Porco Rosso is a surprisingly apolitical disappointment

Maybe more like a thumbs sideways?

Porco Rosso, the 1992 anime film about a flying pig-pilot who does battle with sky pirates in interwar Adriatic floatplanes, might be Studio Ghibli / director Hayao Miyazaki’s most memed movie. In addition to that thumbs-up image above, plenty of lines make common appearances on anime meme boards like “You make me think humanity’s not a complete waste,” “Laws don’t apply to pigs,” and the classic “Better a pig than a fascist:”

On sourcing: my computer broke this week so I referenced this script for quotes and pulled screenshots from stupid meme posts on reddit. As the memes show, lots of different fan-sub versions float around out there so sorry for any inconsistencies.

But for all the memes, Porco Rosso is a surprisingly apolitical film, with those lines representing more throw-away jokes than a vigorous thematic ideal. Yes, the titular character Porco is a typical anti-authority anti-hero who chafes under the rule of Depression-era Italian fascists. But he’s also such a severe misanthrope that if he happens to take anti-fascist action, he only does so because the facists happen to be in charge. Combine that apathetic position with what might be Miyazaki’s weakest feminist message among his otherwise excellent cast of believable female characters and I don’t know what to do with Porco Rosso. Yes, it’s beautiful, as all Ghibli movies are. But despite the anti-fascist hype, it lacks much of Miyazaki’s characteristic thematic focus. In a word (or two), it disappoints.

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Removing ads and changing names

I caved and bought one of those WordPress.com plans. I’ve wanted to move away from the free system for a while now but kept putting it off out of sheer laziness. I would have preferred to use a self-hosting option but, eh, I’m starting a new job soon and don’t want to deal with any of the technical headaches that might come with managing my own site. And plus, I hardly care about extensive features or design anyway; for this silly notebook, I don’t need the greater freedom afforded by a more open system. At just a few dollars a month, whatever, I’ll take the convenience.

Most of all, I’m sick of the ads. My friends have started making a joke of sending me screenshots of the outlandish clickbait garbage WordPress hoists on my site — despite my youth-skewed content, I get so many manipulative pieces trying to trick the elderly into buying god knows what with their meager Social Security checks (or worse yet, a reverse mortgage). I just lost a grandfather to mild dementia among other accumulated diseases and don’t want any association with the advertisers that would have tried to take advantage of him.

Anyway, I’m also taking the opportunity to make a name change. The moment after I created it, I never liked the name for this site… “Marshmellow Pastel” Bleh. It feels too sappy and self-important, which was exactly the opposite of my intention when I mixed soft things and soft colors (and that stupid misspelling!). But lazy inertia preserved it so I’m finally taking my last few free days ahead of re-entering the workforce to eliminate it before busyness steals the chance. With that Real Neat Blog Award I received last week (thanks again!), I can even pretend to retire it on a high note.

For a name, I always wanted something stupid and meaningless, something that reduces everything I do here to the vain frivolity that it is. My old title was, I think, just vain.

So, taking inspiration from the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi* and an old inside joke, I’m going to re-title this place “Everything is Marshmallows!” — a name too broad to mean anything and too long to ever successfully brand which, I hope, will also gently mock my own worst impulses and keep me from the despairing excesses of the pessimistic writers that I otherwise admire (like Leopardi himself). Maybe if I keep myself in good humor, I can achieve a style closer to Girls’ Last Tour than On the Heights of Despair.

And finally, with that new job, I might need to abide by a less rigorous schedule and decrease my output — expect more of the short-form content I’ve fallen back on in the past couple months while I traveled and fewer long researched pieces. I don’t know how this site will change, but I doubt the new school will tolerate the amount of writing-desk-warming time I had at the old one. Unsettlingly, I also have a small audience now – I hope I do not disappoint.

* [From Leopardi’s own notebook, the Zibaldone: “Everything is evil. I mean, everything that is, is wicked; every existing thing is an evil; everything exists for a wicked end. Existence is a wickedness and is ordained for wickedness. Evil is the end, the final purpose, of the universe… The only good is nonbeing; the only really good thing is the thing that is not, things that are not things; all things are bad.”

Hey, cheer up Jimmy! I’d offer you some candy, if you weren’t dead.]

Where did the “Real Neat Blog Award” come from? Also, I got one.

