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Posts posted by Blambo

  1. Yo, where are you guys seeing it ever called General Zuo's chicken? Did I miss something? Is this regional? I've also known it as Tso's or Joe's (if one should be inclined to be Joe cool).

    Zuo and Tso are different romanizations of the name. For some reason it's mostly known by the Wade-Giles version, "Tso", even at restaurants where the rest of the menu is rendered in pinyin romanization. I used Zuo because pinyin just looks more right dammit at the cost of other people being able to actually read what I write.

  2. Ok looking back it looks like I missed about 2 pages of content in the thread before posting my own comment. It makes little sense to just plop a random opinion down on an ongoing conversation like that. I didn't mean to come off as like saying that "everyone arguing is wrong and here is the correct thing", but I probably should have checked to see if my point was being made already. Sorry!

  3. I was raised ethnically Chinese so the topic of appropriating food culture is kind of familiar. I've always found the problem to be less that non-Chinese people are making bad Chinese food and physically stealing an element of Chinese culture, but that bad Chinese food is being made because it being "Chinese" is all it needs to be marketable.


    So the appropriation doesn't exist in the fact that a different group of people are making the food, but that authenticity is being marketed without any attempt to actually be authentic. What's being "appropriated" isn't this specific element of culture but the aggregate image of a culture from the culture itself.


    It misrepresents and essentializes a really deep, rich part of the culture for the benefit of cheaply peddling the aesthetic of "being Chinese". At least where I live, the majority of bad Chinese takeout places are owned by ethnic Chinese people. That doesn't make the existence of General Zuo's Chicken any less problematic in the grand scheme of things as a bad caricature of Hunan cuisine, or makes the fact that the takeout place across the street from me claims to sell "authentic Sichuan cuisine" but actually just sells a spicy version of a much simpler Cantonese food any better.


    I also feel that the "what even is authentic food" path of argument is somewhat missing the point because although elements of a culture's cuisine could be adapted from another culture, what makes it "part of" that culture is its unquestioning assimilation without being othered or systemically held up as "foreign". I feel that nowadays you can draw a line with ramen on one side and Chinese noodles on the other without controversy, although 60 years ago ramen was called "shina soba" in Japan, specifically "Chinese style noodles". What makes it Japanese is its adaptation to the tastes and ingredients native to Japan (the use of kombu and bonito stock, the various toppings and method of preparation), and the cultural and culinary history that integration has developed. In my view, its existence as an element of cultural appropriation basically ended when people stopped using the (really offensive) word "shina", and began to view it as part of Japanese culture.

    The same would go for General Zuo's Chicken. I have no problem with calling it Chinese-American food, because that's what it is. It's elements of Chinese cuisine made to fit an American palate, and come to be part of American culinary experience. I'd even call it "Chinese food" in America because that's basically the cultural shorthand for this kind of food anyway.


    So even though actual Chinese food is itself a cultural mishmash of imported, native, and "fusion" elements, I find that it's still possible to say that it's being misrepresented as a whole without problematically imposing a fixed identity on it.


    In the context of the article Bjorn posted, the issue with collards being badly made is that much of the marketing energy isn't being spent on the restaurant having good collard greens, but that they sell what people consider Southern food without effort to make good collard greens in the value system that they're marketing. The fact that this is the focus is what I find problematic.


    I'm a bit tired so apologies if this is missing the point of the conversation or is in some way internally inconsistent.

  4. I finished the second "season" of My Teenage Romantic Comedy SNAFU last night.

    Honestly, most of my comments about the first "season" stand. It's honestly a strange show to watch, because the Volunteer Club that comprises the main characters is very good at solving problems, so that's never in doubt. Instead, the tension of the show comes from those characters' differing philosophies and their failure to respect them. Sometimes it comes off as subtle, but sometimes it's just inscrutable. It took me half the fucking season to comprehend that Yukino's been putting on an act with Yui and Hachiman and that her mounting diffidence towards them is a hesitance to get any closer and endanger that act. I know I complimented the low-key presentation of the love triangle, but the second season takes that same approach with virtually every other emotional arc and I was just losing the thread of the plot way too often. It sucks, but I can't recommend a show like that, when I'm constantly asking, "Wait, what is she mad about?" or "Wait, why don't they like his plan?"

