Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Links-san 6-29-2007

Lets start off this installment by learning a little about sumo from Samurai Dave and the Roving Ronin Report:

You know what? Samurai Dave is so awesome that we must enjoy his Eclectic Cultural Montage as well:

Next time I go to Japan I really want to check out the racing samurai and yabusame. Damn, this thing is turning into YouTubesday Two, Samurai Dave Boogaloo.

And the photo of the week from Fushmi Inari brought to you by Evan Pike and Japan Probe.

Speaking of torii, here is an interesting use for them: fighting litter.

One of the things I love about the Japanese is their willingness to enthusiastically embrace whatever kink gets them off. The most recent example is the Heroine Tokusatsu Kenkyujo (Heroine Special Effects Laboratory) which has opened in Akihabara. This is a store which caters to those of you obsessed with either Yellow Ranger or Pink Ranger. Go learn more from the undisputed Otaku-king Patrick at An Eternal Thought in the Mind of Godzilla.

And then there is this sort of cringe-worthy crap. (And by crap I mean the whole love doll thing, not Lee's frackin' hilarious coverage of said phenomena.)

Well, while we are on the subject of Japanese sexuality I might as well point out this bit from Japundit about love hotels. Much like the capsule hotel, I wanted to stay in one of these overnight while I was in Tokyo just so I could say I did, but I never really got around to doing it. The next time I go I will track one down and let you kids know what it was like.

Now I like melons as much as the next guy but square melons? For $105 a pop? That's a bit much for my taste.

Is it stupid that I am proud this is happening in Texas? I also like the snotty final quote in the article.

During my brief stay in Tokyo (in the pleasingly gaijin-scale and fairly inexpensive Tokyu Stay Monzen-Nakacho) I was confronted by a toilet with WAY more buttons than toilets are supposed to have. Since there were no instructions in English, or Engrish, and the pictograms were vague at best I did not avail myself of the bonus features of the toilet. Now the bonus features are coming around the Pacific Rim thanks to Toto with their initial marketing push being referred to in some circles as "Moons Over Manhattan" for obvious reasons. Thanks for the heads up JP!

Also while in Japan I was complimented on my ability to use chopsticks, which is apparently something that not all Japanese bother to learn anymore. I assure you I could not do this.

According to this piece over at Japan Probe I have seen 22 out of the top 50 anime movie/series as recently ranked in a poll conducted by Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs. This includes all but three of the top 15. I thought "My Neighbor Totoro," my favorite anime of all time, would have scored higher and I am somewhat surprised that "Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack" even made the list, even though I really enjoy that movie as well. My one question about this list is where is the Kenichi Sonoda love? I get that "Riding Bean" and the various entries in the "Gall Force" saga are no masterpieces, but surely the original "Bubblegum Crisis" is worthy of mentioning, particularly in a list where crap like "Dragon Ball" ends up in the top 10. Japan Probe also has a list of the top 50 manga however I have only ever read something like four of the series on the list and then just issues here and there. I do wonder whose version of "The Tale of Genji" they are talking about on this list as I imagine there are multiple manga versions of this tale floating around out there.

Here is an interesting article from Japundit about getting your license to drive in Japan, which totally needs to be the sequel to the inevitably overrated Corey-fest that was 1988's "License to Drive."

Want some more "fear the gaijin" crap? How about this from Japundit about foreign wives being a security concern? Not enough for you? Read and learn how Brazilians are prone to commit crimes. If I remember correctly Brazil has one of the largest Japanese communities outside Japan so when the article refers to the man in question as being Japanese-Brazilian, he could be ethnically pure Japanese from Brazil. Here is the same bit from Japan Probe along with an article discussing why Japan does not have anti-discrimination laws. I particularly like how the demand for anti-discrimination legislation is "the totalitarianism of developed countries." To me this infers that the author of that particular statement thinks of Japan as being separate from the developed countries. I do like the phrase though, and may use it from time to time, particularly when I have to discuss the World Bank or IMF, but I really thought equality and egalitarian societies was something we could all get behind, at least in theory.

I am starting to be less and less amused by the t-shirts I am seeing out of Japan however this one? It is too fabulous not to share.

Okay this one made me chuckle as well. Perhaps I spoke too soon.

In this case I have but one question framed in the immortal words of Luke Cage. "Where's my money, honey?"

This is just an interesting FYI on the status of Iwo Jima.

I thought this was an interesting little survey and I agree with most of them but I have never heard the term folksonomy before.

Last week I wrote a comment about the Japanese struggling with their history, particularly with atrocities they may have committed. I rewrote my initial comment to cut out the vitriol since every nation struggles with history and the nature of the news and internet being what they are ensures that only the most outrageous news makes it to my door. Then I read crap like this. Oh wait! That was a spoof of this article which is 100% serious and just about as dumb.
(HT to Clayotnian over at Japan Probe.)

While we are on WWII-related rants here is an interesting article about the former Taiwanese President's plan to visit the Yasukuni Shrine. This is the shrine in Tokyo where the soldiers who died in service to the Emperor are enshrined, including several war criminals. There were howls of protest from China, South Korea, and Taiwan as well as domestically every time former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi would visit the shrine. The shrine has become a source of considerable controversy in the region and I think President's plan to visit is a very interesting development. Ultimately I have split feelings about the shrine and what it represents. On the one hand any person who gives their life in service to their homeland is deserving of recognition and a certain amount of veneration, however when you start enshrining convicted war criminals like Hideki Tojo and Iwane Matsui then a line has been crossed.

And then there is this sort of conspiracy theory crap which comes out of some of Japan's neighbors. As much as I find East Asia a fascinating place, it really pisses me off some times. At what point do you just get over it and roll on? Every nation has been a dick to its neighbors at one time or another. Heck, we manage to be dickish to just about everyone whether they are a neighbor or not, but at some point you have to forget these 60-year-old slights and look forward.

AHHHHH! More jingoistic crap! How does one manage to conflate patriotism with anti-anythingism?

Articles like this are why I think the rest of Asia is being dumb and building a strawman out of Japanese militarism. Apparently there is a constitutional issue with the use of weapons against animals. And besides, if your tanks are smaller than a schoolgirl, who gives a crap if you invade? All the invadee has to do is strap on their rubber kaiju-suit and lay waste.

