Gormongous

Phaedrus' Street Crew
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  1. anime

    I'm watching Nisekoi because I've watched almost every other show that Shinbou Akiyuki's done with Shaft and I see no reason to stop now. It's a love comedy about two kids from crime families who have to pretend to be dating, even though they hate each other, to avert a gang war, although it's gradually evolving into more of a harem anime. After a rough start with the first couple of episodes, it's actually turned out pretty well, largely on the strength of the secondary characters like Ruri, who encourages her friend to confess to the male protagonist even though he's dating someone because why not, and Seishirou, a woman raised as a man who seems to be in direct conversation with Yuu from Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun and other Takarazuka-adjacent character tropes. The love triangle at the center of the story — Raku, the kind and low-key boy; Chitoge, the brash half-American girl; and Kosaki, the shy girl with a crush on Raku — is whatever. There are some good moments with them, a few of which actually made me laugh out loud, but I think they're supposed to be entertaining less for their inherent characteristics and more for the situation that they're in. The stumbling block for me, so far, is the "childhood promise" subplot, where Raku carries around a massive demonic-looking locket that was given to him by a girl whom he liked a decade ago. He doesn't remember her face or name, just that she has a key and that the two objects represent a promise to get married someday. Isn't this part of the plot to Kujibiki Unbalance, the made-up anime that the Genshiken characters are all obsessed with? Anyway, of course both Chitoge and Kosaki have keys from their childhood, but Kosaki's key seems way too big for Raku's lock and the first OP repeatedly shows Chitoge inserting her key into Raku's locket... ahem. This means one of two things: Nisekoi is fine with spoiling its stupid "mystery" from jump, or Nisekoi is faking me out to make that "mystery" more interesting. Either way it pisses me off a little? But either way I'm sure the ultimate message of the show will be that keeping promises is important, but you have to trust your heart in the end, even if it means breaking those promises or hurting someone. I don't know, we'll see. Also, this is unfair but I hate Chitoge's design, especially her stupidly huge bow. What is she, a Touhou character? EDIT: I need to reiterate, I'm enjoying this anime. Solid B/B+. It's just easier to nitpick, particularly when the main character carries around a massive demonic-looking locket that a little girl gave him way back when!
  2. I loved the discussion of places closing before the internet archived the existence of everything! Places in St. Louis that I miss and that are "remembered" in maybe one Google result: Mama Josephine's, a soul food restaurant in Shaw that got killed by rising rents; Six Rows Brewery and Buffalo Brewery in Midtown, both beer-and-burger joints that couldn't survive the summer slump in customers; and Tarahumara, a Mexican restaurant specializing in tortas that was always understaffed and so people stopped coming.
  3. No one's just born so good at sex that an immortal demigoddess of carnal lust who has spent centuries fucking men to death with the rawest, most uninhibited sex imaginable refuses to believe that they're a teenage virgin who had never known the touch of a woman. Oops, that's exactly what happens. Really, I think there's a line between wish fulfillment that makes a protagonist more different and interesting and wish fulfillment that protects a protagonist from having to experience any hardship or setbacks. The more of the latter that appears in a story, the less tolerant people tend to be of the former, I've found. It doesn't help when a lot of the hardship and setbacks that Kvothe gets out of through his smarts are things that his smarts got him into in the first place, from his homelessness on the streets of Tarbean to his pointless Harry-and-Draco rivalry with Ambrose to learning how the Aiel-alikes fight to defending himself in court with a dead language he learned overnight. It gives me, as a reader, the sense that Rothfuss is spinning his wheels while piling impressive deed after impressive deed on Kvothe's back, which adds even more to the weird air of entitlement around the character.
  4. Missions that made you quit

    There's a mission in the first Black & White where you threw everything you could through a portal to another world to escape an attack, and then you came out in a land where there was a constant rain of fireballs. They gave you a shield spell to protect your people, but it never seemed to work? I tried mightily for the better part of a week to beat it and just couldn't. I'm still not sure if it was bugged, or if the building and item placement was dependent on where it came through the portal and I just got screwed? Who cares, Black & White wasn't even that fun of a game anyway.
  5. The Asian Film Thread

    I think of Spirited Away as part of the Totoro lineage because of the coming-of-age allegory as being coopted into a world of gods and magic to escape the trauma of adult concerns imposed on child minds, but I do agree that Kiki's disruptive model of "deciding who you are out on your won" is more in line with Chihiro in Spirited Away.
  6. The Asian Film Thread