    I will say, the character of Hikigaya Hachiman is excellent and everything that was advertised. He starts out a bitter and closed-off loner who is forced to perform public service in a club, but his cynicism turns out to be good for solving problems and he gradually makes friends thereby, without changing his fundamentally negative personality. It's slow and subtle, but deeply effective, rather than the usual anime trope of a loner otaku finding love and acceptance and suddenly becoming this happy dork with no commonalities to his previous self. I just wish he were in a different show, because his arc clashes with those of Yui (friendly but awkward girl trying to figure out how to voice intimate feelings), Yukino (girl putting on a perfectionist front to protect herself from others' judgment), Hayama (popular jock who wants to be friends with everyone, even the girls who're competing for him), and others, so it's easy to miss it and how well it works on its own.

    As much as your criticisms (and the art style) of the show turn me off of it, I'm pretty pleased/surprised to hear that the show didn't stop the narrative at "love conquers all" and throw its hands in the air with a 20 minute shot of a sunset.

    When you say it's inscrutable, are you referring to the developments in the drama or the general motivations of the characters? I guess one follows the other, but I mostly want to know if the characters are built to be defined by clear motivations contrived to move a convoluted plot forward, or if the plot is convoluted by a natural consequence of complicated characters with evolving motivations and thought processes.


    I finished Mawaru Penguindrum. I don't really know what I should be feeling about it since my immediate reaction was negative, but I also get the sense that I don't fully understand it. There's a lot of symbolism and repetition that don't seem to serve the theme that I took away from it, and I can't really effectively separate the stuff I should be looking at and the stuff that's just there to be evocative and motivate the viewer (or to manufacture Poignancy).

    It just seems kind of all over the place while heavily suggesting that it's cohesive.

    I really like the reading that it's about the collective feeling of rejection in a generation born into a competitive capitalist society, with the whole children broiler thing, over half the characters harboring abandonment/inferiority issues and even the amazingly heavy handed Aum Shinrikyo nerve gas attack references. The whole cast of character's obsession with fate points to their feeling of reduced agency and empowerment in their own lives.

    But then what does it try to say about this? There's a magical little girl who represents the power of unconditional love but also belief in fate is still a thing? Aren't we still fucked by an unfruitful obsession with chasing love and acceptance through fulfilling fate? Why are the only people who reject this idea cartoonishly misguided terrorists? Isn't this a massively convoluted way to say "all you need is love" and I guess "you don't have to destroy the world to make a difference"?

    I can't say I had a totally negative experience while watching it but in retrospect there's so much fluff and navelgazing that I felt was totally unnecessary to its thesis (or at least the one that I read). I dunno, it's probably a style thing.

    There's also the possibility that it's specifically about the nerve gas attacks and I don't have the cultural understanding to fully appreciate the work, but that just makes it feel even more indulgent.

  5. That Ouran is good this is one of the fundamental truths of anime, but what's so bad about House of Five Leaves? my memory has it filed down as visually interesting but not particularity compelling. 


    I don't even find it visually interesting. The art style is kind of original (aka not the art style anime usually is) and I could see why it might work really well on a better animation budget, but because the animation and direction is so stiff the art style comes off as kind of uneappealing and way less expressive than any one still would suggest. I can see the limited production budget seeping through the 15 second long zooms on a still image.


    I dropped it a week ago on episode 4 so I don't even know what happens in the story, but 4 episodes of exposition feels like way too much. Characters go on and on about how everyone has a hidden past and how the white haired dude doesn't like to talk about his past, and it's all to build up this sense of mystery surrounding the people in the organization. But if it's just shoved in my face consistently, it's hard for me to to feel intrigued. Also it's all expressed very verbally and dryly, and doesn't seem to take advantage of its setting to tell its stories.


    Maybe I should finish it since it's only 11 episodes but really I was totally bored by what I've seen.

  6. Kissanime got bopped recently, which means I'll probably never watch a Japanese cartoon forever. My pirating ass probably deserves it.

    I got to watch One Punch Man though, and it is really pretty. I feel like though it's riding the same joke every arc and just shuffling up the context and throwing in some slapstick. The whole "drama builds up then is made completely trivial by an overpowered protagonist" gag is really funny but I think it would feel more credible if everything else wasn't so bland. After a while I don't want to watch through a boring story to get to a gag I already heard, even if that's the humor in it.

