dal niente

Month: April, 2014

World of Adults

[CM] has been having a hard time lately, due to upcoming decisions regarding what to do when med school is over. The situation is that there just aren’t enough placements for med school graduates to continue their professional trianing– they need a hospital to work at, but there aren’t enough hospitals with spaces for them, and they get last dibs over hospitals.  First, local students are guaranteed spots– then New Zealanders.  Then international students.

 

Which is a funny way of doing it– I meant, giving last pick to the group of students who are essentially paying enough to fund the entire med school?

 

And by last pick, it’s not really a pick per se.

It’s a a merits based application process for rural hostpitals in the middle of godless rural locations (where you are unlikely to receive any quality training, not to mention that you’re, well, in the middle of nowhere).  If you apply for rural positions and are actually given one, you are banned from applying to the city positions.

City positions are in super short supply for international students– this part is done by lottery. Like, 400 graduates come out of the med school– but only about 100 are projected to get spots in the city You do the math.

 

Which pretty much is why I think higher education is a huge scam.  The only ones who don’t think so are the ones who are lucky.

 

I should add that the extra problem is that the highest chances of me finding full time quality lawyerwing work will be here in the city– her going after a rural placement just to hedge her bets might mean that we have to do 2 years of long distance, seeing eachother only on weekends at most.  There’s just nothing out there in the boonies in terms of lawyering work.

 

And long distance?  That’s kind of a shitty way to live.

So one of us is going to have to decide to give up substntial professional chances for the other just so we can be together.

 

ANd for the record, I don’t think that couples who matter should be doing long distance for years.  That’s bullshit.

On adjusting to the sexual culture outside of the orthodox community.

Artificial Intelligence

Designing a filing system from scratch and messing around with Outlook Rules and VBA is a lot like playing Final Fantasy XII.

 

It’s almost kinda fun.

Work Hard, Play Harder

Following on the last post, I should point out that I recently bought a Playstation Vita for [CM] and myself. Because I’ve been rather busy though, [CM] has been playing it mostly.

I think that compared to any other systems, that is to say, Microsoft or Nintendo, Sony really is good at providing a full package experience.  The PS Vita has some nifty features that interact logically and innovatively with the PS3– for example, you can move data back and forth (such as applicable games and other downloads) with no problems.  Remote Play allows you to play some PS3 games on your Vita, which is pretty cool too.

 

Mostly, I’m impressed by how PSN plus just provides you with a great gaming experience.  The titles aren’t the most cutting edge when it comes to the “free stuff library,” however, the free stuff library generally has many of the top games of the past year.  And if you want to buy other games, there’s usually at least some discount over the shelf price.  Which is a huge boon– game prices in Australia are nuts compared to North America, so having a North American PSN account to buy digital content at North American prices? That’s just great. 

None of this bullshit archaic region-locked content like with the Nintendo 3DS.

 

Right now, we’re playing Persona 4 Golden.  Which so far is every bit as good, and overal better, than Persona 3 Portable (aka Shin Megami Tensei 3).  

 

Do you use PSN? Drop me word with your gamer account ID!

Full-Time

I’m doing fulltime work as a paralegal for a previous teacher at the law school, who runs her own employment law practice.  It’s not a long-term thing (I a working as a paralegal / interim office manager, not as a solicitor) but at least it’s relatively steady hours.  I was originally hired on a casual basis at the end of 2013, but I’ve only actually worked here one day back then.  It just so happens that the other paralegal and the full-time office manager recently left the practice, so that’s more hours for me.

 

It’s a pretty good gig so far– pretty flexible work arrangements.  The work isn’t too tough, it’s interesting, and a lot less menial than what I was doing at the German law firm in the past.  I also get paid more than I used to with the Germans, which is a plus.  It’s a 25 minute bus ride from my apartment to the office, so that’s also a plus.

Unfortunately I normally finish work a bit late, as in, around 6pm.  That means that I won’t be able to go to judo for the foreseeable future.

 

Meanwhile, I wait on 7 or so applications that I completed a few weeks ago, and have a trusts accounting exam tomorrow.  

 

So busy.

