Survivor: The Solar System

Scientists are apparently in the midst of deciding if Pluto is, or is not, a planet. Their new criteria for this decision hinges on the fact that, in order to be considered a planet, one has to be pretty exclusively in one’s own orbital domain, ie, no getting in some other planet’s space.

It’s been known for decades that Pluto violates this rule; since its orbit is elliptical, it sometimes crosses over Neptune’s orbit path. From all reports, Neptune is usually pretty cool about this, figuring that as Pluto is a giant block of ice, any controlling brains in machines at the core are going to be damned cold and probably distracted now and then from running things smoothly.

This shouldn’t really be a big deal, but it inexplicably bothers me that Pluto might lose its license. I really think size should be the biggest criteria of whether or not something is considered a planet, along with “not in orbit around another planet” distinguishing such objects from moons.

It’s probably a good thing that the guy who discovered Pluto is no longer with us. Imagine spending all that time, looking for a planet and finding one, only to be told, “You didn’t discover a planet. We don’t know what it is—it may just be a floating hunk of trash. But you didn’t discovery any kind of a planet.”

I imagine that would be pretty discouraging. It would be like spending an hour trying to find your car keys before suddenly realizing, Hey, wait a minute. Why am I looking for car keys? I probably don’t even own a car, at least not a good car. I should probably just give up driving anyway.

On the other front, some scientists are trying to get Pluto’s moon Charon, and Largest Asteroid Winner Ceres, classified as planets themselves. Those scientists, eh? They’re always up to something.

PaintBlog II: Augustwork II

Las week as you recall, we saw Will, Doctor Smith and the Robot searching for exotic flowers, unaware that they were soon to encounter an incredible alien machine.

Also, we posted some work on PaintBlog II. Here’s some more, mainly dealing with the central shaft. Below, you can see that we’ve added a bit of golden-wooden highlights to the thing, and sharpened the shadow where the masts join.

Transgression

For no good reason at all, here’s a close-up. Oh wait, there is a good reason! To show it closer. (I always forget that one.)

Resurrection

Below, you can see some shading work on the structure holding the whole thing to the mountain. Now, I know what you’re thinking.

Perfection

You’re thinking, Damn, that looks awfully phallic. Do you know why you think this? Well, I’ll tell you, and the answer might surprise you! It’s because you have a mind that is always thinking that. Come on, you might as well admit it now. Also, you should probably cut it out.

Below is the full image.

Progression

More of the mountain-frame thing, with some additional highlights. Also, the thing-pod’s companion has had some work done, brightening it up a bit.

Precision

Below, another full shot. I had to change some clouds, because the stupid shaft accidentally got paint on the other bits of clouds. I yelled at it and it was sorry but I still had to fix it.

Recondition

More cloud work below.

Direction

And below, some more cloudwork. I think the cloudwork needs some more cloudwork, but as of now, this is how the work appears.

Extension

Starting in a day or so, I’m going to start another project based on an idea on a mailing list I’m on. This is going to be a portrait (of all things), which I am completely bad at. So we’ll see how that one goes. Should be quite humbling I bet. The question is…for whom?

PaintBlog II: AugustWork I

Well, that shows confidence, eh, titling this with a “I” after it, as if there’ll be more in August. Nevertheless, or rather because of, on with the show.

When we last saw Paint Blog Two, it looked like this:

Angression

Well, I did some adding along the bottom of the picture until it looked like this:

Angression

We now have a landscape that goes across the canvas, as well as a thing-pod standing to the left. The top part of the canvas is actually not that shiny, it’s just that Raw Umber tends to reflect light pretty badly when it’s thin. Possibly a bit of sandpaper can cure that, but I’m not worried about it just yet.

Anyway, I started adding some more bits, mostly highlighting and cloud details.

Angression

Above, one can see some clouds added near the foot of the structure, between the two hills. I rather like this; it looks as if we’re overlooking some valley. Incidentally, the canvas looks pretty striking upside down…but then mine do that, don’t they?

Next, we need to add some stuff to the foot. First the tape. (Notice the two legs have been filled in.)

Angression

Then that set of tape is removed, and another added.

Angression

Some highlighting added, as well as some details on the thing-pod to the left.

Angression

Filling in the foot structure with some clouds and what-not.

Angression

Below, an overview of what we’ve got so far.

Angression

The above also shows more detailing of the thing-pod, as well as some highlights on the ground near it.

Angression

The thing-pod’s broken companion is roughed in above. More highlights and details are added, and here’s our next full shot.

Angression

Next, some details for the thing-pod’s companion (including a broken support), and some highlights on the other bit of hill to the right. So now, as of today (or rather last night), it looks like this.

Angression

Only not as shiny.

