[personal profile] sotto_voce, [personal profile] agonistes, and other hockey fan friends might want to check out the 'Of Miracles and Men' ESPN documentary on the 1980 Soviet Olympic team, if you all have not done so already. (Watched it last night through Netflix, which might be a better option than the online streaming.) It's a very interesting look at the politics surrounding Soviet hockey and the Red Army during the latter half of the Cold War, which of course is my jam, but more than that it's a history of the teamwork and spirit -- true comradeship, in a totally unironic sense -- that made the Soviet team such a powerhouse. And the personal interviews with the former Soviet players are especially moving, with a sense of dedication and love of the sport that shines through across the decades.

(Best part: There's great footage of the actual game that splits time between the US coverage and the Soviet coverage. Listening to the Soviet announcers and the US announcers, comparing their description of the events, is more than a little heartbreaking.)

I still haven't seen the Red Army documentary that came out earlier this year, but now I definitely want to watch it to see how it compares with this one.

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08 April 2015 @ 09:08 am
I'm shopping around for a new dentist, and one of the recommendations from my GP was for a local dental group called -- wait for it -- Transcendental.

And now I am torn. Because for all that I know it's a reasonably common cute name for a dental practice, I am now having these horrifying visions of being in the dentist's chair with my mouth full of instruments, and the hygienist and the dentist suddenly start making terrible, terrible dentistry-related puns and there is nowhere for me to run.

'Hm, looks like we'd better get to the root of the problem, eh?'
'We wouldn't want to leave you with anything un-palate-able in here.'

*cue Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, à la Clockwork Orange*

'Did you know that we're right on the cuspid of expanding our office?'
'It's taken forever to keep filling out the paperwork, but it'll be a crown-ing achievement for this practice.'

*cue silent screaming*

(I am already rather afraid of going to the dentist, considering that I inherited terrible teeth from both sides of the family and spent almost my entire childhood in various circles of Orthodontic Hell, so I don't know if I could take a barrage of puns in addition to my existing stress levels.)

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24 March 2015 @ 12:18 am
Although I am about to fall asleep, I'll leave this here and pick up any comments in the morning as needed!

Comment with the title of one of my fics and a number (or more than one of either) and I'll witter egomanically about:

1) how I came up with the idea
2) something I deleted
3) my favorite bit
4) something I struggled to write
5) what the writing process was like
6) how I thought people would respond
7) how people actually responded
8) something I wish I’d done differently
9) something I think I did right

The greater part of my works are over here. Feel free to ask about the Crossover Monstrosity as well (which I still have not yet finished cleaning up for reposting at [personal profile] bookofgramarye), if you like.

Alternately, or in addition: tell me about a book you read recently, and I'll tell you about a book I read!

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05 March 2015 @ 10:33 am
Latest amusing archival film viewings on YouTube: Decimal currency PSAs from Australia's changeover in 1966 (two collections here and here) and the UK's changeover in 1971 (here and here). There's even a full playlist of related decimal currency videos here if you don't want to go searching for other ones.

The whole existence of the Decimal Currency Board intrigues me. It has that wonderfully innocuous-but-sinister ring to it. Looks like the next time I'm over doing research in the National Archives, I'll have to check out the TV commercial production files.

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03 March 2015 @ 11:00 am
Copying over my comment in zenicurean's notes for anime villains regarding the types of obnoxious heroic threats they may end up facing. As an anime villain myself (with the costume base layer to prove it), I consider it a public service to provide fair warning of my own response:

My plan, such as it can be shared in a semi-public forum such as this, is to engineer implausible situations that occupy the time and energy of my opponents in ways that are designed to be superficially attractive and character-building but in reality are inherently tedious, off-putting, and ideal for engendering relationship mishaps and poor communication choices on any number of levels. Likely venues for such situations will include beach resorts and swimming pools (with obligatory swimsuit competitions and vast quantities of ice cream and popsicles intended to be consumed in a sexually suggestive manner), local festivals (at which the wearing of impractical clothing such as yukata or fancy dress and the staging of elaborate fireworks displays may buy me valuable time to gather intelligence or fortify my defences), and isolated scenarios where the characters seem to have no choice but to spend an inordinate length of time reminiscing (or indeed, recapitulating) to each other about past events that led them up to their current state and location.

