December 31, 2012

So Long 2012, Here Comes 2013!


So 2012 saunters its way into the annals of history, leaving 314 posts here at The Pond behind.  It's been a busy year, but has it been a good one?  Let's take a look, shall we?

There's been two big events on the personal front.  Back in February, I was promoted to run the Duck U Bookstore.  The financial boost of that was huge, but the added stress made it difficult for the other event to occur.  In December, I hit the one year point of my ongoing struggle against smoking.  There were other things, of course, but those were the big ones.  Oh, and I played a lot of Skyrim.

In the world of anime, this year started with the long-awaited release of... a game?  Not just any game, but Katawa Shoujo, a visual novel made by amateurs that beat the odds and turned out to be pretty darn good.  I'm doing one major episodic writeup of a series every year, and 2012's turned out to be the zombie romp High School Of The Dead.  While the writeup might not have been quite as fun as 2011's Rio Rainbow Gate!, that's merely because HSotD was a better show, and therefore not as easy to make fun of.  Here's the link to the first writeup, then Ep02, Ep03, Ep04, Ep05, Ep06, Ep07, Ep08, Ep09, Ep10, Ep11, and the finale.  Except, god help us, there was a truly atrocious OVA as well.  Showing more intestinal fortitude than I expected from myself, I finished it up, then barely blogged about anime again... until I started another series!  This time, the foodfighting anime Ben-To was the lucky recipient of my writeup blessings.  It's been slow going, just because life keeps getting in the way, but here's the first episode writeup, then Ep02, Ep03 and Ep04.  The 10th anniversary of the broadcast of my favorite anime, Azumanga Daioh, came and went without mention by anybody but me. 

This season was the longest in Formula 1 history, which meant there was an awful lot of blogginating involved.  The first seven races saw seven different winners: Jenson Button, HWMNBN, Nico Rosberg, Seb Vettel, Pastor Maldonado, Mark Webber, and Lewis Hamilton.  When HWMNBN became the first two-time winner of the season, he took a big lead in the Driver's Championship, one that was slowly whittled away over the rest of the season; Seb Vettel won his third championship in a row at Brazil, but only by three points.  Along the way, we saw Kimi Raikkonen win at Abu Dhabi after having been retired from the sport for three years.  We also saw the return of F1 to America, with the United States Grand Prix in Austin.  Unsurprisingly, I was somewhat excited by this and covered it heavily.  Just in that week, there was the F1 on SPEED! entry, 1st Practice Liveblogging, P2 not-Liveblogged, P3 Liveblogged, and I semi-liveblogged Quals, all above and beyond the race itself.  Then the swag arrived, courtesy of the head of Duck U food services who worked the race.  The final race turned out to be the final time we'd see a number of things, Slappy Schumacher amongst them.  Really, it was a great season, the only disappointment being that Seb Vettel won the championship.  With seven winners in seven races, it seriously looked like we have four or five legit contenders... and in the end all we got was more of the same.

Finally, the Military History category got a small amount of good writing, and a bunch of Mystery Ships.  The fifth installment of the What If...? concept looked at the potential effects of an attack on the Gatun Locks by the Japanese.  I introduced my readers to The Shelf, and a comment by reader CXT led directly to me acquiring the ne plus ultra of military reference booksMidway Day came and went, and just a few days ago I delved down into WWI for an article on the SMS Seeadler.

Not a bad year.  Thanks go out to everybody who has decided to spend some time here at The Pond; without you, this place wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun.  Now let's all put on silly hats and bring in 2013!

