Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Ah! Nostalgia! Relieve those days of fine Squaresoft 8-bit RPGs that kept you indoors while the sun shone outside and your childhood passed you by! 8-Bit Theater

Or maybe not.

Anyone remember Secret of Mana?

Secret of Mana Theater

And why bother sitting through all 26 episodes of Anno Hideaki's animated opus, Neon Genesis Evangelion? Not when you have the Evangelion Thumbnail Theater.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

I saw The Hours. Pretty good. Not a great film though. Philip Glass's piano tinkling is omnipresent and gets irritating quickly (Heard the piano playing on the official movie site? That's basically it for the whole movie). Julianne Moore's and Nicole Kidman's bits were... lacking in the complexity found in Meryl Streep's section.

Still, the film raises the intriguing possibility of people getting stuck in other people's happiness. I suppose as an intellectual or literary device it makes sense -- not everyone has the same idea of happiness. Yet on a more personal level I find it difficult to believe that in a two person relationship, you either force-fit yourself into the other person's idea of happiness or you end up bitter, broken and having to choose between suicide and "life". Relationships aren't that static, are they? Don't people adapt their behaviours to each other to some extent? Takes both people to work for happiness, right? Or is that kind of "happiness" by compromise (for lack of a less suggestive term) a less-adequate happiness than if you found the "perfect" person?

Well... even within that framework couples still break up I guess. I suppose when one party feels that he/she will be happier elsewhere, what is the other party to say? What is she/he to do? I have no answers for that. All I know is that it sucks to be the one left behind, dealing with the fact that the happiness wasn't as -- well -- happy as once believed. The intellectual solution is of course, to analyse and correct. Letting go of someone however, isn't something you can reason out on your own even if you know it was something between the inevitable and the right thing to do.

I wonder how other couples do it? Break up and join up with someone else together so easily like some folk dance. Man, am I missing something here?

Came back and watched Krzysztof Kieslowski's Red, part of his famous Three Colours trilogy. A better movie, I think. I liked the way the movie generated its own self-enclosed logic, its own sense of destiny. The film also deals heavily with human communication, particularly by telephone. A disembodied voice that separates more than it links. But the movie is never ponderous. Slow-moving perhaps, but the plot development is delightful to those who stay awake.

Betcha didn't know what Gundam actually stands for:


No, I did not just make that up. But the folks at Sunrise probably did.

Friday, May 23, 2003

The New York Times
May 23, 2003
Senators Sharply Criticize Iraq Rebuilding Efforts

[W] ASHINGTON, May 22 � Democratic senators assailed the Bush administration's postwar reconstruction effort in Iraq today, peppering Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz with complaints about the planning and execution of the strategy. Even Republicans joined in, offering pointed criticisms of the administration's performance.

Lawmakers have been stewing for weeks over the administration's failure to consult in depth with Congress about the costs, methods and goals of rebuilding Iraq, and some of those frustrations boiled over at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The concerns from lawmakers underscored the challenges facing the administration not only in Iraq, but also in maintaining support in Congress, allied capitals and among the American public for the difficult and dangerous postwar mission.

"I am concerned that the administration's initial stabilization and reconstruction efforts have been inadequate," said Senator Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican who heads the committee. "The planning for peace was much less developed than the planning for war." Mr. Lugar said the physical and political reconstruction of Iraq could take at least five years.

In a particularly testy exchange, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the panel's senior Democrat, berated Mr. Wolfowitz for the administration's failure to acknowledge publicly that the postwar efforts would cost billions of dollars, require years of involvement and get the United States bogged down just as it is in the Balkans.

"When is the president going to tell the American people that we're likely to be in the country of Iraq for three, four, five, six, eight, 10 years, with thousands of forces and spending billions of dollars? Because it's not been told to them yet." Mr. Biden said. "I don't know about you, but home constituency doesn't understand that. They think Johnny and Jane are going to come marching home pretty soon."

Mr. Wolfowitz said the pace of reconstruction was hard to pre- dict. "It's possible that things will go faster," he said.

When he tried to discuss Iraq's resources for rebuilding the country � notably its enormous oil fields � Mr. Biden cut him off.

"What are the resources?" Mr. Biden demanded. "For us just to get to the point where we're talking about increasing to 1 million barrels per day export, there's going to be a need for a $5 billion investment in the oil fields to get to that point."

In his opening statement, Mr. Wolfowitz acknowledged that security, especially in Baghdad, was still a problem, but he said that media reports of looting, lawlessness and violence in the Iraqi capital overlooked improving conditions there and in other Iraqi cities.

He reaffirmed the administration's long-term commitment to rebuilding Iraq, and ticked off a list of initial successes, from the availability of electricity in Basra all day long for the first time in 12 years, to the reopening of primary schools throughout Iraq.