One of the biggest issues, at least for right now, is the Imperial Japanese Army's use of forced prostitution to provide their soldiers with "comfort women." Basically Korea and China accuse Japan of forcing women into working as prostitutes at military brothels for off-duty servicemen. The Japanese response is generally split between outright denial and mealy-mouthed apologies. (This is an over-simplification of the issue and response but it is enough for you to appreciate what is going on.) Seems like this would be something for Japan and her neighbors to work out, unless you are Representative Mike Honda from California's 15th District whose Resolution 121 demands Japan apologize for its use of comfort women. What a complete waste of time. Shouldn't we be spending more time worrying about our own shit instead of getting all Steve Irwin on Japan? I seem to recall we have plenty of problems here at home like a war in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan, people without health care, and an executive branch which recently engaged in a bit of asexual reproduction and budded a whole new branch of government I like to think of as the Dick Branch. We won't get into the very good arguments made by Liberal Japan's Matt Dioguardi about the duty of the people to find the truth and just get to the point that IT IS NOT ANY OF OUR BUSINESS WHAT JAPAN DOES REGARDING THIS ISSUE.

Well, now that we are all angry about thing over which we really have no control let us return to last week's story about Miss Universe Riyo Mori. Here is an article discussing her triumphant return to Japan which drags out the "she's not Japanese enough" complaint and then here is an article where she discusses the possibility of her appearing in the next season of "Heroes." All I have to say about that is, "Yes please."

I feel the need to share this video under the title "Japanese Rocket Science." I love how dramatic the music is in this clip. It makes everything seem so damn important. And who knew Cushmans could go that fast?

This is pretty awesome. In fact it is so awesome that I am just going to let you admire its majesty. Go on ADMIRE!

Just so you know, we're not the only nation facing the spectre of illegal immigration. (That is sarcasm BTW. I do not think illegal immigration is quite the issue some politicians want to make it out to be.)

If this is a remote control for my co-workers I so want one.

Fear the Shiri-Kajiri Mushi (Ass-Biting Bug) which apparently runs between shows on NHK. Sweet monkey that is one f-ed up cartoon!
(HT to Matt Alt over at AltJapan.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

BOOK REVIEW - Volk's Game

Volk's Game
Brent Ghelfi
Henry Holt, 2007
304 pages

When the first description of the main character is, "Dead mother, disappeared father, late-era Soviet poverty, and five years of killing and worse in Chechnya..." you know you are in for a brutal ride and Volk's Game does not disappoint. Alexei Volkovoy, or Volk as he is more commonly known, is just the sort of man you would expect to spring from orphanages of the collapsing Soviet Union, an unrelentingly dark anti-hero whose behavior would make the Man with No Name cringe. Then again this is Russia where things are never black and white, only shades of grey, and thus there are moments where Volk displays his aching humanity. Each moment a little shaft of sunlight that allows the reader to connect with Volk on a very basic level.

In Volk's Game, Volk has been roped into helping an old friend in stealing Da Vinci's Leda and the Swan from a hidden chamber beneath Russia's State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Certainly a simple enough task if you ignore that in order to get the piece out of the museum the thief will have to navigate tunnels which have been submerged under the Neva for decades if not centuries. Once the art is in the open and the Russian's are not anything if not good capitalists, everyone will want a piece of the action. Trust me, before the end, everyone gets their piece.

This is one of the better debut novels I have read. Ghelfi has ably captured the modern Moscow of my imagination, a dark and atmospheric city trapped on the edge of history, caught somewhere between the totalitarian regimes which make up Russia's past and the bright hope of the early '90s tempered through typical Russian fatalism. While the brief plot summary I offer makes the novel sound formulaic and the set-up is, which is one of the reasons we love these sorts of books as readers, the true joy of this novel is the endless rollercoaster of loops and twists which Ghelfi drags Volk through. By the end I was close to needing a flowchart to help me unwind the Gordian knot of relationships which drive the plot to its inevitable, and very Russian, conclusion. While some, particularly The Moscow Times, have been disturbed by the violence in the novel and try to find some flaw with Ghelfi for placing it there, I found it, while cringe-inducing at times, to be very much in-line with what the character might do. Perhaps a little gratuitous at times, but in the end that is how people are and Volk comes across as being a very real person.

One of the things that bothered me about Volk is his charity to other veterans and widows. When I was reading through the book it struck me as a cheap ploy to get us to like Volk, very Robin Hood-esque and noble in its own way. The more I have been thinking about the book the more I come to the conclusion that this is exactly how Volk would behave were he a real person. He had no family. The army is the first opportunity he has to be accepted into something greater than himself and he sacrifices himself to the army, quite literally giving a leg for the cause. After his time in Chechnya all soldiers have become his brothers, sharing a link which runs deeper than true family ties, and because he is ultimately the dutiful son, he takes care of their wives and mothers when they can no longer perform this duty. Ultimately Volk's greatest redeeming quality is that he is the dutiful son, sacrificing for Mother Russia as well as his adoptive family.

If you cannot tell I really enjoyed reading this novel despite the fact that it was a remarkably fast read. (I managed to finish it in less than a day.) If you are a fan of characters like Barry Eisler's John Rain and Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne then Volk is going to be right up your alley. Plus any book that has the pull-quote*, "Brent Ghelfi writes like Dostoevsky's hooligan great-grandson on speed," on the cover is worth checking out, right? (Plus the cats over at Murder by the Book recommended it when I was in there for the Barry Eisler signing and they have really good taste.)

Next up I delve into my slush pile of read books for a review since I have to read and comprehend my SCUBA text by next Tuesday, perhaps I will finally review Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers so I can return it to Scott.

* From master of the genre Lee Child.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gary Esposito

For the past few YEARS someone has been harassing Kevin Church, of, using the moniker "Steve Ebbling." It started out as typical internet troll bullshit but took a turn for the disturbing when "Steve" made threats connected to Kevin's pilgrimage to the MOCCA Art Festival this past weekend. Through a bit of sleuthing that would do Nancy Drew proud Kevin has deduced that "Steve Ebbling" is in fact on Gary Esposito. After posting the big reveal to his blog along with the line of reasoning he used to figure out who was trolling him Kevin then received this email. Go and read it, I'll wait.

You back? Pretty funny/sad stuff, eh? Nonetheless I am bothered by it.

If the email is real, and I am operating under the assumption that it is, then Gary Esposito and Steve Edwin are not only truly pathetic douche-bags but just straight up pussies as well. The email has the stench of, "Oh fuck, what do we do now that we've been found out," all over it, particularly since Kevin has informed Grey Global Group, the marketing firm which employs Gary "Weakest Troll Ever" Esposito, that he has been harassed from a computer at their IP address.

