Cake Bake Betty

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1.30.2006 - [Gantz And Genshiken Know How To End] Hide
[Genshiken] Volume 3

It seems that anime series usually come in chunks of one or two dozen episodes, give or take. Sometimes, the shortest series, like [FLCL] or [Mezzo], can be just as satisfying as longer works. That said, if the last few episodes don't cut it, then even the most magnificent series, like [Last Exile], can seriously stumble at the very end.

Thankfully, the last two series I watched ended the right way, resolving plot threads while still speaking towards an as-of-yet undocumented future.

[Genshiken] was one of my favorite US releases last year, and I was quite pleased with the final few episodes. I particularly enjoyed the character growth of Saki Kasukabe, who went from otaku-hater to a friend of the fantasy-prone. Other characters had their own personal movements that made the resolution all the more satisfying. The stakes during the series weren't enormous, but the cyclical nature of the plot was tidy and true, the humor both broad and pin-pointed, and the attention to detail significant. This is one series that I can definitely enjoy with multiple viewings.

[Gantz], on the other hand, started strong, but had a very weak middle, only coming back to its own in the final few episodes, when the enemies were human, rather than quirky aliens. Overall, I found the character driven parts of the series far more compelling then the incessant explosions and mutilations, which is sad for me, since series drowned in blood.

[Gantz] Volume 10

Still, the final few episodes were far more interesting, and Kei Kurono finally became a protagonist to root for, instead one to deride due to his stubbornness and selfishness. He was contemplative, and heroic instead of merely action-oriented. This transformation helped bring home the point, where the violence that was seemingly glorified in actuality was condemned as pointless.

I can't say I fully understood the last minute or so of the series, but I came away with the belief that Kei transcended his fate somehow, winning the "game" despite Gantz's bloody rules.

So, I can recommend [Genshiken] for those looking for a light exploration of the various shades of fandom, and [Gantz] for those who don't shy away from ultra-violence, knowing that the character moments wipe away the blood in the end.


1.24.2006 - [Have I Ever Mentioned Things From Japan?] Hide
Anna Tsuchiya

As always, I have more pre-orders from Japan you might be interested in. Some are extra special, like [Adult] by Tokyo Jihen, and that comes out tomorrow. Also note the new Hikaru Utada single, and Thmlues wonderment.

Lots more DVDs than usual, but no complaints by me. I particularly enjoy paying a few hundred yen more to get some video action attached to an album or single, and if that's your thing too, then 2006 is like gumdrops from rooftops.

Oh yeah, the Anna Tsuchiya focus? Well, I have no idea if she can sing, but ever since [Shimotsuma Story], I've been in respectful lust. That's the movie that was renamed as [Kamikaze Girls] (ick!) and recently released on an US DVD, so check her out (she's the yankii one).

01) [Yuiga Dokuon Presents Gendai No Mukai - Zazen Boys], Zazen Boys, 1.18.06, DDBZ-1015, 2,857yen

02) [Zazen Boys III], Zazen Boys, 1.18.06, DAKMSAL-7, 2,381yen

03) [Live Warp], Triceratops, 1.25.06, VIBL-316, 3,619yen (DVD)

04) [Melancholista], Yuki, 1.25.06, ESCL-2759, 1,165yen

05) [Yuki Live YUKI TOUR "joy"], Yuki, 1.25.06, ESBL-2183, 5,300yen (DVD)

06) [Change Your Life], Anna Tsuchiya, 1.25.06, CTCR-40229, 1,000yen

07) [Adult], Tokyo Jihen, 1.25.06, TOCT-25884, 3,619yen ("Homme", with DVD)

08) [Rainbow 7], Morning Musume, 2.15.06, EPCE-5387, 3,200yen

09) [Outgrow], BoA, 2.15.06, AVCD-17794, 3,800yen (album with DVD; AVCD-17795 without DVD)

10) [Keep Tryn'], Hikaru Utada, 2.22.06, TOCT-5005, 1,048yen

11) [Startin' / Born To Be...], Ayumi Hamasaki, 3.8.06, AVCD-30961, 1,800yen (single with DVD)

12) [LIVE 2005 - Dreamy Worm Holl Tour: Oneman Live Iriguchi wa Deguchi@Shibuya O-EAST], Thmlues, 3.8.06, KIBM-94, 3,619yen (DVD)

