Friday, February 25, 2005

Book

Finished an Agatha Christie book that I hadn't read before, Destination Unknown. It wasn't too bad. It was a bit more of a "thriller" than a straight mystery like most of her other books. The romance was a bit weak, but it was never her strong suit. The whole thing has a bit of a conspiracy theory feel to it as well. Not a bad book, but not her strongest work either. Not a Poirot novel; it had one-off characters as far as I'm aware.

Ventoux

That's probably almost as good a code word as "Eulalie". If you know what Ventoux is, and what the associations are, you are probably also a fan of professional cycling. If not, you probably can't figure out what the attraction is in watching a large crowd of cyclists ride through Europe for several hours at a whack. I think a large part of the attraction for me is simply marveling at the physical endurance these people have. If I tried something like this I'd die in the first hour. If I lasted that long.

Why bring this up now? Because David Millar might be back for the '06 Tour de France.

A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy

Step right up! Food Prep Step One: Wash Food and other masterpieces of digital picture manipulation to be found here. I am quite the fan of these concoctions. Toshistation. It's on the list o' links. Visit.

I like to help the kids.

I'm off to help out with my church's youth group Wednesday morning. I'm writing this pre-event, but will probably end up posting this post-event. I'll have a brief update on how it went if it warrants. It's the sorta thing to put together some care packages for college students and soldiers who, when home, attend our church. Also supposed to be some games, movies, and general fun times. After working all night, I should be well and truly buzzed on caffeine and sugar most of the time, so I anticipate a grand time to be had by all.

Post Event:

It wasn't too bad. Put together a good 20 or so packages for various and sundry folks. Played a good bit of Halo 2. It's not that great and not much of an improvement over the original Halo as far as I can see. Had hoped to take some of the teens to school at Trivial Pursuit, but it wasn't to be.

Presidential Hangman

Sounds bad, yeah? It's actually just the game Hangman using only president's names. I did a little over half of them. They got a lot easier once I realised that just about every US President has at least one A or O somewhere in their name. Often both. And once you've got those, the rest isn't too hard.

Found it linked in the Corner. Where in there? Eh. Does it matter?

Puzzle

Try this. The solution is simple, but it still might take you a while. It took me probably 45 minutes or so. And I don't think it's quite accurate to say that the smarter one is, the longer it will take you. Probably, the better educated you are, the longer it will take you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I believe in the Infield Fly Rule.

Watched the 6th installment of Baseball. It was pretty good, it had some interesting stuff about how World War II affected baseball, some neat footage of a one-armed man who played in the majors during the war when most all the able-bodied men got drafted into the military. But a huge amount of time was spent on Jackie Robinson becoming the first black player to play in Major League Baseball. Sure it was a momentous event. Sure it was very important. But it was just one event out of a decade, and yet nearly half the DVD was spent talking about it. By contrast, Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak and Ted Williams being the last player to bat .400 or better got short-changed. I don't even remember a mention that 1945 was the last year the Cubs have been in the Word Series, making theirs the longest active drought. Really, to do the history of baseball justice would require spending more time on each decade. There's just so much to cover.

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock

I have a general inquiry to make of any and all who read this post. Do you know of any good renditions of The Mikado that are available either on DVD or CD? I have a particularly favoured one that is a DVD of a Stratford Festival production. I have found that I am associating the various parts quite strongly with the individual actors and would like to have another good version or two so that I can experience the operetta with the slightly different emphases and deliveries that come from different performers. Leave a note in the comments if you have any suggestions. Thanks.

Khan, I'm laughing at the superior intellect.

I've managed to beat Fritz a couple times now, but only with such a large handicap that I am too embarrassed to reveal what it is. But I think (and I hope this isn't merely a wishful self-delusion) that the practice is honing my skills, however slowly.

A Couple Books

I got a book of short fantasy stories from the library, Legends II, just to read a story by Tad Williams that was set in what is probably my second favourite fantasy series, Otherland. It wasn't a bad story, but I really think that when an author completes a good story, it is a mistake 9 times out of 10 for him to go back and try to write sequels. Or perhaps, it is simply a mistake for me to read them. The characters are not the same (I know, I shouldn't expect them to be), new characters have to be added, etc. And my enjoyment is never what it was from the original. Or nearly never. I can't think of any sequels written at a remove that I liked as well as the original, but why lock oneself out from the possibility?