Now I do not have a problem with trolling in general, in fact a large amount of why I read the comic forums is to see the nerd-rage spin out of control and to get this done properly you need a troll. What I do have a problem with is that the initial trolling here is so weak and then the ongoing harassment drops below even sophomoric into the realm of "Your momma." If you're going to troll/harass then do it in new and interesting ways. Calling a, pardon me Kevin, large pasty white dude, large pasty and white without adding some art to it is just making an observation. (Being a rather large and pasty and white dude myself I know whereof I speak.)

The other thing I have a problem with is the unwillingness to be a man while harassing Kevin. If you are going to be a dick on the internet then at least own your dickishness. Hiding behind the thin veil of anonymity the internet offers is really a pussy move. Also when you get caught being a dick? Own it. Particularly in this case Gary. You have already sealed your fate. Kevin has enough evidence, circumstantial or not, to file a harassment suit against you or, barring that, against a John Doe aka. Steve Ebbling and subpoena computer access logs from Grey Global Group and user information from Hotmail. To be completely honest if I were Kevin I would have completely skipped the meta-post and any notification to Grey Global Group and gone right to a lawyer.

Finally I would expect much better goonishness from someone with the last name Esposito.

Oh well, the whole point of this was to help Kevin in his attempt to increase the Google rank of his Gary Esposito post from yesterday and to blow off a little steam. Come back tomorrow when I hope to post a review of Brent Ghelfi's debut novel Volk's Game.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

YouTubesday: J-Bands

This week we are taking a break from tromping through the flowerbeds of my childhood television to revisit the fertile fields of Japanese music videos, or promotional videos as they are called. This week I will be concentrating on groups with really strange/awesome names, such as PaperBagLunchBox or Natural Punch Drunker.

(Partially inspired and informed by Sparkplugged's "5 Cool Japanese Band Names" and "5 Cool Japanese Band Names Part 2")

Lets start our journey into the realm of WTF was that name again with the song "Loveless Ideals" from Sloth Love Chunks. If you can't love a band named Sloth Love Chunks there is no goodness in your soul.

Now we'll slow things down a little with the eletronica-post-rock sounds of Spangle Call Lilli Line with their song "Nano":

I would never pass up an opportunity to post a PV from a group named the Funky Monkey Babys with their song "Lovin' Life":

Actually I like their brand of melodic hip-hop, if you can even call it that, so much that you will have to watch this video with the fat kid in it as well:

Sadly the only video I was able to find for The Jerry Lee Phantom was this live recording of their performance from 1999:

Here we have "Supernova" from the group Bump of Chicken:

Now I have no idea what is going on in this video, for "Shonen to Shiroi Inu", from the Shakalabbits. I think the singer sounds a bit like Alanis Morrisette. Plus she's wearing an eye-patch. That's just pi-radical!

The video for "early RISER" from Plus Tech Squeeze Box gave me frashbacks to living at Meatplant, and not in a good way and with more guitars. You have been warned.

While this does not fit into the category of strange band names I thought I would share the debut PV from professional eater Natsuko "Gal" Sone's band Gyaruru "Boom Boom Meccha Maccho!" or "Boom Boom Very Macho!"

I thought we might begin our cool-down with the single biggest disappointment that YouTube coughed up for me this week. While searching for videos and bands for this post I went ahead and punched the Beat Crusaders in to see if anything new popped up from my favorite J-band. Well what to my wandering eyes should appear but a video titled "Cum on Feel the Noize." Imagine my excitement as I am a HUGE fan of the 1983 version of the song by Quiet Riot, which I thought was the original until researching this post, and thus I was a little disappointed by this recording:

Finally we'll end this week's installment with a couple of videos from the Polysics (OR DIE!), whose song "Black Out Fall Out" features in my Funkwoodjamz - Big in Japan mix. Both of the following videos feature Mao Murakami, better know as Strong Machine 2, and she is pretty much the reason they are included. She can pop-n-lock with the best of them.

First up we have "I My Me Mine" which gets stuck in my head all the freaking time:

The second is "Electric Surfin' Go Go":

I so need to get me some of those glasses!

Bonus Round!

Here are a couple of commercials featuring Mao:

Monday, June 25, 2007

Damn My Brain!

I would like to take this time to offer up a couple of examples of why my brain and I should be considered separate creatures for the purposes of balancing good and bad karma.

1. While reading this bit on Media Matters my mind focused on the, "...Al Qaeda\Taliban training camp graduation ceremony..." part and thought, "Well, the coursework might have been easy but the final exam was a killer."

2. As we were returning to the office after a lunch of James Coney Island*, my office-mate Brian and I were discussing panhandlers being dicks. As we stood at the corner we were approached by a young woman who asked if we could spare some money so she could buy dinner. We both said no in the polite but fuck off tone you have to use with these people but my brain was thinking, "Well honey, if your tits were bigger I might."

3. While headed to lunch Brian and I passed a fairly attractive** and busty young black woman whose shirt said, "Freshly Squeezed." I managed to contain myself until she was out of earshot and then muttered, "I bet." This just about broke Brian.

* Two guys who share an office having chili dogs and chili cheese fries for lunch? This doesn't end well for anyone involved.

** I never made it to her face because I am not a good person. She had a rockin' bod, though.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Links-san 6-22-2006

So I am a few weeks behind on all the news that is fit for mocking from the east. For the next couple of weeks I am going to be playing catch-up, starting with

