Thursday, September 29, 2005

Excuse to Further Consume

After serving me well for almost three years, my Powerbook has started its death throes. Last night, the monitor went black and started flashing a bunch of white horizontal lines at me until I adjusted the angle of the screen. It continues to do so with increasing frequency. I was hoping my trusty machine would stick it out until the release of a Powerbook G5, but I guess not.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Portrait of a Badass: Mitsuko

Character: Female Student #11; Souma, Mitsuko
Actor: Shibasaki Kou
Film: Battle Royale (2000)
Badass Moment: Mitsuko's flashlight close-up, Mr. Demille (pictured)
As you may know, Battle Royale is the motion picture adaptation of a Japanese pulp novel of the same name, in which a high school class is whisked off to an island in the Seto Inland Sea and the students forced to participate in a real life last-man-standing deathmatch. I will do my best not to let the absolute badassity of Mitusko in the novel affect my appraisal of her onscreen badassitude. After all, if "Portrait of a Badass" were more literary and less...uhhh...movielary, the Japanese female badass throne would probably be occupied by Hatsumomo from Memoirs of a Geisha.
(...a technicality that will cease to be a problem as soon as the movie adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha, starring supreme Chinese hottie Zhang Zi Yi, is released.)
Every high school class has a girl who, while being the ultimate object of infatuation, is somehow inaccessible. Maybe it's because she's too "out of your league"...maybe it's because she's a snob...maybe it's because she kills everyone with a sickle. Souma Mitsuko is that girl.
As her schoolmates discover, her nasty classroom manner translates literally in the survival scenario posed by the Battle Royale, and before long everyone's getting sliced up by Mitsuko Souma, the cutest bringer of death you ever did-done seen. And all the while, she spouts mean lines like, "Shindemo ii" ("You can die") and "Shineyo busu" ("Die, ugly").
Contrast this with Shibasaki Kou's role in Miike Takashi's cellphone-centric horror film Chakushin Ari, in which she spends the latter half of the movie whimpering and screaming and hiding in corners AND singing a pop song. That's versatility.
Mitsuko, you are a badass, and a spooky chick, and yes you can have my lunch money just please don't hurt me. We salute you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

TGS 2005: Japan Needs to Get a Life

Well, here are three of my best "booth girl" photos from the Tokyo Game Show, just to prove I was there:

And here's a photo that more accurately captures the uncomfortable gawkiness exhibited by 98% of the people I saw at the trade show:

Creepy, huh. After a while I came upon a pursuit much more interesting than taking photos of the booth girls and cosplayers: taking photos of the geeky otaku guys taking pictures of the booth girls and cosplayers.

DID YOU KNOW? An otaku's dork factor corresponds directly with the combined weight of his camera, camera accessories and hip pack.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Let's Learn Japanese: Miteeeh

Miteeeh (colloq.) Dude I wanna see that!
Megumi ga, konya no Trivia no Izumi ni deru yo. Kono bangumi miteeeh!

Today Square-Enix released Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. It's a veritable nerd care package containing plastic figures, a Village People-looking hat and, best of all, the direct-to-DVD CGI movie of the same name. For the past few months, patrons of Bic Camera in Shinjuku have been teased with trailers of the movie, which looks to be 100 times cooler than all the FF games since Final Fantasy VIII combined. And I'm not just saying that because FF7 was the last one I had the gumption to finish. Maybe it was the superior character design of FF7 that pulled me through all those random battles and failed assaults on Emerald Weapon. Or maybe it was just the undying hope in the back of my mind that there would be a Tifa Lockheart shower scene in there somewhere. (Lots of fans cried when Aeris died, but I yelled, "You sicko!" at the screen when Sephiroth knocked Tifa down the stairs. That's how I roll.)

In similarly dorky news, this weekend is the Tokyo Game Show. I'll be there, taking pictures of booth girls and grabbing as much free junk as possible.

Revenge of the Rolling Chopstick Phenomenon

"Scorpion / Lost soul / Bent on revenge."
from the song "Scorpion (Lost Soul Bent On Revenge)"
Mortal Kombat: The Album

A while back, I made an entry about situations in which my own humorous thoughts caused me to laugh at awkward times. Today at work, another such occasion took place. During one of my lessons today, I had instructed my students to study a list of vocabulary words in silence for one whole minute. One whole minute of my own thoughts echoing noisily in my brain, just defying me -- taunting me -- not to laugh. And sure enough, along came a stupid memory from the early 1990s:

My sister and I are watching Saved By the Bell (an after-school teen sitcom starring characters who fit nicely into high school stereotypes like "cool guy," "babe" and "ninja"...see image). We are bored. In an attempt to become less so, we mute the TV and start supplying our own voice talents to the show. Onscreen, one of the teen protagonists is admiring a souped-up sportscar. As said teen walks around to the front bumper, one of us says, "This is where the spikes will be attached."