The Pyjama Game, redux

This is actually an old post– from the sounds of it, is from October 2013, since it speaks of my rotator cuff injury– which I overlooked and left as a draft.  It is now being published as is.

 

Monday evening, I went to judo.  First time in about 4 days.  During the day, I had gone out at around 1 in the afternoon to shop for a new physiotherapist and buy some groceries– I probably shouldn’t have gone out at that time, because recently the Australian summer has been upon us.  For a Montrealer at the core, I don’t think I’m used to that much sun.  I went to judo probably a bit dehydrated and maybe with some minor heat exhaustion.  Didn’t have much gas at all, and felt like I was constantly out of breath… I had difficulty getting through the warmups even.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The Return of [Will]

[Will] was at judo, practicing for his yellow belt grading.  Yellow belt is basically the second belt you get.  You start off as a white without having to do anything to earn it.  Like most people going for their yellow belt, Will was having about as much trouble with the japanese terminology as he was with the techniques, so he asked me to help him.  Given that I was tired and my shoulder still isn’t in tip top shape, I spent most of the sparring time just reviewing with him since it was lighter work.

Several months ago, Will just dropped off the face of the planet.  I’m not close to him, but he just stopped coming to judo.  I actually wrote a whole post about him, but it was around the time when I was still getting used to wordpress, and unfortunately, the post got eaten somehow when I trashed a draft that seemed empty.  The basic jist of that post back then was that Will was a coward– and I was glad that he’d quit.

That might seem like a pretty harsh thing to say, but at the time, it was certainly what I felt.  I may have to reevaluate what I think of him now that he’s back in the class and still trying.

The main reason why I thought he was a coward was that he was constnatly just apologising for everything.  He was afraid of hurting his opponents, he was afraid of being hurt.  As a result, he injured others and himself more frequently because of his lack of trust, and technical lack of follow through.

Although we started training together and were often paired together because he’s around my weight (he’s about 8 kilos heavier than me), Will’s complete lack of willpower and talent meant that I pulled ahead of him quite quickly.  And I started to resent the fact that he wasn’t keeping up– but not only that, but because we were always paired together, that he was holding me back.

I also hated that he always let [Cobain] walk all over him– literally.  A blue belt at the time, Cobain used to try and get a rise out of Will by taunting him.  Eventually, Will’s lack of resistence got to the point where Cobain would literally step on him before and after classes when Will was lying around.

To a lot of people, the use of the word “coward” is really a big thing.  I don’t think it’s any different from the magnitude or significance of calling someone an idiot, a jerk, or a shithead though.  When I use the word, I don’t use it lightly– Will might have reasons for doing judo, and he might be a generally nice person, but his complete lack of fighting spirit makes him unreliable.

I’ve never been able to trust people like that, or truly befriend people like that.

I have plenty of friends who don’t do martial arts, but I do not keep any friends who have zero fighting spirit.  Those who don’t have enough basic ability to stand up for themselves and assert their identities and rights in a first world country are the kinds of people who potentially are turncoats.  It’s not that I hate them, but it’s that much harder for people like that to earn my trust, because their is no consistency to their character.

The fact that he was trying to memorise all of the japanese names to throwing techniques, and asked my help, was a particular situation.  On one hand, I could just tell him to go stuff himself.  His belt grading exam didn’t end up happening that day, but he thought it was supposed to happen, so that’s all that matters.

If you have to be asking someone on the day of an exam what a technique’s name is, it’s too late.  If not only you’re asking what a technique’s name is, but for me to show you how to do the technique and break it down for you… what the fuck?  Are you serious?  Are you even taking this seriously?  Why do you want to be a yellow belt if you can’t demonstrate what few techniques are required to earn it?  What makes you think you deserve it?

I realise that I might sound high and mighty, and I’m only an orange belt myself (which is two grades higher than the basic white belt only).  But I take the heirarchy seriously.

Knowing my place

Which is why, conflicted as I was, I did my best to help him learn the techniques.  Because as his “senior” in the dojo, that’s what you’re supposed to do– take care of your “juniors.” Irrespective of whether or not I think he deserves it, it’s not my call to make.  [RSensei] and [KSensei] will decide that.