  • Before anything else we need to congratulate our Japanese friends on Riyo Mori's recent win in the Miss Universe contest. Of course it would not be a real contest of non-athletic skill without a little controversy. From the giggle-inducing use of Miss Korea's photographs in an article in Japan's Nikkan Sports newspaper to the accusations that Miss Mori is a product of a beauty queen factory, where I would like to work in quality control if at all possible. Of course the real concern now is that she is not Japanese enough for some. Le sigh.
  • LEARN TO APOLOGIZE GAIJIN DOGS! (I don't know why I felt the need to shout that, but there it is.)
  • Apparently with the proliferation of maid cafes in Akihabara some have had to try new spins on the whole concept, all of which have led to the development of Hand Maid. I leave you to ponder just what service they might offer if you're not willing to click on their link. (HT to Lee over at Tokyo Times)
  • Since we're wandering down the hentai path, check out this new cookie being offered up in Japan. (And here.) For those of you concerned about the concept of an F-cup on a slim lady of Asian descent, I would like to point out that the letter system used for Japanese bras is different than ours, IIRC.
  • Speaking of boobs I so want one of these just to mess with people. In my world where I have nothing better to do than mess with semi-innocent passersby I would equip one of these with a speaker and go to town on people.
  • X-Ray specs for the new millennium! I find this post particularly funny since a lot of the news coming out of Japan on the manga front of late has centered around the increasing use of cell-phones to view manga. Now if only they would advertise this product in those manga. Of course that might lead to the collapse of the time-space continuum as we know it. (And thus spare me the pain of paying off a credit card or two.)
  • New Lee Press-On Creepy! This one's for you, Jack!
  • On a more serious note, parts of society in Japan have real trouble with some of the legacies from World War II, particularly in dealing with the brutality of the Imperial Army that's why it is heartening to see the prefectural government of Okinawa tell the central government where they can stick their revisionist history.
  • While this is not the reason Rob went to Amsterdam, he is still under suspicion even though this sign was spotted in Japan.
  • Me too.
  • Give this a name with an umlaut or two in it and it would be at home at Ikea.
  • Hello computer.
  • Although ironically priced at 999 yen, I think this thing is pretty cool. And the one yen coin might actually be more useless than the penny.
  • This is rather cunning advertising and beats the hell out of the "Don't do drugs!" logos that I have seen on the drain covers in some urinals over here.
  • The Japundit boys found a bunch of t-shirts, however none of them made me laugh out loud, so I am not going to share this time. I know, I am a bastard, but instead I offer as the big finale ninjas! That's right, G-D NINJAS!

Thanks most honorable RoninDave!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Award Winning

It turns out I had an even better weekend than I thought as one of my photos took second place in a photography contest held in my mom's town each year. I entered the photo contest last year, or rather my mother entered some of my photos which she had around the house, however nothing came of it and I told myself that this year I would be better prepared. I was wrong about that. I need to get on their mailing list so I can have more warning than when my mom decides to remind me the weekend before the contest. I did not want to enter the same pictures that were entered last year even though I am not certain what was actually entered last year, so I decided to select some pictures I have taken in the past year. Here, in no particular order, are the pictures I entered along with a brief description.

"Between Two Worlds"
This was taking at the Meiji Shrine during my visit to Tokyo last fall. If you can't tell, it is one of the torii gates. Torii mark the line between the mundane world and the divine, thus the title of this picture.

"Rising Sun"
An unintentional continuation of the Japanese theme, this is a picture I took at the Lone Star Flight Museum's annual air show this past April. Sadly the plane pictured is not an actual Japanese Zero but rather an AT-6 Texan which was modified to resemble a Zero for the movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!" The plane belongs to the Tora Gang of the Commemorative Air Force, or rather is associated with them as I am not certain who actually owns the aircraft in the picture. The only airworthy Zero that I am aware of is based out of the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California. The plane can be viewed here. One of these years I need to make it out for their airshow.

This is also the first picture where I worked with manipulating the levels in the raw image file to make a better photograph. Here is the unprocessed picture which, upon reflection, prints MUCH darker than it appears here:

"The Road Home"
This was taken just outside of Comrie, Scotland during my visit for Hogmany. I took seven or eight different versions of this shot, trying to find the exact one I wanted to use. I want to go back some day and spend a lot of time photographing around the village as Comrie is almost exactly what you would expect a village on the edge of the Highlands.

"Floriana 1"
Just some flowers form my mother's garden. I really like the contrast in this picture. I could not think of a good name so I went ahead and used Floriana 1. I enjoy taking pictures of flowers and figure if I ever put out a book of my flower photography I would title it Floriana thus getting a Queen Elizabeth I reference by piggy-backing on Spenser's The Fairie Queen.

"Foriana 2"
This was some flowering tree I saw on my trip to Wimberly with Nikki last May, which I chronicled here. I have no idea what the name of the tree is or anything however I love the blue sky in this picture.

"November Rose"
This is the picture which won second prize in the Floral category. I took this picture last November when I met Kyle, Sarah, and Nojo-jojo at the Texas Renaissance Festival. I like this picture so much that it is the desktop picture on my laptop.

Here are a few other pictures I wanted to enter but did not have enough time to properly edit.

The Heritage Flight performed at the Lone Star Flight Museum air show in April. I worked on this image to brighten the sky and make the colors pop a bit more than they did in the original. I also tried to cover up some dust which had gotten on my camera's sensor. You can see where I failed pretty miserably.

The shockwave from traveling at just the edge of the speed of sound causes the water vapor in the air to condense a bit, creating the cone of mist around this F/A-18 Super Hornet. Again I fiddled with the levels and contrast a little as well as trying to clean up the dust motes. Again I failed on the dust mote factor. Good thing a friend of mine is teaching a class on Photoshop this weekend.

I want to have these pictures finished for next year's show, provided I do not get anything better at the next airshow I attend. Until then I can live with James W. Wood, award-winning photographer. Yeah, I like the sound of that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This Past Geek-end

Sorry for the gap in posting. I spent this weekend in College Station catching up with the ex-roommate and some old friends. A couple of months ago when I pitched this idea to Abe I expressed my desire for it to be a weekend of geekery and I am happy to report that it lived up to my expectations. We played a couple of games of Star Fleet Battle Force, a card game adaptation of the classic Star Fleet Battles which I am pretty good at, old school Battletech, Chez Guevara, the latest entry in SJG's Chez Geek line-up, Chrononauts, and finally an off-the-cuff game of Dungeons & Dragons.

I had forgotten how awesome and fun playing D&D with a group of friends could be. I know that this is going to cement my dork-hood in some eyes and I do not really care. There is a kind of magical joy in rolling the die and seeing it come up at just the number you need to hit the enemy with your attack and a schoolboy-like giddiness fills me when that die roll is a 19 or 20. This means you have potentially scored a critical hit which doubles the damage you do. You have to roll the die again, hoping for a second hit which will confirm the critical. I always get nervous when I have to do this. It feels as though there is so much at stake when I pick up the die and prepare to cast it one more time, hoping for that magic number. I almost could not watch as the die skipped across the table, like a kid at a horror film wanting to see the monster but too terrified to look directly at the screen, and then it comes up with the number you need. You know you are about to "do unto" whatever you are fighting, in my case it was three Wyverns, as you collect the appropriate dice to roll the damage. A quick prayer to whatever god of gaming or luck you prefer before you cast the dice again to find out how much damage you have unleashed upon the luckless creature at the other end of your sword. The shining moment though is when the DM realizes that you have managed to take more than half of the creature's hit points with that single blow. The DM reaches for a die, rolling to see if the creature is able to survive such a mighty thwacking and he looks a little crestfallen when he does not succeed and the creature keels over dead.