By sequels written at a remove, I mean ones that are meant to continue from where the original book or series ended. Moreover, to continue with a story that was not originally conceived as part of the story arc intended for the characters. I almost always am left with a "tacked-on" feeling. I may enjoy the second story, but I find that it generally diminishes my enjoyment of the first, retroactively, if that makes any sense.

Finally finished Donald Kagan's The Peloponnesian War. It was a very interesting book, it was a book I enjoyed reading, but it was one that I had difficulty concentrating on for extended periods of time for some reason. Anyway, I have finished and I am now much more knowledgeable about that point in history than I was before. Before this, I was even ignorant as to who had won the war; yes, it's true. Now that I've finished, I have a much greater understanding of who certain people were whose names I had heard before (Lysander, Pleistoanax, Pericles, Demosthenes, etc), more familiar with Greek geography and politics, and generally have a better understanding of classical antiquity. I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about this war. Kagan knows what he is talking about and writes quite lucidly. He's actually also written a larger four-volume history of this war, so he's a true scholar of this period.

Movies

Watched another set of Cowboy Bebop episodes, the fourth. A couple were ones that introduced more background for a couple of the characters. Which, when done well, is always a good thing in a series that begins by dropping you into the middle of the action. On the other hand, again I felt that several of the episodes were rushed, that the writers were trying to fit in more story and action than they really had time for. Still, as the characters fill out through back-story and the action on screen, the series becomes better as it becomes fuller. Two more discs and 8 more episodes left. I'm interested to see how this series gets wrapped up. Will it be "second star on the left and straight on 'til morning", will it be "happily ever after", or will it be "and thus they died"?
Also watched the fourth and fifth installments of the Baseball series. The fourth was the decade of the 20's and the fifth the 30's. The 20's were the hey-day of Babe Ruth and the Murderer's Row Yankees. Also of note was that my favourite player, Walter Johnson, won his only World Series. His team, the Washington Senators, only managed one World Series ever and Johnson was instrumental in victory.

The 30's saw the retirement of Ruth, the start of Bob Feller, DiMaggio and the saddest moment in baseball, the retirement of Lou Gehrig. I am not ashamed to say that every time I see and hear Gehrig say, "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth", tears well up in my eyes. It is always sad to see someone cut down in their prime, but especially so a good man. And moreover, by having his body waste away, since he made so many happy through his amazing physical endeavours.

My biggest complaint with these Baseball DVDs is only that they spend merely two hours per decade. I would happily watch twice as many. Perhaps not in one sitting, granted, but still.

Over the weekend I started Raiders of the Lost Ark just to watch again the opening scene where Indiana Jones steals the idol. I got caught up in it and ended up watching the whole thing. I had forgotten how gory the ending was. Good stuff, though. Better than Temple of Doom, though not quite on a par with Final Crusade. I am dubious about the rumoured 4th Indiana Jones movie since Harrison Ford is what, 80 now? Okay, maybe he isn't a poster-boy for Geritol just yet, but he could probably do some arthritis ads.

I and my wife watched The Gods Must Be Crazy for the first time in years the other night. Much that I laughed at as a child was not so funny, and other parts still put me in stitches. An interesting and endearing film, even if it does lay on the "utopian Bushmen" ideal a little thick.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Short Absence

Just to warn everyone, I haven't died, dropped off the face of the earth or given up my blog again with no warning. I simply haven't had the time to write up the things I want to post. I'm going to write up a bunch of posts this weekend and try and get them up on the site Tuesday. To my (small) band of readers, hang in there. For those who don't really care... well, same to you. With knobs on.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Blind Swordsman

Watched the first Zatoichi movie in the Zatoichi series the other day. I've seen a couple of them before, so I kinda knew what to expect, but this one was a bit different. I think it mostly was because it was the first one. There was a lot more exposition on who Zatoichi was, why he learned to fight with a sword even though he's blind, etc. The other movies I've watched, rather later in the series, take a lot of this for granted, for obvious reasons. The movie wasn't bad, on the whole. Some bits seemed a bit contrived, and the love interest, while moderately believable, seemed tacked on to a degree as well. Interestingly, the real villainous characters were mostly those on Zatoichi's "side" in the gang war that made up the primary plot of the film. I can certainly see why this movie ended up getting sequels, and, if the next few are as good or better, then I'll be able to better understand how there ended up being 26 movies and a 100+ episode TV series. I mean, the movies I've seen are good, but that many, that good?

