Monday, February 27, 2006

How I got into anime

Telling people you like anime is a lot like telling people you're gay. If you tell people you like anime, they automatically assume things about you -- unsavory things at that. You're unkempt, you're nerdy/geeky, you do not eat well, you are lonely, you cannot get dates, you want to be Japanese, you have low expectations of quality in your entertainment sources, you have a childish mind and childish humour --- all kinds of things. And while some folks DO seem to fit into stereotypes in one way or another, you seriously can never peg a person with stereotypes.

I actually hesitate to tell people I like anime BEFORE I hesitate to say I'm gay. How sad is that? I guess at least gay people are funny (Will & Grace, Ellen, every gay supporting character in a straight film). But anime?

It is kind of strange, though, to finally GET it. Way back in highschool, my girlfriend's sister was a HUGE anime buff, I got to watch a little. It was okay. The big-eyed giggly girl thing really annoyed me as did the whiney wimpy hero stereotypes. Then I went to college and I started going to these Saturday anime club anime showings a classmate of mine. We'd watch 3 hours worth of anime, mostly stuff that hadn't been liscenced. One thing non-anime fans don't seem to get is that the stuff that gets liscenced here is stuff that is much more palatable for westerners. It's suited to the average American tastes - as much as anime can be. The stuff that DOESN'T get liscenced, or the stuff that doesn't get widely released is very different. Anyway, moving on...

So I saw a LOT of anime this way. I looked forward to seeing more episodes each week of the different series we were watching, and I did kind of get interested in trying to find some more anime, but not in any obsessive way. It wasn't until after I graduated college that I started looking for anime (and some manga) at the library. Neon Genesis Evangelion was the first anime I ever searched out on my own - it's one of those big titles you have to watch because it's classic. Like watching Citizen Kane if you're a film buff. I also read Nausicäa of the Valley of Wind -- now THAT was good reading. I also read some lesser titles, like the American "Gunsmith Cats", "Neon Genesis Evangelion", and "Ghost in the Shell". Still I didn't like those as much as western graphic novels, and I never did find any more anime on my own.

Then, right before we all moved away, my roommate finally got me to watch some Full Metal Alchemist. Ohh. That was good. Very good. Good enough that I wanted to keep watching. But then we all moved and I was cut off. The stress of moving and things put it out of my mind for the most part.

Fast forward nearly a year. A friend introduces me to Maria-Sama ga Miteru and I am finally hooked.

See, I like to collect things. I collect coins. I collect patches and interesting packing lables. I collect European goth/darkwave/synth metal music. I collect post-apocalyptic items/stories/games. And I collect lesbian stuff: books, music, stories, movies.... It's slow going in the lesbian world, particularly in serial television. But when my friend showed me MariMite -- and "Kannazuki no Miko" and "Mai-HiME" and "Noir", I was exposed to a whole new world of opportunity as far as lesbian-ish relationships go in a serial format. On top of that, I already had the hang of watching anime (listening in Japanese, reading in English; facial expressions; 'limited' animation style; pacing of story/action...). And it just CLICKED. Suddenly it all came into focus. Not ALL the anime I watch has to be queer in content ("Wolf's Rain", "Full Metal Alchemist"). I just finally saw something so artful that it actually surpassed every other genre of film or television I'd ever seen -- in this instance, it's MariMite's depth of character.

In the end, I like the creative plots, worlds, characters, and stories that can be found in anime. Anime isn't just for kids -- most of it isn't. There's violence, strong language, sex, crime, drugs - anything that can be found in regular film or tv, if you want it. It also has this style to it, a sense of humor sometimes that is just really endearing. It just feels fresh because it isn't deepfried American-on-Wonder Bread. I'm so sick of most American films as it is - even a lot of our television is just so ... gross. Maybe that's why I'm so drawn to shows like "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" -- they're some of the only series out there that aren't episodic in terms of plot. It's one gigantic story, each episode a chapter -- its all linked together.

That's another thing people don't get about anime. It's usually finite, an end has been planned. The first few episodes are almost ALWAYS dull and slow in comparison with how they end up. You cannot sum up an anime by a couple of episodes -- often you may not appreciate a series til you've seen it in its ENTIRETY, when it finally clicks and comes to an end -- an end that is usually not clean and perfect, an end that is more like real life. I was never a fan of short stories; I always liked big novels with awesome plots that beg you to read "just one more chapter" before going to bed way past your bedtime. That's what anime is like for me.

