Category Archives: Off Topic

Thought-Dump Japan 2014 Part 1

So what kills blogging is not twitter, it’s a grueling schedule of a) line up early for goods/events/etc b) events c) post-event hangout d) post-even hangout pt 2. e) oh hey it’s 4am. f) repeat.

But I’ll take this time to write up some stuff. I hope to go to bed soon so should be short. Right.

Bunny berry pink penlight

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Space Heaters

Mamachari aside, from Ask John:

For example, contemporary Japan places a fairly heavy emphasis on consciousness of the greenhouse effect, leading Japanese homes to exclude central heating and Japanese residents to hesitate running their “aircon” air conditioning systems for fear of depleting the ozone layer.

Really?

et

Since 3/11, isn’t the point of cutting back on AC to save electricity, since there’s a shortage? And the central heating thing… I’ll cut him some slack because he lives in Florida, so he probably hasn’t had to pay the heating bills for a New England winter, for a house over 90 years old…

What I do want to know and discuss is the nature of conservation in the Asian consciousness in light of the question being posed: why do Japanese homes use space heating rather than centralized heating? Well for one, my hypo is just common sense: it’s a matter of cost and economic development in terms of construction of private properties. Old houses don’t have central heating (or cooling) by default, so there needs to be some incentive for people to add them. in the US, old houses have central heating/cooling often because it’s the law, and also because nobody would buy such a house without central heating and cooling. Central HVAC is considered a standard feature in single family homes today, and even in most apartment housing. It’s less so for single-room apartments and dorm rooms, since it also makes sense to just use room-size heating and cooling solutions in those cases. Of course, in general, good, up-to-date HVAC solutions will save energy AND money in the long term than relying on portable space heating and cooling. But this is balanced by the nature of space usage in that heating and cooling compartmentally saves energy because you are only warming up or cooling down the room of the house you are in, and for most people (especially nuclear families with few/no kids, and singles) they tend to stay in the same room the whole time they are home, like 95+% of the time in the same room. You might get up to go to another room many times, but in terms of time spent it’s pretty extreme. Of course this is not even true in some cases, such as rooms with high ceilings or very efficiently designed HVAC systems, but usually that’s the case.

So here’s the funny thing, space heating is probably a lot more efficient, from an energy use point of view, in places like rural Japan or suburban America, because space is plentiful and houses are bigger, with more rooms. In urban Japan it makes less sense because your 4.5 tatami dorm is pithy small to begin with, it’s not a whole lot more power to heat up 4 or 5 of them versus what you can save in terms of energy efficiency by using a larger scale HVAC system. If you live in a flat or something, space heating gives you the option of controlling the local temperature to what you like, but it’s overall less efficient. Unless, I guess, an apartment building don’t have full occupancy and then space heating will save, under some breaking point of occupancy.

I suppose this could also be a matter of practice and customs. Like, paying your rent, managing your power and gas bills, and not paying for a management fee that goes into HVAC costs. So here’s another theory.

Anyone actually knows how it is and why it is? I’m thinking new houses in Japan have HVAC as well, simply because today’s technology in heating/cooling is so much better than off-the-shelf solutions that a central system just make more sense. I guess there are single-room solutions that are also very efficient (and probably largely sold only in Japan/East Asia). And it isn’t even a gas/oil/power issue, since most East Asian housing have some kind of gas delivery system baked in, unless we’re talking about rural areas where people still get canisters delivered to them.

Of course, western-style and modern housing built today probably has HVAC built in, even in Japan. There’s also the philosophy about warmth as something regulated via the individual rather than heating a space. But I don’t know what is more likely true than not. Green…I don’t think that one is particularly right.


Re: Con Consumerism

Jäger Madarame

It’s weird! Because when I see people talk about posts like this, I feel like, “what’s this? Are we back in 2007?” Still, salient points are salient.  It’s noteworthy, actually, because, well, I might be OCD when it comes to things like this. Let me quote–

  • Find out who runs your event – and if they are a non-profit. Are the organizers of your con making money, or are they a non-profit that is required to put all that money back into the event itself? Hint: Anime Expo, San Diego Comic Con, and many local cons are non-profit. New York Comic Con and Wizard World? Hell no. In the past most con attendees knew this stuff; it frightens the shit out of me how few people know it today.