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December 30, 2012

Japanese Military Animation: Then And Now

A couple of years ago, I learned about an movie titled Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors.  It's considered the first Japanese feature-length animated film and it was released in 1945.  As you can imagine, it's obviously a propaganda piece, and all copies were seized and destroyed after the war... except for one.  That one copy was discovered in 1983 and rereleased the following year.  Ever since I found about about the film, I've desperately wanted to see it, but the only digital version extant was a poor quality copy with sound so muffled that it was impossible to understand (and subtitle).  Until recently, that is.  A copy has popped up at BakaBT, and while it's still not subtitled, it's also not exactly difficult to understand what's going on, as it was meant for children.  It celebrates the paratrooper attack on Celebes at the beginning of the war, and surprisingly got some of the important details correct... I learned about the action from a book with the poetic title of Blossoming Silk Against The Rising Sun.  I just finished watching the movie, and some little bit of insight struck me afterwards.  You see, earlier this week, I watched Strike Witches: The Movie.  Let's take a comparing look at the two of them:

Pilots then:

Pilots now:

I suspect that somewhere, Mitsuyo Seo, the director of Divine Sea Warriors who passed away in 2010, is either smiling... or whirling dervishly in his grave.  One of the two.  It's not impossible that he had actually seen the Strike Witches tv show.  I'd love to know what he thought.

Planes then:

Planes now:

While what is obviously meant to be an A6M2 Zero is seen briefly in Divine Sea Warriors, the plane we see the most is the Mitsubishi G3M "Nell", the twin-engine predecessor to the better-known G4M "Betty".  Meanwhile, in the Strike Witches movie,  the Mitsubishi F1M "Pete" is rather overshadowed by the magical girls of the movie's title. 

Really, the Divine Sea Warriors film is something of a perfect storm for me.  True historical anime and military history both?  Excellent!  It's not deep... heck, it really isn't all that good... but it's a classic, nevertheless. 

They both do anthropomorphificiation, to boot.

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December 29, 2012

Pass Of Balmaha

In 1888, a 245 foot tri-masted windjammer was handed over to those who commissioned it, the Harby Steamship Company.  Built in Scotland, it was nevertheless an American vessel, weighing in at 1571 tons. Operated by a Boston-based cotton company as a freighter, this vessel was named the SS Pass of Balmaha.  She mostly sailed the Atlantic trade routes, her steel hull serving her well when the weather became violent.

A proud ship, and one that well-served its masters into the 20th Century.  It was something of a pleasant-looking anachronism as World War I began... a ship of sail in a world of Dreadnaughts and armored cruisers.  However, as the First Great Mistake got cranking, the United States was neutral and non-aligned, and King Cotton had to be moved, so the Pass of Balmaha kept at it... until June of 1915.

more...

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Nightmares And Sleeplessness

It's three-thirty in the morning and I can't go back to sleep.  I woke up about a half-hour ago, a nightmare still fresh in my mind... and it was a very discouraging nightmare it was indeed.

I was sitting at my desk in the back room of the Duck U Bookstore, doing something involving paperwork and computers.  This is also known as "80% of my job", by the way.  So there I was, and it was clearly before the store opened.  This makes sense, as that's the situation we've had this week with our noon-to-four holiday schedule, and I've been going in at 10am.  Anyway, I'm sitting at my desk, shuffling woodpulp and electrons, alone in the store... and someone says "hello?  Hello?"  I poke my head around the dividing wall, and...

...there's a guy standing there with his son.  He's clearly just dropped off a number of boxes, like he's FedEx or something, Of course, I'm wondering just what in the world he's doing in the store, since the lights are all off, the store is closed and won't be open for a couple of hours.  "Delivering those boxes, and the key is in the door."  Hearing this, I reach down for the carabiner keychain I always carry on my beltloop when I'm at the Duck U Bookstore, and...

...it's not there.  I look, and it's in the big sliding glass door, and I have no idea how long it's been there.  And that's when I woke up, terrified and sweating and swearing.  *shaking head*  I'm glad I've got the next four days off for the New Years holiday... work dreams are never a good sign.

But now I'm awake at three-fifty-one on a Saturday morning, and knowing myself, I won't be able to go back to sleep for a while.  This is the point where I lean back, give a deep sorrowful sigh, and do something like read a book or whatever, so I'm going to do that, I think.  Here's a Skyrim cow to keep you busy for a while.

