One year of having my own domain

Yes, it’s now been very nearly a year since I purchased my own domain!

What’s that, you say? You’ve never seen that domain? That’s because there’s no content on it! Because figuring out how to put content on it is confusing and hard!

Here is what I want:

  • I want this blog to have its own domain. I want to keep all the content, and preferably have more comment moderation options than I do now.
  • I want a blog-like interface, preferably WordPress. By that, I mean that the tool I use to update the site and manage comments is exactly like a blog that doesn’t have it’s own domain.
  • I want to never, ever, ever, have to touch any other tools, even for a second. If I need to set some parameters once, then hit a button to send the blog live, and forever after it works like a regular blog? That’s unacceptable. It has to be exactly like running a blog that doesn’t have its own domain.
  • I am okay with having to tell a person what my domain name is and then they do all the settings for me and then I can run it like a blog.

Who can I throw money at to make this happen, and how much money can I expect to need to throw?

Utena Dump: Episodes 16-20

Onward with Utena thoughts! This next block of episodes contains some of my favorites in the entire series, and also one of my least favorite.

Episode 16

Not much to say on this one. Nanami’s got a fever, and the only cure is less cowbell.

The Duel song (as far a I’m concerned, this counts as a duel) is “Donna Donna,” a Yiddish music hall song from the 1940s, though in the US the English cover by Joan Baez is better known. It is about a calf who is carted off to die just because he’s a calf. He complains about how unfair this is, when birds get to fly free, and is told it’s his fault for not being born a bird. Given Utena’s exploration of gender roles and sexuality, there’s a lot of resonance here. (Given it’s time and place of origin, the song is usually interpreted as being about the Holocaust, however.)

Anthy spends the whole episode knitting a red scarf. Just as green is the color of friendship and choice, red is the color of manipulation and control. She’s weaving this whole episode, her ongoing revenge against Nanami. My first time watching, even not having the color symbolism, I was sure she totally ordered the cowbell on purpose. (Not just for the party and the dress, either. Anthy did nothing but protect her brother, and was hunted as a witch. Nanami “protects” her brother while treating everyone around her like crap, and is still treated as a princess.)

Red is also the color of self. These little escapades of tormenting Nanami are as much a part of Nanami regaining her independence as her relationship with Utena is.

Episode 17

Oh, it’s a Juri episode. That’s okay, I wasn’t using my heart anyway.

Poor Shiori. No, really. She’s one of the most hated characters in the fandom, and I can understand why, but I really feel for her.

Think about it: she literally cannot conceive of any reason Juri might have been nice to her as a child except pity. Her self-worth must have been really low to start with, and unfortunately it’s easy to imagine potential reasons why. Then Juri starts protecting her, and it makes her feel even weaker and more pathetic. (Hi there, Anthy parallel, I see you. Note the similar hair colors. I promise I will eventually explain what purple means in this show, it’s just that I have to wait for a fairly late episode to do so without spoilers.) She resents Juri, her only friend, for making her feel this way, and in her desperation to find a way to feel like she has some power, she starts dating the guy she thinks Juri has a crush on.

She mentions feeling disgusted by the things she did with him. That might just refer to the betrayal of Juri, but I feel it’s more. The way she reacts to discovering Juri’s attraction to her suggests she’s really uncomfortable with idea of someone being sexually or romantically attached to her. It’s possible this is homophobia at work, but I don’t think it is. The episode points quite a few times to the question of why Shiori broke up with her boyfriend, but avoids answering it. Personally I think that it’s related to her distress in her elevator and her being disgusted by things she did with him: something involving sex went wrong in their relationship.

I don’t necessarily mean there was any kind of assault or abuse involved. (Though let’s face it, are there ANY non-abusive relationships in this show?) It’s quite possible that she just wasn’t as ready for whatever it was as she thought. Maybe he wanted her to do things she didn’t, and they broke up over that.

Regardless, Shiori thinks she has power over Juri at last when she discovers the locket… But she’s still incredibly upset underneath, because now her belief that Juri wasn’t helping her out of friendship is, in Shiori’s mind, confirmed: she now believes it was out of lust. She feels utterly worthless, and her only remaining option is to revolutionize the world.

All this great character development really makes for some short duels, doesn’t it?