-=-=-=-=-=-

It’s not that I’ve mastered the throws that he has to do, but I think I’m pretty good at breaking down complex techniques and explaining theory, and even correcting peoples’ techniques inasmuch as I know of the correct technique.  As in, if I’m taught something, I tend to analyse the body mechanics of it pretty well.  Unlike with schoolwork, I often review techniques I learn in class on YouTube to see other variations, and get the idea of the main essence of a technique pretty easily. I can tell when someone is doing it on me properly or not in most cases, even if I can’t actually do the technique perfectly myself.

-=-=-=-=-=-

It takes two

The real limitation for me to doing the technique myself is my own body.  First of all, there are the physical weaknesses– as in, not enough flexibility like this, not enough strength like this, or just an injury that makes this particular motion bad for me.   But the other dimension is the muscle memory– being that my body is just not accustomed to some techniques to the point where I could pull it off just like that. Really, this second issue is just experience.

The interesting thing about judo compared to striking arts is how drastically the game changes when you match up with a different opponent.  In kickboxing, there are differences as well.  However, fundamentally, you are still going to punch and kick the same way to rock your opponent– whether your opponent is heavy or light, you’re still going to hit the chin the same way essentially.  Factors such as the reach, speed and pure muscle might alter the tactics you use to fight your opponent, but fundamentally, the body mechanics that you’re using for both your offensive and deffensive techniques should be the same, even if that means that you will find some techniques are more effective than others.

In judo, however, the difficulty of learning a technique at its basis is compounded by the fact that your attacking techniques are half thanks to the contribution of your opponent.  When you punch someone in the face, you don’t care what the other person is doing.   If you get him, you get him and that’s it.  The opponent’s only contribution to the situation is if they dodge, block or parry– but fundamentally, you deal damage through your own effort alone.

In judo, it’s really quite difficult to “force” your attack on someone, and this is especially apparent if your opponent is even slightly heavier than you.  You really need to use a direct technique to make him shift his weight, and then you have to capitalise on that weight shift.

So compare the simplicity of these two situations:

1. punching someone in the face when your opponent’s guard is down

2. using your opponent’s momentum

Although both situations depend on your opponent in effect letting his guard down, a punch to the face is a lot “cleaner” than the amount of effort it takes to harness someone’s momentum.  If you fail at punching someone, well, try try again.  Punch high, punch low, then punch high again.  Throwing, on the other hand, takes seconds longer than a single punch, most of which is spent doing a full body movement to match your opponent’s.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying that one method is better than the other.  Just that, from the perspective of a former kickboxer, throwing just seems a lot more involved.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The New Physiotherapist

Yesterday, I went to see a new physiotherapist for my shoulder injury.  Turned out this physio is way more competent than the last one.  He explained things a lot better and didn’t just attempt to sugar coat things for me.  He was as technical about shoulder anatomy as I was able to understand, and I appreciated that.  Every step of the way, he explained what he was doing as he manipulated my arm at various angle.  So this one is a keeper.  After leaving his office, I actually felt that my shoulder had loosened up a fair amount.

The rehab exercises feel stupidly easy– it’s nothing like pumping iron.  But the pathetic thing is that the extent of my rotator cuff tear is such that at certain angles, my left (non-dominant) arm is literally 20 times stronger than my right (dominant) arm.  To put it in perspective, sometimes it’s hard for me to lift my arm to push a lightswitch, or to use chopsticks for extended periods of time.

But I think I like physio, because the rehabilitation exercises give me some sense of control over my injuries.  I know how to wait, and I know how to take the time to do what’s necessary– but I’m an impatient person, and it doesn’t mean that even if i put up with it, I like it.  Having rehab exercises to do really helps me feel like I’m working towards something, and helping my body get closer to the goal.  I don’t like leaving things on their own.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I went to judo tuesday evening as well.  Because the vast majority of the class is away in Queensland for UniGames (a major university versus university competition in all sorts of sporting events) the class was almost a private class.  There were only about 7-8 students in total, so like on Monday, I got a fair amount of technical attention from [KingTiger].  I’ve decided to call one of my instructors by this nickname, because he recently participated, at over 60 years of age, in a Masters judo competition at the Kokodan.  Kokodan is the headquarters of judo in japan.  He took a gold home– stealing the medal “from the tiger’s mouth” as he puts it.