"We cannot afford to fail," Mr. Wolfowitz told the senators. "We cannot afford to allow Iraq to revert to the remnants of the Baathist regime that now ranges throughout Iraq in their desperate bid for influence and power."

But even as he sought understanding for the difficulties confronting a monumental rebuilding task that has been under way for only a month or so, Mr. Wolfowitz was greeted with skepticism from many senators.

Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, said in a statement that "we may have underestimated or mischaracterized the challenges of establishing security and rebuilding Iraq."

Democrats were far more punishing in their assessments.

"It is very hard to fathom what the administration's strategy is with respect to the immediate stabilization of the situation, let alone the longer-term reconstruction of Iraq," Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, said in a statement.

Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, accused the administration of squandering a well executed military campaign with "a half-baked plan for reconstruction."

"Answers from the administration about the scope of the job, and the likely requirements in terms of U.S. manpower, resources and time, remain vague at best," he said in a statement.

Mr. Wolfowitz acknowledged that the administration misjudged how quickly qualified Iraqi police officers could be trained and assigned to duty and that Pentagon officials erred by not having Jay Garner, the first civilian administrator, brief lawmakers more fully before leaving for the Persian Gulf in March. Otherwise, Mr. Wolfowitz gave a spirited defense of the Pentagon's planning for the war's aftermath.

He said he stood by his criticism of Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, who suggested in February that it could take "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" to stabilize Iraq. Mr. Wolfowitz said he interpreted that to mean 300,000 troops or more, and the Pentagon did not envision needing that many.

Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who joined Mr. Wolfowitz, said there were 145,000 American troops in Iraq with 18,000 more from the Army's First Armored Division on the way. Beyond that, General Pace said, there are no plans to increase American force levels. There are also about 20,000 British troops in Iraq.

Mr. Wolfowitz also defended a decision by L. Paul Bremer III, the new civilian administrator, to delay the selection of an interim civilian Iraqi authority until security improved and American officials took more time to vet Iraqi representatives.

"If the situation in Iraq is somewhat messy now," he said, "it's likely to seem even messier as Iraqis sort out their political process."

Thursday, May 22, 2003

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

But I knew that already -- I'm at the place where fun comes to die right?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Returned from Anime Central on Sunday evening. I'd love to write a report of what happened, but I have a 10 pg Korean Civ paper due later this Tues morning. On page 5 right now, and struggling to write something that isn't plaglarism...

Bought stuff. Didn't get to do all the things I wanted due to lack of sleep and skit preparations (related -- was out helping make props until 5am Friday morning, on top of mad BA paper writing in the week preceding the convention). We were runner-up for Best Group Skit. Oh well. I suspect our winning awards two years in a row might have tipped the scales against us. In any case lots of people came up to us after the Masquerade and told us how cool our skit was. Our Kikkoman was immensely popular. Of course, no one cared about my crappy Amon.

Well, with the end of ACen my duties as President of the Anime Club have mostly been discharged. I don't quite feel so much fulfilled as... relieved... I'm glad things went ok. Can sleep in peace now -- once I finish that damn Civ paper.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

One of the things that amazes me about the U.S. is how often pro-industry legislation (more often than not at the expense of the common person) is justified using xenophobia and patriotism. Take for instance, then Commissioner for Patents and Trademarks Bruce Lehman's statement at a 1997 hearing regarding H.R. 2281 a.k.a. the WIPO Copyright Treaties Implementation Act.

"To the extent that we wait in implementing the [1996 World Intellectual Property Organisation] treaties; to the extent that we fall behind other countries in implementing them, we will be abrogating that leadership role that appropriately belongs to us. And so I encourage you to move expeditiously on these matters; they are very important to our national economy [...] We have to keep in mind that in other countries people will be looking to us for a signal. Many developing countries around the world -- and we do not want to give them a loophole to be able to steal our intellectual property."

H.R. 2281 is, of course, better known by the title that the Senate gave it: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

South Korean industrialization was far more difficult and problematic, from both an economic and political standpoint, than those who celebrate it are willing to admit. More specifically, in addition to rapid growth, [Park Chung Hee's] economic strategy also produced an unbalanced and unstable economy. Moreover, because of the oppressive nature of the growth process, Park's strategy generated its own political opposition. Growth itself thus created the need for ever greater state repression.

--- Martin Hart-Landsberg, The Rush To Development: Economic Change and Political Struggle in South Korea (USA: Monthly Review Press, 1993), 164

Sunday, May 11, 2003

My BA just hit 30 pgs.


Saturday, May 10, 2003

Lots of paper writing to do. 5-7 pager for Monday. Korean Civ 10 pager *and* BA both due Friday.

I'm so screwed.

To entertain you while I'm gone -- Shibuya-kei!