Thought on the Shadow Play: it’s obviously about Juri and her struggle dealing with her romantic feelings and her fears regarding the closet. Utena’s response is heartlessly innocent: just change.

Episode 18

Meh. This is my least favorite episode of the Black Rose arc. The formula is established now, and this sticks to it closely, so there’s no plot surprises. And as a character piece… again, meh. It’s just nowhere near as interesting as the last two. Tsuwabuki is an entitled little Nice Guy ™ who knows that being “nice” is a bare minimum, not some kind of achievement that earns you the attention of others–but still believes he’s entitled to them, and gets all butthurt because Nanami has a life of her own that doesn’t revolve around him. Waa waa waa.

Lest we forget, this is the guy who repeatedly endangered Nanami’s life so he could act out his White Knight fantasies, and from his perspective it “earned” him a place at Nanami’s side. He’s very precocious at being an entitled misogynist; he’s probably hanging out on MRA fora or buyin PUA books already, too.

He gets two swords because Nanami used a two-sword style in her duel. There’s a fan theory that it represents dependency–that one sword is their own heart and the other sword the person they’re using as a basis for constructing their own identity. So for Nanami it represents Touga, and for Tsuwabuki it represents Nanami.

There is one shot I really like in this episode. In the elevator, Tsuwabuki has a photo of Nanami with half his face on the edge. For all his entitled possessiveness, the reality is that he’s on the edge of her life, partially cut off. That’s not the shot I mean–the shot I like is the last we see of Nanami in the episode, her face cut off the same way. She’s now being partially cut out of Tsuwabuki’s life as he chooses to spend time with a girl his own age, and she’s okay with it, commenting casually on the weather.

Culture note: “Indirect kissing” is a thing I’ve seen in a few anime. Basically, the idea is that sharing food with someone is an intimate act. But it’s frequently used in a pretty gross way, with one character using it to pretend to an intimacy that doesn’t exist. It seems to have faded out since the 90s? Or maybe I’m just not watching those sorts of anime anymore.

Episode 19

A lot of people [on the Mark Watches thread] have already commented on the question of whether Tatsuya is really “too good” to be a Black Rose duelist. [These comments were mostly variants on (correctly) pointing out that trying to date Utena because he wants to be close to Wakaba is cruel, cowardly, and deceptive.]

My own take is that this has to do with the Egg Speech from the first arc, which was a reference to (almost a quote from) the novel Demian. One of that book’s major themes is the conflict between being “good”–which explicitly means conforming to the conventional rules of the society around you–and being true to yourself. The only way to achieve true adulthood, according to the book, is to break free of those conventions. This does not mean being amoral (Demian himself specifically mentions rape as something a person who is really true to themselves would never want to do), but rather answering to the dictates of one’s own conscience. To achieve this, one must break free of the systems that sustain conventional morality–break the world’s shell, revolutionize the world, etc.

I think that’s what Mikage means. All of the other Black Rose duelists are opposed to the normal social rules of love and friendship and desire freedom from them. Kanae wants to get married without joining her husband’s family. Kozue wants her brother all to herself. Shiori sees friendship as a contest to be won. Tsuwabuki wants a girl who’s much too old for him. And by contrast, Tatsuya just wants a “normal” relationship with the most “normal” possible girl, Wakaba.

So when Mikage says he’s too good for the Black Rose, it’s not praise. It’s a derisive dismissal, saying that Tatsuya is too conventional in his desires to want to revolutionize the world.

Episode 20

WAKABA.

So yeah, if you haven’t already gathered as much, brown is the color of normality, the masses, the non-special people. It is a plain and drab color. Wakaba’s path, her destiny, is an ordinary, unremarkable life.

Depressing? Perhaps. But as another magical girl show would say a decade later, “Happiness to those who accept their fate. Glory to those who defy it.” There are distinct advantages to being ordinary and unremarkable. The spotlight isn’t always a good place to stand.

But it doesn’t feel that way to Wakaba. Just for a moment, she tasted what it’s like to be a protagonist instead of the secondary character most of us are, and she has no way of knowing whether she will ever get to taste it again.

An extremely basic point about American TV surprisingly many people don’t seem to get

Now, just to be clear, I am talking about standard commercial television. That means American television that is for-profit and ad-supported–basically everything except premium channels like HBO and not-for-profit channels like PBS and C-SPAN.