Don't Click That Link!

It seems that a Tulsa, Oklahoma newspaper has decided that they want a local blogger to stop excerpting and linking to their articles. (I found out about this at several removes.) After following the story back to the original blog, the aspect that most intrigues me is discussed on a different blog. Here's the crux of the matter:
[the blogger in question] has received a letter from the Tulsa World newspaper demanding that he cease and desist from quoting "in whole or in part" or even linking to material from its website and that he immediately remove any material from his archives that contain same.
I can certainly see how the paper might have a case over the excerpting of articles. After all, the amount that can legally be excerpted before infringement takes place is, so far as I know, rather subjective. But I simply cannot fathom how a link to the newspaper's website could be considered copyright infringement in any way. It involves no copying and merely sends the user/reader to the original source. That's it.

While I'm not one to rant about "the power of the blogosphere" or how the tired, old mainstream media is going to implode in the face of the awesome power of blogs, it seems that this paper is really stretching and essentially admitting that they are unable to deal with this blogger through simple competition. If he's that much of a nuisance and problem, then they need to change the way they operate.

Steroids and the Hall

Now that Jose Canseco is naming names and pointing fingers, it's time to wonder about whether or not these allegations affect the chances for people like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds to make it to the Hall of Fame.

Personally, I'd say that everyone from 80's to today is suspect. Canseco admits to juicing, so has Giambi, Bonds and I'd be willing to bet that McGwire has too. Ken Rosenthal points out (in the second link) that character, integrity and sportsmanship are all listed as Hall of Fame criteria for baseball. And anyone who used performance-enhancers to get an edge ought to be disqualified on those grounds. And I'm comfortable with the implications of that. Bonds may well have been the greatest player in the last 20 years and perhaps ever, but he broke the rules, tarnished himself and baseball and made it impossible to tell what his abilities were had he been on a level playing field instead of tilting it in his favour with steroids.

Baseball banned 9 players from the 1919 Chicago White Sox because their actions put the game in jeopardy, and steroid users have done the same. If we aren't going to toss them out of baseball, then we should at least make sure they don't make it to the Hall of Fame. If steroids are going to be stamped out, then there need to be consequences for their use.

There hasn't been much in the news about any pitchers juicing, but if they did they ought to be kept out of the Hall as well.

Addendum:

Before I got this posted, I found another article that sums up the situation pretty well, I think.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Reflected Glory

Most all of us like to revel in reflected glory. We like to be known by our friends to have acquaintances with the famous, powerful, rich, beautiful, etc. We enjoy the weak, but noticeable glimmer of glory that reflects off ourselves because of our presence in their orbit. I suppose this is kind of like that. But I'd like to think that I'm not going to post this simply out of a desire to garner a little attention for myself, but also, and primarily, to praise the primary person involved.

The Dr Sherry spoken of in this article, is, in fact, my father-in-law. Which is pretty cool.

(This also goes back to the question of one's pseudonym. It's little bits of info like this that make my pseudonym useless against anyone at all determined. Though why anyone should care about my identity remains unknown.)

Blogger, Blogger, Blogger

My profile here at Blogger is reasonably up-to-date, at least in the aspects over which I have control. It lists some interests of mine: books, music, movies. The basic stuff. But the "recent" posts that Blogger has up for me are anything but. They're all from November of last year. I've posted, oh, about 5 dozen times since then! What's the deal with that? And, I've been posting more frequently. This is my 20th post so far this month, while in all of January I posted a mere 22 times. What does that have to do with anything? In the words of Dark Helmet, "Absolutely nothing!"

Say it ain't so, Joe!

Third installment of Baseball arrived from on hold with the library. (My county's library system rocks, thank you very much.) It wasn't bad, covered the infamous Black Sox scandal, though most of the people commenting seemed inclined to wish that Judge Landis (baseball's first commissioner) had been more lenient. I'm betting that when the series reaches Pete Rose they will all be in favour of his reinstatement. (Boo! Hiss!) I think this is the weakest installment so far. It meandered without having much memorable content beyond the Black Sox. Informative, interesting and instructive still, but not like the first two.