It is a feeling I had not had in a LONG time and I was glad I was able to recapture it, even if only for a weekend. I am really looking forward to arranging another geek-end in the near future.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

YouTubesday: Television and the Young James, Part 1

Like many things in my childhood television consumption was a closely regulated thing in our house. We were allowed no more than one hour of television per day, including weekends. Now like many of the regulations in the house this could be worked around in a variety of semi-ingenious ways. Watching educational shows like "Nova" or "Nature" with dad was sometimes effective until the parentals caught on to what we were doing. When my sister and I could agree on a show we would sometimes attempt to say that the television being watched only counted against her television since I was playing with G.I. Joes and just happened to be in the same room, or vice versa. This pretty much never worked. This jackboot of oppression meant that I had to wait until my teenage years before I could enjoy such classics as "The Dukes of Hazzard" because, lets face it, there was much more important television out there to be watched. Things like "Fraggle Rock":

Like "The Muppet Show" (previously discussed here) "Fraggle Rock" was one of the shows we could watch without sacrificing any of our precious television time. My dad really enjoyed Jim Henson's work and so we got a free pass on this one, at least until we cancelled HBO.

Even though neither of my parents are what you would call sci-fi/fantasy fans I think a lot of my affinity for this sort of escapism comes from them. I can remember my dad reading The Hobbit to me when I was very young and he took me to see Ralph Bakshi's 1978 film adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Together they managed to take me to see "Star Wars" three times in the theater, therefore it should come as no surprise that I spent more than one of my precious hours of television watching the sci-fi shows that cropped up in the wake of the "Star Wars" phenomena. In particular I remember enjoying "Battlestar Galactica":

Starring the unfortunately named Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict (who will appear later in this post), and Lorne Greene, who for the longest time I would confuse with Lorne Michaels of SNL fame, the original "Battlestar Galactica" saw a theatrical release of the pilot episode in a few countries before it hit TV screens on September 17, 1978. Sadly in its original incarnation "Battlestar Galactica" would only last one season. Fortunately Glen A. Larson was more than ready to fill the sci-fi void with his next epic, "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century":

This show was very important to a young, developing James, as it is the first time I can remember noticing a woman and...well lets just say that Erin Grey as Col. Wilma Deering had me saluting. Apparently she had the same effect on Buck. Don't believe me? Just check out what his dreams are made of:

I would just like to say that late 70s sci-fi uniforms are still hot, although I could have done without the dancing sequence, I mean come on Buck, really? I was only seven or so at the time and even I knew that dancing like that was not going to land you a hot buttered muffin like Erin Grey.

I was shocked to learn that the pilot episode had a very different opening sequence and there are actually words to the theme song. "For five hundred years Buck Rogers drifted through a world in which reality and fantasy merged into a timeless dream."

I think we all know what is what in this opening. Much like "Battlestar Galactica," "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" did not stick and ended up being cancelled after just two seasons. At this point sci-fi television faded from my radar, although I did enjoy what few episodes of "Misfits of Science":

Starring a young Courtney Cox and featuring future "Heroes" creator Tim Kring as the writer for one of the sixteen episodes, the show did not even make it to a full season before the plug was pulled. After this, for me, science fiction would be the realm of cartoons until the release os "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in 1987 as I was not allowed to watch the "V" miniseries and "The Greatest American Hero" was somehow off my radar at the time. Speaking of "The Greatest American Hero" lets go ahead and throw the opening for that one up here as it is notable for the song, if nothing else:

Too bad because in retrospect, while she is no Erin Grey, Connie Sellecca is pretty easy on the eyes.

During this time I was also a fan of "Whiz Kids" another ill-fated show which almost made it one whole season before being cancelled.

Much like "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Cloak and Dagger" would in 1984, this show really appealed to the nerd-pupae that I was.

Wow kids, it is already getting late and I have barely gotten through 1984. I guess we are going to have to make this one a two parter. Oh well. As a parting gift I will leave you with these clips from "Buck Rogers." First up we have Erin Grey and Brianne Leary in a steam room with a rope:

And we'll end with Col. Wilma Deering in spandex preparing for Buck's birthday party:

Was that a condom joke in there? Why yes! I think it was. Go on Buck, drink Bacardi like its your birfday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Random Notes for June 13th, 2007

Another edition of random notes so soon? Yes but only because I am too lazy to get around to reviewing Tazza: The High Rollers, an unexpectedly enjoyable film which features my new K-crush Hye-su Kim (or here for a picture and her shock that porn sites would use her name), the Red Dwarf novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, or Barry Eisler's latest offering in the John Rain series, Requiem for an Assassin. You should go buy the last one for three reasons. First it is a very good book, but you should read the others first. Second Barry is a genuinely nice guy who almost remembered my name at this year's signing at Murder by the Book. Finally Barry is former CIA covert operations agent which means you will never see him coming should he decide to take care of your business and if you don't buy the book he will be unemployed and have plenty of time to hunt down your no book buying ass. Keep the man writing for your own safety as well as the safety of others.

HOLY MUNKY!!! While looking up Tazza on IMDB I stumbled across the trailer for a little movie titled Superbad. I initially clicked on it thinking it would be some superhero send-up along the lines of My Super Ex-Girlfriend so imagine my surprise when it turns out the movie appears to be a coming of age story a la American Pie, Dazed and Confused, or Can't Hardly Wait, but with cussing. Written by Seth Rogen, who some of you might know from his recent turn as Ben Stone in Knocked Up, and Evan Goldberg who no one will recognize and featuring Michael Cera, whose performance as George-Michael Bluth in "Arrested Development" was masterfully awkward, and Jonah Hill who, again, no one will recognize. Go check out the movie's official site and enjoy the red-band trailer. I am now really looking forward to this movie.

Ready for a dose of comic book gayiety which does not involve Batman, any of the Robins, Superman, or Northstar? Check out this cover for The Incredible Hulk #355 courtesy of the scans_daily LJ community. I think I might pick up this book on my weekly pilgrimage. It certainly seems worthy of mocking.