  • Read up on the history of the event. Sure, so-and-so author/guest of honor/star you worship may be going to a con in your city, but if that same con is doing stuff you don’t approve of (or their leader is a wannabe CEO type with a shady police history), don’t go. While you’re at it, let that author/guest of honor/star know your concerns via e-mail or twitter.

  • Go outside your comfort zone. So many people don’t compare conventions or even evaluate the other events they could be attending because they are obsessed with going to the biggest event possible. This is ludicrous. There are hundreds of Comic, Sci-fi, Gaming and Anime cons out there and each of them are very, very different, so shop around! Trust me, the smaller, local shows are an absolute blast – and some of them have free food!

Here’s the thing: None of this really matters. In fact, the blog post’s admits basically as much. Let’s say if all I care about is some guests that only show up at SDCC/NYCC, do I really have a choice? Not really. Sure, some guests show up at SDCC/NYCC shows up at other cos, but some don’t; and more often than not the fan’s engagement is probably not hardcore enough to drive to another con, even if close enough to travel by car, just to get that one guest. If all I care about is cosplay gatherings for a [insert favorite franchise here], do I have a choice? Generally not unless your favorite thing has gone meme like Homestuck or Kyoujin (and even so your gathering will likely be way smaller). If I don’t want to travel outside of daytrip distance, do I have a choice? While more so now than before, but it’s quite limited for most people still. I kind of want to address some sour grape-type ranting about these sort of things in terms of effort versus what you get out of it. At huge cons, the problem is multi-fold because you get critical mass of hardcore campers who would rationalize the irrational to get whatever that they want, and it drives up the opportunity cost of any activity (usually in the form of wait time in line), and it causes chain effects for cons trying to manage these messes that popularity creates. And because huge cons are like shining beacons (eg., cons that can spend real money to market themselves; big enough to gain word-of-mouth marketing powers, etc) that attract newbie consumers who don’t min-max their time at cons (mostly because they don’t even know they should approach those cons this way), it makes things worse for everyone.

The second OCD point I want to bring out is that there really isn’t an alternative. This is also why it doesn’t really matter. The situation is not approachable from the “My way or the Highway” style of consumption, which is weird, because that’s the default mode of dealing with unhappy purchases as consumers. You write a nasty review, you ask for a refund, you ask to talk to a manager, whatever. None of these things typically work for cons–and when they do, it’s because they are a genuine awesome con, which is rarely your average megacon. What does work is running one yourself. Compete. Provide the solution you wish you had. And obviously you can see that is not a trivial undertaking. Even just joining the megacon that you are “forced” to attend so you can improve the con from within is a very long shot, either as staff or as a local loudmouth.

The other way to approach this is, well, take the Highway to get your way. Create an alternative by overcoming your personal limitations. Of course, things are still complicated even if you are okay with not going to a con, or willing to spend more money to fly to a better one. It’s okay to prop smaller, better-run cons that serve your needs. This is the “Animazement” effect personally, since attending that con hits various personal sweet spots, despite the rather long ride to get there. But those are just my sweet spots, not yours or anyone else’s, and I’m the kind of guy who spends a good chunk of his disposable income this way, having attended cons since the 90s–not your average consumer. In the spirit of this, let me provide with some, I think, alternatives. Not quite alternatives to the bullets I quoted, but they’re probably more helpful. Maybe these alternatives aren’t available for you, but they could be for someone else you know.

Find out about the nature and tendencies of your event organizers. Here’s a detour: you might know both AX and Otakon are “non-profits” but do you know the MPAA and the NFL are also “non-profits”? Because they are trade organizations, or 501(c)6s. AX is run by the SPJA, which is also a 501(c)6. This means when you donate money and items to the SPJA, it can’t be a tax write-off. On the other hand, Otakon is run by Otacorp, and they’re a 501(c)3 educational organization, and money donated to them are tax deductible. So, like, what is the point of this? Who cares if Reed Expo (which is a subsidiary of Reed Elsevier, a FTSE100 company (a London Exchange index)) is a part of a corporation? Honestly? It doesn’t really matter. This is why it’s a detour. Heck, NYCC would not be possible if not for the throngs of volunteers every year. It’s not like everyone gets paid (money) anyway. The point here is about the culture of the organization. Otakon and AX cannot be more different in some ways, because of the culture and the transparency and the pay structure and countless other things that are inherent in the history and the leadership of those organizations. The visions of these cons vary, and it matters. There are positive and negative aspects to all these organizations, and different tendencies about these cons that sophisticated convention “consumers” are ought to know. Just because one con hires a couple full-time staffers and another doesn’t may not mean anything at all. I mean, just look at AX con drama for an example. And for-profit cons have their own benefits, such as leveraging more experienced staff and better consistency over time as a result of staff retention. It really comes down to the details and the competency and experience of the leadership of those organizations.