Regardless, even if I go down in a blaze of badly animated glory that will have to be fixed for the Bluray release, I intend to create as many annoying filler episodes as possible for the abovementioned heroes who seek my downfall.

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23 February 2015 @ 10:36 am
I am exceedingly unskilled with woodworking and generally nervous around power tools, but I would seriously contemplate taking classes in both in order to create a manga storage shelf like this one on Rakuten. Most of the reasonably priced bookcases I've seen in this country leave me with too much wasted space in front and on top if I try to shelve manga, but something this neat and compact seems like it would cut down on a lot of the excess space without seriously altering the furniture footprint. Ah, well, perhaps someday I'll have this shelf, along with the dropdown bed-in-a-bookcase.

(That said, this dual-shelf display case seems meant more for bookshops and mangakissa, but I'm amused by the sample photographs that show a remarkable amount of Naoki Urasawa manga, including Happy!, Monster, and 20th Century Boys. It does seem to address the book display and accessibility problem reasonably well, too.)

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17 February 2015 @ 10:25 pm
With a long weekend made unexpectedly longer by snow closures, I took a stab at cracking down on my anime queue on Crunchyroll and Hulu. I managed to finish one full series and get through a second, get a little further in three others in my rotation, and unceremoniously drop a sixth after watching the first episode and suspecting that it wouldn't get any better from there. Here's the breakdown:

CLEARED - Sabagebu! and When Supernatural Battles Become CommonplaceCollapse )

CONTINUING - Natsume"s Book of Friends, Pumpkin Scissors, Yurikuma ArashiCollapse )

DROPPED - Maoyuu Maou YuushaCollapse )

So, yes. Yurikuma will get a more detailed review later, and I'd like to do a picspam for one or two other series I've enjoyed lately, but for now I'm just glad to have written all of this down.

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12 February 2015 @ 02:16 am
Posting this here so I don't forget about it and lose the link....

Nostalgia — Historicizing the Longing for the Past
1-3 October 2015
Convener: Tobias Becker (GHIL)
Venue: German Historical Institute, London

In the early seventies, intellectuals and journalists became aware of a new and worrying phenomenon: nostalgia. ‘How much more nostalgia can America take?’ Time magazine asked in 1971, soon echoed by Der Spiegel in Germany and New Society in Britain to name just two. Only a decade before, dictionaries had still defined nostalgia as a medical term for an extreme form of homesickness. Now, it described the sentimental yearning for an irretrievable past. And this yearning seemed to be everywhere: in popular culture, in the rising number of museums and the explosion of museum attendance, in advertising, retro fashions and the booming antique market.

Cut for spaceCollapse )

Reading this CFP made me think of recent nostalgic representations of the 1960s in Japan, especially dealing with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. There's at least two anime films (From Up on Poppy Hill and Shouwa Monogatari) that look at the period with the Olympics in the background, and the Always Sunset on Third Street film trilogy starts in the late 1950s and concludes in 1964 with a fairly explicit connection to the Olympics. I'd have to rewatch Sunset and catch up with Shouwa, but there might be a thesis in there to explore.

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26 January 2015 @ 04:35 pm
The snowstorm that's currently emptying grocery stores throughout the northern part of the Eastern Seaboard of eggs, milk, bread, and toilet paper prompted a discussion at work regarding snow day ritual superstitions (i.e., the things you do the night before to ensure that school will be closed in the morning). Some of the things I've heard make me worried that I'm being trolled by co-workers, since I don't really have any experience* of snow day rituals. So out of anthropological interest, I'm rather curious, and require a poll.

