Sunday, March 28, 2010

Star Trek Archives V2 Best of the Borg

The graphic novel, Star Trek Archives Volume 2: The Best of the Borg, contains two Star Trek The Next Generation storylines. The first storyline, The Worst of Both Worlds, is alright though very contrived. The story is based on the episode "Best of Both Worlds". It takes up the majority of the book. The other storyline, Operation Assimilation, is awesome.

The comics that this book comprises were written back in 1993 before First Contact or Voyager's portrayal of the Borg. The first invasion by the Borg was great television (Televised not in universe). The Borg were unstoppable and they turned you into them. The Federation didn't stand a chance, a single Borg cube took out an entire fleet of ships and the Federation could not do anything to stop them. Sure the Enterprise won the battle in the end but it wasn't because of skill, abilities, or anything like that. They won because the Borg were massively over confident and the Enterprise crew had gotten extremely lucky.

In the first story the Enterprise is sent through a rift in space into a parallel universe where the Enterprise did not manage to get lucky and defeat the Borg and Captain Picard is still Locutus of Borg. The character interaction is pretty good between the two universe's crews. One universe crew has it as a desperate last stand with most of the Federation already conquered; the other crew had defeated the Borg and were confident that they could do so again. There is also an interesting sub plot involving O'brien who in this universe had his family die but did not in the main universe. The reason I say it was contrived and why I do not think the story to be as good as it maybe is, is because as I mentioned the first time they defeated the Borg was basically luck. In this story we are eventually told that it was Picard who opened the transdimensional rifts in attempt to find help. He was able to exert his will over the entire Borg Collectives mind net. I just do not like that he was able to do that. The Borg has trillions of drones all of which were unable to exert any will but he was able to do so. Sure it mentions that he could not do anything against the fail safes but still it is one guy managing to overcome what trillions failed to do. They attempted the exact same plan they used to defeat the Borg the first time. Amazingly it works, with minor modification. Sleep command doesn't but telling them to eat does. Evidently if all the Borg connect to the power sources at the same time it drains the ships systems to the point that they fail entirely.

The second story is in Second Person format which usually is not very good. It is difficult to write stories in second person (you, you're, and your) and most are bad. That said it is an excellent story. This story is about a Romulan commander out in the boondocks who is upset with her place in things. Shows that the Romulans are in many ways similar to the Borg but the Borg are even scarier because they consume you; mind, body, and soul. This story does the Borg real justice as an unstoppable horrific force and the book is worth getting for this story alone.

Star Trek Archives The Best of Peter David

Star Trek Archives The Best of Peter David is a collection of Star Trek the original series comics written by Peter David. The book contains three stories originally contained in 5 comic books. Peter David is one of my favorite authors so it is no surprise that I would enjoy this book.

The first story titled Retrospect is about Monygomery Scott's (Scotty) love of his life, other than his even stronger love for ship engines, Glynnis Campbell. The story starts with her dying (a surprise to Kirk and McCoy who did not even know of her existence) and then goes backward in time showing their relationship. In the story 5 and 10 year marriage contracts are mentioned (they were married at one time with a five year contract and then she mentions extending it for another five years or maybe splurging on a ten year contract). The idea behind termed marriage contracts makes sense to me, given the number of and increase in divorces, but still disturbs me somewhat. I am of the opinion that marriage should not be entered into without considerable thought put into it and should be for life. I am also of the opinion that marriage is mainly a religious rite. Civil/legal marriages have little meaning to me.

The second story, The Return of the Worthy, is about a group of insufferable geniuses whom were found cryogenically frozen for a little over 300 years on a planet. The group is cocky and boastful as all hell but they really are as good as they believe themselves to be. They were specifically chosen for their abilities and had saved and influenced many cultures before being tossed across the galaxy by Apollo (Greek God seen in the original series) and forced to freeze themselves to survive. On their planet of origin, Karimea, there is a legend that they, The Worthy (the name they were given prior to their departure from their world), will return in the time of their greatest need. This appears to be the case since things on their homeworld have gone bad in the intervening years. Sadly they arrive too late their entire civilization has destroyed itself. The last part of this story criticizes the Federations noninterference law known as the Prime Directive (the Karimea had told the Federation to go away and leave us alone). In the end Kirk tricks the Worthy into continuing their original explorations and helping species the Federation can't or, more accurately, won't.

