Fall 2010 Anime – up to #5

Zakuro

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru – best of the lot. Watch this even if you don’t watch anything else. Clever script and visuals, kooky lead character. Ep#3 is a delight.

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii – In many ways the truest of all the current season to real life – at least life as experienced by anime & game otaku.  The title translates as “I can’t believe my little sister could be so cute!”  The hero discovers that his 14-year old little sister, admired by all (except him), is secretly an otaku who collects 18-rated sister-love computer games.  (So do real girls, according to forum posts). He gets dragged into her world while defending her unacceptable hobby.   So far, the hero seems to be learning to care for his little sister in a perfectly normal way, while incidentally giving others the impression that he is a perv.  The scenes of otaku activity and outsider disapproval in particular carry the ring of authenticity.

Yosuga no Sora – turning out to be a typical adolescent harem anime, but with occasional scenes of jaw-dropping eroticism. Even though it’s TV, it’s more explicit than the sexy anime OVAs (e.g. Rei Rei) we used to get in the 1990’s.

Bakuman –  Worthy, but I have to confess that I’m getting a teeny bit bored with this.

Psychic Detective Yakumo - supernatural + romance – watched up to ep#3. Not bad but not sure if I’ll continue.

Otome Yokai Zakuro (picture above) – supernatural + romance again – very prettily animated and very cute heroine, but not sure how far I’ll stick with it.

Hakuouki part 2 – I watched all of part 1, but I’m dropping it now as I can’t keep track of who these people are or why they’re doing what they do and I really don’t care…

Kuragehime – slightly unusual in that the principal character is not a schoolgirl, not pretty and has no supernatural powers. She loves jellyfish. Her house-mates are equally plain and have equally weird hobbies. Still watching.

Embarrassing history

Just thought I’d post some history-related items that caught my attention.

First there’s the sinking of the “Lancastria” on the 17th June 1940, off St Nazaire in France, a few days after the Dunkirk evacuation. At this time about 100,000 British support troops and civilians were still stranded in France, and some of them had boarded the Lancastria in an effort to escape, when it was attacked by German aircraft and rapidly sank.  Only  about 2500 of those on board were saved, whereas the total number on board is thought to have been between 6000 and 9000.  By any standards, this was a terrible disaster, and the British Government did their best to hush it up by issuing a “D” notice to muzzle the press and threatening the survivors with court-martial if they talked.  Clearly it was thought at the time to be one piece of bad news too many, nor did the presence of so many stranded men fit with the freshly minted myth of the “Dunkirk Miracle.”   Even in later years the Government proved very sensitive on the subject, possibly because they feared legal action from families on the grounds that the ship had deliberately been grossly overloaded.

http://www.royalpioneercorps.co.uk/rpc/history_lancastria.htm

Then there’s the sorry fate of the “City of Adelaide”  which you must have heard of, as it’s one of  only two or three composite wood/iron sailing clippers still in existence (the other famous one being the Cutty Sark). You hadn’t? Anyway, it’s currently in Scotland, hauled up on a slipway after sinking at its moorings, and waiting for somebody to  secure its future.  Scottish funding dried up to the point where the current custodians, the Scottish Maritime Museum, applied to North Ayrshire Council for permission to demolish it and thus rid themselves of this burdensome relic.  A shameful tale. A historic building would not be treated in this shabby fashion.  Or would it?

Grand Hotel Glasgow image
Grand Hotel Glasgow (on left) demolished 1968

I just finished  reading “Britain’s Lost Cities” – a chronicle of architectural destruction, by Gavin Stamp.   The built-up centres of Britain’s major cities bear little resemblance today to their appearance in photographs taken before the Second World War.  You might be forgiven for thinking that the damage was mostly done by the Luftwaffe, but in fact it had its roots before the war began, and was carried on with enthusiasm during the Fifties and Sixties.  There was a burning zeal to knock down and replace anything old, regardless of merit.   It’s become a cliche to say that the post-war planners did more damage than the Luftwaffe, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  Many fine and substantial buildings, burnt by wartime raids  but still restorable, were demolished almost before the rubble was cold.   During the destruction of Coventry in the notorious raid, the planners, who by 1939 had already smashed up many of the city’s medieval buildings, were said to be giving a thumbs-up every time an obstacle to their redevelopment plan went up in flames.

All this might be forgivable if the new was an improvement on the old, but in many cases the old looked very impressive while the new was often a ring road that smashed a hole through an old district, or was a  dreary shopping centre, or some other building that nobody would miss if it was demolished overnight. In many cases the  developments of the fifties and sixties are (like Birmingham’s Bull Ring) being redeveloped again because of their inherent dreariness, or because of building defects, while the Victorian or earlier buildings that escaped the vandals still stand.   One might say that there was outrage when the barbarians and vandals came by air from Germany, but indifference when they came from offices in Britain.  Contrast British hatred of the old with the civic pride of the Continentals, who in many places rebuilt their waist-high piles of rubble to look almost exactly like their pre- war towns.