* I can count fewer than a dozen ice and snow days I experienced in 12 years of primary and secondary schooling in the Frigid North, usually for times when we couldn't actually open the door to get outside for the snow drifts or when a major ice storm cut power to my village for the better part of a week. You didn't need ritual in situations like that. ^^;;

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01 January 2015 @ 11:31 pm
I was truly spoilt this Yuletide, with a story and two full treats!

- All Our Brilliant Galaxies by [ profile] wizardslexicon, a post-series Star Driver fic with my beloved main character OT3. It sets up a lot of the transitions that lead from the series into the movie, and made me so very happy to see a strong, confident Wako who knows exactly what she wants (i.e., to save the world from giant robots and have three-way makeouts with her two best friends, preferably in the same context) and is willing to take the initiative to get it.
- Just You Wait, 'Enry 'Iggins by [ profile] magdarko, which tells a side story involves one of the characters from the 2012 movie English Vinglish. For a movie that dwells heavily on the personal and social struggles faced by those who are learning English as a second language, this story does a stellar job of capturing the multiple reasons why one of the secondary characters (who doesn't get nearly enough screen time) is so dedicated to improving her English skills.
- Repaired and Strengthened by [ profile] slr2moons, a Natsume Yuujincho story featuring one of Natsume's spirit friends, a little orphaned kitsune boy. It hit all of the right notes in developing the sense of found families that makes the series so special, and made me rather choked up in a few parts in the best of ways.

In turn, I wrote Cold Reading, a Star Driver pre-relationship OT3 fic set towards the end of the series, working with the play-within-a-play that shows up and drops an anvilicious pile of backstory and foreshadowing all over the audience. There were some ups and downs in getting this story out, and I actually went in and completely rewrote a chunk of the middle two days before the archive went live, but I'm pleased to have finally written a fun Star Driver fic for the four or five other people who might enjoy that sort of thing. ^^;;

It's been a long few weeks for me, with some serious illness (stroke, heart surgery, cancer surgery) in my extended family this month and a rough couple of days at work in trying to meet last-minute pre-holiday deadlines, so my ability to string words together has mostly been eaten up by offline demands. Even writing Yuletide comments has been tough for the fics I've been reading, all the more so when I want to write really glowing praise for the great stories I've read. I was hoping that I'd have it together enough to write up a proper Yuletide recs list for a bunch of non-English-language fandoms (since the recs I've been seeing skew heavily towards the English-language canons), but I've scrapped several attempts so far. I did, however, want to say that I'm still reading journals, even if I haven't been able to comment much. Happy New Year to everyone!

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My anime watching habits this year have been sporadic, mostly passing on the currently running series (with the exception of Sailor Moon Crystal) in an effort to pick my way through a backlog of older series that have been languishing on my to-watch list. And because I am a sucker for series that attempt to grapple with complicated political or historical concepts, Senkou no Night Raid | Night Raid 1931 went to the top of the queue, and even though I finished it about a month ago I'm still trying to untangle my thoughts on the show as a whole.

First off, I can certainly say that I enjoyed it, but can't deny that the series suffers from the fact that it is trying to cram an overly ambitious historical supernatural action drama into 13 half-hour episodes (with 3 bonus fill-in-the-gaps episodes made later on, but still). With 26 half-hour episodes, or even 13 hour-long episodes, it probably could've have more time to live up to its initial efforts. And it has pretty much all the kinds of things I like to roll around in when it comes to quasi-historical anime. It's set in Shanghai and Manchuria in the 1930s! The main characters all have supernatural powers, ranging from telepathy to teleportation to clairvoyance, and use them to fight other spies and a far-reaching military conspiracy! There is active multifaceted historical intrigue involving nationalists, communists, anarchists, imperialists, and all kinds of other period-appropriate -ists! People speak multiple languages -- not always well or with the correct accent, depending on the voice actor's skill, but the deliberate effort is there to at least attempt Chinese, Russian, German, English, and French in addition to Japanese in the spoken dialogue! There are active moral and ethical dilemmas related to Japan's position as a fledgling imperial power, and the series treats them as an ongoing debate, with the characters all taking different sides and often feeling conflicted about their choices! It has an entire special episode devoted to the Mukden Incident!