By the bye (or is that "bye the bye"?) watching this series is a pretty serious investment of time (and money, should you choose to purchase it). Each "inning" (each disc) is a two hour episode. There are 9 innings, plus an extra "making of" inning. So we're talking about roughly 20 hours of documentary before it's all said and done. Which is why I'm grateful that I'm able to get it one DVD at a time from the library instead of all 10 at once.

Ghostly Disappointment

I (finally) got Ghost in the Shell from the library and watched it. And, it left me cold. I was really looking forward to it, the couple stand-alone episodes I saw were good...

But the movie just didn't have it. Partly I was disappointed because the main character seems to get written out. Partly it just seemed like an half-hour episode got stretched to 80 minutes. (The minute long scenes with nothing but the score playing over people driving got old after the first couple times it happened.) And partly the story line was, well, just lame. It's still a killer concept, cyborgs and artificially enhanced humans (think the $6million Man and Bionic Woman, only cooler) in a special police unit capturing ├╝ber-criminals. What's not to love? But the movie was just flat.

Now I'm going to have to find a way to watch the TV episodes. My library system doesn't seem to have them.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Arthur Miller, R.I.P.

Since the man has just died it may not be in good taste to be harshly critical, but perhaps I can be forgiven for linking this since it will probably be a lone voice among the encomiums.

Pseudonyms

I've been thinking a bit lately about pseudonyms. Some people that blog or participate in web forums don't have any problem letting the world at large know their names. (See Greg Piper and Steve.) Others guard their names fairly zealously. (No one I know personally, but it is fairly common among political bloggers.) And then there is a sort of middle category that I myself fall into. I don't put my real name on my blog, I generally avoid using it anywhere else as well, but I don't make a special effort to keep people from finding out. I have my picture on my blog, and I refer to things that would give someone (should they care enough to look into it) clues as to my identity. Where I went to college and when, things like that.

I'm not certain how important something like this is. After all, I'm not exactly the kind of person that gets targeted by creeps on the internet. Nor am I famous, and thus do not attract attention that way. But a semi-anonymity is comforting. I guess I would liken it to one's covers as a child. True, a sheet and a blanket couldn't stop my younger brothers, but for some reason it still comforted me when I suspected there was a monster in the closet.

Friday, February 11, 2005

More Movies

Watched another couple movies over the past few days. One was 61* about Roger Maris' breaking of Babe Ruth's single-season home run record. It was pretty good. Maris was portrayed as (and I have no reason to think that he wasn't) a stand-up guy. A nice guy who had a tough time dealing with the stress and unfairly daemonised for beating Mickey Mantle out for the record. There's a fair bit of profanity in the movie (baseball players not having the cleanest mouths), so despite the fact that it's unrated, it would probably be about an R.

The other movie was an adaptation of Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders. It's one with David Suchet as Poirot. And, as those who have seen him know, the man is Poirot. It's not a bad mystery, not one of the best, but if you like Dame Christie, it's worth checking out because the adaptation to the small screen is very well done.

I haven't finished any books this past week, but hopefully I'll wind up a couple this next week or maybe even this weekend.

Comments Update

It seems that Blogger has finally gotten on the ball and allowed one to post without a Blogger account and without having to select "Anonymous". You can just type your name and website if you choose. And when you type your comment, you can view other comments as well as the original post. It's about time.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Movies

Over the past week or so I've watched a few movies, most of which I hadn't seen before. A quick rundown follows.

First to be watched was The Hidden Fortress, classic Kurosawa film, if not his best known. It's probably most well known for being a primary inspiration for George Lucas' film Star Wars. And while the films are similar (two bumbling peasants/R2 and C3PO, General and Princess/Obi-Wan and Leia) there are still significant differences. Star Wars was not a re-make. It was good, but I thought the ending was weak because it was unconvincing.

Next was another Kurosawa movie, Throne of Blood. This one is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth to a Japanese setting. It does a pretty good job of following the story, but it deviates a bit with how "Macbeth" gets his comeuppance. Overall, very solid. I also want to say that Isuzu Yamada, who played "Lady Macbeth" was really creepy and did a fantastic job.

My wife and I watched Return to Me together, which we've both seen before. It's not too bad. It's definitely the best acting job I've seen David Duchovny do outside of The X-Files. I suppose that's not saying much, is it? The best (i.e. funniest) parts of the movie were those involving James Belushi and those involving the crew of old guys, led by Carroll O'Connor and Robert Loggia. As romantic comedies go, this is pretty good. Miles ahead of garbage like My Best Friend's Wedding.