Drunk blogging "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episodes? Why yes, this sounds like a fantastic idea thank you very much. Shall we watch? Check it out here, here, and here. (HT to Dirk over at Journalista.)

Another movie trailer discovery I made today is this trailer for Sukiyaki Western: Django. Takashi Miike's remake of the 1966 spaghetti western Django directed by Sergio Corbucci. I am not certain why this movie makes me happy. Part of it must be the fusion of two genres that are at their core the same. Look at Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, or the duo of Yojimbo and Sanjuro when compared to A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. Of course we can go even further back to the film noir classics which inspired Kurosawa's stories, but the western and the jidaigenki film are so entwined in my head that making a western set in Japan just seems right, almost like the spaghetti film has finally come home. I really hope this one gets released Stateside, and with Tarantino as one of the stars I suspect that it will, but if it doesn't I won't hesitate to pick up the DVDs from Japan.
(HT to Jason Gray.)

Remember: Guntherfest '07 is upon us.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

YouTubesday: Mac versus PC

Even if they were not responsible for revolutionizing the personal computing market and introducing such must-have items of the moment like the iPod, I believe Apple would still be remembered for their advertising campaigns. From the legendary "1984" commercial which coincidentally aired on January 22nd of that year during the Superbowl, to the current crop of "Get a Mac" commercials featuring Justin Long of GalaxyQuest fame and The Daily Show's John Hodgeman, who is also the author of The Areas of My Expertise, a book which is languishing in the pile of stuff I need to read.

Here we have the classic "1984" commercial in all of its Orwellian glory:

And here are a couple of my favorite "Get a Mac" ads so we have some common ground to work from, starting with my favorite:

I am not entirely sure what Mac's final line in this ad means but I am certain it is dirty:

Of course since these commercials are popular, there are going to be rip-offs homages. Here is a Novell ad that takes a shot at the whole Mac versus PC thing by introducing us to LINUX:

Yeah, LINUX is neat and all but it is certainly not the hot chick of the OS world. Quite frankly none of them are. At best one of them is your cousin that you are somewhat attracted to but since this isn't Arkansas you can't really do anything and lets face it you wouldn't really want to anyways in case your friends found out about the whole thing. Best to just go get another beer and feel guilty for a bit.

And then there are the spoofs, which is really the whole point of being here tonight. Here is a more realistic take on LINUX:

The TrueNuff guys really had a bit of fun with the whole Mac/PC thing and really hit the nail on the head with their portrayal of LINUX. Here is some more fun at Dipshit's expense:

"I am root! Hear me roar!" That should so be a ThinkGeek t-shirt. Oh well, after having fun at LINUX's expense the TrueNuff boys realized there is something even geekier than that:

Finally the TrueNuff boys decide to have a little fun with the new black Macs coming out:

Finally it can no longer be said, "Once you go black you never go Mac."

This being something that appeals to the geek in all of us means that someone would take it to the next level. In this case it was YouTube user ItsJustSomeRandomGuy who put together a series of spoof commercials about the various Marvel and DC movie projects. He begins with Spider-man and Superman:



He eventually branches out to include Batman, Wolverine, Hulk, Jor-El, Ben Parker as well as some villains. Here is the best one featuring Lex Luthor and the Green Goblin:

Check out the rest of his work at his YouTube page.


Here is seven minutes of the short "Get a Mac" commercials:

And here is a CNN report on Bill Gates' response to the "Get a Mac" commercials which is vaguely sucktastic but included so I can continue to call myself fairly balanced:

Finally here is a rant from a Mac user:

"The Mac is practicing some kind of bizzare psychological warfare on me." Just like me.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Running the Shadows

I am not certain whether I have mentioned my love for the Shadowrun RPG here on the Opiate therefore let me get this out in the open right now. I am a huge fucking nerd when it comes to Shadowrun. I own every rulebook released for the system be it by FASA or FanPro and I have several of the novels. Floating around on my laptop are multiple outlines for and a couple of abortive attempts at scriptwriting for a series of webisodes in the vein of Star Trek: New Voyages or Starship Farragut. I have far more hand written notes and adventure kernels than I can count. It seems like more turn up every time I go to open a box labelled Misc. Desk Stuff. Even with all of that I have managed to steer clear of any of the online communities therefore when I saw this advert in the latest issue of Outsiders (#48 if you must know) I was somewhat taken aback:

While somewhat interesting visually the head with many eyes does not really convey the feel of the world. I get what they are going for with the whole "eyes in the back of your head" thing hweere, but it just doesn't work for me. If I am going to see and ad for Shadowrun I want to see some spell-slinging and cyberpunkery going on, preferrably with a wizworm in the background.

Since I am not a PC/console gamer and I do not frequent the Shadowrun forums I had no idea the game was this close to being out. I had heard rumors of it a couple of years ago, however I chalked that up to just fanboy hopes and dreams. This is one dream that has been given form and I am giving a long hard think about picking up an XBox or getting a PC which can hang with this game.

I think I need help.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Random Thoughts for Sunday, June 10th

Sorry for the lack of updates. I spent Wednesday through Friday in training on a new piece of software at the office. It is really cool and I am excited about getting the chance to use it, however this left me with no time to screw around and therefore I am a little behind in my slacking.

My brother has decided it is time to take the plunge into the marriage pool again. For those of you keeping score at home this is his second wedding. His first marriage lasted approximately five months and from what he has told me it fell apart really through no fault of his own. So here it is a new year and a new wedding for Charlie. Now hot on the heels of his bitching about Anne getting married in New York when she lives just north of Dallas, he and his fiancee have decided to get married in Hawai'i. That's right boys and girls. even though they live in Austin and both her family and his family live in Texas, those two crazy kids have decided to go about half way to Asia for the wedding. Apparently they were going to elope to Hawai'i however the fiancee started to get cold feet about bailing on her parents. Her father is a Baptist preacher and they are Hispanic so pissing of the family is pretty much something you do not do. Once she told her parents Charlie felt the need to inform us. He told Anne and I while we were in New York and finally broke the news to our parents about two weeks ago. My initial thought was, "What the fuck are you doing, Charlie?" but I know him well enough to know that if I tried to advise him to take it slow that would just cement this idea in his head. Therefore I took a deep breath, smiled, and told him that I am happy for him and that I want my mojo back once he is married. Olivia is definitely an upgrade, although close to the same size as May. I am honestly happy for him and I am excited about going to Hawai'i, even though it means my vacation budget for next year is gone. (What can I say? I am a patriot and believe in deficit spending!) What I am not excited about is that my mom is going without my dad and this means what could have been a pleasant week long visit to paradise with nothing planned but a SCUBA trip or two and my brother's sandy nuptials, is now going to be about a week of dealing with my mom. I love her but sweet Christmas I need to have a vacation where I get away from the family. I am still going to go diving for one or two days as long as I can get certified before I head out, which should not be a problem considering the number of friends I have who are certified. I started this wanting to bitch about the trip and everything but what is really bothering me about the whole thing is my mom's penchant for whipping guilt trips on us kids. Tonight I told her that I was going to go ahead and find a hotel room for myself rather than sharing one with her and the guilt trip started immediately. I am very frustrated.