There's something about this picture that makes me laugh... or, at this moment, give a small tired smile because it's 401am and it's too darn early for me to laugh out loud.  Yes, it's nearly bisected by a fence, but that's not the "something".  I think it's more the look on its face.  I'm talking about the look on a digital cow's face at four-twenty-seven in the morning.  I really need to be back in bed.  I'm gonna give that a shot.

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December 28, 2012

Name This Mystery Ship XXII

I found out about this particular vessel a little over two years ago, and have been keeping it under wraps for a time when I've needed a mystery ship.  Now is the time.  THIS:

...is the ship.  As is always the case, I've photoshooped out any obvious recognition marks, but otherwise left the picture alone.  The unofficial rules, as always, apply: no imagesearching or anything like that.  That's cheating and makes Wonderduck cry.  One guess per customer.  Don't be a jerk.  I am the Law.  CXT and FDM, you two are in the Master's Level so no guesses from you until I give the say-so.  The winner gets a post on a topic of their choosing from your humble owner/proprietor of The Pond, moi.  No politics, religion or pr0n, however... this here's a fambly blog.

Get to guessin'!

UPDATE: Brickmuppet has already guessed that the ship was the HMS Zubian.  Unfortunately, my response broke the formatting of my "edit comments" page, so when the latest wave of spam came through, I couldn't delete them.  So, instead, I deleted the original post, which corrected the problem.  Yay me.

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December 27, 2012

90 Years

There are ships from World War II whose names ring down through the ages for their great deeds.  Names like Enterprise,  names like Samuel B Roberts, names like Tang and Wahoo.  Then there are ships who have generated a legend for other reasons.  Ships like Yamato, or Bismarck, or the lamented Arizona.  But there are other ships, ships that are known only to historians and grognards.  Ships that left a lasting legacy that only the truly attentive would be aware of, ships like the one that was commissioned 90 years ago today.

If you've read The Pond for any length of time, you know that I'm a fan of the underdog, and much more interested in the "supporting cast" than the star actors.  Everybody knows about the big carriers, for example, but nobody pays any attention to the escort carriers.  The Mustang, Spitfire and Zero get the headlines, but the Vindicator is what I'll be happy to read about for hours.  Which is why this ship is one of my favorites.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the the first aircraft carrier designed and built from the ground up, the Hosho.

Commissioned December 27th, 1922 into the Imperial Japanese Navy, the Hosho was never to be a top-of-the-line fleet carrier, even when brand new.  She could only carry 15 planes in 1922, that number decreasing rapidly as aircraft size and weight increased.  Only 552 feet long from bow to stern, she was only slightly longer than an average American escort carrier built 20 years later.  She was also very lightly built, weighing in at under 9700 tons at full load.  For comparison, the USS , a light cruiser commissioned in 1938, weighed in at 10000 tons.

But her size was not to be her main value to the Imperial Japanese Navy.

more...

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December 26, 2012

Ducks In Anime: Some Perspective

As if there hasn't been enough duckplay on this site in the past few weeks...

-HidaSketch x Honeycomb Ep11

This weekend was the 12th and final episode of Season 4 of HidaSketch, and I've gotta say that this was easily the best of the bunch.  Indeed, the final minute or two nigh on made me weep, it hit all the right buttons for a good episode of the show.

In fact, looking back at it, it was the perfect way to say goodbye if there isn't a fifth season.  Fortunately, I can't imagine the franchise not getting one more run of episodes; we're too close to the obvious end, the graduation of Sae and Hiro.

Don't be confused, though: I'd be perfectly happy with more.  Actually, I'd really like a spin-off for Nori, the computer girl.  She's become, far and away, my favorite in the show.

Heh.

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December 25, 2012

The Twelfth Day Of Duckmas 2012


And so the sixth year of this fun thing I call the Twelve Days of Duckmas comes to an modest yet cute end.  It's always fun to do this, though the past couple of years have been more difficult due to the lack of snow.  Still, I hope it's been entertaining to you folks... and if you're looking for a more traditional version, head over to Quacked Panes, where friend GreyDuck has just completed his fourth year of "12 Days".  We've got a decade's worth of holiday duck pictures between us?  Who knew?

