Archive for May, 2010

Hello Strange People

May 28, 2010

My hitcount has been going up for the last few days, with no indication that anyone is searching for the kinds of things I have to say. Tracing back, I find that I’ve been honored by having people referred here from websites that certainly sound a little shady — body building supplements and credit card sites and some URL in Italy that I’m not brave enough to click on (would you click on a ‘lovez’ link?).

So, Traveler, if you got here from there, you are not only lost, but confused. You are welcome to stay, but I’d lief not be having folks like that linking to me.

They hate us for our freedoms 8

May 22, 2010

An interesting commentary from McClatchey today. Two recent novels describe the changed life of Pakistanis living in America after 9/11. They chronicle “integrated, happy immigrants”, who are driven back to their Islamist roots by the drumbeat hatred sponsored by the government and mainstream media. The commentator holds up failed NYC bomber Faisal Shahzad as a real life example. That’s one side of the coin.

The other side is the word (from US investigators) that, in addition to having his personal life disrupted, Shahzad was angry at US for attacks on his tribal homeland, and that he had help from a small, formerly domestic, PK Taliban group. The PK govt says their investigations don’t confirm the report of a Taliban link. But let’s assume they are correct. What are the implications of this coin for US policy? Well, it’s payback.

For those who can’t connect the dots, we are driving people who love America (because of our freedoms) into the hands of groups who hate America. In this case, they don’t hate us for our freedoms, they hate us primarily because the American war in AF has spilled over into PK, and is being conducted in the same heavy-handed we-got-’em-let’s-launch-’em approach that proved so unsuccessful so far in AF. Is anyone surprised at this?

If we’d just get out of Afghanistan, and let it return to its own medieval lifestyle, we’d be far better off, and we could go back to towing cars out of Times Square for parking violations, rather than closing down the theater district.

They hate us for our freedoms 7

May 3, 2010

Now, let us talk politics. In the US, politics is all about freedom. Well, the idea of politics is all about the idea of freedom. Close up, on the ground, not so much. As I said in one of the early parts of this extended essay, politics is about getting politicians reelected. In this day and age, that means spending money to generate fear and trash the opposition. Today, the discussions are all about the base, those people who believe that the politician’s political philosophy is the same as their own (they are usually wrong). The base is important because that’s who makes up the bulk of a party’s supporters — if they come out and vote, things are good. If they don’t, the party is in trouble. In order to ‘activate the base’, a politician has to rile up his constituents and make them afraid, to make them angry, to make them willing to get up from in front of “Dancing…” and go out and vote. And then, in order to demonstrate that their vote was not wasted, the politician feels compelled to do something to combat the subject of the subjective fears. Usually, that involves limiting someone’s freedom.

But before we get to freedom, let’s talk money. It takes money to get elected these days, and lots of it. Where does the money come from? Well, it comes from….wait for it…people who have money. With todays level of inequality, that’s rich folk. That’s businesses. Poor folk? There’s lots of them, but few are engaged enough to spend their extremely limited discretionary funding on politicians. Unions? They used to be big, but the relentless attacks of the US government and big business over the last two decades, combined with the shift of manufacturing to non-union locations, has pretty well killed their ability to raise funds. Structurally, our system is set up so that politicians, of whatever stripe, have to pander to big business if they want to get elected.

Of course, business in the US today is spread across the board, philosophically. There are liberal leaning businesses. They are the new ones, the high tech ones, the Intels, the Googles, the Apples and the Microsofts. They are big and rich, and there are not a lot of them. They are also not always as universally enlightened as one might think. Microsoft couldn’t have been created under todays patent regime, but they are willing and able to use the patent club to beat the open source community with. Why? Because when it comes to software competition, they fall into the second group of companies: the big, rich, reactionary businesses, the ones we talked of earlier, the ones who are fighting a scorched earth action against the future. Who cannot understand the concept of a future based on plenty rather than scarcity, or who understand it well enough to realize it means their death. Who are taking the role Louis the XV — “Après moi, le déluge”. The trouble is, there are more reactionaries than there are visionaries in the US right now, and the reactionaries control more money and are willing to spend more of it to influence the outcomes in politics.

The intersection of politics and money means that those who want to be reelected must take into account the desires of the reactionary rich. Just look at what some Democrats are saying about finance reform, and what they were saying about health reform. There are those who would formally designate this a plutocracy. Of course, this isn’t new. But what is new is the disconnect between the rate of change of citizen-empowering technology, and the rate of change of the rest of the system. An impedence mismatch, if you will.

So, the political side of government is beholden to business, reactionary business, and the bureaucracy side of government takes their clues from the politicians, and the technology is changing faster than ever. What does this bode for freedom and the future? Short term, it bodes not well, and I’ll have more to say about that next time.

Kanon, the anime

May 2, 2010

Kanon is possibly my favorite anime series, which is surprising in a way, because it originated as an eroge dating sim game, and saw multiple reincarnations in manga and light novels before finally appearing as a shonen targeted, non-H, anime. Essentially, we have five charming stories of romance and the supernatural.