I just stabbed my thumb while opening one of those two-gallon water jugs with the spigot et al. and have come to the realization that I do not have any band-aids in the house. This means that for what is little more than a pin-prick, albeit a rather deep one that was bleeding profusely, I now have my thumb bandaged up like I split it from stem to stern. I kind of feel like a jackass and it has made using the remote challenging.

Since I did not have decent reception on my TV until I moved into the new apartment, or Spam Can* as I like to call it, I missed this whole season of Smallville. Fortunately they have started rerunning the episodes on Thursday nights and I have been recording them. I would just like to say that Justin Hartley, who plays Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, reminds me of Top Gun era Tom Cruise, and this is a good thing. It looks like he is going to be a complete badass in the series, which makes me happy because I like Green Arrow. If you have iTunes you should check out Justin in the pilot for Aquaman, a series which sadly did not get greenlit. I think it is definitely worth the $1.99 for those of you who like Smallville.

I got distracted by a run to Wendy's for dinner and then starting the pilot episode of The West Wing. Moira Kelly? Hot.

I am thinking about doing a This Week in Geek type column where I recount all of the nerd things I did during the past week. What movies I watched, books I read, etc. etc. etc. Any thoughts?

* This is funny because my nom de Tuba in college was Spam and this got leaked to the general populace in the dorms and the Honors College. I am certain that there are people I went to college with who do not know my real name.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

YouTubesday: Sumo!

So the other day I was tubing around the internets and I ended up on the Penny Arcade site. Across the top of the site was a banner ad featuring a not unattractive brunette* lounging in jeans an one of those silky camisole tops that are popular with the ladies these days who was shilling for a company which billed themselves as Sumo, Urban Lounge Gear. Thinking that Sumo, Urban Lunge Gear had to be some sort of club wear for the Taco Milagro set** I immediately went into what a friend refers to as Strong Black Woman mode complete with the mental "Oh no you didn't!" and a snap in Z formation. Sumo is not Urban Lounge Gear featuring shoeless skinny chics! No sir, not at all! Sumo is B-I-G dudes wearing funny britches throwing salt and running into one another. In a very strange way it is like Mormon chicken fights, but completely different.

I clicked on the link full of piss and vinegar and ready to give these Sumo, Urban Lounge Gear people a piece of my mind but first I had to understand what the hell they were actually selling. Turns out Sumo, Urban Lounge Gear is not some club wear for the "Whoa ugly!"*** set but rather a line of beanbags. Technically they sell one traditional beanbag, the Omni, and one beanbag ottoman, the cleverly-named Otto. I suppose I can tolerate the use of the name sumo for some beanbags, particularly since the Omni looks to be pretty frickin' huge, however it still seems wrong to me somehow. Why name the company Sumo?

The answer came in the product description. Apparently the beanbags are filled with top quality Sumo beads! And what, pray tell, are Sumo beads? Why they are, "...tiny little foam balls, polystyrene foam to be specific, that conform to your body like nothing else." I would like to take a moment to allow each one of you to ponder the existence of balls that conform to your body like nothing else for a moment.

Good, now that at least one of you has an unpleasant image in mind we can continue.

At this point I thought to myself, "Self, tiny little beads are not Sumo. Sumo is all about the fat man with salty palms pushing another fat man around while a hat-wearing man in a bath robe and socks directs the action with a fan." Clearly I had a mission to enlighten the masses about the madness that is sumo and thanks to the good people at YouTube, I can do just that. So sit back and enjoy as YouTubesday brings you more sweaty, bulbous man-flesh than any three of my girlfriends have ever had to deal with in an installment that could only be called:

Sumo - The Good, The Fat and the Salty

First up we have footage from an actual sumo match. Watch and learn grasshoppers!

I am not certain about the assertion that Asashouryuu is the strongest yokozuna, or grand champion, however he is clearly pretty strong as he is tossing those tubby guys around like their bales of hay.

Now here is one of Asashouryuu's matches if it were done by the gang over at CapCom:

HOLY CATS! Did you see that? He just blew the other guy up! I think we need some more of this sweet Street Fighter enhanced sumo action:

What is better than sumo enhanced with the power of Adobe AfterEffects? Why sumo babies, of course, and thanks to the cats over at Japan Probe (and here) that is just what we have for you. Sadly I was not able to find any YouTube coverage so we are stuck with non-moving pictures. That won't slow me down, though, particularly with pictures like this:

First there is the face-off....

....then there is the crying.

Now is it just me or is that baby looking down at that man's nipple and thinking, "Screw this screaming stuff, it's lunch time!" You might think I am crazy (to hang around with you) however apparently this wrestler washed with Biore soap. Check it, yo:

But we have wandered a bit further afield in search of the funny than I meant to. Let's wrap things up with a couple of commercials featuring sumo themes.

First up we have Takamisakari pimping wasabi-flavored ochazuke:

Then we have a funny commercial for the Aveo:

And to finish out the trifecta we have this old school commercial advertising the power of the alpha-numeric pager over the run of the mill pager:

I think I will leave you with that image because after all, I am a bad man.

Bonus Content

Guess what? I lied. As I was closing down all the YouTube tabs I had opened while preparing this piece for you guys I stumbled upon this:

Now this is what I call Army Sumo! Asian hotties in bikinis wrestling in the snow? Could it be any more perfect? I think not!

* Why is it brunette and now brown?