"Shibuya-kei is the world seen from Tokyo." (Don't let the Italian throw you off)

"Whereas Britpop was a movement based on the premise that bands signed in Camden had relevance worldwide, and was marketed by an export drive marked by copious use of the union jack, Shibuya-kei (taking place in the same time period in Japan) was all about import. The young Keigo Oyamada of Cornelius, the young Kenji Takimi of Crue-L Records, were CD and vinyl junkies. With no weekly music press exerting the straightjacket pressure of peer group conformity, Keigo and Kenji simply bought whatever records they could afford, disregarding category, period, country of origin and critical endorsement. They bought records with cool sleeves, in languages they couldn't understand." -- Momus

Talk about a testament to modern Japanese consumerism. The rest of the article is here.

Once you've read that, you'd know that an important part of Shibuya-kei is the album design.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Ah... ScavHunt is here once more. I have to admit that I'm not too fired up about this year's ScavHunt. Looked at the list -- nothing really interests me unlike last year's "Manga of Job". As usual, no anime/manga items, except for one "Virgin hentai, virgin mai tai" which has as much to do with anime as ice-cream has to do with the crude oil from which the bowl in which the ice cream is served in was made. Eh, previous years' lists were better constructed. Well, not that I understood the items in previous years' lists any better, but this year's one seems particularly arcane and inaccessible to me.

Anyway, after last year's ScavHunt experience... well... that was my first time and I guess it's not my kind of thing. I'm not that masochistic. Besides, I need to graduate this time round.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

12 year-old boy gets full scholarship to the University of Chicago Medical School

Wow - Prodigy with a capital P!

It's easy to accuse his parents of milking him for fame, or to say that he's gonna miss out on his childhood and what not. Bah -- childhood is overrated and over-romanticised, usually abused for comparison with some cynical idea of the present. In any case, although I think his folks are strict with him and his sister it looks like the decisions to go through college and med school at such a young age were voluntarily made by the kid. As long as he wants to, why not?

Monday, May 05, 2003

There was no point in telling him when the Gembun Period was, or in citing the Mirror of the East or the Tale of the Heike on the life of Lady Shizuka. The master of the house believed it all implicitly. And the lady that he imagined was not necessarily the same Shizuka who danced before Yoritomo at the Tsurugaoka Shrine. For him she was a noblewoman who symbolized the days of his distant ancestors, the cherished past. The phantom aristocrat called "Lady Shizuka" was the focus of his reverence and devotion for "ancestors," "lord," and "antiquity." There was no need to question whether the noble lady had actually sought lodging in this house and lived here in loneliness. It was best to leave him with the beliefs that were so important to him.

-- Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, Arrowroot

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Went to see X2 . The second X-Men movie is fantastic! Good plot, cool lines and very cool special effects and action scenes. Highly recommended :)

Fed the corporate machine that is Virgin Megastore yesterday evening before the movie was due to start, with purchases of a Pizzicato Five and a Fantastic Plastic Machine CD. I thought I could splurge a little on music that I like. I know all the songs are probably available through Kazaa and the like, but 1) I only have a 4GB hard drive (stop sniggering -- my laptop's old) with no CD burner (and no girlfriend to burn CDs for me anymore) and 2) there's just something about cracking a new CD album open, admiring the shiny piece o' circular plastic within, poring over the liner notes... I just wish the experience didn't tend to be so costly :p

If I could find all the music I want online and burn it and (most importantly) not get caught, I'd do it. But if CDs actually were more reasonably (i.e. realistically) priced like say, $8 or $9 an album I'd much rather buy those. That's something the music industry doesn't get, I'm afraid.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Story of My Life

Annual Allocations for my student organisations --> behind schedule. BAD.
Skit preparations for Anime Central --> just there. Maybe.
Public Policy BA --> waaaaaaay behind schedule
Reading for Korean Civ --> waaaay behind schedule.
10 pg paper due 7th week for Korean Civ --> behind schedule
Reading for Modern Jpnse Lit --> just there
Final paper for Modern Jpnse Lit --> behind schedule
Japanese --> just there
Love life --> non-existent
Any kind of life --> non-existent
Sleep --> barely functioning


Thursday, May 01, 2003

Steven Levitt, great Prof here at the UofC, has won the John Bates Clark Medal.

I had the good fortune to take his Economics of Crime class in spring quarter, 2nd year. I kind of wish I'd kept more in touch with him after the class. Then again, I can't say that studying crime really appealed to me then. Still doesn't.

I enjoyed the class though, and Levitt's got a rather unconventional Econs CV. I really admire his ability to apply economic reasoning to social problems. His ability to find naturally occurring variations in social data that can be used to provide insights into social problems, is nothing short of uncanny...

Caffeine overload!


I feel my mind run all over the place. It is a good feeling.