The last story in the book, Once a Hero, is about the death of a security officer. The story starts with Captain Kirk trying to compose a eulogy for the recently deceased officer who died saving Kirk's life. The Captain is having a very difficult time doing so because he knows next to nothing about the officer; he had to query the computer just to learn his first name. He goes around asking crew members about the deceased officer but no one on board knows much about him either. He ends up starting with the generic Star Fleet recommends for cases like this then goes off tangent and talks about how they are just words. You can't really honor someone whom you do not know and that he was just another nameless security guard. I found this one pretty interesting because of the question 'What would you say about someone who gave their life for you and you didn't even know them?' is an interesting topic.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Devil Hunter Yohko Ranma Reference

I watched Mamono Hantā Yōko (Devil Hunter Yohko) several years ago. It is a fairly good, short (6 episode), anime about a boy crazy sixteen year old girl who finds out that she is the 108th devil hunter in her family line. Her mother, Sayoko, would have been the 108th, but did not because a Devil Hunter must be a virgin to take on the power and responsibility. Even though the anime is short there are significant changes between the first and last episode. The most obvious is the art shift as the anime goes along the main character looks younger and the tone changes some possibly to appeal to a younger demography.

It has been recently brought to my attention that there is a Ranma ½ reference in the anime that I did not catch when I had watched it. Evidently, as can be seen in the picture above, behind the alarm clock that wakes up Yohko there is a stack of Ranchi ⅓ manga. They even match the older style manga of Ranma ½.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Subtitled vs Dubbed

People argue about a lot of things. One thing I've seen a considerable amount of arguing about is as to whether subtitled is better than dubbed or vice versa. While the amount of debate has gone down considerably since DVDs generally contain both versions now it is still debated frequently on anime forums, chat rooms, boards, etc. It is not limited to anime; this debate extends to basically any foreign film. If you were to look for them you'll likely find dozens of very well done posts on this on many websites/blogs/forums. Some examples are these articles: anime news network, USA Anime.

In general I prefer subtitled over dubbed. This is not always the case since there are some dubs that are of excellent, and in some cases, even better quality. This is not limited to anime or even Japanese films. When I watch a Russian, Hong Kong, or Swedish film, I prefer to watch it subtitled. I often feel that a lot is lost in translation (and for live action the mouth movements not matching the voices can become very annoying). Some sub titles are pretty bad though particularly those done in Hong Kong.

Some examples in which I consider the dubbed version to be better or prefer to watch it dubbed:
-Lupin III TV series and movies generally since a lot of the references were for things in the seventies that make no sense to me and the dub is more current. I also like the voices more than the Japanese ones.
-My Neighbor Totoro. In this case I do not think the dub is superior to the original language I just prefer to watch it without the subtitles. This is true of a lot of the Ghibi films.

Some examples in which I consider the subtitled version to be better and do not watch it dubbed ever:
-Love Hina. I found the voice acting in the English version to be very aggravating.
-Ranma ½. I prefer the original Japanese voices.
-Detective Conan/Case Closed. I just do not like the dubbed version (the changing of the characters names really annoy me for some reason and the cases require an understanding of Japanese culture that doesn't translate well).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

CSI: Intern at Your Own Risk

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Intern at Your Own Risk story by Sekou Hamilton with art by Steven Cummings is a Tokyopop graphic novel. I may have liked this book several years ago but with my current mindset and knowledge I found the book to be a bit dull, predictable, and rushed. The story is pretty similar to the television show with the difference being that it is about teenagers interning at the CSI lab rather than the actual CSI members. The first thing I want to say is that I would not want these investigators investigating my demise. Forget that if I was dead I likely wouldn't care. I would not want them investigating the death of anyone.