KingTiger is an amazing person.  I don’t always like his teaching methods because he simply doesn’t always explain things very well (language barrier maybe), but his body movements, if you can mimic them, tell the whole story: for someone of his size (he’s more than twice my weight) and age (he’s more than twice my age), he’s an absolute beast.  I have had the privilege of sparring with him once.  I may as well have been a chimpanzee trying to throw down a gorilla.

Aside from the fact that he’s one of the physically strongest fighters in the class, KingTiger is also super flexible and technically amazing.  When demonstrating techniques, he puts no power into anything and sends people flying just through technical leverage, balance and timing.  When he does demonstrate “with power” it’s absolutely frightening.  The misconception that there are padded floors and judokas know how to break their falls so nobody really takes any damage is totally wrong– KingTiger could turn any throw into a bodyslam that could not only ensure you were stunned, but I’m sure if he decided to use his body weight to go down with it he could break bones and knock people outright unconscious with them.

The best compliment I’ve ever gotten from him was yesterday, while doing a throwing exercise.  One person would stand at the front of the room and throw anyone who came up to him, left or right handed, with the throw of his choice. The compliment was that while I was throwing, he didn’t say anything.  I suppose that sounds strange, but KingTiger is a really a critical guy.  It’s not to say that my throw technique is perfect (in that case it was for ippon seoi nage, the one armed shoulder throw, and o soto gari, the major outer reap).  It’s just that as far as he was trying to teach the class a certain part of these throws, I was doing it well enough to just continue as I was.

I think I owe a lot to his harshness as a teacher.  He’s a good partner to [KingBear], who is the other instructor, who is also really technically good but is mostly important to me because he answers all my questions by breaking down techniques.  KingBear is a lot more of a teacher, in the sense that he lays things out very understsandably.  He’s also a lot more dipolomatic, in that unlike KingTiger, he won’t say something like “that throw was total shit.  This is no what I teach. I no teach shit like this– you call this throw?”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Learning to be the Bully

Yesterday, I was sparring with [BJJT].  We both started judo at the same time, but he started in a background of Krav Maga (which had adopted some elements of brazilian jiu jitsu) so he has a pretty damn strong ground game.  I’ve been doing judo for almost  year, and despite the fact that he’s almost 10kilograms lighter than me, I’ve never been able to pin or submit him for a win.  I can beat him in standup fighting with throws with about a 50% rate, but on the ground, I’ve never won against him.

Until last night.

Normally, in the span of a 5-10 minute sparring session, he’ll submit me multiple times.  Lately he hasn’t been able to pin me as much (because of the weight difference).   The last time we sparred, he might get me in 5-6 submissions within the space of a single sparring round.

Last night, I got him once, and he got me once.  I don’t think my attacks are necessarily better, but I’ve learned a better deffensive game and I have more a gameplan in general.  I have BearKing to thank for that– he’s been showing me techniques and has entertained all my stupid questions.  BearKing has been great to me– whenever there’s free time, he’s always happy to roll with me.  I have never come close to beating him on the ground or even unbalancing him in standup, but basically surviving a round with him as long as I can has made me way more technically adept by reducing the number of openings that I give my opponent.

And now, it’s all added up– I finally have my first win against BJJT.

 

Yes, I know that basically my acheivement so far is that I can beat most of the people who are smaller than me. But that’s a start.

Applications

It is now 17:06PM– the deadline just passed, and I got my five applications in all on time.

 

Soooo tired.

 

Now, the waiting begins.

Every day being a gift, or something

Tomorrow, graduate applications for jobs 2015 jobs are due.  I’m more or less on top of it– with today and tomorrow to finish things, I should be fine.  There are only about 5-6 firms to apply to in any case, so it’s really just perfectionism and paranoia that’s preventing me from handing things in.