And yes, this means read up on the history. But that alone is probably not enough–look for trends. Farm their official forums (if available). Use Google to your advantage. There are sites that track cons. Talk to people who went to those cons in the past. One thing I realize is that a lot of small cons are poorly documented, especially if they don’t have much besides the dealer’s hall. I don’t know how you would approach those cons in that case, because I don’t really do those types of cons. For anime cons, guests are generally a major indicator–oversea or not, diversity, point and purpose of guest selection all play a role in indicating if the con organizers are competent or not. It’s complicated but basically the higher profile, the more expensive, and the more rare the guests are, the harder it is to handle them and to bring them over, and more likely that the cons have some actual competent people behind it. Cosplay photography in some ways are another point of documentation, something anime cons are full of compared to the rest. I think it’s okay to stay in your comfort zone, and go to just the big cons. It doesn’t matter that much.

What matters is the ability to make an informed decision. Informed decisions require a good grasp of what you are paying for and what you get out of it. What you can get out of a con depends on what stuff you know you want out of a con. But stuff you are missing out on aren’t going to come and grab you by themselves. The goal is to get beyond the “you don’t know what you don’t know” stage of things, which I feel describes how a lot of people engage these large cons. For those of us who are getting beyond that level of engagement, then that’s the next thing–just hit up a lot of cons that have good reps, and do stuff at cons that are probably up your alley. Compare and contrast. Go to both big and small cons. A lot of people don’t go to small cons because they don’t know the difference between a good small con and a bad small con, or any small cons at all. And you can perfectly go only to the biggest cons–go to the same cons and do different things, hang out with different people at different times, and discover that mega con from a different point of view. Don’t spend all your time in line, or if you don’t line up for things, try it once. Mega cons are multifaceted things and are complicated to run, and unless you know about these components of a con, you wouldn’t even know if a con is any good even if you attended it. Maybe you’ll find something you didn’t even know you like, who knows? I think it’s perfectly rational and probably a good thing to think about spending time, effort and money going to cons and balance that with what you get out of it. I don’t know if you can call that consumerism, however. Certainly most con attendees are a far, far cry from being a good consumer in this regard, but more importantly I think they don’t care to be because they’re happy where they are. I don’t know, it’s a weird thing where you either take it not very seriously, or really seriously. There’s not much of a middle ground.


Hentai Kamen

hentaikuroko

Instead of watching giant robots beating up on kaijuu or EVO streams I went to a screening of Hentai Kamen the live action movie. Let’s get it out of the way. The manga is about the story of a superhero who transforms into the namesake crusader when a pair of used panties are put on his face. In fact the entire series basically operates on the principle of perverted energy drives some kind of physical power. All the bad guys are somewhat … abnormal, to put it lightly, but the hero is worse than them.

There’s a lot of man flesh in this movie. Lots. But at the same time I think the style of perversion is dominated by the male state of mind, so it’s only fair I guess. The original work was serialized in the early 90s, after all. I have to say a big reason why I went to see it because I heard Quarkboy offhandedly recommended HK because he subbed the film, at least for the festival runs. And it was a good time.

At the Japan Society x NYAFF 2013 screening one of the staffer got on stage to introduce the film…and stripped down into Hentai Kamen cosplay. Well, he has balls, let’s just say.


Anime & Blog & Me

Not so much introspective as yet another yard sale-style meandering of what’s on my mind. You’ve been warned?

Garden of Akizuki Ritsuko

1. Journalism. I’ve been writing for Jtor for a while now. I always kind of regret the amount of output I hand out over there. I feel that there are a lot of things I can write about if I can square off chunks of time and focus on writing it in a way that fits that particular media outlet. Over time I feel that this is not a productive way of looking at things. I think it is true that the average editorial that I post here on this blog will require a lot of reworking. I look at blog posts like this one more like a set of stairs or more like, better put, a car lift or a jack, where I put some ramp under the “narrative” and work hard and push it up so it gets to where my idea actually resides, in a way that forms a bridge of understanding for some unfortunate person reading said unfortunate blog post.