    A few months ago, my movie-buff friend had us watch The Iceman Cometh together, a Clarence Fok movie from 1989 where a Ming guard is frozen while trying to defend the emperor from assassins and resumes his hunt for the culprits when he's thawed hundreds of years later. The charm in the movie is really watching the femme fatale, played by the inimitable Maggie Cheung, guide a stiff Yuen Biao through modern life, which takes up a substantial portion of a movie otherwise bracketed by lengthy hand-to-hand fights. I was really taken with it, to my surprise, and have thought of it repeatedly in the last few weeks. When I feel like having an argument, I tell people that Porco Rosso is my favorite Miyazaki movie. I think you're right to point out that it's Miyazaki laying down themes that he'll repeat later in The Wind Rises, but Miyazaki's tendency to repeat the themes of his early movies more pointedly in a later one has been exhibited throughout his career (Nausicaa to Mononoke, Totoro to Spirited Away, etc.). Porco Rosso is also really great for stating, as much as it can state, that the protagonist's affliction as a pig is a universal curse made explicit in his person, and one that can only intermittently be transcended. I don't know if it's a truism yet that early Miyazaki is the most interesting Miyazaki, but it should be (as opposed to Takahata, who has only improved with age).
  7. Episode 425: Stellaris 2.0 & Apocalypse

    I think the experience of "touching history" offered by CK2 and EU4 is enough to fill in the gaps for most people. The most detailed sci-fi setting in the world lacks the breadth and impact of real-life history, even dimly apprehended, and so the bare thrill of playing a historical person or polity in an actual location somewhere in the world is always going to be thematically nourishing for the average player.
  8. Episode 425: Stellaris 2.0 & Apocalypse

    The podcast has often talked about their bafflement with the sci-fi 4X community's love of the ship designer. In some ways, I think that Stellaris is the ship designer generalized to the scale of a whole game. You can add bits and bobs to the framework of a "standard" sci-fi 4X faction, making them warlike zealots or peaceful merchants, and have the game respond with customized flavor text that acknowledges the choices you've made, but you can't make or play anything outside of the developers' vision of what a "standard" sci-fi 4X faction can be. I think Sword of the Stars and Endless Space get a lot more criticism because people are much more likely to be nitpicky and critical of other people's creations, especially if they violate expectations or mores, while an identikit faction that they've built themselves gets more of a pass because of a sense of ownership and self-expression. "I did my best to recreate the Starfish from Blindsight in Stellaris and I'm pretty happy with how they turned out! Meanwhile, what the fuck is up with the Cravers from Endless Space 2? I just don't get them." Does that make sense?
  9. Movie/TV recommendations

    I mean, "hard sci-fi" has a genealogy extending back to the 1970s, when the subgenre of sci-fi was codified as one of scientific rigor and rejection of anything thought to be impossible by the current scientific consensus. For instance, Iron Man is not hard sci-fi because its miniature arc reactor is both nonexistent and implausible. Star Trek is not hard sci-fi because it's impossible to travel faster than the speed of light. Snowpiercer is not hard sci-fi because perpetual motion is a physical impossibility. Under the Skin and Inception are, in my mind, sci-fi influenced fantasy, lacking any logical or scientific justification for their fantastical elements to an extent that might as well make them magic. Only Gravity, as I see it, is hard sci-fi, and that's to be expected because hard sci-fi, as a subgenre, tends to privilege rigor and plausibility over spectacle and execution of themes. It's been weird, in my lifetime, to see "hard sci-fi" versus "soft sci-fi" go the same way as "high fantasy" versus "low fantasy," from technical distinctions of premise and rigor to value judgments on execution. "High culture" and "low culture" will assimilate all other distinctions in the end, I suppose.
  10. Yeah, I haven't played Surviving Mars, but I felt the same about Cities: Skylines. Once you'd finished growing your town into a city, there wasn't really any added texture or challenge to the experience, not unless you attempted something fabulously risky, expensive, and unnecessary, like the overpass project Rob describes.
  11. Episode 425: Stellaris 2.0 & Apocalypse

    Yeah, I think there's a design philosophy behind Stellaris that will keep it from ever feeling like something truly rare and unique. The game was designed from the ground up to be balanced as a multiplayer sci-fi wargame with 4X elements, and all the species customization and event chains are just a grudging bone thrown to the way that the other nine people out of ten play Paradox games, as engines for emergent singleplayer narratives. There's never going to be anything that could possibly be broken or exploited in Stellaris, at least not intentionally, because it's a game that's meant to be played on an office LAN with you and your closest friends or coworkers over the next six months. And, like you point out, that's also why there's never going to be a midgame, not a real one. The midgame is where the different players, having established themselves, begin to differentiate and specialize to pursue the victory conditions, but Stellaris is designed to keep everyone roughly abreast of each other, given the same availability of resources. The semi-blind research tree works towards this end: because you're just offered a small, random selection from a large pool of tech, there's little point in pushing too far down any one brand of the tree, not when you can't count on the tech you need to come up when you need it. No, better just to advance methodically down the three trees and take whatever's most useful to you at that moment when it comes, keeping every stat safely within 10% or 15% of the other players' stats. It's the same issue as the planets: some planets are rich and some planets are poor, but more planets is always better and their location only matters for defensibility in the end. And that's even not to mention that Stellaris still only has three victory conditions, two of them military and one of them technically diplomatic but, in practice, military. Can you believe that there's a sci-fi strategy game where technology ultimately exists just to give you bigger and more beautiful weapons, not to advance civilization past the use of and need for weapons? I know that the victory conditions don't matter in Paradox games, but they can get away with it in historical grand strategy because the implicit end-state in those games is the present day, while the implicit end-state in Stellaris is... I don't know, the player gets bored? It's design choices like this that make Stellaris so bland once you get past the Star Trek: The Original Series-flavored opening turns. There's nothing to surprise you, and no way for you to surprise the AI besides when you choose to conquer it.
  12. At least in my experience, "all y'all" means "everyone present," as opposed to "y'all" meaning "everyone I'm addressing."
  13. Kingdom Come: Deliverance

