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Anime for everyman and Yegge’s Minefield

I'm a programmer, so I read a lot about programming. One of the writers I always end up coming back to is Steve Yegge. He works for Google, and I hear they only hire geniuses, so I must have good taste in bloggers.

In a somewhat recent post, Steve talked about how he and his wife discoved Anime, or Japanese animation. This might not be shock to most people, since programmer == nerd == likes cartoons with robots, but it was interesting to me for two reasons: first, because he tried to clue everyone in to Sturgeon's Revelation, and second, because he asked for recommendations and got a flood of comments.

I want to give some recommendations (Evangelion and Serial Experiments Lain) and talk a little about the odd position Anime has in American culture. First, though, is Theodore Sturgeon's* famous Revelation: 90 percent of everything is crud.

This is true for virtually anything, but it doesn't stop people from really getting into genres. Liking a particular genre isn't necessarily a bad thing—after all, you can count on the familiarity of guilty pleasures like mystery novels, old Star Trek episodes, and Atari games to decompress after a long day. Sometimes, though, people get into a genre to the exclusion of all else – that's when the 90 percent rule starts to hurt. If you're only interested in Anime, and you are interested in all Anime, then it follows that most of what you watch every day is crap.

That said, Anime really is interesting. There are myriads of sub-genres, since animation in Japan is a lot like “Hollywood movies� in the U.S. - so mainstream that it must contain lots of different styles and storylines. Many of the conventions and tropes seem foreign and illogical to American viewers. And I bet you can't name another cultural artifact that is equally likely to be found on shirts worn by middle age programmers, 8-year-old girls, and hiphop DJs.

Anime seems always poised on the brink of more mainstream American acceptance – just look at the reviews and box office receipts for Spirited Away, the ever-growing shelf space at Best Buy, or what kids watch on Saturday morning. If you are interested, here are two very subjective recommendations to help you avoid what might be called Yegge's Minefield – if 90 percent of everything is crap, there's a good chance the first thing you see will be crap, giving the impression that the figure is really 100 percent.

Neon Genesis Evangelion – I'll start with a controversial choice. Although Evangelion ends up on a lot of people's top ten lists, many people think it's overrated or utter crap. I recommend it though, because it's a great story about deeply flawed characters in startling situations and an examination of what isolates people from each other as individuals. The art and direction is amazing, and the religious and technological symbolism is pretty interesting, with a lot of visual metaphor.

Common criticisms of Evangelion include that it's just more giant robots fighting each other, that the characters are annoying and neurotic, that it doesn't make any sense, and that it falls apart at the end. There's some truth to each of those but I think they can be strengths as well as weaknesses.

Serial Experiments Lain – The series opens with the death of one of Lain's schoolmates and mysterious emails that seem to have come from her account. As Lain turns on her personal computer for the first time and starts to learn more about the net, she only seems to uncover more questions and confusion. Like Evangelion, the art and direction really drew me in—why don't we have user interfaces like Lain's Navi? Some people might not like the slow pace of the series, but I think it contributes a lot to the mood.

For other perspectives, take a look at A Parent's Guide to Anime and the The Librarian's Guide to Anime and Manga. If you have any other recommendations (or disagree with mine), feel free to post a comment below.

*An aside: for the longest time I confused Sturgeon with Kilgore Trout, another great, but little known pulp science fiction author.

So, What is wrong with two guys kissing?

