Intemperate Commentary

I was looking at the headlines on Drudge, and I realized, "You know, I don't want to blog any of these." So, it's time to rant.

They're still going on about the child of that Smith woman who died... how long ago was it now? Explain to me a world in which we have international conflict, large national issues at stake... heck, we even have baseball season now. Why in the world is the kid of someone who I couldn't even begin to guess why she was famous still news at this point?

Meanwhile, there's this whole controversy brewing over what some announcer named Imus said. All I could think upon opening up the story to read about it was, "People got upset over what some guy who looks like he's freshly dug up said? Really?" I mean, sure, I can see why people would be upset over what he said (link here, including the picture I'm talking about), but c'mon, the guy looks warmed over. I'm not sure I could take anything the man said seriously at this point, even if he were just reading out of the phone book. On the serious point for a moment, I think Mr. Boortz has it absolutely right when it comes to the people referring to Imus' statements as racist: "Racism is the belief in the inherent genetic superiority of one race over another. There was nothing racist -- not by definition -- in Imus' remarks."

On a completely different thread, I was reading up on House Resolution 73 earlier. Even though I'm sure it's just a small cross-section of the total number of such occurrences, I was about ready to spit nails upon reading the third point under Findings (section two), about people who were prosecuted for using firearms in self defense. Seriously, if we can't use guns for self defense, what's the point of having them? (Okay, hunting and such aside.) Thankfully, Representative Bartlett is a right-thinkin' kind of guy on this. We'll see what comes of it, though. Death in committee wouldn't particularly surprise me, after all.

Geoff Reviews - Yamanade (v.1-8)

Title: The Wallflower / Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge (volumes 1-8)
Media: Manga
Text: English
Story: Hayakawa Tomoko
Art: Hayakawa Tomoko
Publisher: Del Rey Manga (originally Kodansha)

The person who decided on the English title for this really ought to be caught and put in a small room with no visual or auditory stimulus, there to be confined for an indeterminate period of months. Seriously, though, could you come up with a blander title? Not to mention, it gives absolutely no clue as to the contents of the book.

Anyway, here's the concept. Stop me when you realize just how non-"wallflower" this is.

Four guys are living in a boarding house. One day, their landlady contacts them and says that her niece is going to be living there, and she has a job for them: Make this girl into an outstanding lady. If they do, they continue to live there, at no cost. If they fail, the rent triples. Confident in themselves, the boys agree... But what they couldn't have foreseen was that the girl in question is no mere normal girl. A few tips on grooming and an introduction to polite conversation isn't going to cut it, because ever since the boy she liked called her "ugly", Nakahara Sunako turned into darkness personified.

So, instead of trying their hardest to make a lady out of Sunako, the guys are mostly reduced to attempting to keep the landlady from finding out just how far gone the girl is. Let comedy ensue.

For the most part, this manga can be read out of order. There are few stories that span more than one chapter. Of course, there is ongoing characterization, but it happens at a slow enough pace that it isn't impossible to pick up on it as you go. I would still suggest starting from the beginning, naturally, but if you can't find volume one at your local bookstore, any of the others will serve just as well to introduce you to the story.

The series is currently eleven volumes English-translated, with at least two more due out this year. Meanwhile, the Japanese release is up to volume 18 (as sourced from animenewsnetwork.com), and apparently going strong, since there is currently an anime adaptation ongoing. We can certainly hope that makes its way over here as well.

Hamilton on the Constitution

"[T]here is not a syllable in the plan under consideration which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution." - Alexander Hamilton

On that note, look for the start of Brushing Up On The Constitution: Article Two later this week.


Don't Give Them What They Want

The obligatory link: Please Bomb Me!

Victor Davis Hanson has interesting takes on a pretty regular basis, but this one struck me. Basically, he puts forth the idea that Iran is trying to get itself bombed in order to raise morale and its standing in the middle east. In addition, he's got a bit of the history of that country's doings. Definitely worth a read.

Adams On Virtue

"We ought to consider what is the end of government before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man....All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue." - John Adams


Train To Zone!

The obligatory link: French train smashes world speed record

I'll state from the start, they're talking about the speed record for trains on rails. Thus, the speed records for the magnetic-propulsion train tests in Japan don't count. Still, the train in question came within about four miles per hour of that record. (357mph versus the maglev record of just under 361mph in 2003.) For comparison, from Wiki, the world land speed record is currently 763mph for four-wheeled vehicles (the unlimited classification) and 351mph for motorcycles.


