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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just what do you think you're doing?

(sits down)

(starts typing)

Just what am I blogging about?
Please allow me to introduce myself: I'm a man of wealth and taste Nathaniel Mollen, a student at Ursinus College up in the aptly named town of Collegeville in Pennsylvania.  I'm writing this as both a journal and a site about random things I've been reading about, considering, or wasting time with.  Have I lost your attention yet?  Damn, maybe this'll do it. It'll be about:

  • Books
  • Music
  • Anime
  • Gaming
  • Slices of life
  • Philosophy
  • Languages
  • And much, much more, all distilled, purified, and specially bottled for that smooth blog taste!
I'll update the site at least once every week.  I hope.  Not all my posts will be this long, and they'll generally be less dry, more topic oriented, and more slice-of-life-y than this first one.  Hopefully more interesting too.  But I'll take it in whatever direction the six people that ever read this suggest.  And this'll be how it's structured:

What am I reading?
Well, I'm starting this blog during the second semester of my freshman year of college.  "Why didn't you do this when you started," you may ask.  Well, I was busy.  I was still getting used to the whole college thing, so I didn't have much time to be doing things that I could talk about in a blog.  Especially reading.  Okay, that's not quite true, but it's close enough.  But with basic survival skills mastered, and a better organized schedule, I'm more available to sit down and read books.

Right now, I'm going through The Tolkien Reader.  

Unfortunately, it's not about Tolkien getting sucked into a flat dimension where everything only reflects blue light like the cover seems to be showing.  I was disappointed.

Instead, it's a collection of Tolkien's short stories, plays, and poems.  It's pretty fun to read, despite his sometimes dense style getting in the way of his normally rich literary voice.  That's a funny thing about Tolkien; he has this excellent literary voice that blends the bombastic epic prose of Beowulf (on which he was a scholar) with very simple but well worded dialog that is never verbose but always colorful.  A lot of authors try to replicate it, and pretty much all of them end up simply sounding ridiculous.

Anyway, the selection is rather eclectic - and I've only just finished the first section - but starts with a script for a one act play set in medieval England in the midst of the Viking raids, right after the Battle of Maldon.  The dramatis personae are all denizens of the Anglisc speaking Beowulf writing sort, and the play reads as much like an alliterative poem in the style of an Old English epic as it does a script.  I'm not sure how it'd sound performed, but it's pretty cool, if only for the flavor, because neither the plot nor the characters go anywhere.

What am I watching?
I've been formally introduced within the last few days to the concept of the Real Robot subgenre of anime.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, the "robots" commonly seen in science fiction anime are usually piloted vehicles, or "mechs."  Real robot shows generally try to be more realistic with the way they handle their mechs, with internally consistent rules that don't blatantly fly in the face of real world physics.  Real robot shows are usually set in the military or during war, and among these tend to depict the mecha as part of a combined arms force (if only in theory).  These are shows like Mobile Suit Gundam, and Super Dimension Fortress Macross.

The first example that I've watched within the last few days is a 1980s OVA based on Robert Heinelen's Starship Troopers.  The mobile infantry as depicted in the novel pretty much codified the idea of military mecha in the first place, so you'd think it'd make for a very good anime adaptation.

But did I mention it's from the 80s?



It gets better too.  Juan Rico, who is supposed to be Filipino, is blonde and blue eyed.  And they drive what look like hover versions of 50s hot rods.  But other than that, it's actually a pretty faithful adaptation.  Or at least it seems like it, because I only got through the first part.  Maybe if I get bored one day, I'll watch the rest of it.  It was never released in the west, so it's on youtube legally in several parts, if you want to see it for yourself.

I've also watched the first three or so episodes of the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross.  It, like the Starship Troopers OVA, is an 80s show, but it has aged far, far better.  Imagine, if you will, Top Gun, but the F-14s transform and launch from a transforming Battlestar Galactica, and fight aliens because of a misunderstanding.

And it's pretty stupid.  
Stupid in a very, very awesome way.  

It's fluff, but it's well made fluff with transforming jets and is always either so cool it's awesome, or so bad it's good.  It's also very long, so I haven't gotten anywhere near all the way through, but I'll probably be watching them here and there.  It's on Hulu, if y'all were wondering.