And also to be clear, I am not taking a position whether this is right or wrong or good or bad. I am simply pointing out that this is how things currently work, and in fact how they have worked since the beginning of American broadcasting.

Now, this is a really basic and important point, because it is pretty much impossible to understand some decisions networks make without knowing this. Ready?

You are not the customer. You are the product.

The network may get a very tiny amount of money from their share of your cable bill, but the overwhelming majority of their money comes from advertisers. But advertisers don’t buy ads from networks, they buy them from ad agencies. What they’re paying the network for is your attention.

The business of a network is not to make (or, more likely, commission) and transmit shows. That’s a stage in the process. The actual business of the network is to sell your attention to advertisers.

So, once again: you are not the customer. You are the product.

The show is not the product. The show is bait.

And that’s why Korra got moved to Friday nights and then pulled off the air.

So I’ve been reading Madoka spinoff manga…

I’m not going to go into much detail because they are going to be book-exclusive chapters on them, but here’s some quick mini-reviews:

  • Different Story is really pretty good. It’s not as good as the series or Rebellion, but then few things are. It’s a nice exploration of the two magical girls that probably got the least development in the series, and does a strong job of maintaining the general tone and depth of character that defines the series.
  • Oriko Magica is all right. It’s not the best, but it’s not too long and has some nifty bits. It stumbles a bit on characterizing the new girls, but keeps up the tone well, and Kyouko focus is always welcome.
  • Kazumi Magica is unmitigated crap. It goes on seemingly forever, has far too many characters, most of whom are so ill-defined as to blend together, utterly lacks any kind of thematic cohesion, and looks like bad fan-art. It’s clearly a product of a kitchen-sink mentality, with characters and concepts crammed in without any regard for how they interact or whether there is anything interesting to do with them. Also, it’s got Male Gaze all the way up its ass, frequently literally..

So, you may have noticed the lack of a pony post today…

Sorry about that. Between procrastination (because it’s “Daring Don’t,” who WOULDN’T procrastinate on that one?), low energy, and a bunch of shit hitting the fan, I just haven’t been able to do it.

At this point, I’m not even going to try to put it up during the week. Let’s just call a Mulligan on this one, and the “Daring Don’t” article will go up next Sunday.

Probably.

Kill la Kill Liveblog Chat Thingy

How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching the episode and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST.

Chatlog below the cut!