    Excellent article, especially its treatment of Sigismund's "foreignness," the decision not to subtitle the Cumans, and the fact of the Hussites on the historical horizon. Thanks for linking to it!
  14. anime

    Because Reyturner and I are rewatching all of the Monogatari Series as part of a podcast project, I've been in a rewatch mood lately. The most recent thing I've rewatched is both cours of Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!, a send-up of isekai anime where a loser dude named Kazuma (or Kazutrash or Crapzuma) gets sent to a fantasy world where he is part of a misfit adventuring party that never leaves the starting zone and barely manages to accomplish anything. It starts out as a fairly straightforward (although acid-tongued and quick-witted) parody of RPG conventions and anime power fantasies, but once the core cast of Aqua the dim-witted goddess, Megumin the chuunibyou mage, and Darkness the masochist knight is assembled around Kazuma, the comedy largely shifts to him being a long-suffering (and dirty-minded) straight man to the broad and extreme dysfunction of his now-daily life. I really can't exaggerate how funny this anime is. There's so much to enjoy: Aqua's haughtiness repeatedly shifting to snot-nosed pleading whenever she encounters any setback, Darkness staying with the party out of a love of the humiliation that comes from their collective incompetence, Megumin passing out after casting the only spell she knows because it uses up all her mana and she refuses to learn any other ones, Kazuma's laziness and selfishness making him only intermittently aware of how everyone hates his perverted bullshit... The second cour makes the suspect decision to move away from the inherent humor of trapping the party in the starting zone and in extreme poverty, but the glimpses of the wider world that later episodes afford make it largely worth it. It's not for everyone, as dumb and cruel as it can be to its characters, but I was happy to go back and watch it again, so I thought I'd say so here. Oh! And I thought to watch it because I finally watched Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, the remake-cum-sequel to the (in)famous 1990 OVA Record of Lodoss War that was based on a series of fantasy novels based on the author Mizuno Ryo's mid-eighties D&D campaigns. It was... average, unfortunately: much of the original OVA's issues come from the highly compressed narrative, so it was nice to see the various characters luxuriate in twenty-seven episodes' worth of time, but the flaws for the source material (particularly the tendency of those characters to behave stupidly, belligerently, or even just randomly because of the original players' motivations) still make it somewhat difficult to watch and enjoy. In particular, the secondary antagonist, an immortal sorceress who's spent centuries sowing chaos and war to prevent any nation in Lodoss from getting the power to cause a cataclysm like the one that destroyed her homeland, ultimately allies with the main antagonist, a dark wizard trying to resurrect the goddess of death and destruction who'll end all life on Lodoss, because she is concerned that the heroes may become too powerful if they succeed in stopping the resurrection. Dude, missing the forest for the trees here! Really, the reasons that I kept watching it were 1) I don't tend to drop anime, no matter how bad; 2) I was laid up with the flu for two weeks at the time; and 3) Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight has what is probably the best OP of all time. It's animated by Nakazawa Kazuto, an insider favorite with anime directors everywhere, and it plays over the haunting song "Kiseki no Umi" by Sakamoto Ma'aya (who voiced a minor character in the show, as well as other great characters like the Major from Ghost in the Shell, Nino from Arakawa Under the Bridge, and Shinobu from the Monogatari Series). Everything about this OP captures the nobility, tragedy, mystery, and adventure that is promised in works of Western fantasy, and I was so totally fascinated by it that I couldn't bear to skip it even once. A friend came over when I was just finishing an episode and I made her watch the OP, which left her stunned to silence... until it cut to the episode proper and we were back to the flat colors, animation shortcuts, and bland dialogue as the norm. Still, it's worth a watch, even as a blurry Dailymotion video.
  15. Intoxicated:

    I think El Dorado's offerings are good starters, because they're rich and sweet without the funk of island rums. The three-year is a good light rum to mix, the eight-year a good dark rum to mix, and the twelve-year a good dark rum to sip. I personally like Flor de Caña four-year to mix in daiquiris, but it's a lot drier and more astringent, it's taken me a while to get used to it. I also need more time to get to know Plantation's offerings, especially their five-year Barbados that I tried and found too gunpowder-y at the beginning of my journey. Cordeos has also been getting into rum, I think?