Witherspoon on Corruption

"Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue." - John Witherspoon

It's Spring, And Spring Means...

Cherry blossoms.

お花見 (ohanami) n. - cherry blossom viewing

夜桜 (yozakura) n. - cherry trees at evening

All of the links go to GIS.


Japanese of the Week

久し振り (hisashiburi) - after a long time

This will often get used in a couple of different ways based off of the main word. The first adds and "o" to the beginning of the word, which adds a level of politeness to the term. The other usage adds a casual flair, dropping the "hi", and occasionally lengthening the "s" in "sa". In either way, or in the normal expression as given, the term is used as, "Hey, it's been a while."

Geoff Reviews - Fruits Basket (v.1-14)

Title: Fruits Basket (volumes 1-14)
Media: Manga
Text: English
Story: Takaya Natsuki
Art: Takaya Natsuki
Publisher: Tokyopop (originally Hakuensha)

Fourteen volumes? Yes, fourteen volumes. Fruits Basket, or Furuba, to use the series' nickname, has been called the best-selling shoujo manga in America. I'm sure there are sales figures floating around somewhere to prove that, though that's not really that important.

I hesitate to call Furuba a slice of life series only because I can't recall any slice of my life in which I've hugged a member of the opposite sex who then promptly transformed into an animal. Well, it's supposed to be a closely guarded secret, so I can accept that although it's never happened to me, it could. (Okay, not really, but this gets back to the whole suspension of disbelief thing.)

Before I get started, a quick note on romanizations: The Tokyopop translations stuck a bunch of "h"es in where "o"s and "u"s go. This is supposedly an accepted romanization style for long vowels, or "u" extensions of vowels. However, these mystically appearing "h"es made my life miserable when I was just starting out in learning the Japanese language, so I won't use them. There is no plain "h" in the Japanese language. Don't misunderstand, there are "h" sounds, but they are all "h" plus vowel. (HA, HI, FU, HE, HO, respectively.) Thus, Tohru becomes Tooru, Sohma becomes Souma, and so forth. The same applies to many words with extended vowels, but in a purely English-translated text, the names are the only place that romanization should be an issue. ... ... ... Anyway, rant over, I suppose. On with the show.

Whether or not it can be called slice of life, the series certainly can lay claim to a quality mix of comedy and drama, along with an enjoyable cast. The story opens with Honda Tooru living out of a tent, because her grandfather's house is being remodeled. She happens across a house near where her tent is set up, out in the middle of relative nowhere, which, like the land she's pitched the tent on, belongs to the Souma family, and is inhabited initially by Soumas Yuki and Shigure. It would be nice to say that the Soumas took her in out of kindness and human decency, but saying that it's because none of them could cook or clean worth a lick is much more accurate.

The Souma family, or at least particular of its descendants, are cursed by what are referred to as the "vengeful spirits of the Chinese zodiac". Each of the twelve, plus the cat, have associated weaknesses, likes, and dislikes based on their animal to go along with the general "transforms into that animal when hugged by a member of the opposite sex" bit. Needless to say, this isn't exactly something that the family would be pleased about if it were to become common knowledge.

While it's not really something to recommend a manga based on, the author talk sections are easily some of the most memorable in memory. Just for a taste: "When a character dies in an RPG, my first thought isn't, 'Oh, how sad'... It's 'Please give back the items you had equipped, okay?' Then I feel bad about being so cold-hearted."

At some point, which I didn't think to pin down at the time (probably around volume nine or ten), the story shifts from Tooru living life while trying to hide the Souma family secret to her getting the idea that she might be able to find a way to break the curse.


The review feels like it cuts off quite abruptly, but I'm not sure what else I can say without going into excessive spoilers and ruining things for potential readers. So, I'm going to leave it at that.

With this, plus the eventually forthcoming reviews of the five books of the Belgariad by David Eddings, and The Tempting of America by Robert Bork (and the review that I won't be doing of volumes 5-8 of KareKano), I've clobbered the March reading challenge with room to spare, even if you want to count English-language manga at 3-to-1, 4-to-1, or even 5-to-1. (Go me? Heh...)