UPDATE 2014/04/26: A couple of excellent commentaries have belatedly come to my attention. The first (in order of discovery) in J. Tappan’s Funblog (2008), and the second in the AnimeSuki forums (2006).

Plot Summary, with spoilers
HS sophomore Yuichi Aizawa returns to a city in northern Japan where he used to spend his summers, ten years ago. For unspecified reasons, he is being sent to live with his aunt Akiko and finish HS there. He meets five girls — most of whom are from his past, and most of whom he doesn’t remember. The plot involves his interactions with them, with each girl taking center-stage for two or three episodes. Most of the girls have some supernatural aspect to them, and part of the plot line is discovering which each of them is. If you pay close attention in Episode 1, every key player has a cameo. Every key player.

The five stories are as follows (insert major spoiler warning here):

Makoto Sawatari: While shopping downtown, Yuichi is attacked by a red-headed girl, who proceeds to collapse in his arms. Of course, with true anime logic, he takes her home instead of calling an ambulance. She cannot immediately recall who she is or where she’s from, so Yuichi’s aunt suggests she stay with them until her memory improves. Ultimately, she provides him with a name — of a much older girl he had a crush on ten years ago. Over the course of several episodes, we find out she is really a magical fox from off The Hill, who gave up her form, her memory, and ultimately her life, to be with Yuichi. Minor irritation — the American dub crew keeps pronouncing her name SaWAtori, which sounds Indonesian or Thai to my ear, instead of SawaTOri, the way the Japanese speakers do. It’s not like they didn’t know better. High point of the arc, the final scene on The Hill.

Mai Kawasumi: A girl he meets in the school after hours, standing in the hall with a sword to defend against demons. The demons are her own, and she’s defending the school because it sits on the site of the field where she and Yuichi used to play. Of course, neither of them remembers this until the end of the story arc. Probably the highlight of this arc is when Yuichi and she dance together at the prom.

Shiori Misaka: She stands outside the school, waiting for someone. She suffers from a typical anime wasting illness, and has considered taking her own life. Her sister is in Yuichi’s class, but refuses to acknowledge her, because she doesn’t want to be hurt when Shiori finally dies. Yuichi brings the two of them together, and gives Shiori the will to go on living. High point of the story arc is probably the birthday party.

Nayuki Minase: Is Yuichi’s cousin, who he is living with (and his Aunt Akiko). She’s had a crush on him for ten years now, but Yuichi is completely oblivious. No great highlights here. She’s just there, and neglected. Her mother, his Aunt Akiko, is a strong supporting figure Akkiko's Jam, who makes jam.

Ayu Tsukimiya: Collides with Yuichi in Episode 1, while running from a tayaki stand. She is another girl from his past, and has the strangest story of all. She is his age (and the usual, they knew each other ten years ago but neither remembers), but doesn’t go to school, and doesn’t seem to live anywhere. Her memories of the city are out of date — there’s a bookstore where the bakery shop was — and she’s never heard of a cell phone. Highlight of the arc comes when she says her school is in a tree in the nearby forest, but when she takes him there, all they find is a stump…and she disappears.

Rosebud is the sled

Stop reading right now if you don’t want to spoil the entire anime.

Ayu was Yuichi’s best friend, ten years ago, but fell out of that tree, the day he had to go home, and was paralyzed. She’s been in a coma for the last decade, and he’s been suppressing the memory. Yuichi has been talking to her spirit or asteroid projection or something. In the end, he finds her in the hospital, awakens her, and gets her up and into a wheelchair. Once you find this out, you will want to go back and rewatch the series for all the hints that have been dropped

I think I liked this anime because the protagonist is a nice guy, with a wry sense of humor, who is old enough to not be embarrassed when talking to girls, and the girls are portrayed as human beings (well, mostly human) rather than boob-mounts. Too many of the so-called harem style anime feature male protagonists who are clueless idiots. It’s like watching an old sixties sitcom, with sex. Each of the relationships in Kanon plays out in a reasonable manner (OK, reasonable for anime), with a twist at the end. The supporting characters are not overly stereotyped (although you can always tell a class president a kilometer away) and even the hair-dyed-blonde girl-chasing classmate is subdued. The Kanon of the name is a reference to the musical style, of ever repeating, but more complex variations on the same theme, and that’s how the story arcs of the series work out. Anime logic is a big player, with everyone making terrible decisions for no better reason than to advance the plot, but that’s the best reason to do something. Like I said, my most favorite series.

Hello world!

May 1, 2010

It’s me again. I’ve changed my blog address so that it’s the same as the blog title: FoundOnWeb. Which is what I can be. All the old posts have been brought over, and I’ll be deleting them from the old blog, which will be left to moulder. I doubt anyone will need the domain name, so I don’t feel bad about it.