I do not think I am designed to live in isolation.  Yes, [CM] lives with me– but during the day, she’s at the hospital doing work.  During the day… I type.  And I type.  And then I type some more.

 

Right now, there are mainly three things on my plate.  The first is the College of Law on-line course, which is takes as much time as full time classes in terms of readings and homework.  This is a post-degree certification that allows me to apply for the solicitor’s license.  Next, my thesis.  I’m writing about recent changes in Australian privacy law that changes the conditions that must be met before Australia sends information overseas, and how this relates to similar regimes in Europe.  Finally, the last thing on my plate is applications.

Of the bunch, I would say that applications are the most tedious of the bunch, because I’ve been grinding at this game for a long time now.  In fact, this round of graduate applications is my third time playing this game.  Although I haven’t graduated yet, I had two goes at clerkship applications in the past– once last  year, and once the year before it.  While I am glad that I did make attempts early because it was valuable experience, it’s also getting to the point where honestly, there’s not much more about my game that I can improve.  Someone just have to give me a chance.

I’ve gotten feedback from employers on a casual basis and just flat out asked them: what is wrong with me?  Why won’t anyone give me a permanent position?  And these are people who have nothing to lose by telling me the truth, and are in the position to hire people, but just won’t give me that permanent position.  I’m going to be working more or less full time as a paralegal for the next month or so at least, but I know that’s not going to lead to a permanent position.  Like all the other firms where I’ve paralegaled at, paralegals are largely interchangeable and disposable.

Why haven’t I landed a graduate position yet? The answer is two fold.  First, my accent: with a clear non-Australian accent, I am a flight risk.  My accent is a neutral North-American one, and right away, it tells the employer that I might not have permanent residency– which they would be right about.  So then, compared to local born-students with overseas heritage and languages, I’m a little bit more of a risk right there because if they invest time in me and the government decides not to let me stay, it’s a waste of substantial investment on their part.

The second reason is “over-qualification.”  On numerous occasions, the feedback on my CV was that my extensive experiences not just in law and community work, but in my previous life as a government healthcare administrator, especially in positions of management, made me overqualified for clerkships.  Basically: they weren’t sure I could cooperate with a bunch of fresh grads who knew nothing of the workforce.  They weren’t sure if I could reallly really work in the bullpen with a bunch of people who had no work ethic.  Which is, really, bull: because I have tons of experience working with incompetent people (um, hello, I worked for like 7 years in government healthcare?) and I’ve always made the best of it for everyone involved.  The underlying reasoning which most employers won’t say though is that they want someone who is more naive and more malleable to abuse.

The two above factors combine to be that, with both experience and international know-how, I am a flight risk. I could work anywhere I want and adapt– so what’s to say that I’m invested in a Syndey life?

Admittedly, that’s one thing I’ve changed about my pitch, and it’s what got me the internship in Hong Kong: playing the game and saying that I was invested in living there.  Which was only partly true.   But it seemed to be enough to convince them to give me a chance.  Then again, Hong Kong in general has a much friendlier stance on international background lawyers.

Which, in a way, brings me back to this thing I keep hearing by people in Sydney that Australia is “so multicultural.”  No, it’s not.  Montreal is multicultural.  Canada is multicultural.  Go to a comedy show and see how sensitive people are to racism here, versus in Canada and the USA– multiculturalism here is like North America back in the late 80s and early 90s.  Sydney is all about advertising education opportunities, and then denying Australian educated internationals the opportunities to work that they were promised.  And it’s not just the legal market– it’s also the same with medicine and engineering.

 

There’s clearly a disconnect between the education industry’s ability to invoke trigger happiness with the immigration department’s student visa guns and their willingness to deal with graduates who no longer have any money to spend on further tertiary education at international rates.  It’s an industry of education tourism, that’s what it is.

I am saying that I am upset because I am not crazy, I have no glaring problems, and I am a mature person who is both willing and able to adapt to work conditions.  I am hungry and I am responsible.  The fact of the matter is that I know I am just as qualified as people who are landing clerkships and jobs, but I keep on getting passed up on because of this stigma surrounding international graduates.  I’m not just making this up.  It’s a thing. And it’s bullshit.