Well.  From my Flock to your family, we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas.  We hope it's a good one.

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December 24, 2012

The Eleventh Day Of Duckmas 2012


In an annual tradition, the reinducks watch the 1964 documentary, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, before the big flight. 

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December 23, 2012

The Tenth Day Of Duckmas 2012


The Burpee black-diamond slope is officially open!  Look at that starting drop!

I do need to admit to photoshoppery in this picture, beyond the usual cropping, resizing and saturation/contrast adjustments.  This was the very best picture of the series I took of Suzie Snowboarder and David Downhill, but it was just supposed to be a test shot to study the feasibility of the idea.  As a result, I didn't move the snowducks, the angelducks, and a box out of the background.  So I had to remove them digitally.  Not a bad job, actually...

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December 22, 2012

Saturday Night Tunage XVI: The Christmas Edition

Hello, everybody!  DJ Wonderduck has returned with a special holiday-themed edition of the world's famous SATURDAY NIGHT TUNAGE!

Okay, locally famous.  Locally known?  Not despised within the confines of this blog?  Whatever.  It's a whole post of the few Christmas tunes I can stand to hear after having to hear them over and Over and OVER at the Duck U Bookstore... and no schmaltz, either!  Let's get right into the musicing!

more...

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The Ninth Day Of Duckmas 2012


When you have snow, you also inevitably get snowducks!  While I so want to call them Moe, Larry and Curly, I can't... that's too easy.  So Tinker, Evers and Chance it is!

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December 21, 2012

The Eighth Day Of Duckmas 2012


Finally, the snow is back!  On Thursday, we had blizzard warnings and there were some forecasts saying up to nine inches of the white stuff... and it happened!  Well, to the northwest of us, that is.  Here in Duckford, the weather nabobs claim we got four inches, and perhaps we did... in that particular snow cylinder.  Out in the real world, however, we maybe got two inches, which is why you still see grass.  However, without the snow, there'd be no way to get the crisp shadows in today's entry for the Twelve Days of Duckmas.

Oh, and since we're all about traditions here at The Pond: "Eight wings!  Eight freakin' wings!"

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December 20, 2012

Christmas In F1-Land

I don't want you to think that I've gone completely 12 Ducks of Christmas around these parts!  Nope, these days the F1 world is, like many of the rest of us, getting ready for December 25th.  For example, here's Luca DiMontezemelo, Ferrari racing supremo, flanked by...

HWMNBN looks like a wino playing Santa, while Felipe Massa looks like he's reached his life's ambition.  Well good on him, I say.

Meanwhile, here's the card of that right jolly old elf Bernie Ecclestone.  Wow, what a funny funny guy, huh? 

I've looked high and low and other than Sauber "borrowing" Santa and putting him through some wind-tunnel testing, none of the other teams seem to be doing anything official... if I stumble across something, though, I'll let y'all know!  Red Bull is usually good for a giggle around this time of year...

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The Seventh Day Of Duckmas 2012


In my mind, this concept was a lot better than it ended up.  "Ducklings visit Santaduck," that's a winner, right?  Right. 

Oh well... maybe next year.

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December 19, 2012

The Sixth Day Of Duckmas 2012


Some pics I take to be artistic.  Some I take because of the inherent beauty of the scene.  Some I take because, c'mon, rubber ducks in snow.

Then there's today's picture, which I took simply because it made me laugh.

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December 18, 2012

The Fifth Day Of Duckmas 2012


So I did eventually make my way to the mall to take the annual "duck-at-Cvale" picture.  Monday, it was.  It was much less busy, and I was able to get a spot quite close to an entry.  A casual walk to the center court, a few pictures, and I was out in about a half-hour, tops.  Then I got back into my car.