So it’s not a surprise to me to see someone reddit my Sasami blog post because the bridge itself is what I want to express in that particular effort. I wanted to explain the things that explain what the hell was going on. But this is rarely the case. Which is why nobody reads this blog, relatively.

And I think in a lot of ways, this is really where we’re stuck at, since 2008. I joined Jtor because it’s one of the few real “blog” style sites that can make a difference in terms of what I see is out there, what people wanted, and what I wanted. Stuff that goes in between Sankaku Complex and ANN, basically. It’s got people who get what I mean when I talk about blogging. It’s got some readers. It’s got some actual cred, most importantly.

Since then CR News has been probably the closest thing to what I’m looking for. Unfortunately they are basically stuck gleaming off the same 2ch matome pipe that ANN runs off of. It’s too Gawker, not enough bloggery-ness, for my taste. Their coverage is pretty decent although I can nitpick a lot in terms of their editorial qualities. Well, nobody is perfect.

The reality of the situation is highly complicated by the revenue picture. I think an important thing to realize is that to produce quality news-editorial content in a reasonable quantity, at least at the levels I’m talking about, you basically have to full-time hire someone. Probably a few people at least. And we’re talking beyond just administering the platform. Nobody really has this much money. And this is kind of a fundamental problem in the anime space. We’re too hooked on the usual social networks (namely things like forums and 4chan and 2ch and twitter etc) to really let these pro journalism sites grow. At least, the market opp is pretty difficult to outline.

This is partly what I’m talking about at least. It’s like when you write a post, you might expect that a good chunk of your readers are not cold dialing your URLs, but rather they’re referred from established communities and familiar with existing discourses that are subscribed by those communities. That’s the “road” or “surface” level where the jack has to be to establish that sense of engagement.

In some sense I feel this is why ANN is as successful as they are today–they can give that less damn. Their forum is a pretty good example as to why it might be a good idea to keep it that way. To keep writing news like news.

The flip side, of course, is that if you want people to have better experiences, better engagement with your content, you gotta do more. Rely on fansubs to review new content. Talk about japanese fan meta crap. Stir up controversy. What have you. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Which is why I call it a jack or a car lift, not an escalator. Because that’s where the hard work is.

You get all that? I’m assuming that is what the word journalism really means. Well, maybe it’s beyond just journalism. More like, how to write about something in a way that engages the reader with the subject matter?

Speaking as a reader, on the other hand, I think a lot of the community are simply way too quick to judge and not open-minded enough to welcome new people. Often we don’t see the long-term value of sites like Sankaku Complex (or Seventh Style, which I just like more by far, for different reasons) or ANN’s forum. And I can go on. There are not enough people who engage these venues with a mind towards improvement and how we as individuals can make these places better. If 4chan can change, anything else can. And I’m not even saying we should aim that high. All I’m saying is that we have to be responsible for our own mess and do something about what you don’t like within the community.

I wonder if anyone can change Colony Drop.

2. Blogging. I think when people talk about blogging they’re talking about the platform. Nobody really seriously think of twitter as “microblogging” (and if you do…please get a life). When people say blogging I think “how the hell can I save allllll my data from Google Reader by Monday” and not, say, Gawker or Facebook or most actual blogs. Well, maybe I think of anime blogs in the way that we have had anime blog tournaments, but that gets down to introspective and existential semantics. The wordpress.com things out there. Blogger. What have you.

I think we, as a people on the internet, have long gone past the point where we’re still hung up on bloggers being something or someone doing what. The average RC post acts both as a thread in a giant interweb forum and as a blog post to remind me what happened in episode 10 of Valvrave without loading up the video. That’s great. Just like the set of numbers in Psgel’s episodic posts that tells you basically all you need to know about what he tries to say every week. Or what image walls that typify your average Metanorn or Kurogane dump, and the comments underneath. It’s all good. They have their audiences and uses.

But is there someone, like, looking at all of this and think to themselves what’s wrong with this picture? How can it be better?

What I see is a bunch of ships in the night. I think there are some great stuff out there, but there’s no good way to connect the people who like A from A and B from B. With Goog Reader dying that’s just another tool to do so going away. Yeah, I’m going to whine a lot about this, because what I used it for, nobody has done a better job reproducing it.

Over the years I found things like the Tournament and twitter being the most useful things to discover blogs. Animenano, surprisingly, is a close second. But I also read that feed and click on things that seems interesting, as a way to discover new writers and their baggage. It makes me wonder how people go about doing the same, their own way. Would be nice to know!