 

It makes it really hard to stay motivated and spend day upon day writing applications where I actually read it back to myself with a smile, because that’s the only way positivity leaks into my writing.  For the hundredth time, okay, let me tell you why I want to work for your firm, and why your firm is the only one in the world that is with me.  Yes, I tell that to all girls in HR.  Let me tell you about how awesome I am.

Please, go ahead: judge me again. I won’t take it personally.

 

 

Anyway, griping.  All that negative destructive energy has exhausted itself.  It’s time to do something positive and constructive: Back to application writing.

image

 

Lego Movie was actually really fun. As [CM] put it, if you liked Wreck-It-Ralph, you’d probably like the Lego Movie.

Captain Phillips was wholly irrelevant. There is probably a reason why cargo ships don’t have any firearms on them, but if a single person had a sniper rifle, that movie would never have happened. I wouldn’t want to be a cargo captain in pirated waters. At the same time though, considering the ship was taken over by a handful of pirates on a single skiv, I’m surprised that they couldn’t do something like simply drop televisions on the attackers or something.

Just Cause 2 (PS3) is a 2013 title, but like all these sandbox Mercenaries and Far Cry type games, it’s another irrelevant title. I’m a bit tired of these games in general.

Dead Island (PS3) was also irrelevant. Doesn’t bring anything new to FPS except that there’s melee combat. Weapons upgrading and customisation is an interesting touch, but nothing we haven’t seen in Borderlands. The FPS element when you’re shooting or hacking at zombies– but when you fight other armed humans (with firearms) the game is terrible. If you play games on max difficulty, you will die shitloads just because there’s no covering system in this game, so you often end up just strafing left and right behind rocks and doorways, which makes for a very boring and repetitive process.

Like the open-world games that just seem to be plaguing 2012 to 2013, the missions are tedios and repetitive– it’s the modern, 3d version of the grind of JRPGs. I guess some people are into that.

Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies (3DS) is actually pretty fun, if you don’t mind reading a hella lot of text. The last Ace Attorney game I played was on DS back in 2007– in 3D, the game looks great and the music is just awesome. I can’t really say much about this game except if you were into the old ones, this one makes improvements and won’t let you down. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a law student.

Witch Craft Works (the anime) was pretty fun– the animation quality was amazing.  I don’t think it did much in terms of character design– in fact, it mostly reinforced the idea to me that I could never be friends with the main character of an anime, because I’d probably want to kill myself or the main character.  But there is a lot of good comedy in this title: Lllams are a good start start.  Thanks to [VisualNoise] for the point in the direction of the anime Witch Craft Works, which is the most fun I’ve had in a while.  I have a feeling that this might be better as a manga, because as a anime, it feels like there’s a lot of stuff missing or that was skipped over.

Log Horizon (the anime) I’ve only watched a few episodes so far, but it’s a lot like Sword Art: Online. I thought that SAO was pretty amazing (at least the first season) so I can’t help but compare LH to it– and SAO feels better in general.  Overal, you can skip this one– not much original going on if  you’ve already seen SAO or something in the Hack series.

Kingdom of Magi (the anime) or something to a similar name– there’s two serieses.  I can’t remember what the name is exactly, but I’m watching the first one.  Bleh.  Nothing interesting there, and the main character is a strange and highly inconsistent character.  The series also trivialises revolution and government in general in a way that I really don’t appreciate– shitloads of people are constnatly dying just to make some stupid thematic point in the growth of the main character.  You can definitely pass on this one.  The premise of the series, based on a hodgepodge of Arabic mythology, was pretty cool– the series has characters like Alladin and Sinbad all in one series, along with various djinns– but it doesn’t go all that far beyond name dropping.

Space Dandy (the anime) is pretty fucked up– there’s no real character development, but it can be damn funny at times if you’re in the mood.  This one is hit or miss, you’ll either think it’s brilliant or terrible.  It’s somewhat of a poor man’s Samurai Champloo– transfer the setting to space, take out the persistent “sunflower samurai” story arc, remove the ultra smooth Nujabes et al soundtrack, take out the amazing fight choreography, and what you’re left with is a series based on episodal absurdity.