There are a few things in particular I disliked about this story. The first thing being the internship was supposed to be based on test scores but the main character gets in because she was female; evidently they could not have all the interns be male. That annoys me because it is supposed to be based on merit not gender. Sure it is common in real life and the character in question probably was the best for the position (another one cheated, one was creepily obsessed with blood, etc.) and it is shown that it means a lot to her and she is deserving of getting a break (poor, no mother, few friends, etc.). I just dislike that she was placed primarily in the position because of her gender. The next annoyance was that the person who cheated to get into the program is not punished for it in any way. The third annoyance is that they implied they would have dismissed that the assailant was female if the person had been sexually assaulted. This bothers me because, while nowhere near as common, females do on occasion sexually assault (aka rape) people as well (this is assuming there was no semen found, though even if it was the killer could have been female and the victim just had sex earlier). Those are the things I found most annoying though there were other things that I found annoying as well. Mainly the assumptions made; for example just because a body is posed in a respectful position that does not in anyway prove that the killer was close to the victim, just because the killer adequately cleaned the crime scene of forensics evidence does not mean that the killer has a background in forensics since the killer could have gotten lucky or just watched a lot of crime TV, why didn't the killer wear the gloves to pose the body since the killer did for the other cleanup and the actual crime, etc.

The art was so-so. The first chapter is available on the Tokyopop website so you can check the art for yourself. I think that the details, which were supposedly important to forensics, were not always consistent and a couple characters looked a bit too similar. I did like Kiyomi's (the main character) expressions; particularly the one in which she is looking at the computer screen intensely before they figure out how to zoom in on the picture she is studying.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Inspirations for Ranma ½ manga 4

The above pictures are of Rodin's famous sculpture The Thinker and female form Ranma thinking from the Ranma ½ manga. The pose is used several times in the manga; I chose this particular one because Ranma fan fiction generally claims Ranma would not wear a dress like that. The pose is used frequently in art and generally meant to convey introspection. It is considered an immediately recognizable icon of intellectual activity.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Scrabble Journey

I rather like the board game of Scrabble but did not like the computer game Scrabble Journey anywhere near as much. The game is pretty different from the game of Scrabble, very little strategy is needed, and the points are entirely meaningless. The game does have a story in which you are trying to become a member of a travel club; to do so you first have to make a trip around the world in less than 80 days (teaches some geography). You have multiple routes to take, some are easier than others (supposedly, the game is very simple) and the game board changes for each locale but always starts on the left side of the board and ends on the right side, some boards have obstacles you have to spell words around (example of one of the boards pictured above downloaded from the internet).

When I play Scrabble I tend to use four letter words most frequently. I do this because my spelling is not as good as I would like it to be and if I am unsure of a words spelling I generally avoid using it. That is probably the most frustrating thing about the game Scrabble (that and not finding the letter you need). Since my vocabulary is considerably better than my spelling and I know many polysyllabic words, I often come up with words but avoid using them (though even when I do attempt to do so I often can not find a place in which to place the word on the board). This game likely would increase a persons spelling abilities more than their vocabulary since you can guess how to spell words as long as you want without a penalty (though you get more points the faster you do so).

When I write on a computer I make frequent use of the spell checker and like that it exists (though I do not use auto-spellcheck since the programs are not intelligent and often assume that the misspelled word is a different word entirely). My freehand writing suffers from cacography unless I take great care and spend a considerable amount of time to avoid it. Cacography, for those who do not know or have not derived its meaning from my usage of it, is the antonym of calligraphy (beautiful handwriting) and orthography (correct spelling). From what I have read cacography is becoming more and more common since most people nowadays use spell checkers and type things out rather than write them (many schools no longer even teach their students how to write in cursive since it is generally not needed in modern society).

I consider my vocabulary to be very good and rarely encounter words I do not know, though on the occasions in which I do I generally can derive the words meaning from the context it is used in. In speech, both written and spoken, it is best to avoid the over use of uncommonly used words since the point of language is to convey information and ideas. Those who do over use uncommon words or are circumlocutory tend to (but not always) do so to obfuscate information or are being ostentatious. That is not to say using uncommon words or being verbose is bad, it is the misuse and over usage of them that is a problem. I recently heard on a radio program about how a scientist had written a book that would have been ground breaking and years ahead of its time (can not recall the author or book at this time) but because of how he wrote it it was mostly indecipherable and therefore ignored.

