Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 in media

Film

A very disappointing year, with a totally dismal Film Festival, and otherwise only the Chaumet/Tati L'Illusioniste really standing out enough to tempt me to the cinema. I would have gone to see The Story of Kells as part of the festival had it not been in a no-unaccompanied-adult showing; but wasn't motivated to see it when it came around later. And similarly, previous commitments and bad weather relieved me of having to decide whether to make the effort to fit in Rare Exports.

Books

I actually read a few this year that weren't software related. Excluding the holiday reading potboilers (Lindsey Davis' latest Falco, some by the numbers sci-fi,...)

  • Miéville's Un Lun Dun was a young people's Neverwhere -- some nice ideas, but it didn't quite cohere in the end. And I'm sufficiently bourgeois that the mundane London in the book was a more alien world than Un Lun Dun itself.
  • Also by Miéville, The City and the City is the first Hugo winner I've read before the award since A Fire Upon The Deep. An interesting conceit of cities wrapped around a police procedural.
  • Reynold's Terminal World was a vast improvement over his previous House of Suns, being a fairly straightforward adventure yarn in a setting where Vingean Zones of Thought happen on a scale of miles rather than kiloparsecs.
  • I also finally got around to Nahoko Uehashi's Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit -- and was surprised quite how much the anime had expanded upon the rather short and sparse narrative.

And while I'm here, probably worth warning people about the two weakest of the computing texts I picked up this year, both in the Wrox Professional series:

  • Professional Iron Python was a very strange book, and it did cover some obscure points of .net/Windows programming; but for IronPython, not good. It read like a draft that had been put together while the language was still in its pre-beta stages and then hurriedly given a Visual Studio 2010/.net 4 gloss. In particular the author repeatedly makes the incorrect assertion that IronPython statements cannot span multiple lines -- which leaves me dubious as to the rest of the content I've not independently verified. Get IronPython in Action instead.
  • Professional F#2.0 just approaches being content free. It covers very little of the language (no computation expressions, let alone anything like quotations), giving more emphasis to the imperative rather than functional aspects where it does. Get the O'Reilly Programming F# instead.

Anime

2010 was the year where Crunchyroll reached a sufficient point that -- whatever the sordid history of the operation might be -- it was possible to watch a fair selection of series without resorting to fansubs. A few series that I might have watched, or at least sampled (House of Five Leaves, Tatami Galaxy) were streamed by Funimation -- but they don't seem to have cottoned on that the world is more than just Japan and the US.

Going by the metric that "/a/ doesn't talk about good anime" -- where it is obvious whether a title that is not talked about is good or bad -- House of Five Leaves, from a manga by the same author as Ristorante Paradiso is the only one that I feel any regrets about missing.

Apart from titles already blogged, I still have the last episode of Virgin Pomegranate Monster to watch, as well as the concluding cours for Letter Bee REVERSE and Super Robot Wars OG : The Inspector.

And of course no discussion of 2010 in anime would be complete without a mention of the new GAINAX series, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, a title that I watched just enough of to feel I could add it to my MAL dropped list (i.e. more than one episode).

A combination of all that is wrong with American cartoons multiplied by "LOL, Japan!", this was the disappointing result of giving a studio of talented animators full freedom to have fun and do what they wanted. Alas, what they wanted to do was act like retarded 12-year-olds -- so if you've grown out of finding messy bodily functions funny, or haven't seen any of the stuff that they're lampooning, and don't get your jollies from hearing cute Japanese girls swearing a blue streak, it ends up by being the saddest waste of talent I've seen in many a year. And another case where I ignored the implication "it's being talked about, ergo it isn't very good", because I couldn't believe it was really that bad.

Alas, it was. In fact, watching the audience reactions as they were trolled mightily at every turn with misleading hints about forthcoming episodes, and desperately tried to make it all make sense, all the way up to the sudden ending with "To be continued in next season" (when Gainax have never done a second season of any of their original anime) was far, far more entertaining than the series itself.

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