Hajime no Ippo (the anime) is getting annoying because it’s essentially a rinse repeat.  Whatever the most current anime is called, it’s doing the post-war story of Kamogawa’s youth– which, well, is pretty much like taking Ippo and sending him back in time and making him do the exact same thing.  What I used to like about Hajime no Ippo was that it spent a lot of time doing character development– not just of the main character, but of the opponents he would face.  Nowadays, the main character is already mentally tough– it’s just a question of whether or not he has the tenacity and technique to win.  But we never care about the opponents anymore– all the world stage opponents are largely interchangable, generic “foreigners” who are just dangerous, but we couldn’t give a damn if they won or lose.  What happened to fighting for mother’s soup??

Thomas Was Alone (PS3/PS Vita) an indie game which shows that it’s indie– interesting in concept and in play for the first 10 minutes. If you want to sum this game up, take Super Mario Brothers, downgrade the graphics to the Pong era of gaming (your character is quite literally a rectangle) and make him jump around.  That’s it.  The pretentious british accented narration gives you a sense that there’s some story to it, but after a while he just sounds annoying.

Ace of the Diamond (the anime): I enjoy this one because I know nothing about baseball beyond what I’ve read in Rookies (the manga, which was awesome– the live action movie was horrid).  This anime is technically interesting.  All the characters, with no exception, are annoying as hell– the main character especially is insufferable, and in real life, nobody would ever be his friend.

Kuroko’s Basketball (the anime): I enjoy this one for the action.  Character development is non-existent, and I largely wish that the characters would never say anything, ever.  The techniques are a lot of fun, but I’m told that techniques like that don’t actually exist in real basketball.  Which is unfortunate.

Kill la Kill (anime) is just brilliant.  It’s great in so many ways.  If you’re a fan of Toppa Tengen Guren Laghan in terms of emotion-filled kickassery, this is the anime for you.  To roughly paraphrase a great article on this anime by Kotaku, this anime is a magical-girl trope turned inside out– there’s a transformation sequence, but the outfit it ridiculously skimpy, and the battles are extremely violent and over the top.  The thing about all the skin showing in this anime is that it’s almost never done in a sexual way– the basic premise of the anime is that clothing is evil (the resistance forces dub themselves “Nuddist Beach,” and that should give you some indication).  I don’t want to spoil anything (because there is a plot) so I won’t say more about that.  But the main character uses a half scissors sword (imagine half of a pair of scissors, life sized) in line with the theme that scissors can cut cloth– which I’m told is the point of the pun of the title: Kill, or “Kiru” in japanese, can mean cloth, wear, or cut.  With he scissor blade, she and similarly overpowered opponents clash– blade clashes cause explosions that blow away all spectators and nearby land.  That explosion turns inside out like a nuclear mushroom, then condenses into an implosion vaccuming everything back in, concluding with another explosion like a big bang once that all reaches critical mass.  As someone who loves science, I don’t care– an explosion that causes an implosion that causes an even more powerful explosion is just so awesome, I can suspend disbelief because that, ladies and gentlemen, is original.  I should add that this series also has zero filler episodes, or even lazy production moments, which in itself might be enough to qualify it as an anime of the  year.

 

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I’ve been reading mangas and watching animes for forever.   I like flim / animation in general, probably in line with my love of video games (so motion is important), so this post is mostly about what I look for in an anime.  This post also occurs because it just so happens that I have shitloads of work due– not just for my licensing course, but for my thesis and job applications, and animes happen to be convinient 30-minute bursts of break time from writing all  of that stuff.  Because of the fact that these breaks are precious to me, my tolerance for bad anime goes reallly realllllllly reallllllllllllllllly low.

You might notice from the list above that with very few exceptions, I don’t have very much good to say about anime recently.  There’s no formula for what makes an anime great– but there are certainly things that you can do wrong that detract from even the best premises.  Here are the things that I look at in anime, and this could cross over to movies and videogames in general as well.