In the game Scrabble Journey there is a hint object and the hints it gives is often for very uncommon words (at least to me) for example these seventy: tuque, ti, wadi, jezail, suq, nodi, dado, dehort, tyee, zax, nissus, jees, jeu, uric, ugsome, gadje, arbute, elide, azonic, edhs, jeux, crinums, ructions, alane, ogee, trock, abaka, reeky, ansae, naoi, jiao, epos, guaco, egis, khi, yapok, aurated, adze, zas, qis, delf, vena, brede, uretic, ziram, godet, pirn, xenic, indri, uric, nixe, kyar, gie, japer, fordo, kinin, ileal, gyral, azo, giga, rya, neap, liri, acini, otic, thiol, howk, kobo, xis, and cwm.

The reason I made the list of words is because I was curious as to their meaning and looked them up in a dictionary. I downloaded the free version wordweb dictionary (since I wanted to use an offline software dictionary) for the express purpose of looking them up but not every word was in that dictionary (spell check doesn't recognize a lot of them as well). Though every word is in the Scrabble dictionary.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Five random things on Japan 8

1. Even though Japan's surrender in August 1945 (with the surrender ceremony held on September 2, 1945) there were still many soldiers who were unaware the war had ended or refused to believe that Japan had surrendered. The most famous of the Japanese holdouts is Hiroo Onoda. He was a Japanese soldier that did not know that World War Two was over and kept fighting in the Philippines until 1974. More about him can be found on wikipedia and No Surrender Japanese Holdouts.

2. Company presidents in the United States commonly make 100 to 200 times as much as the lowest paid employees do. In Japan they are not paid nearly as much; they are generally paid 10 to 20 times more than the lowest paid employees in the company.

3. In 1923 there was an enormous earthquake in the Kanto region of Japan (which includes Tokyo) that killed around 140,000 people. To remember and prevent a disaster of that scope, September 1st had been designated, in 1960, as Disaster Prevention Day in Japan. On Disaster Prevention Day people listen to safety lectures and practice fire and earthquake drill are held. How effective these drills are is very debatable since all the participants were informed of the drill days in advance (which is very common for drills held in Japan, some schools, besides the days in advance warning, even give via intercom 5 minute warnings that a drill is about to happen). Random drills maybe more effective preparation but they have the annoying side-effect of disrupting class and being disorganized.

4. A bit on Japanese names. In Japan the family name comes first followed by the given name with no middle names. Names are usually written in kanji and often have a meaning. Since the kanji can have many different pronunciations it is common for people to write their names in kana form as well as the kanji form to avoid confusion. There are rules in naming your children, only officially sanctioned kanji can be used and the government will not allow names deemed to be inappropriate. It is very difficult to legally change your name, though not impossible. The easiest way it to convert (or pretend) to Buddhism and acquire a Buddhist name.

5. In the Heian and Kamakura period, it was common for samurai warriors prior to dueling to tell one another their full names, social rank, and to boast about their (and their ancestors) battle prowess. This had several purposes such as unnerving their opponent, raising their reputation, knowing whom they were fighting, etc. --This is what Tatewaki was referring to in his first battle with Ranma when he said it is custom in the Ranma ½ series.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Filthy Lies webcomic Ranma reference

There are good webcomics and bad webcomics; most are somewhere in between. The defunct webcomic Filthy Lies is closer to bad than good. While it does have a few alright strips; I would not recommend that people read it. I can't relate with any of the characters. It is pretty vulgar, blasphemous, crude, and distasteful. One thing it does have going for it is a Ranma reference though, see the strip above that has a picture of a pig that looks like P-chan.

Well on the subject of Webcomics; My preferred method of reading webcomics is in large chunks offline. I most often use dial-up and require the use of the phone so reading them online is more of an annoyance. I tend to first check to see if a torrent of a webcomic exists (provided it is without good annotations). If a torrent does not exist I tend to downloaded it with the webcomic downloader Woofy. Which is more annoying than via torrents since many have to be add in manually and the program is no longer updated (or downloadable from that site). If I can't download it with Woofy; I'll use a program that saves websites like HTTrack Website Copier. That is even more annoying though since those programs download more than just the comic (which is time consuming on dial-up but I do occasionally have access to higher speed via other peoples computers and will download them on theirs).

Old Dogs are the Best Dogs

Old Dogs are the Best Dogs is a book written by Gene Weingarten with photographs by Michael S. Williamson. The book is a collection of photos of old dogs with a short statement about the dog(s) pictured. I did like the photographs taken; they looked very natural and managed to capture the emotion/personality of the dogs. Some of the comments/biographies on the dogs were pretty interesting, for example, the dog named Junior is/was Mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky - a very low population area that had a stunt to raise money to pick a mayor who, or whatever, got the most votes which cost a dollar per vote won.