...and then the main characters spend half an episode taking pictures of food, and the other half of the episode chasing a cat that stole a bag full of undeveloped film. *crumples* I mean, it does build in some character development and has plot-related echoes later, but the unevenness of the first half of the series in particular is a real stumbling block.

That said, I haven't been able to completely unpack the message contained in the last few episodes, which contains spoilersCollapse ). All in all, it's the kind of show that I'll have to watch once or twice more to fully figure out what the series was trying to say in the end.

Also, I don't know why the official series art keeps putting Yukina (the main female character) in various types of cheongsam, when for all intents and purposes she never wears them in the series (preferring normal Western-style clothes for the most part), and for that matter looks far more adorable when she's wearing men's clothing to sneak around on missions with the other three guys. Some quick historical checking indicates that the outfit was created in its modern form in Shanghai in the 1920s, so perhaps it's an effort to work with the period, but it does make Yukina seem more like a femme fatale, which she most decidedly is not.

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I can't justify doing the December talking prompts meme this year, since looking back at the last round I attempted I really fell down on the job. But I do want to have the excuse to post a bit more, so I think I might take a few days here and there to post about some interesting media that I've been consuming this year -- books, movies, films, the like. More than a bit of it will involve anime, I'm sure.

In the meantime, I posted this elsewhere but will copy it here:

Sailor Team, in progress.Collapse )

Currently on the top of one of my bookshelves at work. They're looking a bit jumbled in a ¡No pasarán! sort of way here, but I think that once I have Venus as well (hopefully by January) I'll be able to do a better coordinated group pose. Saturn will arrive in late December as part of a separate order, so I'll probably wait until I acquire Venus to add them both to the display. More pictures will be forthcoming as new figures find a home on my shelf.

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Tags: ,
09 November 2014 @ 11:18 am
Received a 'revise and resubmit' set of peer reviews for my Yes, Prime Minister as Cold War satire article. About what I'd expected, really -- I'd little idea of what sort of analytical approach the journal might prefer for a paper concept that had been stripped to the bone for a 17-minute conference presentation, so now I can follow the reviewers' suggestions to go about putting the meat back onto it. The reviewers mostly wanted further contemporary audience context and a clearer definition of 'satire' to provide a stronger critical approach, which I've no problem supplying. Another 1500 to 2000 words should do it, if I'm careful.

At the least, it gives me an excuse to purchase Graham McCann's book on Yes, Minister. I suspect that McCann has written the book that I wanted to write on the series, but perhaps I'll be able to fill in a few gaps that he left open.

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27 October 2014 @ 10:43 pm
Over on Crunchyroll, for those who have access to it, is a short anime series called Yamishibai. The title (闇芝居, yamishibai, 'dark theatre') is a word play on kamishibai (紙芝居, 'paper theatre'), an old form of cheap popular theatre where a storyteller narrates a tale and uses paper pictures and scrolls like storyboards to illustrate the plot. Yamishibai's 5-minute episodes are animated in the style of kamishibai, with simple drawings that move in front of a static background. The stories are set in the modern day, based on ghost stories and urban legends, but often have older supernatural elements of local gods and demons and curses.

The first season of 13 episodes is much better than the second season, and highlights of the first season are the episodes Zanbai (惨拝), The Next Floor (異階, Ikai), and The Umbrella Goddess (傘神様, Kasagamisama). On the whole, very unsettling and atmospheric; not to be watched alone or too late at night unless you want to scare yourself silly.

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23 October 2014 @ 10:26 am
I was talking with my boss about work-related matters a week or so ago, and mentioned that I follow a few book-related sites through Twitter and general bookmarks. Since he expressed an interest in seeing them, I compiled a short list -- and figured that it might be worth sharing here, too, for anyone who might be interested in book news and reviews.