Now, If you were to know me personally you would know that I enjoy to watch two guys kiss. And touch. And have sex. Now, I have to make two disclaimers before we even begin. Disclaimer #1: I don't like porn made for gay guys. That is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is gay porn made specifically for women, usually by women. There will be no licking of the armpits for me, thank you. Disclaimer #2: I am going to have links to stuff you might not want to see, so if you are a little queasy, don't click on the links. Or do, everyone likes to live life on the edge, right? So, read on, my privliaged guests. But be warned, there is adult content ahead! So, anyway, where were we? Oh, yes, boys kissing. First of all, most of the smut that I like is drawn like a comic book, by the Japanese, Chinese or Koreans usually. It's called yaoi. So, the boys are cute, sexy and kinda feminine which is a nice draw for women. I don't know if you guys know this but women are not typically turned on like men just by visual stimulus. We need a storyline and drama. Sorry, it's just how it works. It' the wiring or something. By the way, this article at ScienceDaily states that women can be aroused with images of both male and female erotica, so that's interesting. Basically, the whole point is that women love the penis. I mean, I am really just speaking from personal experience but I love the penis. So, yaoi it is. Let me give you some examples. These images are from a fan scanlation groups that translates unreleased yaoi for English readers until they are published in the States. All of the images are from Hochuuami, one of my favorite sites. We love penises, beautiful boys, drama, taboo and love stories. I really like the beautiful art, a nice storyline that might include any of the following: forbidden love, brother lover, neighbor love, school yard love, slight rape that turns into love (I really like this one if it's done well), friend of the older brother, salaryman love, ect, Characters that I can relate to in situations that have sexual tension. Stuff I don't like: tenticle porn (never in yaoi that I have encountered, by the way), Shouta (which is child porn but since it's drawn instead of actual pics I think it's okay for people to like, I just don't like it), and bad art. I hate bad art in a yaoi. To me, it's all about being beautiful and attractive. Things like shouta and rape are okay in these situations because yaoi is all about fantasy. None of it is real or ever was. That is a big draw, I feel. I mean, I don't advocate rape in real life. I would never actually want to be raped. But I do like to fantasize about it. And I like to fantasize about the sibling thing, although not with my siblings. It's all about the taboo. I would never want to even think about MY brother that way but I am all about thinking about a random duo of brothers (they are usually half brother separated in life or step brothers, by the way. Most of the time the comics actually avoid full relations, although it's not completely out of the spectrum.) falling into a forbidden love. Yaoi is all about extremes of forbidden love and taboos and that is what gets women's juice flowing. These are the innermost dreams and fantasies that women have that they wouldn't necesarily act upon. I don't think that men should be grossed out when women say that they like the idea of two men together, I think it's just the same as men liking two women together. The only thing is that women are more excepting of the idea then men are, as DailyScience has pointed out for us. So, women, check out yaoi for a little erotica if you'd like. You just might find yourself addicted.

Better Know a Supervillain: Sandman

SandmanMany of you are familiar with the popular Spiderman movies. You know all about Spiderman and his cool spider related powers. But how much do you really know about the villains in those movies. If your like most people probably not a lot. So I’m going to take this opportunity to better familiarize you with them. In the upcoming Spiderman 3 one of the villains is the Sandman. You might be asking yourself, why is some skinny Tim Burton looking Goth guy fighting Spidey? I’m not talking about that Sandman stupid, I’m talking about the Marvel Comics Sandman. First off his powers are he is made of Sand. Huh, what’s that you say, that sounds lame what harm can sand do? Well if you’ve ever gone to the beach and got it stuck in your ass crack quite a lot, lemme tell you. Gonna need a lot of lotion for that chaffing. But the Sandman isn’t just made of sand he can also turn into things made of sand. Like sand castles and uh… other things you make out of sand. Hey can also merge with other sand to become an even bigger guy made out of sand. Not sure how that’s useful, I guess he could go down to Miami merge with all the sand and hold the beach hostage? Not too sure what the Sandman needs with money anyways, you would think being made of sand and all your expenses would be quite low. About the only thing he would eat would be Sandwiches (get it sandwiches cause he’s the Sandman and he’s made of sand, man I’m funny). Obviously being made out of sand has its disadvantages. First off you can never get the sand out of your shoes no matter how hard you try. Secondly no girl wants to have sex with someone whose penis is made out of sand. I’ve looked and can’t find any sand in the vagina fetish groups as of yet. And finally you will probably smell really bad. Being made out of sand you’re going to be pretty hot, especially on a sunny day. You will probably sweat a lot and have really bad B.O. But since you’re made of sand you can’t take a shower because you would just fall apart and get sucked down the drain. Then you would smell even worse because you would be sand mixed with poo and pee, eww. Quiet frankly I was made of sand I’d be pretty pissed off and become a supervillain too. I’m owed a couple of bucks for having such a crappy life. I can’t even go to the beach people just keep laying on me and walking all over me. Sand people are people too you know! So I say Spiderman take it easy on ole’ Sandy in the new movie. He’s had a hard enough time as it is.