While I did enjoy the book I found it to be sad for a few reasons: because they are of old dogs which implies that the dogs will have departed from the mortal coil by the time (or shortly after) I gain knowledge of their existence, some of the biographies are sad, and the largest reason of all two dogs close to me have recently passed on; Blue and Bear.

As for whether or not old dogs are the best dogs, that is up to personal preferences. Many people prefer young or middle aged dogs. Some reasons as to why people would consider old dogs to be the best are because they have been with those dogs for years, old dogs are less active dogs, and because the dog and you both have gotten used to each others quirks. I don't really have a preference for dogs be it age or breed; I like all dogs.

Introduction from the book: The last word: Why old dogs are the best dogs
Old Dogs are the Best Dogs slideshow: Washington Post 12 pictures.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

10 things that bother me (that are mostly trivial)

The number of things that bother me is astronomical. I figure that is true of most everyone. There are a lot of very annoying and sad things in the world. I could list hundreds, even thousands of things very easily. I'm not going to do that. What I am going to do is complain about some pretty trivial things (as opposed to things of actual, or at least greater, importance like: my country having a larger percentage of its people imprisoned than any country in the known history of the world; that the wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation; problems with health-care; historical revisionism -manipulating and misrepresenting historical evidence; etc.).

1. The number of people that do not realize that there is a difference between an opportunist (using the definition taking immediate advantage, often unethically, of any circumstance of possible benefit) and a person who is manipulative (such as a con artist).

2. Find it annoying when people say because a person can be manipulated they are not manipulative or use that as a reason to say that they are not good at manipulating others. All that proves is that the person has something that is exploitable.

3. Really annoyed when people cherry pick things to fit their arguments ignoring things that contradict their argument.

4. The claim that someone cheated when there were no rules stated or implied. This is particularly annoying when the character/person in question does follows the rules if rules are stated.

5. The use of combat levels in fiction. While it is undoubtedly true that a person can be more skilled, knowledgeable, or experienced the use of combat levels is annoying and pretty stupid. Taking various things like skills, tactical ability, and physical stats into account is good but remember that those things only increase the odds; they do not make the battles into sure things. A lucky strike, underestimating an opponent, being tired, use of weapons (longer reach, blades, increased hitting power, etc.), being surprised, use of poisons, or many other factors could lead to a superior fighter being defeated by an inferior fighter.

6. Related to #5: Just because a person lost a battle or has trouble fighting their opponent it does not mean the person is less skilled than the winner. There are many things to take into account such as: was the character limiting himself in some way, playing with his opponent, distracted, fighting a defensive battle (usually harder), trying to prevent the attacker from being seriously hurt, purposely letting the opponent get hits in, using a newly learned fighting style or tactic, was the intent even to defeat the opponent (people get into fights they do not want to fight or for a purpose other than defeating the opponent), did one character have a force multiplier (such as weapons), etc.

7. Stores rearranging their items for the purpose of making customers search for items longer in the hopes they will pass up and purchase something they would not have done so otherwise.

8. Companies including less product for the same price but repacking it so that this is not obvious.

9. Stupid shopping cards. I dislike that stores require you to give them information so as to get objects at the price they are supposed to be at. It is very good for the stores since it makes it easier to track shopping patterns, they can list two prices: one with card and one without so as to trick customers into believing that they are saving money when they are not, and I don't really like that they know exactly what items I purchase (view it as an invasion of privacy).

10. Lies in food labeling. Things like the over use of natural (produced without direct human intervention) which is often no different than those that are man-made and in many cases is not actually natural at all (take oranges/orange juice for example, an orange is a hybrid cultivated in ancient times, no orange is truly natural). Also just because something is natural doesn't mean it is good for you after-all arsenic and mercury are natural substances (also sadly a study I saw showed that an extraordinary amount of herbal products from China contain Mercury). I had just read a document called Food Labeling Chaos by the Center for Science in the public interest (in pdf format) that listed some of the problems with food labeling and possible solutions to the problems.