And the back of my left knee exploded like someone had hit it with a RPG.  I had placed my foot against the firewall of the DuckMobile to adjust my seating position and pushed... and kaboom.  By the time I got home, I was barely able to make it up the nine steps from the parking lot to Pond Central, and I was honestly worried about being able to get to work today.  I slept quite poorly, since every time the knee moved, it hurt.

This morning, once it loosened up, it seemed to move a little bit better than it had been... I was actually able to put a sock on that foot by bending my knee.  Last night, I couldn't bend it enough to take the sock off, I had to use a spatula.  I still stopped at the drugstore and picked up a cane on my way to work.  Tonight?  The cane helped me make it up the stairs, but I probably could have made it without it.  Maybe I'm not as damaged as I thought!

Enjoy the duckie!

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December 17, 2012

Ben-To Ep04

So, hi!  I bet you thought there'd be another three-month break between writeups, didn't you?  Yeah, I bet you did.  To be fair, I can't blame you for that.     If you're already wondering just what's going on, and let's be blunt here, we are talking about one of my writeups, here's Ep03's writeup, just so you can refresh yourself on the subject matter.  Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the writeuping!  Are you not entertained?  Is this not why you are here?

Or are you here for the hungry prepackaged foodfighters beating each other up for mediocre meals?  We seem to have a new person on the battlefield today, someone intent on smashing everybody in the way of that lovely, lovely bento... bentos?  Bentii?  I'm two paragraphs into this post and I'm already confusing myself.

One with legs that appear to be six feet long, clad in Chuck Taylors... oh look, it's an American!  Probably blonde, too, right?

Yeah, no bonus points for that guess for a couple of reasons.  One, all Americans are blonde in anime, and two, I've seen the show already.  Of COURSE I know the details behind this new bento battler.  I'm pretending not to know what's going on so as to take you on a (simulated) voyage of discovery, so as to better connect with the reader.  It's a standard literary technique, and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm not half-bad at it.  Oh sure, one could accuse me of blowing my own horn, but I know what I'm good at, and I'm good at being ignorant.  Did that come out right?

As our mystery babe makes her way out of the supermarket, hard-won dinner in tow, a sharp-chinned bishie watches her walk away, muttering under his breath "The Beauty Of The Lake."  She doesn't seem moistened, nor is she lobbing scimitars at the rightful King of England...

Whatever you decide to call her, she's apparently important enough for the production staff to change the entire OP to suit.  Not that I'm complaining, heavens no!  It just seems somewhat early to have her take over the show is all.  Oh well, what would you expect from a show as tightly crafted as Ben-To?

more...

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The Fourth Day Of Duckmas 2012


There appears to be a lot of Christmas sugary goodness floating around the Twelve Days this year.  I assure you, there was much squee-ing and "soooooo cute"-ing at the gingerbread ducks during the day they were out on display...

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December 16, 2012

The Third Day Of Duckmas 2012

It's a first for the Duckmas photos today... an imposter appears!

click for full picture
Clearly SantaDuck is the real thing!

So here's the story behind this picture.  I set out on Saturday to head to the local shopping mall, thinking it'd be busy but not so awful.  I was wrong.  I drove two laps around the mall parking lots trying to find a spot that wasn't a mile away from the shops I needed to hit, and failed.  Then I realized "hey, stupid, we're ten days away from Christmas, why does this surprise you?"  Disgusted with myself, I stopped doing laps and headed towards the nearest grocery store... and its parking lot was clogged as well, overflow from the mall.  Now just disgusted, I pulled into a Walgreens for some bare minimums of supplies... just as the heavens opened up and rain gushed down.  Now disgusted and wet, I walked in and was greeted by ImposterSanta.  I did my shopping, ran back to the car, grabbed SantaDuck and took the picture.  ImposterSanta seemed amused and I was relieved... still disgusted, still wet, but at least I got a Duckmas photo out of the excursion.

They're saying we're to get some real snow on Thursday the 20th.  I can barely contain my excitement.

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