Batman 2: Broke Bat Mountain

Well its official the lead villain for the next Batman movie will be the Joker, and will be played by none other than…. Heath Ledger?!? First off am I supposed to believe that this was the director’s first choice. There are literally dozens of other actors I can think of who would be far more likely to be cast, Hugo Weaving, Crispin Glover, Bruce Campbell, anyone else really. This leads me to my assumption that the casting was studio driven. Batman is a huge franchise and millions of dollars have already been invested in it. So obviously the studio wants a bad guy who will appeal to a large audience, and not necessarily be the best fit for the part. Obviously coming off of the successful movie Broke Back Mountain, Heath ledger would be high on their casting lists. He has high female appeal, which would in their minds help a movie with a primarily male audience. Obviously no one at the studio has ever read a comic book, they were probably too busy in school getting laid, so they don’t have an idea what the Joker is like and why Heath Ledger will suck as him. First off Heath Ledger is fat. I’m not saying he’s overweight, but the Joker is a tall and thin character, while Heath is a dumpy, fatty fat fat. Unless Heath can lose like 60 lbs. and grow 6 inches before shooting he won’t look the part. Secondly Heath is too handsome. The Joker has a long angular face with a sharp pointed nose. He also has a wide mouth and a sinister smile. Heath has a square jaw and a wry, sarcastic smile that women find attractive and not frightening. Unless they do serious make up, i.e. cut off his head, he’ll just look like a male model with white make-up and green hair. Lastly Heath does not have the personality to be the Joker. The Joker is a true sociopath who kills at random and for his own amusement, he is completely insane and irrational. Heath is a smiley happy guy who everyone likes. What type of experiences will he draw upon for the role, that one time a girl broke up with him and then he got another girlfriend two seconds later, boo-hoo, poor Heath your so dark and tormented. Heath Ledger is just another pretty boy who used to make fun of nerds who read comics in high school and now will make millions portraying a comic book character. I for one will not support Heath as the Joker and will instead keep to my comics who are written by authors who actually care about and understand the character.

10 ways to get fired from Wayne Enterprises

One of the more interesting aspects of the Batman / Bruce Wayne character is that in addition to fighting crime, he also runs a large, multinational corporation. Actually, it's not so much interesting as it is an excuse for him to have enough money to constantly buy bat-supplies. But you have to wonder what it must be like to work for Wayne Enterprises. Since you are reading this, instead of doing work, it is probably more pertinent to wonder what it's like to get fired from Wayne Enterprises. Below are 10 ways to get fired from Wayne Enterprises. Note to fanboys: all the items below are strictly in canon (see references in (parenthesis)).
  1. Take the company private via an IPO, then demote Morgan Freeman to the Archives division. No one puts baby in a corner! (reference)
  2. Invent a popular puzzle-based video game, have your unscrupulous boss take all the credit. (reference)
  3. Murder a young boy's parents in from of him. (reference)
  4. Write an email that says Bruce Wayne sucks. (reference)
  5. Write an email that says Batman sucks. (reference)
  6. Write an email that says Bruce Wayne and Batman suck in equal and identical ways (reference)
  7. Violate the code of business conduct and do poorly on your quarterly performance reviews. (reference)
  8. Question the budget item marked “Batmobile tires� (reference)
  9. Cripple Batgirl. Just kidding, that's pretty funny. (reference)
  10. Mention to Bruce that you knew his father. When Bruce asks if you worked for Wayne Enterprises when you were younger, clarify that you meant you knew him in the biblical sense. (reference)