    Like Mumen Rider's comedy potential feels totally wasted since he doesn't really do anything in any of his appearances besides his introducing joke (but I guess he's only appeared like twice so far). A more thorough characterization would make the world and its risks more credible (and thus funnier when Saitama comes in and bluntly punches the problem in the face) than characters vomiting back story and explanation or Being Dramatic at the screen, which is what I think makes the same kind of jokes work well in Gintama.

    Overall it's really great though. What I'm really watching it for is the animation.

  7. This been mentioned a million timesin this thread but to me most, if not all, Ghibli films feel disjointed and oddly paced. Some of them just less so than others, and others are just totally balanced out by sense of place or a really specific, gooey sentiment they evoke.

    It's a weird thing to say about multimillion dollar animated productions but most feel like they're made with a sense of intuition and tone rather than with cerebral intention or like a kind of literary cohesion. I'd feel more comfortable ranking them along this metric rather than their being literary masterpieces.

    The films that feel closest to being super intentional are like the nega-Miyazaki films directed by Takahata, and I guess like Spirited Away.

    Howls is still pretty garbage, even considering that.

  8. I just finished binge-watching all of Flowers of Evil.


    This was an intense experience. It is a disturbing 13 episode series about the despair of being a teenager and not knowing who the hell you are or what the hell you want. It's an extreme, exaggerated example, but... I didn't care. It was captivating? And repellent. I couldn't stop watching, although I wanted to. 


    (maybe more complete but also more rambly-chain-of-thought impressions i just wrote in my dumb spreadsheet):

    YA GOOD: this was... an intense experience. i definitely wouldn't say an enjoyable one. i made the decision (mistake) to binge-watch all 13 episodes in a single day, and it was captivating and repellant at the same time. it was uncomfortable, it was kind of terrifying. but it was never uninteresting, never dull, not even during the six-minute walk sequence in one of the middle episodes. the utter despair of being a teenager and not knowing what the hell you want or who the hell you even are is... something i don't often see captured in any meaningful way. this was definitely an over-the-top, and at times melodramatic, representation of that feeling, but it was good nonetheless. it's hard to say anything about this was likeable - the characters, the rotoscoping, the never-ending cynicism - but it was GOOD. it was disturbing, distressing, and maybe a little disgusting? but good.


    The ending theme is distressing.





    I'm now firmly in the camp that says School-Live! is bad and nobody should watch it. I'm still watching it, though.


    RE Aku no Hana: I feel like this show probably won't get another season, which is kind of a bummer considering how much of the story's themes are fleshed out after the events of the first season, and how the focus of each character changes. I would recommend the manga, but the art is kind of bad to the point of distracting from the story.


    I also feel like everything in the story is really ad-hoc and melodramatic (especially later in the manga), but because the subject matter is so grounded and because plotlines are all coherent and consistent, it definitely had impact for me.


    What do you think about the rotoscoping? I like the idea is that it's supposed to be as uncomfortably familiar as the feelings in the story are (uncanny valley and all that), were it's really distracting and in some places ugly.


    RE School-Live: Yep, same here. I don't have much more to say about it but yep.

  9. I liked the twist and then I didn't. I got close to predicting it, I thought it was some kind of hell/purgatory scenario where the main four were spirits who died in a shooting or something. Then it pulls back more and... zombies. Eeeeehhhhh. I think I would've liked it better if it was just a weird ghost thing.

    Oh well, I'll probably keep watching it anyway. Prediction:

    that zombie you see chained up in the dark at one point is the long pink-haired pink girl. Something about her seems off.

    I've only watched two episodes of Zombies Break Loli Innocence but yeah so far it feels super gimmicky and cheesy. It reminds me of a super hamfisted version of (Paranoia Agent spoilers)

    the Happy Family Planning episode of Satoshi Kon's Paranoia Agent where the main characters all turn out to be ghosts, because of how that deals with a similar dynamic of happiness papering over something sinister

    . Also to its credit I guess it's an example of moe being used in a calculated (albeit conveniently titillating) meaningful way, though that's not much of an achievement when the result is still hammy and unconvincing in the way that big twist in Spec Ops: The Line kind of was. I'll probably finish it, though my impressions so far are that it's kind of typical anime heartstring porn.