I can't remember which of us delivered this golden comic line, nor can I remember whether the word used was "spikes" or rather "spears." I like to think I said it, and that I used the word "spears," but either way it's funny to me. And upon remembering just how funny it was (not to mention the bonus mental image of hapless nerd character Screech being chased relentlessly by the nightmarish spike-mobile), a laugh escaped through my nose at long last, breaking the silence of the one-minute vocab cram session. When my students asked why I was laughing, I briefly considered the implications of explaining the Saved By the Bell anecdote, decided it would be too troublesome and answered, "I just thought of something funny."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Welcome Back, Press

It's truly encouraging to see the news media getting some guts, however gradually. In the grisly aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it would appear that the press is finally starting to stand up to the less-than-forthcoming Bush Administration in regard to responsibility for the botched relief effort. Let's take a look at a right old rocker of an exchange between NBC's David Gregory and "Babyface" Scott McClellan.

September 7, 2005...Washington, DC...Whitehouse press conference...YOU ARE THERE!

Q Scott, does the President retain confidence in his FEMA Director and Secretary of Homeland Security?

MR. McCLELLAN: And again, David, see, this is where some people want to look at the blame game issue, and finger-point. We're focused on solving problems, and we're doing everything we can --

Q What about the question?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're doing everything we can in support --

Q We know all that.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

Q Does he retain complete confidence --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to continue. We appreciate the great effort that all of those at FEMA, including the head of FEMA, are doing to help the people in the region. And I'm just not going to engage in the blame game or finger-pointing that you're trying to get me to engage.

Q Okay, but that's not at all what I was asking.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure it is. It's exactly what you're trying to play.

Q You have your same point you want to make about the blame game, which you've said enough now. I'm asking you a direct question, which you're dodging.


Q Does the President retain complete confidence in his Director of FEMA and Secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just answered the question.

Q Is the answer "yes" on both?

MR. McCLELLAN: And what you're doing is trying to engage in a game of finger-pointing.

Q There's a lot of criticism. I'm just wondering if he still has confidence.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and blame-gaming. What we're trying to do is solve problems, David. And that's where we're going to keep our focus.

Q So you're not -- you won't answer that question directly?

MR. McCLELLAN: I did. I just did.

Q No, you didn't. Yes or no? Does he have complete confidence or doesn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, if you want to continue to engage in finger-pointing and blame-gaming, that's fine --

Q Scott, that's ridiculous. I'm not engaging in any of that.

MR. McCLELLAN: It's not ridiculous.

Q Don't try to accuse me of that. I'm asking you a direct question and you should answer it. Does he retain complete confidence in his FEMA Director and Secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said -- that's exactly what you're engaging in.

Q I'm not engaging in anything. I'm asking you a question about what the President's views are --

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely -- absolutely --

Q -- under pretty substantial criticism of members of his administration. Okay? And you know that, and everybody watching knows that, as well.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, everybody watching this knows, David, that you're trying to engage in a blame game.

Q I'm trying to engage?


Q I am trying to engage?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct.

Q That's a dodge.

Yeah, that is a dodge....only when I look at Mr. McClellan's voluptuous figure, the word "dodge" doesn't seem likely. Furthermore, I am beyond sick of the phrase "blame game" (and the creative variant used by Scotty McC, "blame-gaming"). There is nothing game-like about demanding accountability and analysis in one of the worst emergency response fiascos in modern history. Games are supposed to be fun. To repeat "blame game" in this situation is to insult games.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Portrait of a Badass: Donnie Darko

Character: Donnie Darko
Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal
Film: Donnie Darko (2001)
Badass Moment: He accuses a motivational speaker of being the Antichrist during a school assembly, and is subsequently dragged away amid cheers from his fellow students

Donnie Darko is a potentially heavy film disguised as a clever 1980s nostalgia trip. The story follows our hero, a young borderline-schizophrenic Everyman, through his 28-day stint as a teenage deus ex machina, carrying out acts of divine intervention. That character is Donnie Darko, one of the most unfortunately named boys in the world of fiction. Donnie's onscreen psychosis, while dangerous and debilitating, is also the perfect device by which to make him a world-class bringer of wrath! This kid exposes a child pornographer, gets school cancelled by causing a flood, displays an extensive understanding of the Smurfs, and still has time to get the girl (in a way).

People I've talked to who didn't like this movie said that their main complaint was with the main character; they just didn't like him. To those people, I say this: Being a badass means being unlikeable sometimes. And besides, this movie also stars Drew Barrymore, who hasn't been likeable since she played Gertie.

Finally, consider this short dialogue between two of the teachers at Donnie's high school:

Prof. Monnitoff: Donnie Darko.

Ms. Pomeroy: [Laughing, shaking her head] I know!

That's a whole scene! Just the one shot, with just the two lines. People, the unspoken message here is, "BADASS."

Donnie Darko, you are an alliterative badass. We salute you.