A lot of my frustration is probably due to being surrounded by people who prefer teeny-bopper movies and predictable books/music/tv (small town). But I'd like to hear what your thoughts are on your process of becoming an 'otaku' if you're up to sharing. :)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Accordion Solitaire

This is a very easy solitaire to play, but very difficult to win - I've never won and I think Kais has done it once. The best I've done is gotten it down to three piles, the goal being to get all the cards into a single pile.

This is how it works. You have all the cards shuffled and in your hand. One at a time, you take the top card and flip it over and lay it down next to the card you just layed down, in a row. If the card you lay down is the same number or suit as the card next to it or as the card three cards down, you can take the new card and put it on top of the one it matches. If it matches both the card immediately adjacent to it AND the third card up, you get to pick where it goes. And by "third card over", I mean you skip cards one and two and put it ON THREE, no exceptions.

When you move a card, you move all the cards that are under it as well, so you are slowly combining piles in an effort to get all the cards into a single stack at the end. By moving a card/stack to a new spot, you might create a chain reaction of cards/stacks that can now be moved. Sometimes you can move more cards depending on which order you move them in if a chain reaction comes up, so pay attention to see how far you can condense your cards.

That's it. You go til you've exhausted the deck. If you do absolutely terrible, you might end up taking quite a bit of space with all the cards.

This is a wonderful version of solitaire, if you have the room for it. A lot is left up to luck but it's a nice way to while away time while listening to music.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Depeche Mode "Playing the Angel"

I like this album a lot - the album before this, Exciter, was SO dull. Slow with no catchy songs, Depeche Mode lost the dark and brooding tones they'd run with from Music for the Masses to Ultra. But with this album we're seeing a kind of return to form.

Playing the Angel sounds familiar, a kind of neo-retro Depeche Mode (yeah, of themselves) the way a lot of new bands are doing neo-80's - but it sounds new at the same time.

Favorite songs on this album are:
A Pain That I'm Used To
John the Revelator
Suffer Well

"Precious" is probably the most familiar in terms of sounding how you'd expect Depeche Mode to evolve, but with that obvious neo-80's/neo-DM sound. ;) 'Tis my favorite of the bunch. All in all this album has songs that will be on my playlists for a long time to come.

Abandoned Things and Post-Apocalyptic Genre

Abandoned things and places explained

I wonder if my taste for dark/broody/industrial sorts of music is related to my penchant for abandoned structures/objects. Somehow they seem to go together well and if I'm painting something abandoned, this is the sort of music that goes with it best. Hard to tell since I've only done two abandoned paintings but the mood of the two things, the physical things and the music, are similar for me. They all work under the umbrella of "post-apocalyptic", and most of you know how much I love post-apocalyptic stories. Games, movies, books...

I think that's why I love the post-apocalypse genre... or maybe not WHY, but what I like about it. Particularly post-nuclear/war type apocalypse. Because things have been damaged, abandoned, left behind. Often its things that were perfectly FINE when they were abandoned and it's only time that has worn them down -- which is my favorite type of abandoned thing: old mines, and mining equiptment were all working fine when they were just LEFT there. A post-apocalyptic landscape would be chock full of these things.

And it's not WHY they're now abandoned that matters so much, it's the stories behind them before they were abandoned. It's crazy that there are these things laying around and no one seems to know why. The Colluseum - we know what it's for, who built it, etc. Ancient artifacts all have scads of scientists pouring over them and what they were for. But more modern items, though way easier to decypher the stories for, no one cares about. One day, everyone who remembers will be gone, and that day isn't too far off. I found that generator/compressor thing up there on the mountainside and no one seems to know what it was for. I mean, I can GUESS, but what's better is wondering who bought it, who dragged it up there, how long did it operate for, was it working when they left it? A human or group of humans were THERE and they were busy and productive and here's sign of their story and what makes it seem almost supernatural is the fact that it was left there not long ago.

If you believe in the energies of places and things, then you might get this. When I was in Rome and was in all these old buildings and in the catacombs... they were SO old and though we know the stories of these things, they had no energy to them at all. It was like becuase so many hundreds of thousands of people had been there since they were abandoned that the energy was worn away like an old coat of paint. Ancient places that are hard to get to might still have this energy but obviously it would be very difficult for me to get to them to find out. So I have things like mines and wrecked trains that not so many people have been to, that haven't been there for so long, so the energy is still there.

And bringing it full circle -- a post-apocalyptic landscape would be chock-FULL of these sorts of things and places. Ta-da. I'd never thought to link all this together before. :)

Photos copyright©Kara Stenberg