LRB Blog - London Review of Books blog

Reviews in History (Institute of Historical Research, University of London) - regular reviews of current history titles. Fairly broad range of topics and time periods. Occasionally reposts calls for conference papers.

Publishing Perspectives - Online magazine about international book publishing

Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services (Oxford University) - mostly UK-based workshops, but I follow it to see what people are talking about

The 49th Shelf - Book resource for Canadian books

Three Percent - University of Rochester site on literature in translation

I don't necessarily check these sites on a daily basis, but I do go through them when I have a few minutes. (And if anyone has any similar sites that they might recommend along these lines, I'd be interested in hearing about them!)

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19 October 2014 @ 11:58 am
First of all, thank you for signing up! I'm looking forward to seeing what you'll write, and very happy to receive whatever you send my way. To see the sorts of things that I scribble in my spare time, my main fic journal is [personal profile] bookofgramarye, with backup/alternate archiving at AO3. Previous Yuletide letters are here (2013, which contains links back through letters to 2007) for reference, but I hope that this one gives you enough to go on for this year's requests.

What I like best: Backstory/pre-canon fic, 'missing scenes', character studies, alternate perspectives on a scene, fics that show a nice bit of historical research if required. Gen-fic, by and large, unless otherwise specified -- I particularly enjoy reading about character relationships that don't necessarily have to do with 'relationships', so to speak.

Things I'm not fond of: Character-bashing, 'issue-fic' ([personal profile] sailorptah voices many of my concerns in this post), historical research that's been scraped off of Wikipedia entries. I'd also appreciate the use of the AO3 Archive Warnings if the story happens to contain one or more of the major ones, and I like having content notes for distressing situations or themes (primarily for on-screen character death or graphic violence, and discussions of suicide or sexual assault).

And now for the actual prompts:

Anno 1790Collapse )

English VinglishCollapse )

Mouretsu PiratesCollapse )

Natsume YuujinchoCollapse )

Porco RossoCollapse )

Star DriverCollapse )

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17 October 2014 @ 03:12 pm
1. Falling into that bad habit where I feel like I don't have anything worth posting about. I suppose I do, but as I continue to push through a heavy round of work-editing I feel less inclined to want to do more writing when I'm at home, even of the ostensibly fun kind. A double whammy of grim subject matter for the work-editing -- one book on terrorism on the Internet that's just gone into typesetting, the other book on Iran's repressive social structure that hasn't yet left my desk -- seems to have further sapped my current writerly enjoyment. (It's saying something that one of the more cheerful books on my desk is about the 1980s Euromissile crisis, because at least that part of history ended relatively well.)

2. Once again, Yuletide exchange sign-ups are almost upon us. I'm still planning to participate, but I'm not feeling especially ambitious or creative at the moment. I'm going to have to be much better about working on Yuletide in small chunks, when the mood is upon me, rather than hoping for a last-minute creative surge that may not actually happen. (Check with me in late November when I'll almost certainly have broken this promise to myself.)

3. All the same, I should probably do a quick round of write-ups for the most noteworthy books I've read this year. I've also watched one or two reasonably good anime series -- currently working my way through Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume's Book of Friends), and pre-ordered the Blu-Ray of Sakasama no Patema (Patema Inverted) and recently received the Kickstarter release for the Eve no Jikan (Time of Eve) movie. Maybe I'll try to put together a picspam or two for something that I've enjoyed lately.

4. More cheeringly, autumn means cool drizzly days and as much hot apple cider as I can consume. I'm working my way through a big bag of apples that friends and I picked last weekend. Forget pumpkin spice; apple spice is where it's at.

5. I've finished the last volume of Trollope's Palliser novels, which means that I've read both the Barsetshire and Palliser series, so now I need another long literature series to wend my way through. I'm thinking of Zola's Rougon-Macquart books or Powell's Dance to the Music of Time. But if anyone has other recommendations for multi-volume literature series, I'd be interested in hearing them.

6. Finally, an illustrated Communist joke that I've been snickering over for days now. (I think it's the utterly disgusted expression on Russia's face in the last panel that really does it for me.)

Originally posted at, with comment count unavailable replies.
13 September 2014 @ 02:08 pm
I think I'm about to fall down the figure-collecting rabbit hole. This new line of Sailor Moon figures is just too cute, and offer so many possibilities for posing and displaying all of them. I've ordered Mars and Mercury, so we'll see how they look before I throw myself headlong into the full Sailor Senshi display.

It's not as if I've never bought figures before -- I own two little ones of Ritsuko Akagi from Evangelion, and a larger one of Harumi Kiyama from Railgun -- but I hadn't really thought of them as something to deliberately acquire. Of course, the thing is that if I get the Sailor Moon figures, I'll also want to add another Railgun figure or two (this Mikoto and Kuroko matched set, most likely), and maybe this one of Shiki Ryougi from Kara no Kyoukai. A whole line-up of magical girls and mad scientists, because I know exactly what I want to be when I grow up. ^^;;

I suppose there are worse things to spend money on, especially if I buy them on sale and avoid purchasing bootlegs. It's mostly that I'd successfully avoided the lure of figures for so long that I thought I was safe. (Curse you, First Fandom, for coming back to life and producing such cute merchandise.)

Originally posted at, with comment count unavailable replies.
03 September 2014 @ 10:24 pm
For all that this week at work is short, its very shortness is a source of immense frustration as multiple deadlines are slamming into each other and every spare moment of concentration at my disposal is devoted to editing and citation-checking on two complicated manuscripts dealing with (1) Iranian civil society and (2) online terrorism. And in light of this information, perhaps you, dear friends, might be wondering something like the following:

'So, [personal profile] gramarye1971, what kind of music are you listening to when you're working to get you through the day? Something Baroque and mathematical, maybe? A nice big choral symphony or two with lots of swooping vocals to help you power through your to-do list? Or maybe even some anime soundtracks or film scores that put you in a good and productive mood?'

And on the off-chance that you were indeed wondering such thoughts, I would have to answer with too-complete honesty:

'I am keeping my head above water thanks to a self-made YouTube playlist of truly ridiculous Eurobeat, because apparently I secretly want to be an Initial D character or at least have a soundtrack to match.'

(I can't recommend it for everyone, but if my embarrassing music choices can give someone else a suitable playlist for cleaning the house or flossing the cat or performing some other laborious task, then I will feel happy to have shared it.)

Originally posted at, with comment count unavailable replies.
Right, so I'm aware that of the handful of people I know who've seen the Star Driver anime, or at least portions of it, their reactions have generally ranged from 'WTF costumes' to 'isn't this just Utena with dumb-looking giant robots,* less feminism,** and more stock footage***?' to 'no, seriously, WHAT IS WITH THEIR COSTUMES?!'. And I know that the series regrettably wrote itself into a corner and couldn't figure out how to end properly, and the symbolism gets rather tangled up on itself somewhere between Freud and The Little Prince, and the follow-up movie is really just a recut series recap with five minutes of new, technically postcanon material at the beginning. But those five minutes were totally worth it for me, and now I want postcanon fic like burning.

* I am pretty sure that Star Driver's Tauburn would not win against either Nether Gundam or Tequila Gundam from the G Gundam series in a What The Hell Were They Thinking Giant Robot Contest. It might get a participation ribbon, though.
** Some of the female characters are pretty excellent and multilayered in their own right, but there's a lot of making bad decisions over men and rather overtly sexualised imagery involving 'maidens' and 'breaking of seals', among other things.
*** At least they change up the 'Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku' pre-duel song equivalent two or three times throughout. I admit that this could be either a feature or a bug, depending on how good you are at chiming in with mokushi kushimo shimoku kumoshi moshiku shikumo on cue.

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