Last movie I watched was another my wife and I saw together. It was a sort of documentary called Kodo about the Japanese drumming group of the same name. It wasn't bad, but I think we both would have preferred less New Age style spiritualism and more of them just drumming. But it was still interesting to learn about the origins of the group and how it works.

How many laughs a mile do you get?

An high-larious post at Poshlust, Inc. about running a Hounds and Hares course through Delhi. Best part is her description of her fellow runners
There is an easy way to tell a serious, regular runner from the "weekend warriors". The flippant runners.. just look better. Our running gear gets dusted off every couple of weeks to combat heredity and trans-fats, or when the athletic look is in. Real, serious runners wear the grubby ass t-shirts and running shorts, and sneakers that look like they've fjorded a million Delhi streams. Now, the real REAL serious adventure/eco challenge people - you have to watch out for them. They generally look like the weekend warriors - with the exception that they appear not to need air, smell weakness like dogs, and would cut you for a protein bar.
Brilliant!

Democrats and Abortion Policy

An interesting essay by William McGurn in last month's First Things about how, in his opinion, the question of abortion is dragging down the Democratic party. I'm not a policy wonk, but I do know that a clear majority of people in America do favour allowing some restrictions on abortion. A party that will not brook any opposition to abortion on demand may well find itself in some trouble as a result of that. In any event, it is an interesting essay that also talks about the gradual expulsion of pro-life Democrats from any positions of influence within their party.

It is an interesting dichotomy. There are plenty of pro-abortion Republicans who have been granted prominence, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, Christine Todd Whitman, but I don't know of any pro-life Democrats with similar prominence. Perhaps I'm just not familiar enough with who the important Democrats are.

Behold! A machine of infinite power!

Well, maybe not. And it's really just software, I suppose. So the machine is still my fairly average computer. So that subject was pretty much wrong all the way around.

However, I am still stoked about my new copy of Fritz 8 Deluxe. (Ooh! "Deluxe"!) "What is it?", you ask? Why? Didn't you click the link? It's a chess program. And a mighty fine one. It does all kinds of things I haven't figured out (who needs instruction booklets?), and plays chess at a level so far above me that I can only dream of being competitive. So what good is it? Glad you asked. It has some very neat analysis functions that allow me to review games that I have played against human opponents and see where I might have made better moves, so that I might improve my play. I've only had it a few days, so doubtless there are more exciting things it can do left to discover. It's fan-riffic!

Link! He come to town!

Toshi Station has a pic of a fairly impressive Zelda tattoo up. Not quite what I'd do if I had ink done, but it's nice to see someone so secure in their geekiness. Or something.

Blog is not a word!

Blogger's spellcheck still does not recognise "blog" as a word. I still find that amusing. That is all.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Books: In Short

Thought I'd give a quick rundown of four books I read over the last week or so. The first two were a pair of Nero Wolfe mysteries, Please Pass the Guilt and All in the Family. Neither were really spectacular, both featured murder by bombing and the first was a bit too "psychological" and the latter was a bit too unbelievable, in regards to who the culprit was. Actually, most interesting about the latter was that it had a cover blurb from Kingsley Amis praising Rex Stout for the Nero Wolfe novels in general. I thought that was rather odd.

One of the other books was The Art of Discworld, which didn't have a whole of text (unsurprisingly). It was mostly illustrations of people (and a few places) from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. What was neat, though, was that Terry provided a lot of input on how the characters should appear, so they do provide a pretty good idea of what he had in mind. Interesting probably only to big fans of his books.

Finally, I read Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism by P.J. O'Rourke. He's a pretty funny guy and I laughed out loud two or three times a chapter on average, but he does tend a bit libertarian for my taste so I don't always agree. You really should pick the book up, perhaps just from the library, at least to read his descriptions of the anti-war protests in Washington D.C. And he made a particularly trenchant comment about the French (in a funny way) that I had never considered before. He pointed out that we should be eternally grateful to them because if we were ever uncertain about our course as a nation, we could know what to do by simply doing the opposite of what the French wanted. Perhaps a bit of a sweeping statement, but insightful nonetheless.

Yeah? Well, you smell bad!

Rob Schneider took out an ad in Variety to get back at the reporter that criticised his upcoming movie.

There's no crying in baseball!