13) [Lylic Trigger], Thmlues, 3.8.06, KICM-1161, 952yen

14) [Tokyo Jihen DVD Eizo Sakuhinshu - Adult Video], Tokyo Jihen, 3.23.06, TOBF-5469, 3,048yen (DVD)

15) [Custom Made 10.30], Tamio Okuda (actor), 3.24.06, REDV-340, 6,800yen (Premium Edition DVD)

Plus, I have these already released items that I'm waiting on:

01) [Anna 3], Anna Tsuchiya, 6.16.04, PCBG-10559, 2,970yen

02) [Makes You Dance!], Limited Express (has gone?), 1.19.05, 2,500yen

03) [Banging The Drum], Bloodthirsty Butchers, 4.6.05, 2,940yen

04) [Magic Of White], CLiCKS, 5.14.05, 2,000yen

05) [Taste My Beat], Anna Tsuchiya, 8.24.05, VFCD-11014, 1,524yen

06) [I dedicate D chord], Toddle, 9.22.05, 1,995yen

07) [Echo Park], Advantage Lucy, 9.28.05, 2,625yen

Whew! Obviously I have some importation issues. Some of these choices are thanks to Japan Live. Toddle has already been covered by me a bit - it's a Hisako Tabuchi project (ex Number Girl) that I'm anxious to hear. She's also in the Bloodthirsty Butchers, so there you go.


1.23.2006 - [Mochacochalatta Meet, Eat, Judy And Mary] Hide

Cover bands. Sometimes they're ironic, other times they're trying to reveal new threads in old cloth. Mochacochalatta are a cover band from Bandung, Indonesia, that are far more focused, and their singular goal is to sound as much like Judy and Mary as possible.

Starting out in February of 2005, Teguh (Bass), Keni (Vocals), Tama (Drums) and Saka (Guitar) are college students that have 23 fine Judy and Mary songs in their arsenal, all the classics from the early 90s until their dissolution a few years ago. I've heard three of these standards via camcorder footage from various Japan-themed festivals in Indonesia, and they indeed sound like their idols, with decently-sung Japanese and pretty much all the right chords and hooks.

Perhaps the instruments don't carry the same punch, and maybe ultra-cute Keni can't quite achieve the starpower of Yuki, but it's honestly impossible to beat the originals. They're a Judy and Mary cover band, and JAM is one of my top 10 all-time faves, easily. Thus, I adore Mochacochalatta simply because they exist.

An actual CD of JAM sound-alike covers would be a bit beside the point - why not just listen to the real thing? That said, I would like to hear Mochacochalatta's full song list, just for the novelty of it all. More to the point, they clearly have some talent, and I would be all the more interested in a more original project with the same members. Covers are one thing, but I'm sure that Indonesia has a lot of Japan-tinged music just waiting to get out.

Update from 2008: Please note that Mochacochalatta have moved beyond their JAM roots, and are now performing their own original music. I'll post more information about their new direction when possible, in a new junk.log post.

If you're interested, here is their MySpace page, with music.


1.16.2006 - [Xbox 360 In The Xouse] Hide
Xbox 360

Did you know I wanted an Xbox 360? Yes, my video game jones did not completely disappear, even after I took the Games section off of this site. So, when it was released (but not before - no preorders and big bundles for me) I looked. And looked. And looked some more, but all lines were too long, all piles of units were depleted, and all I had left were expensive eBay auctions, or websites with "Sold Out" banners.

However, I still have skillz when it comes to the acquisition of things. Taking some Kotaku advice, I kept hounding the local Best Buy "greeter" (security camera operator by the door), with the supposedly secret password "Do you have Xbox 360 in stock now?". Two weeks ago, I went in to look for some DVDs, and did my usual ritual at the door. That time, however, they were in, locked away in the back and ready to buy.

Turns out they had 6 "Core" units (just the console, wired controller, and little else) instead of the Premium units with hard drive and other crap. Knowing the packages in and out, I figured that the $299 basic setup was fine, since the hard drives were plentiful, and I didn't have a HDTV. Plus, most calculations as to the "value" of the super special pack were off - I'll spare you the math, but the savings wasn't that great over a la carte.

So, instead of waiting another month or two for my "perfect" Xbox 360, I walked out with basically the same thing, along with [Dead Or Alive 4] and [Perfect Dark Zero]. The journey was over.


Now, the fun begins, mostly. There are a few problems - while the interface is great, iPod integration neat, and off-line CDDB access amazing (put in a music CD, and the hard drive identifies all of the tracks), the games are mostly lacking.

[DOA 4] looks great (I always buy all versions of the series), but the actual gameplay and "story" aren't much different than everything since [DOA 2] for the Dreamcast. There is fun to be had, but the leap is more quiet than quantum.

[Perfect Dark Zero] is also nice in the eyeball department, but I was perplexed by the default movement/look scheme, and didn't feel all that compelled to complete the first single player level. I'll get back to it soon, but again - the evolution from the first Xbox isn't all that amazing.

Part of this is the "uncanny valley" concept, where there's a large area of pseudo-real 3D human rendering that looks deathly and wrong, and part of this is the fact that the mere addition of more polygons and textures doesn't improve gameplay. Thus, I'll have to wait many months before games that really take advantage of the 360 come out, and by that time the PlayStation 3 pre-party will have begun. Sure, I'll get that too, but while I was hoping for another Dreamcast, it seems the 360 is another Saturn (released too soon in anticipation of a larger rival, lacking in games at launch, etc.), at least for now. Too little, too soon, and the stores are filled with accessories that aren't selling, and completely empty of the magical boxes themselves.

In any case, if you want a Xbox 360, then wait until summer and the streets will be filled with their green and white empty boxes (which is to say, eBay simply doesn't make sense when the stores will overflow soon). Perhaps by then there will be something cool to play.


1.16.2006 - [After Macworld, The Deluge] Hide
EyeTV 2

After two weeks of long hours in preparation for and participation in Macworld Expo 2006, I'm back - tell a friend.

My adopted baby, EyeTV, just turned two, and we had a nice party at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Everyone came, and left with fine party favors like t-shirts, buttons, and free EyeTV hardware. I forgot to bring a pinata or a donkey for tail-pinning, but people were happy enough to award us (Elgato Systems) "Best of Show", twice. That's a birthday to remember.

Seriously, after almost 4 years working on this and other products, I'm pretty darn happy about how things are turning out. However, my opinion is not shared by every last person, and thus lots of work needs to be done in 2006 to make things even better. That said, if you're in the market for a Digital TV Recorder for your Mac, call me (he says, with that fingers turned into a phone, wiggling by his ear gesture)

The rest of Macworld? It was OK. Intel Macs, lots of iPod crap, beautiful presenters intermixed with all sorts of Mac users. It's far from the size of CES, but it does have that new Apple smell.


1.1.2006 - [New Years and Macworlds Go Great Together] Hide
MacWorld Expo

I was welcomed to 2006 by dozens of rounds of gunfire; and I live in residential Berkeley, far from the most dangerous place around. I don't quite get what excites the new year shooters so much, but I can't help but cringe, and hope that the bullets don't return to Earth through anyone's body parts, as they are apt to do. Perhaps their intention is to kill the little baby embodiment of January, but I'm afraid that it's more of an Earth-bound symbol, rather than a cherub floating around somewhere in the night.

So, the year is off to a bang, as usual, along with the usual drenching rain and semi-floods. None of that really stole my attention away from rest, right before the approaching storm that is Macworld Expo 2006 preparation. Astute readers will know from past years why that's a factor in my life; sufficed to say that over the next week I need to do something with some things, to get stuff ready for said Expo.

When the non-disclosure clears, then I can beam proudly about this and that, but until then, I'll refrain, and instead fill your eyes with the typical tales of various junk.

I was supposed to have a contest at about this time, but I feared that it would be considered lame, and thus I'm going to reformulate. Can't say when that will materialize, but perhaps in the next 30 days.

Speaking of that time period, my intention was to reveal Junk Magnet 2.0 right around February or March, and that's still technically on target, but such technicalities can be stumbling blocks of the most well intentioned. So, sufficed to say that I'm doing something with some things, to get stuff ready for said change.

Alright.... more next week. Make sure to let me know if last weeks copious amounts of lists were useful, or useless. Could be the start (or end) of an annual tradition, depending on the vibes I get. I like vibes, so start the shaking and send 'em.



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