    Also maybe the twist didn't really have the intended effect on me since I wasn't at all endeared to any of the characters or any of the art, atmosphere, or humor. The whole moe thing feels decidedly inhuman to me. So again maybe I'm criticizing something that I'm not even the target audience for but whatever.

    Unrelatedly: I've started to actually watch Evangelion after about six months of straight bagging on it. I hope through watching it I find more material with which to bag on it.

  10. Where's the robot news jingle!? Man what a tease

    Personality in eSports:


    Man this is the reason why Street Fighter is my favorite esports scene. Despite it being extremely deep and technical, the audience and the announcers can at least intuit the emotion of a match and the personalities of the players because there's almost nothing more immediate than two cartoon dudes punching each other on a 2D stage.


    Also I'd take big dumb half-ironic WWE machismo over detached clean professionalism with the occasional Twitch meme any day.


  11. So I just watched an episode of gintama where the main villains are militant gender essentialists that punish non cis people with a pink gender swap beam. It was pretty awesome but I'm definitely getting the feeling that this isnt exactly the gintama from like 2006.

    The show's definitely weirder now, probably because of how long it's been running and how much it feels like it has to one-up itself. Not quite sure if that's a bad thing overall, but it does make a lot of the bokke-tsukkomi routines kind of forced and gimmicky. Like it's Mulder and Sculley still doing the imagination vs skepticism schtick after 7 seasons of alien bullshit. A lot of the old gintama humor kind of relied on the viewer having some ground of normalcy to stand on for the non sequitur stuff to really kick, but now it's just kind of non-stop, forced weirdness.

    Still going to watch it though, cause it's such a long running train wreck that it's impossible to not be endeared by the desperate schlock.

    Edit: oh yeah another thing I miss is humor playing with anachronism, like the image of an edo era samurai reading shonen jump. The setting was really great for those kinds of jokes. I guess they ran out of material because recently the setting is more like a free pass to eliminate any accountability to place and time, opening more doors for weird non sequitur. Again, whatever though.

  12. Cultural appropriation, to my mind, becomes a problem when it's combined with power structures and commodification. Random YouTubers singing rap songs isn't a huge deal - the Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians selling brands based around images and actions associated with Aboriginal peoples is something different. Essentially, the questions to ask around appropriation are "what did this thing mean in its original context?", "what does it mean in its new context?" and "who is this new context helping or hurting?"


    The other thing about appropriation is that it tends toward essentializing cultures. It's usually about snatching bits and pieces of other cultures that are aesthetically pleasing or saleable and ignoring anything complicated or difficult about them. It's easy to wear smoke pot and wear dreadlocks and listen to Bob Marley; it's harder to understand the Rastafari movement and its tenets and its relationship with colonialism. It's easy to wear a Che Guevara shirt; it's hard to engage with Che Guevara's ideas and actions.


    Of course, the other side of discussions about appropriation can tend toward essentializing as well. The tendency to shout "appropriation" at any moment of mixing can end up freezing cultures in place, which ends up hurting those more disadvantaged groups, since our collective vision of "Western" culture defaults to "dynamic and ever-changing," while Other groups are made up of a handful of more specific stereotypes. If all cultural dynamism is deemed appropriation, then the only people who are allowed to be dynamic are Westerners. That's why power is an important component - considering power lets us distinguish between people trying to break out of their boxes and people who are trying to steal and sell somebody else's box.







  13. Finally got to (and through!) my first Serious Arc in Gintama. Next episode opens up with the vice-chief emptying a pound of mayonnaise on his food. We're back!


    Wow I can't believe you're still watching. Anyway there's more mayonnaise to come.

  14. Hearing the word anime in the cast made me excitedly open gmail and click compose, wait for discussion, then disappointedly close the browser after hearing nothing about it. I was bummed until I reminded myself that whatever I was about to write was probably garbage and that this is a video game podcast.



    Life is Strange is at times both enjoyable and odd for different reasons - I like that there's literally ANY games where you can play a teen girl but the fact that it is dude developers and writers lurking behind all the dialogue and stuff is palpable. It's weird but it's so thoroughly transparent that it pulls me out of the story a lot.


    This is also part of the reason why that I feel apprehensive about media that's includes young people but is probably written by older guys (a lot of anime), or anything that feels intentionally vicarious or constructed to be personal. There's a point where it becomes obvious that the audience and the author are trying to participate in a strange role playing where there shouldn't be any.