The original Real Neat Blog Award logo from December 2014 by dearkitty1.wordpress.com

So, Inskidee over at Inskime (an anime blog) nominated me for one of those Real Neat Blog Awards. Thanks Inskidee. I’m a bit of a cynical, unexcitable iconoclast so awards maybe exist outside of my wheelhouse. But, I’ll try my best to take it with grace.

I do have to ask a question first though: where the hell did the award even come from? Before I was nominated by Inskidee was nominated by Lynn Sheridan was nominated by xxanimexxgirlxx was nominated by Crow was nominated by Yomu and Keiko was nomin– huh, a forking origin that loops back to Crow again and then Yomu and Keiko again and then Lynn Sheridan again and… I’ll stop this incestuous bit of viral internet-epidemiology there for now, but trust me, I followed links for well over an hour (please people, use links, date your posts, and add a search function to your sites!).

Anyway, after getting bored and cheating with Google, the oldest Real Neat Blog Award acceptance speech I could find after a lazy first-page search came from this September 10, 2016 post on the lifestyle blog “Stay Young and Beautiful.” The recipient links to an awarder at a blog called “Universe Unexplored.” Oh, but a broken link!, the case goes cold… Universe Unexplored has since gone private.

“Stay Young and Beautiful” does offer another clue though. The award image (one of the most endearingly awful MS Paint drawings I’ve ever seen) includes a half cropped URL crediting dearkitty1.wordpress.com, a blog that covers “Animals, peace, war, civil liberties, science, social justice, women’s issues, arts, more.” And wow, dearkitty1 still publishes, an OG WordPress blog from way back in August 2005, around the original WordPress.com beta test. This cat has a pedigree! 

In December 2014, dearkitty1 created the very first award, nominated 20 people, and asked them seven questions with these original rules:

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.

4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.

5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

Of course, since then the award has metastasized as viral internet content does. The wording of the first four rules has changed and it seems that most bloggers replaced the redundant 5th rule with one asking the recipient to generate a new set of questions. Most significantly, dearkitty1’s 4th rule didn’t require the recipient to nominate anyone, unlike the modern award that asks for 7 to 10 victi– …candidates like an old chain letter pyramid scheme (FORWAD TO EIHGT PEOPLE OR YOU LOOSE A KIDNEY TOMOROW). I suppose that the lack of significant change in the award attests to its continuing appeal five years later.

Anyway, enough stalling — I’ll quit pretending to exist above the process like a dashing investigative journalist and follow the rules as relayed to me by Inskidee:

Continue reading “Where did the “Real Neat Blog Award” come from? Also, I got one.”

The many faces of Mile: Noukin has a solid working formula

[Busy –> Lazy, hash-tag-self-cringe]

Hm, I guess it really is just one face. But Mile’s moods carry the whole show (Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne!Noukin for short, I guess. The title’s even longer in English so I can’t be bothered to copy-paste it again).

Noukin has a simple, solid formula for its semi-parody: whenever some stupid tropey-dopey anime or isekai thing pops up, played seriously by the supporting cast — pop — a disbelief face in reaction from our lead heroine Mile. After all, why attempt to dispute the ridiculous foundations of the isekai genre when you could just stare in disbelief?

I like it best when the faces *pop* across just a single frame. Low animation quality and production shortcuts hidden behind an excess of static reaction faces, you ask? Nahhhhh… Shhh shhh, quiet now. It’s just an, um, stylistic choice, like a budget Humanity Has Declined vibe. Compare to that series:

We don’t need words, no no no

Hmmm, Mile’s face from Noukin isn’t quite up to Humanity Has Declined‘s superb quality of deadpan, but it’s still close enough for me, a real keeper — the first isekai I’ve enjoyed since I don’t care to admit — if only because it seems to enjoy mocking the genre as much as I do!

Details in Girls’ Last Tour: Kanazawa’s view of life and maturity

[content warning: attempted suicide in fiction]

‘like a puff ‘a smoke

[As a heads up, I am assuming some familiarity with the material. Also, I wrote this between a Japanese print edition of the manga, an English Kindle edition, and the relevant episode from the anime so I’ve mixed up the sourcing on the quotes — some come from the English manga, some from the anime subtitles, and some from my own translation of the Japanese. Sorry to any source sticklers, but they should be interchangeable!]