[14:00] *sigh*
[14:00] Let the tournament arc begin.
[14:01] So it’s a boss rush
[14:02] That’s right, I forgot, he showed he had a code of honor last episode
[14:02] AHAHAH
[14:02] Speaking of scheduling…
[14:03] So I’m guessing episodes 9-12 are the four Elite Four battles and then episode 13 where people keep telling me the series gets actually good?
[14:03] Oh, and let me know if you hit ads, as always.
[14:04] Not exactly.
[14:04] FoME, remember to neither confirm nor deny
[14:04] Hahah…
[14:04] She stole a store display
[14:05] *sigh* The show continues this pattern of having a funny visual, but then ruining the humor by having a character shout the reason it’s funny.
[14:05] STOP EXPLAINING THE JOKE, SHOW
[14:05] Wow
[14:05] Suddenly I like this guy
[14:06] I do like how Mako has become background.
[14:06] The show obviously doesn’t use cels, yet for this scene they’re mimicking the cel/background visual distinction.
[14:06] Is everyone quiet, or have I been disconnected without realizing it?
[14:07] FoME, you reading this?
[14:07] Ad, by the way.
[14:07] Paused
[14:07] I remember when I was  a kid, I was real pleased with myself when I realized I could tell when something in a looney tune was going to move just be looking at it
[14:07] And it’s over.
[14:07] That was quick.
[14:08] * FoME (442704d2@gateway/web/freenode/ip.68.39.4.210) Quit (Quit: Page closed)
[14:08] Round One:
[14:08] * FoME (442704d2@gateway/web/freenode/ip.68.39.4.210) has joined ##rabbitcube
[14:08] He looks COMPLETELY frickin’ ridiculous.
[14:08] Mummy?
[14:09] Ah, a gimp
[14:09] *facepalm*
[14:09] Oh yikes…
[14:09] Dat metaphor
[14:09] No, seriously, Gomogori went from pretty cool to kind of disgusting at the end of last episode.
[14:10] And now he’s spanking her.
[14:10] But the fanservice in this show is “satirical.” Right.
[14:10] Cloth. Armor.
[14:11] …Or not
[14:11] Like in D&D.
[14:11] Ad.
[14:11] And we’re back.
[14:12] Time to Tentacle Hentai is yet another anime equivalent to video games’ Time to Crate.
[14:13] Only Satsuki knows it’s not time to gloat yet
[14:14] Satsuki continues to be badass.
[14:14] Whoa
[14:14] Okay, that was pretty cool on Gomogori’s part too.
[14:15] …He got like three times bigger than during the fight.
[14:15] No wonder she picked him for the Elite Four
[14:15] He has Evangelion-calibre size-changing powers.
[14:15] He does that.
[14:15] Wow
[14:15] Satsuki is awesome
[14:16] Satsuki is easily and by far the best thing about this show. I am pretty much watching for her.
[14:17] She’s tryign to overload him, right?
[14:17] There is a plan, but that’s not it.
[14:18] He bit through the ball gag?
[14:18] It IS pretty self-serving garbage.
[14:18] AHAHAH… him calling her deviant.
[14:19] Oh jeez
[14:19] That’s… rather on-the-nose
[14:19] CONFORM
[14:19] Yeah. Just a bit.
[14:20] …Did the “ultimate whip of love” come out of his CROTCH?
[14:20] Did I just see that?
[14:20] Of course it did
[14:20] Where else?
[14:21] Well duh
[14:21] RYUKO… WINS
[14:22] NUDALITY
[14:22] lol
[14:22] Aww, she saves him
[14:22] …was he about to commit seppuku or stab himself in the crotch?
[14:22] …Either seems in-character.
[14:22] Seppuku.
[14:23] I think.
[14:23] Ah, this guy’s next
[14:23] He’s the one we know the least about so far
[14:23] Is next episode where he gets his character development?

Favorite Novels

Since a while back I shared my favorite anime, and I just reorganized my bookshelves, I figured I would share my five favorite novels. Well, favorite this week, anyway; the number of novels I love is probably an order of magnitude higher than the number of anime I’ve seen, and so the category of “favorite” is ever-shifting. I am deliberately leaving out short story collections, novellas, short story collections disguised as novels by use of a framing device, and graphic novels; I may do other lists which allow those at some future date, but for now I’m sticking to clear-cut examples of prose novels. Also this is in no particular order; it’s hard enough to narrow the list to seven, let alone rank them.

  • Foucalt’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco: Everything you would expect a conspiracy thriller written by a Nobel Prize-winning author/world-renowned semiotician to be. Dense, convoluted, twisty, a glorious celebration of the twin facts that conspiracy theories are fundamentally silly and the mystical is fundamentally a conspiracy theory.
  • Desolation Road, Ian MacDonald: A bizarre, largely episodic history of a small town in the Martian desert, peopled by outcasts and oddities. By turns silly and profound, and sometimes both at once. But mostly it’s just deeply, deeply weird.
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis: Time-travel comedy of manners farce. In which two separate comedies of manners, one in the late 21st century and the other in the late 19th, collide gloriously. Nothing deep here, just a very funny and fun book.
  • Night Watch, Terry Pratchett: It was a very hard choice between this and Hogfather, the climax of which helped solidify a lot of my own worldview, but I think ultimately this is the better book. It’s a fascinating inversion of Les Miserables, and without the interminable boring asides that prevent that book from being on this list. Like Les Miserables, it is ultimately an exploration of what it means to be good in a fundamentally corrupt world; this has better jokes and a less ridiculously uber-competent hero, though.
  • My Name Is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok: If you’ve read one Potok book, you’ve read all of them. This is that one. The story of an artist torn between the calling of his craft and the strict rules of his insular religious community, between his own integrity and what his upbringing and everyone around him tells him is “right.”
  • VALIS, Philip K. Dick: A bizarre, hallucinatory journey, another conspiracy thriller (odd that there are two on this list; I don’t usually care for the genre) caught in a complete psychotic breakdown, a narrative collapse par excellence that, ultimately, can only be resolved by the reader’s own choices and interpretation. This is either an absolute masterpiece or a complete train wreck, and after three readings over ten years I’m leaning towards saying it’s both.
  • Magister Ludi (a.k.a. The Glass Bead Game), Herman Hesse: I cannot even begin to describe this book. It is a living book, a growing thing that keeps changing every time you go back to read it, that writhes and shifts even in your hands. A slippery thing. It’s about a guy that’s really good at this very complicated board game. It’s about academia. It’s about life in a prison that isn’t really there.

Thoughts While Watching Sailor Moon Crystal: Episode Two

Aw, episode one was ad-free for whatever reason. This has ads.

Second year of middle school in Japan, that’s roughly 13-14, yes? Same grade as Utena.

Um… an IQ of 300 is impossible. Like, literally impossible.

Um. Wow. Ami is uncomfortably hot in this art style. *reminds self she’s 14*

What. the. fuck. Oh, commercial. The way the characters jumped out of the compact, I was a little confused for a moment.

When Beryl refers to “our great ruler,” does she mean herself or..? (Don’t answer that.)

Maybe the Dark Kingdom just isn’t very creative with titles, since they have four kings overseen by a queen. Maybe every single rank of nobility is called either “King,” or “Queen.”

Seeing a small cat refer to “The Evil” is giving me Sluggy Freelance flashbacks.

Wait, is Sailor Moon not the princess? I’m confused.

I… what? Where is Luna?

Haha, the nerd girl is a Virgo. And by “ha ha” I mean “fuck you.”

Crystal Seminar is a villain plot, I’m guessing.

Aw, Ami took her glasses off. She looked way better with them, as most people do.

Oh my god, does Usagi have a thing for Ami? I could get behind this.

Usagi: Horrible cheater at video games. Also, Ami’s lucky she picked that game and not the one next to it, if she’d beaten the high score on that one she’d be recruited to pilot a starfighter against evil aliens.

Here at the Crystal Seminar, we like to prepare young people for their inevitable future of sitting quietly in cubicles, typing away at computers and having their life essence drained to feed a dark power.

Okay, so who is the dark-haired girl hanging with Usagi and Naru? Is she a plant?

Japanese print ads are so busy by Western design standards. Newspapers, too.

No seriously, who wears a tux just walking around the street?

I… what? How did Usagi activate the brainwashing without brainwashing?

Wait, the video game just had a power-up for Usagi in it? I’d complain that this is video game logic, but… video game.

Does Ami’s pen have powers too?

I like to think Usagi just THREW Luna at evil teacher-lady.

I really do feel like this transformation sequence is a huge improvement on the old one, but at the same time, I don’t want to see all of it every episode. I hope we eventually get a shortened version or it changes up or something.

Ugh, super-whining again. Seriously, WTF show.

Damn, only the second episode and already Sailor Moon’s getting her ass kicked. But I guess that’s necessary so the new scout can save the day.

Once again, I’d like to point out that Luna gives her recruits EVEN LESS information about what’s going on and what they’re getting into than Kyubey does.

Oh, interesting, Usagi is Justice and Ami is Intelligence.

Bah, stop upstaging everyone, Tuxedo Jackass. You’re even worse than Angel.

Moon Tiara brutal murder count: 2/2.

Ami and Usagi want each other SO BAD you guys. They’re all blushes and smiles and handholding, I flat-out refuse to not ship them.

This ad for Crunchyroll Devices is reminding me of the thing they keep showing at movie theaters from MPAA about how movies deserve to be watched on the big screen, not the little. It’s an anti-piracy ad, but it makes me laugh because it works just as well as anti-paying for movie rentals, DVD purchases, and streaming services.

Ah, image of our next recruit. I have a feeling she is going to be one of the characters most different from the Abridged Series version.

This was rather spectacularly better than the first episode, but I’m not going to actually LIKE this show until they get rid of at least one of super-whining or Tuxedo Fedora swooping in to save the day.

I just realized a major upside to the end of My Little Po-Mo

Namely, I can skip Rainbow Rocks if I want to, without feeling the least bit guilty about it.

This isn’t to say that I necessarily will skip it, just that I can feel free to wait and see what other people think of it. If the divide of people who did and didn’t like it is more or less the same as for Equestria Girls, then I skip it.