The exquisite short films of Kihachiro Kawamoto

DVD – The Exquisite Short Films of Kihachiro Kawamoto  (Kimstim, 2008, 99 mins, NTSC, subtitled)

Hunter from "The Demon"
Hunter: "The Demon"

Kawamoto has been making his stop-motion puppet animation films for half a century now.  They draw on ancient Japanese legends , Noh, Kabuki and Bunraku doll theatre, and 20th century short novels, to create art films with a uniquely Japanese poetic character.  Kawamoto learnt his skills at the legendary Kratky Studios in Prague under the mentorship of Czech animator Jiri Trnka.   The results are quite different from the popular Japanese anime which uses cell (and latterly computer) animation and is influenced by manga comics and early American cartoon animation.

The DVD contains seven short films varying in length from 8 to 19 minutes.  I might have seen one of them previously: “Dojoji Temple” in which a young monk  on a spiritual journey encounters a mysterious woman whose frenzied passions turn her into large white serpent.  The monk hides under the temple bell, but the serpent, wreathed in flame, wraps herself around it, and when the bell is lifted, only the monk’s charred corpse is left.  (and if you think this sounds weird, you should see the other short films on the DVD)

An essential DVD if you are interested in animation as art.

Really Old Anime – YouTube

Cyborg 009

YouTube is a useful resource for sampling old anime not readily available anywhere else.  For instance, Nanto Anime (www.youtube.com/user/NantoAnime) has, at time of writing, subtitled episodes of Cyborg 009, Ribon no Kishi, Gegege no Kitaro series #1, Magical Girl Sally series #1, and Rainbow Sentai Robin.  (I never heard of the last one either, but it’s like Cyborg 009 with even less sign of having employed a science adviser).

Quality is surprisingly good – full-screen 360p & full speed with an adequate connection, but each episode is split into 3 segments.

Problems with USB 2.0 External Hard Drive Cases

I recently bought a SATA USB 2.0 external drive case and a IDE USB 2.0 external hard drive case, on Ebay.  Neither cost more than about £11.  As it turned out, both were externally identical.

I attached a SATA drive (formatted in NTFS) to the SATA drive case electronics, connected it via the supplied USB cable to a computer running Windows XP, and it worked without any adjustment.

I tried several small old IDE drives in the other box and none of them worked. None of them showed up in Windows Explorer, or in the control panel’s disk management, though the USB device showed up as a disk device in the Control Panel Hardware.  I Googled for a solution to this, and found that it was a recognised problem, but no clear solution was offered.

It’s therefore worth detailing what I did next.  I took an 80GB NTFS formatted hard drive out of an old PC I’d been using as a backup device, and tried to find a jumper to put on it to set it to Master. I couldn’t find a jumper, so connected it up anyway to the IDE external box electronics and plugged the USB cable into a PC running Windows XP.   It worked immediately, and I was able to read the contents in Windows Explorer.

It looks like the previous format of the hard disk is important.

A Tree of Palme

Just finished watching “A Tree of Palme”. I bought it because I remembered seeing it reviewed as being very good but neglected.  I had an idea it was some fey period drama, but this turned out to be completely wrong!  It’s set in a totally imagined fantasy world – cue major weirdness…  If you remember the “Kaiba” TV series, it’s a bit like that.  As this is the only anime it resembles in the slightest, it will be interesting to find out if there is any connection. The designs are beautiful.  And Palme is a wooden puppet.

ICS:Internet Connection Sharing

I had a reason for setting up ICS (wanted to connect a modem-less Linux PC to the Internet) so had a go at setting it up.

There’s no shortage of advice on the Internet, starting with microsoft.com and continuing around sundry forums and websites. It’s not so easy to find out exactly what to do for one’s particular hardware, and rather a lot of the advice is biased towards one particular solution, rather than explaining what range of solutions should work.

First, ICS (Internet Connection Sharing) is a scheme whereby one computer, equipped with a modem or suchlike device, provides a connection to the Internet and shares it with other computers via a local network.

Here’s what I found worked:

Used a computer running Windows XP Pro SP2 as the host. This computer had in effect two network ports; one connected to the Internet via USB2 ADSL modem, and the other, RJ45 port, connected to a wired 100MB network via a 5-port switch.