** There might be a couple of you out there who have not heard my Anti-Taco Milagro Rant and therefore need an not so brief explanation. Taco Milagro is this trendy Mexican restaurant and "beach bar" located at the corner of Kirby and Westheimer here in Houston. Back in 1998, right when friend of the Opiate Mr. TunaCan was entrenched in the Houston Burrito Wars, Taco Milagro opened up and as we were under the impression that they were trying to compete with Mr. TunaCan's place of employment we had to hate them from the start. Now fast forward to 2005. At long last my exile in College Station has ended and I have returned to Houston and managed to get a social life. One of the locales my burgeoning social life centered around was, and still is, Downing Street which is located right next to Taco Milagro. Under normal circumstances this would not be a problem and my loathing for Taco Milagro would seethe quietly beneath the surface, however they share a parking lot. Now since Taco Milagro is the place where the not-so-beautiful people go to hang out and act like they matter, this means parking for Downing Street is usually a royal pain in the ass until about 10PM on nice days. Holy monkey does Taco Milagro manage to pack them in and quite frankly the scenery is not worth it. There is usually a higher percentage of "Oh honey, you really shouldn't wear that," in the crowd than anything else. Add to this that it was one of Drunk Girl's preferred venues and the fact that they have a fountain on their porch which I fear combine with the power of Downing to get James in a lot of trouble. I think it is clear why Taco Milagro is my nemesis.

*** Who said that?

Monday, June 04, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW - Otoko-tachi no Yamato

Otoko-tachi no Yamato
Junya Sato, director
145 minutes

"Yamato" opens at the in Kure City, where Makiko Uchida is visiting the Yamato Museum in an attempt to understand what her father experienced during his service aboard the Yamato during World War Two. After viewing the museum, which allows the filmmakers to use narration to bring the viewer up to speed on the importance of the Yamato itself, she heads to the Makurazaki Fishermen's Collective to find someone to take her to the spot where the Yamato sank, a journey of 15 hours. The harbormaster turns her away with a laugh so she heads to the waterfront to see if she can find someone willing to take her on the voyage. She meets with about the same amount of success there, however her request is overheard by seventy-five-year-old Katsumi Kamio, a veteran of the Yamato who served under Makiko's father. Eventually Kamio agrees to take Makiko to the spot where the Yamato sank. During their voyage Kamio remembers his time on the Yamato, beginning in 1942. From this point on scenes of Makiko's and Kamio's voyage to the Yamato's grave serve as chapter breaks in the story of Kamio the Younger and his compatriots, including Mamoru Uchida (Makiko's father), Moriwaki, and Karaki.

The emotional core of the story is built around the viewer's knowledge that the Yamato sinks with almost all hands on board after being sent on a suicide mission during the invasion of Okinawa by American forces during the waning months of World War Two. The danger with allowing the audience this sort of foreknowledge is that the character's story has to really grab the audience and force them to forget the impending doom otherwise viewing the movie really starts to feel like treading water with the hope that the money shot at the end is worth it. This is how I felt through about the first half of this movie, which is brutal when the movie weighs in at 140 minutes and change. I think the source of this disconnect between the viewer and the characters comes from the rather disjointed manner in which this movie begins. Through the first 45 minutes or so I was not certain whether this movie wanted to be a documentary, war epic, or drama. Not that these things are mutually exclusive, however they have to be blended seamlessly and while watching I felt like I was watching something filmed from an outline rather than a full-blown screenplay. Fortunately this feeling goes away about at about the half-way mark, even if the somewhat odd narration and subtitles continue to make appearances through the balance of the film.

With the recent resurgence of right-wing ultra-nationalists on the national political stage in Japan and the regrettable tendency of some Japanese to engage in a little revisionist history when dealing with Japanese involvement in World War Two I was very concerned that this movie would merely serve as a vehicle for propaganda. Fortunately this fear was unfounded. While there was in interesting faux pas where the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 8th rather than the 7th there were no moments in the movie where it descended into shilling for the realm. If anything the movie tries to be a little too neutral in its viewpoint, however there are moments where a fairly clear anti-war message comes through, particularly towards the end of the movie once the ship has been assigned to Operation Ten-Go, a suicide mission during the American invasion of Okinawa. Earlier in the film there is some discussion of how bushido prepares one to die which comes up again here, however like much of the first half of the film it ends up being an unfinished thought rather than a fully explored facet of the story, which is really too bad since the idea itself is interesting and is the closest the movies gets to taking a moral stand on anything.

Unfortunately once you move beyond the story things do not improve for this movie as the SFX never rise above the low end of average with occasional forays into the laughably bad. I have seen videogame cinematics which are more realistic than the effects in this movie and from time to time the director made the decision to use WWII vintage footage as part of the effects. While this approach worked in transitions in "Pearl Harbor", here it was just jarring and served to do nothing but break the fourth wall and remind the audience that they were watching a movie. Beyond the mediocre quality of the graphics themselves the rendered sequences had no dynamism to them. When the camera was moved around the Yamato model the moves were basic at best and the director re-used the same shot several times, again breaking the forth wall. In a movie which clearly aspires to be an epic you need either an epic character or event. Handled properly the Yamato can serve as the character and her sinking is clearly the epic event, however the at best lackluster effects in this movie prevent the Yamato from ever becoming anything more than a set.

Now I have spent most of this review being negative and listing the things that this movie did wrong which might leave you with the impression that I did not like the movie and that there were no redeeming qualities to the film. This could not be further from the truth. While it took a long time to get me emotionally invested in the characters, and some of this was done with moments that are a bit over the top in the melodrama department, ultimately this movie succeeds in making me care about them and their story. In large part this can be attributed to the performances. In particular I enjoyed anytime Mamoru Uchida, played by Shido Nakamura who might be familiar to some readers as Lt. Ito in "Letters From Iwo Jima", was on the screen. Everything about his performance was right on with the character that was brash, egocentric, and a little immature at times, but still a leader of men. The elder Kamio was played with almost stoic solemnity by Tatsuya Nakadai, familiar to fans of Kurosawa as Takeda Shingen/Kagemusha from 1980's "Kagemusha", and Kenichi Matsuyama as the younger Kamio conveys the exuberance of youth on the verge of a great adventure.

As I said in the end I was able to enjoy this movie however it stands more as a collection of missed opportunities rather than a monument to the foolishness of war. If you are a war movie buff than this is worth checking out, otherwise I cannot really recommend it to you.

I do not know if this movie will ever see a release here in the States. I rented my copy through, a Netflix-like service which specializes in movies and television series from Japan, China, and Korea. So far I am very happy with their service.

Here are the two trailers for the film, for those of you who are still interested: