Lindsay Powell amazes as Cake Bake Betty. Follow the link to better understand greatness.
At work, I always have TV on, as part of my job supporting EyeTV. Today, I was watching some Chinese news, when I saw a short piece on dodolook, an adorable young woman who's apparently making the jump from video-blogs to microstardom. She's a cute 23 year old, likes to dance energetically to J-Pop, and her overall work is brief bits of joy, guaranteed to produce smiles.
For the past year, she's been haunting YouTube, along with the Chinese/Taiwanese equivalents, and also has her own slick website, so there are scores of great clips you can check out, using the links I've provided. Some are just a talking head, some involve props, and the general vibe is a more creative version of the innumerable videos young people are putting out these days.
Honestly, I don't know much about this proto-phenomenon (since I only joined the party a few hours ago), except that she's entertaining, has star power, and clearly is going somewhere. Hopefully we'll be seeing her in more professional forms over the coming year - I'd watch any show she hosted, or pay for a DVD version of her work.
A quick glance at her Japanese fansite shows that she has a non-fiction book coming out right about now, and has graced commercials and magazine covers over the past year. I even found a music video called [Go Go Go], but I'm not certain how official it is. If you have Chinese-language skills, please let me know more about what's she's all about. Was she famous before her web-existence, or because of it?
It just goes to show that time and space have almost completely collapsed due to modern communication technology - just wait until 2012 to see the final culmination.
It's been a few months since the "this generation" game consoles hit the US, and I've been neglecting to report my own experiences until now, mostly due to a glut of other people's thoughts. Now I've had some time to enjoy my new systems, and let me start by discussing the somewhat derided PlayStation 3 (I'll get to the Wii next time).
I'm not the type to line up for hours in the cold for the latest game device - that habit ended when I failed to get a PS2 way back when, from Target, in the rain, on launch day. Since then, I've been an internet preorder guy, except when I've been able to walk into a store and buy a Gamecube or Xbox 360. For the PS3, I tried and failed to get the first pre-order from Amazon.com, and their apology about the cancelled order did little to make me happier. Then, I studied eBay for about a week, noting the lowering price, and quickly calculating that import units would probably hit a good level in about a month, before 2006 ended.
I was actually much more excited about getting a Japanese PS3, since it would allow me to do the following: 1) Play all PS3 games worldwide, 2) Play all Blu-Ray discs in the US and Japan, 3) Play Japanese PS2 and PS1 games, and 4) Play Japanese region DVDs, all using either a Japanese or English interface. So, once the import price of a 60GB model roughly approximated that of the US unit, I sprung, and got a $750 unit, tax-free, with free overnight shipping from Hong Kong, from YesAsia. The price now is about $50-100 less, and I think it will stabilize at that point (albeit cheaper still if you are physically in Japan).
Unit acquired and firmware updated, let me tell you about what I think so far of my 4 important categories:
1) Play all PS3 games worldwide
I purchased two PS3 games so far - the Japanese version of [Ridge Racer 7] (since it was $10 cheaper than the US) and the US version of [Tony Hawk Project 8] (since it was on sale, and I like the series). Both worked perfectly, or at least as well as could be expected - the Tony Hawk game plays better on the Xbox 360, apparently. Sony has expressed no desire to region encode future games, but there is a chance they will change their mind someday. Until then, this feature is a 10 out of 10 for me - the Xbox 360 doesn't come close, since it has region encoding.
2) Play all Blu-Ray discs in the US and Japan
This is also a real boon. There is region encoding for Blu-Ray, but unlike with DVDs, Japan and the US are now in the same region. This is amazingly great, since it means I can import future Japanese Blu-Ray releases at whim. I don't have a HDTV-capable (1080p) monitor or TV yet, but I've tested a few Blu-Ray discs at standard resolution, and they work fine. Plus, I imported the Bluetooth Remote for the PS3, which works great with all video discs (and can also double as a slightly-hobbled game controller). This is a 9 out of 10, since I can't take full advantage of the higher resolution, yet.
3) Play Japanese PS2 and PS1 games
I was really excited about this, and this was the main reason I went with the Japanese PS3, instead of the US one. Older games are region encoded, and I've never been able to play the Japanese PS2 titles, until now. In fact, I purchased [Super Galdelic Hour] in 2001, and it stayed shrinkwrapped until the first night I bought my PS3 home. Right now I'm working my way through [Oanechan Pon], which is like Buffy The Zombie Slayer - all blood and bikinis. The PS2 version will never make it to the US (but who knows about the Xbox 360 sequel - eventually?). I've been importing bargain PS2 titles with glee over the past month - titles that have never reached the US, or are cheaper in Japan - and this is how I've been spending a lot of my PS3 time.
If you were wondering, I've tried 5 disparate PS2 games so far, and all work without incident - they look great. Some people have reported badness when viewing the lower resolution PS2 content via high-end outputs (like HDMI), but that's not in the cards for me now. Composite is perfectly fine for games designed to use it. The SIXAXIS is an adequate DualShock replacement - I don't miss the rumble, but I could use a little more weight. The PS2 memory card emulation works fine. 9 out of 10
4) Play Japanese region DVDs
Most of my time has been using the PS3 as a disc player, specifically my somewhat large collection of Region 2 DVDs from Japan. I know all the tricks to play them on my Mac, or via some DVD players, but it's great to simply insert a movie and play it with no further hassle. Nowadays, I rent via Netflix (which uses Region 1 DVDs that unfortunately won't work with my Japanese PS3) and buy DVDs almost always via import. So, when I do get my HDTV in a few months, I'll have a great setup to play all the Japanese content I care about, and when I slowly transition to Blu-Ray, I'll be all set with the PS3 (Netflix does rent Blu-Ray). 10 out of 10, really - it's much nicer than my current DVD player (which is pretty janky).
The PS3 has three big negative points right now: 1) Too expensive for most people, 2) Not enough PS3 games of any merit, and 3) Meager network ability. Of those, I'm obviously not worried about the price - it was right for me now, and it will go down eventually. I know that more games will come, but it's likely that some former exclusives will see the Xbox 360 as well, or without ever reaching Sony's baby.
I was most disappointed about the PlayStation Network, and that's ironic since I'm not one to use my consoles online. I have a DSL box in one room, and my consoles in the other, without any wireless networking. So, I set up the network in the living room about once every few months, and then download updates and demos. I don't play games online. That said, XBox Live is nirvana compared to the truly weak PS3 offering, since you can't download more than one file at once, and the interface is very ugly HTML (at least when viewed at 4:3 on a low resolution TV). The last thing I want to do is visit the PS3 store, and when I did (to fetch [Gran Turismo HD]) I was elated when I could log off.
I'm not very excited about the crossbar interface, which strongly evokes the PSP or PSX (the Japanese DVR-PS2 hybrid). It's slow, but efficient, to view pictures from a Compact Flash card, and it's not very fun to rip CDs to MP3 (the interface is too meager). The PSP integration is pointless (watching the PS3 interface at tiny size, in the other room, didn't excite me), and I haven't tried movie file playback, but I'm sure it's just OK. Linux support is clearly a hit, with massive leaps in just a few weeks, and the ability to swap out hard drives easily is something I'll take advantage of eventually.
For composite video users with a 4:3 TV, PS3 gameplay is often forced in a letterbox, which makes print very hard to read. PS2 games and DVD playback are as expected, and I like the interface for optical disc based video most of all - it's very responsive when using the Bluetooth Remote, and can even display the video bitrate and other geek attractions. The only thing I miss is full volume control during movie playback - you can only go +/- 2 steps of the current TV volume. Also, it doesn't seem to support VideoCDs, but that's what my other player is for. It does support DVD-R, though.
In conclusion, the PS3 is a great way for me to watch movies from the US and Japan, and it's allowing me to catch up with Japanese PS2 games. I get the Blu-Ray benefit (which isn't saying that much right now), plus the possibility to play relatively exciting this gen games, no matter what side of the Pacific they fall. It's not as fun as the Wii (which I'll cover soon), and it doesn't have much current support of non-Japanese developers (like the Xbox 360), but as long as I don't mind the dusting, the PS3 is exactly the all-in-one box I've been looking for.
If I say "Erika Saimon" to you, do you swoon much like I do? She was the co-star of ANIKI's [Custom Made 10.30], a recent Tamio Okuda vehicle that focused on him as well as Kaela Kimura, another of my favorite up-and-coming musicians. Erika (Kaela's sister in that film) practically stole every scene she was in, and her first proper starring role is in [Nice No Mori - The First Contact].
[Funky Forest] (a most horrible official translation if there ever was one) is a series of interconnected short films by Katsuhito Ishii, Shinichiro Miki, and ANIKI, with running themes of a lack of communication, loneliness, the power of music, and the like, all wrapped up in a humorous and quirky package. It's mostly live action, with some CG and 2D anime, not to mention strange puppets and asides. Fans of the weird will not be disappointed.
Erika "stars", in the sense that her character Notti is in a good half of the films, and she lights up the screen with her beauty and charm. In fact, most of the women in the film are model-attractive, which I take to be part of the point, but Erika is something altogether different - she has star power that you can see in the making.
As for the men, the focus is on the Guitar Brothers, a seemingly mismatched trio that includes a large, young boy with a fondness for food and butchering the Japanese language (the implication is that he's as foreign as he looks, but no one seems to notice). Their yearning for female companionship is humorous and almost touching, and how they tie into the life of Notti and her English teacher fairly inventive.
I ordered the Special Edition set with 3 DVDs, which is a must for fans of Erika or ANIKI, but both versions have English Subtitles (and Region 2 Japanese encoding). So, if you have a way to play it, I highly recommend [Nice No Mori] - a few of the films are uneven, but most are quite funny (even a bit nasty), and it really comes together at the end. Heck, the 2 1/2 hour collection even has a forced intermission of a few minutes, and that speaks to its overall inventiveness in form.
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