I've been watching the documentary series Baseball on DVD lately, (I can get a DVD every week or two from the library) and it struck me while I was watching the most recent installment that there are people who don't enjoy it. Most readily apparent is my wife. Oh, sure she'll pay attention to a bit here and there, but it doesn't spark any sort of abiding interest. While I know this should not surprise me, I cannot fathom how anyone could fail to be fascinated by the movies, pictures and stories that detail the history of our national pastime. Hearing stories about Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown and others is exciting, their on-field prowess amazing and their hi-jinks amusing. How my wife can sit and read a book about baby-rearing equipment and pay it no nevermind will probably forever elude me.

The documentary is a Ken Burns film, he of Civil War fame, and while it isn't quite that good it is still well done.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

No! Please don't make me take the money!

Roger Clemens, at the dinner where he was presented with his Cy Young (which he shouldn't have won), said that it was a "heart-wrenching" decision to file for salary arbitration to get $18million to pitch one more season for the Astros. Okay, so he probably didn't phrase it like that, but I think the disingenuousness is clear. I have little to no sympathy for athletes who complain about their compensation and the "difficulties" of their job.

Ouch.

Let me just say to the world at large. Don't break your toes. It hurts and there isn't much that can be done about it.

(Oddly, all of the broken bones I've ever had were minor appendages: two fingers and three toes. Never any larger bones. Hum.)

Super Bore

The Super Bowl is coming up next Sunday and I've lost just about all interest in it. A few reasons for this. First, the Super Bowl is almost always a laugher. The game isn't great, one team blows out the other and it's all wrapped up by halftime. Which brings us to reason number two. The halftime commercial hype, the halftime mini-concert extravaganza and let's not forget the 6 hour pre- and post-game shows, all of which end up overshadowing the actual contest on the field. And finally, the Eagles and the Patriots? I loathe the Pats, the Eagles excite me not and Terrell Owens (whether he plays or not) will feature largely and will annoy to no end. On the other hand, unless I get invited to some sort of Super Bowl shindig, I'll miss it all anyway, having no TV. And if I do get invited somewhere, I can hopefully spend my time interacting with friends rather than subjecting myself to the tortures of the flickering box.

Books

Finished a couple books recently. I finally broke down and read Space Usagi. I've caught flak from people for reading Usagi comics at all. People mock the fact that it's mostly anthropomorphic animals. (I say mostly, but I can only recall one human and that was in the first couple issues before the series really got grounded and developed the world and its rules.) Okay, we all know, there are plenty of fruit-bats out there (especially on the internet, which allows fruit-bats to gather in crowds yet retain their anonymity) who draw anthropomorphic animals as objects to be lusted after. Right-thinking people can agree, they are loons. This is not what Usagi is. (I feel compelled to explain this because it's been a while since I last mentioned Usagi Yojimbo in any detail and some people who have begun visiting more recently may not be up to speed.) For a helpful comparison, see Maus, which is a telling of a person's experiences during the Holocaust using anthropomorphic characters. (One could also make a comparison to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though only as a way to differentiate from the nutter brigades on the internet. The TMNT stories, as presented on television at least, were not nearly so serious as those in UY.)

Right. Now that I've got that out of the way, let me say that I'd long avoided reading Space Usagi because, well, we're already talking about a rabbit-samurai adventuring in mythic (gods and monsters are part of everyday life) 16th century Japan. Now I'm supposed to suspend my disbelief even further and have these stories set in outer space? C'mon. And, after reading it, I was right. Oh, the stories themselves are fine, but the settings are just too much for me. Most of the tale features characters and situations that loosely correspond to the 18 books of regular Usagi comics. However, I did like how Sakai wasn't afraid to kill off characters with reckless abandon and to twist seemingly familiar characters in odd ways. It was quirky like that odd one-off episode of your favourite television show where the characters meet their alternate-universe doubles. I'm not going to buy it, and on the whole I don't think it was really very good.

I also finished Tehanu. I've felt rather ambivalent about the series up to this book. It's not bad, but I haven't been engaged like I was with other fantasy series. I liked Tehanu least so far. There isn't much that happens, honestly, and LeGuin spends an inordinate amount of time meditating (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say having her main character meditate) on power and the relationships between men and women. Which could well be an interesting topic, but the musings of her heroine seemed juvenile. The climax seemed rushed and was inadequately explained (though I'll withdraw that last if the next books flesh it out). I don't think the Earth-sea books are going to be ones that I buy.