lights then opened all the windows when we went to bed, and didn't even think to check if the screens were solidly shut. As it turns out the biggest window had the screen entirely on the wrong half of the window -screens slide here, and I forgot that- so the window was entirely open for an hour or so. Hence the parade of sleep-stealing bloodsuckers. DESTROY.


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