We’ll see where it goes from here, and if there is to be more work in August. Thanks for stopping by.

The Chronicles of “Misaki Chronicles” Part 2

I saw the rest of Misaki Chronicles the other day. Combined with Divergence Eve, it’s a really wonderful, deep, imaginative and moving story. (On its own, I can’t imagine that it would make any sense.) The storytelling itself, particularly as Chronicles begins moving into the home stretch, remains densely packed and I’m still not too certain, now, what was going on at the time or if I understand it all. But definitely a candidate for rewatching.

I’m going to try not to have any spoilers here, because in my opinion the series really should be seen by folks who are interested in stories told with imagination. On the technical side of things, the CGI is much better integrated and better detailed. The Ghouls don’t do as much, but there’s a guy near the end with these spiky tentacles who looks pretty scary indeed.

The music is also very good (if a bit repetitive). It’s not the chugging industrial slam of Divergence Eve’s opening credits, it’s more a series of overlapping keyboard patterns arranged in moods. Most soundtrack music for anime tends, to these ears anyway, to be serviceable without being memorable (Noir being an exception). I’d love to see a soundtrack album.

So I definitely recommend this one. Recommendation comes, of course, sigh, with the breast caveat. I’ve come to the conclusion that the breasts were a serious mistake. Anyone looking for an interesting story to watch, based on casually browsing the web or the local DVD store, is going to skip this one by. A little deeper digging would reveal the quality nature of the show, but there are a lot of series out there in anime; who has time to dig deeper? In order to be motivated to dig deeper, something in the initial encounter has to spark your curiosity. The show has to do some of the work itself when you come across it.

If you do a Google image search on Divergence Eve, you’re going to find (as I did) pictures of the women all cavorting on the beach wearing impossible swimsuits. Here’s the thing: had I not already had my interest piqued by Stephen Den Beste’s review, I would have dismissed Divergence Eve. That would have been a loss, for me and the show. (Likewise, someone deciding to watch the series based on those swimsuits is in for a serious letdown.)

I dunno. Maybe anime shows can present themselves this way and succeed; maybe I’m just not aware of how this stuff works. Though I can’t help noting that another excellent, dark, character-driven show (Noir again) didn’t seem to need bikinis. But yes, in my opinion, the breasts were a bad idea.

Ah well, one of the themes of the show is that you can’t change the past, but you can shape the future. So let me say that I do, now, finally, have an appreciation for the silly-seeming closing credits of Divergence Eve and the similarly presented opening credits for Misaki Chronicles. In plain, this is the only time in the whole show when Misaki gets to have pure, unfettered fun. She’s such a sweet kid that she deserves to have a good time roaming around with her friends, going to the beach, etc, etc, even if it’s only in a credit sequence. It’s not like she ever got to do that during the show. In fact, her every thought and action seemed directed toward helping other people, often to her own cost. I’m glad she had friends who thought she deserved the same. A pity they never got to have that kind of opening credits fun together. (The closest they seemed to get was, according to a snapshot, what looks like an ice-cream fight.)

The ending of the series may change that, though. It’s open to a few interpretations, some nicer than others, but I’m going to exercise my prerogative about shaping the future and say that it was the best possible one. Not only for her but for Lyar Von Ertiana as well.

I mentioned in the earlier post that it’s almost as much Lyar’s story as it is Misaki’s. That doesn’t change as the narrative unfolds; a good chunk of it is about Lyar’s ability to live for something other than missions and her duty to fulfill them. The character remains interesting, and I’d love to see a series about her. As for Misaki herself, I hope that she’s learned that while friends are important and necessary, it isn’t required that you place all your happiness upon them; it’s okay to cherish and enjoy yourself for who you are, rather than how others perceive you.

The final episode addresses something I’d thought a bit silly in the opening title sequence of Divergence Eve. During the credits, we see each of our major characters, with a brief summary of facts about them, including name, national origin, measurements (for the ladies), strengths and weaknesses, etc. Lyar Von Ertiana’s weakness was “Marriageable Age.” Now that’s a bit condescending I thought. But the final episode briefly addresses why this might be an actual relevant detail, and why it was best for her to find her purpose and life in her work, heartbreaking though that must have been for her. Not that she’d show it; she’s too much of a pro and besides, people are depending on her.

You’ll note I’m treating these characters like real people. That, to me, is the mark of excellent story-telling, when a book or a film stops being a series of events in a narrative, and instead becomes a series of events you’re witnessing in people’s lives. One goes from, “I hope they catch that vampire,” or “I wonder if the rocket will work” to “I hope he finds purpose in this,” or “I hope this love is the one she wants.” One of my favorite moments from Divergence Eve is a simple conversation between Kiri and Misaki held over their pressure suit radios (they’re in different parts of the station). It’s actually quite touching, just audio and faces; that’s how good these characters are. I really enjoyed being with them and I’m going to miss seeing them. But I like to think they’ve been given life of a kind and are continuing on without me. Maybe someday we’ll meet again, somewhere out beyond Watcher’s Nest.