Ran the ICS setup wizard on the host. This sets up the host on a workgroup MSHOME  with IP address 192.168.0.1

Made the wizard’s floppy disk and used it to set up a Win98 client computer and a WinXP client computer as follows: workgroup MSHOME,  LAN addresses acquired automatically (DHCP), Internet addresses acquired automatically (DHCP)

Manually configured two Linux clients with LAN addresses acquired automatically (DHCP), Internet addresses acquired automatically (DHCP)

Turned off the ZoneAlarm software firewall on the host. Turned on the Windows XP firewall and added an exception for Port 80 on the local network. (This allows HTTP traffic from the clients).

The Linux clients show a Windows network, with workgroup MSHOME, in their file browsers.

Notes: Nowadays most home installations use a physically separate router box rather than using ICS.

Hardly any of the recent advice mentions using wired networks rather than wireless or powerline networking. This is strange – perhaps it is thought that wiring up a wired network with RJ45 terminated cables is too much bother for the home user! In fact, wired networks are no trouble at all once the wires are plugged in, which is more than can be said for wireless. Wireless has well-documented security problems. And sometimes it won’t work at all.  The IT person installed wireless networking in our lab where I work, but after a week or so it all had to be stripped out and replaced with a wired network. The wireless network was useless in an electrically noisy environment.

You might be put off by the idea of drilling cable holes in your home. However there is little in the interior of the average home to resist the determined driller. A power drill will soon put a 3/4″ hole through plasterboard, floorboard, lightweight partitioning or building block (but check where the pipes, joists and power cables go first).  And when you move out, a dab of filler and a lick of paint should make good the holes.

You can change the LAN DNS address from 192.168.0.1 if you want – some say this would improve security. The LAN could use fixed addressing (i.e. 192.168.0.2 etc) instead of DHCP if you want, though I didn’t test this.  One source said that you had to use fixed LAN addressing with Linux clients, but this is clearly untrue.

It is assumed that all the computers on the network have the relevant drivers for TCP/IP networking installed on them…

The free version of Zonealarm is incompatible with ICS – it seems you have to upgrade to the paid-for Pro version.  The Windows XP firewall was OK but only after I set port 80 as an exception for the local network (LAN), naming the exception HTTP80. Port 80 is used for HTTP and the exception allows web browsers on the client to work.

If you poke around in the control panels you can turn on an icon which shows on the XP client toolbar when the host is connected to the internet.

You may notice that time display on the clients is now synchronised to the host.

When it doesn’t work: Check your setup is correct.  Use file-share browsing to check that you can browse from and to all the computers on the network. If you can’t, you have a problem.  If some computers can’t see others or be seen by them, try disabling the local network (in the Windows control panel) and then enabling it. This worked for me in clearing a hangup.

If none of the clients can browse the Internet even though you see indications that it’s connected, try turning off the software firewall (or firewalls!) on the host. If that cures the problem, fix the firewall! Running with no firewall in place is a very bad practice.

It is important that the host computer should have two network ports (e.g. one USB modem and one RJ45 port) otherwise your ISP will get very annoyed about the lack of separation between local and Internet addressing, and may disconnect you.

anime.in4mation re-siting

Following a dust-up with the former ISP, I have moved my anime.in4mation site, formerly at http://www.anime.in4mation.org.uk, to http://www.anime-info.co.uk. (quicklink in column at lower left)

Mostly it still works, though the front page menu has a slight fault in IE7 and there are a lot of little Home links that don’t point to the right page anymore.

This was on a free hosting site, but I left it for more than 90 days without dialing into it, and the ISP then removed the site and wouldn’t re-instate it unless I upgraded to a pay service, which, since I already had a vacant domain I could move it to at no extra cost, I was not going to do.

Topics covered are a miscellany:

miscellaneous media reviews, Escaflowne, 12 Kingdoms, FAQ’s, Japanese shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, mangaka Ryouko Ikeda, satellite TV anime, shopping, and shoujo stuff.

Zapped!

Just had to restore the current theme which had become damaged. I also deleted a pair of files I didn’t recognise. I suspect this was a hacking attack. Wish somebody would introduce this guy to the gangs of organised criminals who keep trying to flood the site with comment spam and see how much they enjoy each other’s company…

Windows Home Server

A month or two ago, Microsoft launched another operating system, with very little publicity, in contrast to the high-profile launch of the unexciting Windows Vista. Its name? Windows Home Server. And what does it do? Basically, it’s a server for multi-computer home setups, and just one of the things it can do is to back up all your data automatically.

It’s available already  to OEMs, and you can buy a complete appliance with WHS installed. Soon,  part-built  chassis will be available to various designs.

Computer buffs, the kind of people who like spending a week building a PC and installing software, point out that you can do the same job cheaper with a Linux distro, e.g. with an Ubuntu server. But the Microsoft solution looks to be less bother for the average Joe.