Finally, I just last night watched the first episode of Gundam 00.  It's a bit more complex than Macross, but it's not quite a good thing, because since it's more complex, you get the sense that it wants you to take it seriously.  And it isn't serious.  It's very stereotypical shounen.  Not that it's bad at all, and I'll probably be watching more of it.  Everything is rendered in crisp visuals (a cliché that actually applies for once) with excellent art design and production values.  Perhaps the character design deserves special mention as managing to capture the spiky, flamboyant look that it seems like all shounen real robot anime character designs must have, but still manage to make it look plausible and differentiate whose who.  Of course, the voice acting is...well...kind of like this: 

Well, nobody'll be winning any awards for best performance, but as you can see, it's awesome to watch.

What am I writing?
A blog.

Besides that?  HTML.  For a blog.

Seriously though, I'm not doing much writing right now, but I'm in an Intro to Creative Writing course for this semester, so I'll certainly be doing a lot of it in the not so distant future.  I do have, however, something to show for it, because we did two exercises in class.  The first was to describe something in the room that wasn't another person.
There’s a grey cell phone on top of the legal pad, and apparently, it’s counting down the time that we have to write during.  It’s not very old, not very old at all, or at least it wouldn’t be if it were a person, or a turtle, or a Twinkie.  It is, however, a cell phone, and for a cell phone, it’s unfathomably antiquated, and so very much out of vogue.  It works fine, sure; the timer still works, but the hinge is loose and the top panel comes slightly loose and seems ready to fall off the edge of the phone.
We also were asked to write a little something from the sentence "There were rumors that the house on Grafton Street was haunted."

There were rumors that the house on Grafton Street was haunted.  I happen to know the rumors are true, in a way, because I lived there for a while when I got kicked out of that tenement just off Spring Street where all the normal, healthy people used to congregate, and had to stay with my friend Athos, the owner of the house on Grafton Street.  I wouldn’t try to describe what the haunting was like, because it was not the sort of mundane haunting that one expects from bad SyFy channel original series, but a kind of haunting that defiles the minds and souls of anyone who stops by and feels on his body a dry, oppressive sense as he sits down at the table to eat his morning cereal, or comes home after another day pulling reserved books off manila library shelves.
Yeah, nothing too great.

I'm looking forward to the class, but I wish I had taken it last semester.  I know a lot of people on my hall and who I know took it last semester, and it would have been nice to be in that class with them, I think.  But everyone in my class seems very nice and rather talented and'll probably create better work than me in pretty much every objective way, but that's neither here nor there.

What have I been listening to?
My dad recently got a bunch of Chicago albums and had duplicate copies of Chicago Transit Authority and another one which I haven't put on my laptop yet.  I've always liked Chicago, and Chicago Transit Authority is one of their best.  Back in the early days, their arrangements were very brass heavy, which is true for this album, but the jazzy brass is used alongside traditional Rock instruments and a Moog synthesizer that are all used in different ways across a rather wide range of styles, with certain songs being reminiscent of Emerson Lake and Palmer style synthrock, and others sounding like the style of folk rock one'd expect from Buffalo Springfield.  But comparing music to other music is kind of stupid, since it cheapens the genuine originality of most of the songs on the album, especially since the best two songs (in my opinion) are Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is, and Someday (August 29th, 1968), and neither is really reminiscent of anybody else.

Unfortunately, this coincides with me managing to lose my iPod, along with my good earbuds.  My parents were very generous (unreasonably so, really) and got me a new iPod nano that came with Apple's new earbuds until I could get a replacement for my old pair.  I don't like complaining, I have no right to complain about anything ever, and I generally don't complain, but I will say that the audio quality even on Apple's new and - I suppose - marginally improved earbuds aren't quite precisely very good exactly.  In fact they're shit.  But it has a microphone, which'll come in very handy.

What am I doing?
Dear god, I have no clue.  Those of you who are reading this for the pointless faffing about art and entertainment, you can skip to the end.

Today, I got up and looked at my clock.  The alarm didn't go off.  I had woken up exactly the time my first class was supposed to end.  Luckily I don't think I missed anything, since we don't normally do much in that class (which is a continuation of a class from last semester), especially since it was only the second class.

It's seemed like a lonely kind of day.  I can't and won't go into why, since though this is a bit of a journal, it's an online journal, and when you put things online, other people can read them.  Little trick I learned.  It was something kind of like that scene in the fourth episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, when Shinji is at that movie theater.  That analogy probably helped absolutely no-one.  Crap.  It's going to be a long, lonely life.

Hell, you didn't come here to read me being emo.  AWESOME SHIELD, ACTIVATE!
That's better, then.

Anyway, that's all for now.  'Till next time, then.  Stay out of trouble, and don't wake the gazebo.

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