Where Things Might Come From

Yesterday I posted a pretty dim photograph of a fairly dim painting. The painting itself was pretty random, obviously there were things in there but no overall direction.

Interestingly, the very badness of the photo helped clarify something. I began to see a direction, a pattern. So I did more work to try and bring that out. See if you can spot the change, particularly in the “bracken-weave” area.

Anger and Deepression

(Hint: if you turn the image 90 degrees counter-clockwise, it becomes clearer. That’s not the way it goes, though.)

Sometimes even a bad photograph has its uses. I suppose that my mind, seeing the flaws in the presentation, tried its best to make use of those flaws in the order of things.

Or I could have just gotten really lucky. Also, panties.

Work in Progress

I’ve watched the next five episodes of “Misaki Chronicles” and will probably have something to say about that at some point. However, I felt I needed a bit of light relief, so I watched episode one of “PANTIES!!!” I mean, “Najica Blitz Tactics.”

I didn’t know there were that many panties in the whole world.

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit anime’d out at this point, though I’m enjoying it too much to give up on it for good. I’ll write more about it in a few days. How about a painting instead?

Anger and Deepression

That was how it started. Some days later:

Anger and Depression

Three questions might occur (with my answers)

1. What the hell is it?
A: I don’t know.

2: Where did it come from?
A: I have no idea.

3: Why are the photos so bad?
A: I was probably either depressed, drunk, or both.

One of out three ain’t bad. Also, panties.

The Chronicles of “Misaki Chronicles” Part 1

On seeing the first four episodes, or, Jumping the Gun Again.

So far, this seems more like Lyre Von Ertiana’s story than Misaki’s. Fine by me; I really like Shelley Calene-Black’s voice, it’s low, cool, alluring and somehow dangerous*. And what we’re seeing so far really gives shape to her character in Divergence Eve. Her scenes with the samurai-ninja guy were affecting without being overt, as was the revelation, late in that episode, of how cruel time-travel can be to a person. Her growing interest in Misaki as a person, not simply an assignment, is also well handled.

This series makes me sad, though. Misaki seems to be an eternal pawn, not only to the Ghoul and Le Blanc, but even to her memories, her need for friends, and her devotion to her father’s shadow. In this time-twisted realm, she seems to be the pin upon which the world rotates. And everyone wants to choose a direction for her. I find that sad because if ever the phrase “sweet kid” could be applied to anyone, it’s Misaki. She really does seem like a nice person, very kind and thoughtful if a bit clumsy. And unlike nearly everyone else, she has no hidden agenda. Maybe that’s why she’s so appealing; she’s all on the surface (except for her unusual heritage, but she seems unaware of that; even if she were, I can’t imagine her using that for selfish reasons).

Sad or not, I have to say, that this series is pretty damn stunning. It’s truly gorgeous in many ways, approaching the level of “Spirited Away” (though from, and toward, a different direction). Some of this is helped by the occasional forlorn piano music, reminiscent of Erik Satie. Satie was one of the pioneers of “ambient music,” meant not so much for active listening but to inspire mood and thought by its quiet prodding. It works very well in that respect here.

And the song that ends each episode, to Misaki running through fog, is unusually low key for these sorts of things. I have to wonder, where is she running? I have the awful feeling that she’s running toward someone else. She seems to need friends, and the approval of her friends to live her own life (“we all have the same cell phone pages” indeed). Even I think she seems like an incomplete person, someone who lives her life for others. Her aloneness defines her…but is not her natural state.

Four episodes in, nearly a third, and it’s really not her story yet. Not that I claim to know what’s going on (this series is a definite head-scratcher), though I have my theories.

Incidentally, yes, this is a sequel to Divergence Eve, and yes, they’re back.

I’m finding the breasts more disturbing this time around. In the first episode, every time Misaki made a sudden movement (or jogged) those things would slosh around like someone put some bacon in a flesh-colored water-balloon with a piranha inside it. (Damn. I’m going to copyright that phrase.) I’m not a mammophobe, far from it, but these things were really bothering me. Fortunately, in the next episodes, they’re toned down somewhat. They’re still there, but not as highlighted.

To be continued.

*Yes, as previously and tediously noted: as far as anime is concerned, I am the ultimate horror, the total philistine, the wrecker of all that is good and pure. I watch the dubbed versions. Sue me.