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Pacing, and production laziness.

In general, if you make a filler episode, you fail on this.  If you try to drag out an episode, you also fail at this. Pacing has to deal with the delivery rate of main story progression.  If something is not progressing in terms of the story, there has to at least be enough animation or action going on to distract me.

Sidequests might be fun and might even be relevant, so there are times when there may be exceptions, but even within filler episodes, you know sometimes when the people making the anime are trying to rip you off– it’s unmistakable when you just feel that they’re trying to drag it out.  If you could summaraise an entire episode’s plot advancements in a few sentences, and there was no action/fighting, that’s probably a bad sign. Hunter X Hunter and Naruto are great examples of absolutely terrible pacing.  90% of the dialogue is unnecessary.  50% of an episode is dramatic staring, walking, teeth gritting, or evil pondering. Why? Because if you can anime 2 seconds of footage, why not see if you can get away with playing it for 4 seconds, or maybe even 6 seconds?  You still only have to pay for 2 seconds worth of work, right?  Production laziness is especially apparent dialogue techniques.  For example, in Hunter X Hunter when there are basically still shots that the camera pans over, and the narrator just states the obvious.  Many other animes always have people blah blah blahing things that we don’t fucking care about, because getting a voice actor to just read a few sentences while the characters stand still with their hands in their pockets is a lot easier to produce than it is to time dialogue and complex animation sequences.  What about lines where characters say things like “What happened here?” or “You bastard….!!!” or “How could you?”  it doesn’t get us anywhere.  Stalling to save yourself a few seconds of production costs here and there adds up, and the audiences notice.

It’s absofuckinglutely infuriating.

 

Main characters are people who I can’t imagine myself ever befriending.

Occasionally, I might want a main character’s powers or abilities.  But never their personality.  Especially in shonen anime/manga– quite frankly, main characters are often suicidal idiots who make terrible role models for children and young adults.  Characters like Ichigo, Ippo, Naruto, or any sports serieses– they’re all sociopaths who ignore society around them and impose their own ideals of willpower on the world around them.  If you actually knew people like this, they would not be admirable: they would be fucking scary.  It would be unpredictable.  They would not be trustworthy.  They have that one-mindedness that you find in stalkers.

It is not enough for a main character to be passionate and to try hard– they have to be someone who I can empathise with. THat doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be someone I feel sorry for, although that can be done cleverly at times. Shinji Ikari, in his various iterations, is a classic example of a complex main character who I came to develop a lot of interest in, because he’s believable.  The main character of Guilty Crown was also interesting.  Main characters need to have something other than obstinancy driving their motivations.

Technical Artwork

There’s a lot of subjectivity here, because some art styles just appeal more to to some audiences and not others.  But I think that artwork needs to at least demonstrate some skill, even if within it’s own style.  Character design is part of it. If all the characters look like they’re drawn the same with a few differences here and there, it’s really an eyesore.  Initial D was both unwatchable and unreadable to me for the longest time because all the characters looked basically the same to me, and were incapable of any expressions.  Artwork flaws are more noticible in anime when tied with production laziness– you can get away with poor artwork for instance if characters have very different body language, for instance.  Body language is one of those things that a lot of animes really ignore– everyone walks the same, and there is a template of facial expressions that are just plugged into characters as the ‘style’ of that anime.

Artwork isn’t just about technicality of the drawing– it has to do with framing, composition, and poses, which are capable of giving you information even if there is no motion.  Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo are the best examples of this– people there have very believable body language.  Recall the American baseballing invaders.  The prostitute in the brothel.  The beatboxing entourage of the local fraud.  And I don’t even have to mention the huge difference in body language between Jin and Mugen themselves.

Music

Nothing makes bad pacing and poor dialouge more apparent than when there’s nothign going on in the background but crickets.  Then the absurdity of what characters are actually saying is as loud as a conversation in an elevator– without music.  Painful.

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There are other things that I probably pay attention to, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head right now.

Job Application Essay Question: “Why do you want to work at X law firm?”

 
 response:
 
 
I am hungry
 
I need money
 
WILL WORK FOR MONEY
 
WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME