January 09, 2009

Random Anime Picture #34

-Kurokami the Animation, ep01

Too much pre-fight chili, I guess.

Writeup on this interesting show coming soon...

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January 08, 2009

Amazing... and SNEAKY.

I just got back from dinner with The Librarian.  I also just got back from dinner with Momzerduck.  At the same place and the same time.  The two of them had never met before.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement.  It turns out that the two of them were being really really sneaky!  They teamed up on a Christmas gift for me... and had been planning it for nearly three months!

Sneaky, sneaky... and amazing, too.  I'm not going to say what the gift was yet, as it deserves a blogpost all its own and I don't have a camera at the moment, but it falls into that category of "Oh my."  There were almost tears.

Thank you, both of you.  You're both the greatest, y'know that?


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January 07, 2009

Another Day, Another Meme.

Via Don through Ubu, there's this:

The gist…Retrieve and share the first sentence [or two, or three] of the first blog post of each of the twelve months of (r.i.p.) 2008.

In that I can't work up the energy to actually blog about something worthwhile at the moment, I'll bite.  Here we go!

January: ...I'll always have the duck.

February: So the first race of the 2008 F1 season, the Australian Grand Prix, is 38 days away.  This seems like a good time to take a look at who's driving for which team this year.

March: I almost wish I hadn't checked this.

April: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the organizers of this week's race in Bahrain have... requested... that Max Mosley perhaps not appear at the track.  He's expected to do comply with that request.

May:  Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit his own bad self, had a F1-related post today:

DANICA PATRICK going Formula One?

Now, while I appreciate any attention paid to F1 by someone here in the US, the Good Perfesser is in my territory here, so lets look at what this really means.

June: In an analysis of this scene, there are 11 ducks visible (though not in this picture, since some are blocked by Wolfie).

July: Funny, Tsubaki sure doesn't look like she's a living weapon.

August: As is usual with practice, it was dull, boring, and really uninteresting.  In fact, it was so bad that I didn't watch all of it.

September: From the world's only sterile street circuit at Valencia, the F1 Circus warily heads into the Ardennes Forest to race on what is probably the world's finest modern track: Spa-Francorchamps.

October:  So now we come to the most important part of Ikkitousen Great Guardians: the obligatory OVAs.

November: What the hell was THAT?

December: There is cake.  You just can't have any.

Six F1-related posts, five anime, two duck-related, and one gaming.  Yes, I know that's 13... June is both anime and duck.  Interesting balance there.

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January 06, 2009

An Emotional Reaction

Feh.  Double-Feh.

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January 05, 2009

Touhou Doujin... ANIME?!?!?!

Touhou fandom is something I know nothing about.  Apparently, however, it's godawfully huge in Japan.  Originally a scrolling shooter game by a one-man 'team', it's grown into something much more massive than that.  Oh, the game is still done by the one guy, but there are now either 11 or 14 Touhou games, depending on if you want to count spinoffs or not.  It's so big, that at the recent Comiket there were nearly 900 individual sellers of Touhou-related doujin manga, and the game even has its own sizeable festival (called Reitaisai) devoted solely to a Comiket-like doujin market.

So... hugely popular in Japan, Touhou is.  Fans have assumed that it's just a matter of time before some production company scoops it up and makes an official anime out of it, but as of yet there's been no sign of that happening (one reason might be that ZUN, the creator of the games, wants to direct and write the show himself).  When you boil it down, though, it'd kinda be like making an anime based on Defender or Galaga... who knows how it'd turn out?

But, remember when I said that it was popular in the doujin circles?  Well, one group decided to make their own anime.

Skeptical?  I was.  It's a lot easier to draw a manga than to do a full-fledged anime.  So how'd they do?


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January 03, 2009

A Dawn Like Thunder

Readers of The Pond know that I have a thing for the Pacific War, and even moreso for the Battle of Midway.  The study of that period is one of my avid hobbies, and is what lead me to my fondness of Japan in general and eventually anime in particular (though in a fairly roundabout way).  I know quite a bit about the strategies used by both sides in the conflict, and could talk tactics with confidence as well.

With a few exceptions however, the one thing I don't have much knowlege about is the people involved.  Oh, I don't mean the Halseys and Nagumos, but the Chucks and Morts and Joes and Mitsuos and Hidekis... what about them? 

While I was doing my Christmas shopping at a local bookstore, I stumbled on a new release that seemed to have been aimed directly at my bump of curiosity.  A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron 8, by Robert J. Mrazek tells the stories of the men made famous by the Battle of Midway, the only squadron flying off the USS Hornet to make contact with the enemy on that day in June, 1942... and which was almost entirely wiped out as it made its run on the Japanese carriers.  All the squadron's Devastators torpedo bombers were shot down, and only one man, George Gay, survived. 

But that wasn't the whole squadron.  Historians of the battle will remember that the first six Avengers in US Navy service were flying from Midway's single runway after a hurried deployment from Pearl Harbor just before the battle.  They, too, were part of Torpedo 8, a detachment left behind when the Hornet sailed.  Further, another group of VT-8 pilots and crewmen, including the squadron XO, remained behind at Pearl waiting for the rest of the Avengers to arrive. 

Later, VT-8 wound up flying from the USS Saratoga until it was torpedoed.  Many of her squadrons wound up at Espiritu Santo, and some of them wound up going to Guadalcanal as part of the Cactus Air Force.  VT-8 was one of those.  The second half of the book covers that period of time, and the many, many trials the squadron suffered through.  Indeed, VT-8 suffered the highest casualties amongst naval squadrons at both Midway and Guadalcanal.  At Midway, 45 of 48 officers and men serving in Torpedo 8 were killed.  At Guadalcanal, seven of the remaining members were killed and another eight wounded.

It also wound up one of the most decorated squadrons in Navy history, if not the most decorated in US service, period.  It was the only squadron to receive two Presidental Unit Citations from FDR.  Its 35 pilots earned 39 Navy Crosses before it was decommissioned after Guadalcanal.

A Dawn Like Thunder is written almost entirely from interviews conducted with the few members of VT-8 still living, and from letters and memoirs by those who've passed away.  We meet men like Swede Larson, the squadron XO who took command of the squadron after Midway.  We learn that as a leader, he was a martinet who wasn't afraid to belittle his men, issued promotions not on how they performed but if he liked them or not.  Twice, men under his command were pushed so far that they pulled their sidearms on him.  He was also a courageous pilot (though one who refused to admit mistakes).  We meet Bert Earnest, the pilot of the single Avenger to make it back to Midway, though so shot full of holes that it never flew again.  He then went on to survive Guadalcanal, and WWII as a whole.  We meet Chief Petty Officer James Hammond, who won a Silver Star at Guadalcanal in large part because he built three 'Frankenstein Avengers', piecing scraps of many planes together to make one (barely flyable) bomber.  This at a time when the Cactus Air Force was down to a bare handful of planes.  The lineup of pilots and crew goes on, but you never feel like anybody is getting short shrift. The wives and girlfriends of some of the men even get their nods.

Robert Mrazek has done a fine job of tying all his research together and turning it into a coherent and readable story.  The small number of inaccuracies (Midway was described as having two airfields in 1942, when there was only one, for example) are easily overlooked, and don't detract from the superb job he's done telling the human story of Torpedo 8.  Highly recommended!

Mrazek and many of the men he wrote about are members of the Battle of Midway Roundtable, an organization that's been in existence since 1997.   I'm proud to be a member myself.  It's free to join, and if you're interested in the Battle of Midway or the Pacific War, you owe it to yourself to become a member.

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January 01, 2009

Winter Classic

I've never really been a hockey fan.  Oh, sure, I lived in Chicago growing up and was at least slightly aware of the Blackhawks, and the two years I spent attending grad school were up in Minnesota, but the sport didn't really interest me much.  So, while I'm not a hockey fan, I do know a little bit about the sport's history in Chicago... the 'Hawks are an Original Six team, for pete's sake!  I like the uniforms ("sweaters" in the sport's parlance), and the Blackhawks' in particular is a classic of sports merchandise.

Almost 10 years ago, I attended my first hockey game, as my girlfriend at the time was a fan of the Chicago Wolves.  It was a great time, and part of me wished I had been exposed to the sport more growing up.  These days Duckford has a professional team of its own, the IceHogs, which are a 'minor league' team of the Blackhawks.  But I can't get very into the sport.

In recent memory, the 'Hawks have been not only bad, but the team owner Bill Wirtz refused to put their games on television, short of the nationally televised games on ESPN they were scheduled for (or whatever... I'm really not a hockey fan).  As a result, the only way you could see them play was to actually attend a game.  Hardcore fans did that, of course, but people who might become fans couldn't just flip on the TV and catch a game... like you can do with just about every other sport in the history of the world.  However, last year Bill Wirtz died,  and his son, Rocky, went about changing the public's opinion of the Blackhawks.  The games are now on TV, and he brought in John McDonough, who once was the President of Chicago Cubs and a great marketing mind, to run the team.  As a result, the 'Hawks are the hottest ticket in Chicago... it doesn't hurt that they're a pretty good young team, too.

Today, the 'Hawks were on the national stage: the NHL's annual event called 'The Winter Classic.'  The game, against the Detroit Red Wings, was played outdoors... at Wrigley Field, no less!  While they lost, 6-4, the 'Hawks put on a helluva show.  Particularly the pregame stuff... and specifically the National Anthem.  Here, take a look:

The good part comes at the six-minute mark, when Jim Corneliusen sings The Star-Spangled Banner.  The crowd, as it always does at Blackhawks games, goes completely insane... which reminded me of back when the Blackhawks played at the old Chicago Stadium.  Cramped, smelly, but with a pipe-organ many churches would be envious of... and Chicago legend Wayne Messmer singing.  The following is from the 1991 playoffs, before Wayne was shot in the throat:

Now THAT is how you sing an Anthem, ladies and gentlemen.  His 1991 NHL all-star game performance is pretty darn good, too (but meh sound quality).  That one took place just a few days before the ground portion of Operation Desert Storm began, so you can imagine the fervor of the crowd... it sure put Whitney Houston's rendition at the SuperBowl to shame.

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