In chapter 7 of the manga Girls’ Last Tour (Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou, also episode 3 of the anime) the map-maker Kanazawa gives one of the series’ few outside, adult observations of the two lead girls. While Chii and Yuu work to fill up the gas tanks for their Kettenkrad vehicle, along with an extra barrel to take them farther through the ruined city, Kanazawa glances up from his maps and notices how unexpectedly clever the girls are at surviving the apocalypse:

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Escaping fantasy with the Sarashina Nikki

Image via Amazon

[Rushed and delayed by travel… sorry for late publishing. I mean this review as a direct follow-up to my post from last week, about pre-regret for my will-have-wasted hundreds of hours playing World of Warcraft Classic. Maybe I’m stretching that connection, but I’m glad to have read this book when I did]

I’ve spent the last week traveling (again, ugh, I’m tired), so I grabbed an old Japanese travel account to read along the way: the Heian-Period Sarashina Nikki, written by an unnamed Kyoto courtier identified to history only by relation to her father – the daughter of Takasue or “Lady Sarashina” – and given the fanciful title As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams by translator Ivan Morris for the 1971 Penguin English edition (Morris recommends against the earlier translation, though I am pretty indifferent to his own. I did not read the newer 2014 translation from Arntzen and Moriyuki).

As travel writing, it didn’t much capture me – the Lady maybe makes for a frustrating companion on the journey with her timid, weepy, and, above all, passive personality. But having read the book, I don’t know why Morris even introduces it as “one of the first extant examples of the typically Japanese genre of travel writing” when the autobiographical nikki – “diary” – instead focuses much more on the Lady’s stationary existence reading “tales” late into the night by lamplight (and when she does travel, she relates it to her beloved fiction, for example, imagining her favorite characters while waiting for a ferry at Uji!).

In that adjusted context then, the book becomes much more interesting for her passive personality than in spite of it by offering an early examination of the value of a life overtaken by fantasy and escapism. The Lady struggles with niggling regret (to accompany torrents of despair over more serious issues like death) that she wasted too much of her life reading frivolous fiction when she could have instead sought worldly success in the imperial court or (especially) spiritual enlightenment on the path to the Buddha. But then by the end she had me wondering: did she even consider those more noble pursuits worthwhile either?

First though, a quick annotated summary-by-quotation of the parts relevant to fantasy escapism:

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After a week, whither WoW Classic?

Sunrise on the Green Belt. The game surprised me with how nice it still looks even on “Classic” graphics settings. Please don’t make fun of my action bars…

After 15 years, I thought that I would have more to say. But really, what’s left to say about a game so old? I scrapped half a dozen drafts of this post that did nothing but note little forgotten surprises in the gameplay — you have to eat food and drink water! — before tacking more towards personal philosophizing because really, who wants to read a list a changes, like patch notes?

Most people, maybe… I think a lot of players have taken an ironic joy in cataloging those nostalgic post-epiphanies with the sort of “we walked uphill both ways” style griping that mythologizes suffering as a source of glee. They describe Classic as something to endure (as one friend did), not something to enjoy. Instead, the enjoyment comes after, when they can boast about the extent of their suffering after conquering the game’s progression system.

I simply reject that premise. Suffering is bad (wow.) and I take no masochistic joy in it. Good thing then that Classic has a secret that the fans hailing it as a hard-core return-to-form don’t often admit: 

The game is easy.

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The Classic WoW Experience.

Stuck in a loading screen, stuck in a loading screen.

At least I beat the queues. I read that some players have over twenty-thousand people in front of them with wait times in the hundreds of minutes because of the server overload.

By the way, I play the human paladin ‘Oncasteve’ on Bloodsail Buccaneers (NA-RP), on the off chance that any of my readers play.

Update: I gave up, again.

Weird Japan: the tomb of Jesus Christ and Isukiri’s Creed

The apparent final resting place of Jesus Christ in Shingo Village, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

[Like before, the usual disclaimer: I describe weird things in Japan, not weird things about Japan. This week, I’m traveling so I don’t have time for any rigor-ish research. But just google “tomb of jesus christ shingo.” — It’s the bizarre intersection between the occult fascination of a Japanese “new religion,” the credulous hucksterism of a small-time mayor looking to boost his isolated village’s image, and the indifferent villagers (only one of whom is Christian) who put up with the odd tourist in exchange for a little spare commerce. And if it isn’t obvious, Isukiri’s creed is my fictional creation]

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