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October 31, 2000

Not Like Yesterday

Lunch is about over, and I've only posted three items today! I may post something tonight, but first I'm looking forward to taking my daughter out to sack the neighborhood trick-or-treat.

And if that's not enough, Jean tells me I got a package from Verizon today that might, if I'm very lucky, allow me to start up the DSL connection I ordered early in the month. I'm not holding my breath though.

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:07 PM

Halloween Facts



I wanted to add a couple of links about Halloween with more substance, since the fun, spooo-ooky aspect will be covered in loving detail by both the citizenry and the media this evening. So here are a couple of links I found interesting:

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:19 AM

Hair

Does your hair grow faster on the back of your head than on the top/front? Or am I just going bald? Never mind "qbullet.smiley".

Hair
She asks me why...I'm just a hairy guy
I'm hairy noon and night; Hair that's a fright.
I'm hairy high and low,
Don't ask me why; don't know!
It's not for lack of bread
Like the Grateful Dead; darling

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there, hair!

Shoulder length, longer (hair!)

Here baby, there mama, Everywhere daddy daddy

CHORUS:

Hair! (hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair)

Flow it, Show it;

Long as God can grow it, My Hair!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:04 AM

Daylight Shifting Time



On my walk with Jean today, we got to carping about Daylight Saving Time, or as I quipped, Daylight Shifting Time. So why do we have to hunt down all our clocks and shuffle them back and forth twice a year?

www.standardtime.com
Further, a study of traffic accidents throughout Canada in 1991 and 1992 by Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia before, during, and immediately after the so-called "spring forward" when DST begins in April. Alarmingly, he found an eight percent jump in traffic accidents on the Monday after clocks are moved ahead.

And I find it all too annoying. So there!

Posted by dpwakefield at 12:40 AM

October 30, 2000

Soulless Geek Toys

Maybe I should think twice before talking about geek toys, since in theory this is a public weblog, and I could be attracting evil burglars. But let's be honest, I've got an audience of two, counting myself. And of course there's the house alarm "qbullet.smiley".

So anyway, Mentor had a decent spike in their stock price this year, and I exercised a few options, resulting in my being able to buy a few geek toys. One was an iBook (Apple wireless laptop computer) which is allowing me to write this while reclining on the futon downstairs, watching television recorded with my ReplayTV.

So where am I going with this? Not sure, exactly "qbullet.smiley". I guess anybody who's bothered to read a few of my anime essays realizes that I've never grown up. The toys have just gotten more expensive. And while Jean has been studying, exploring life and placing less emphasis on material things, she still seems to love me. Kelly on the other hand is right behind me on the materialism thing "qbullet.smiley".

Quick anecdote. When Kelly was three I took her trick-or-treating. I thought I had taught her the proper rituals, knocking at the door, shouting "Trick or Treat!" But we arrived at a house, and as the owner came to the door, I said to Kelly "what do you say?" To which she gleefully replied "I want candy!"

I don't think the toys are pivotal to my being. As a true geek (only half-kidding here), I just have an appreciation for the cool gadget. I still think about life, what's important when all the toys are gone. I enjoy my afternoon walks with Jean more than anything, and we talk about everything under the sun (including geek toys). Then there are the Kelly-level moments in life, such as when she eats a homemade treat and says, "let me just say this", spreading her hands, palms flat, "Yum."

And not all the toys are soulless, either "qbullet.smiley". When I wrecked my ankle, I bought a bicycle. I ride it about as often as I estimated I would, which is to say about once a week, but it is so much fun I know the money was well spent. And in this case, I get outside, taste the fresh air, and get exercise as well. Sorry, but I'll have to spend some more money here soon, buying some thermal workout clothes, so I can keep riding on the rare dry winter days. I don't quite have the confidence to ride in the rain yet.

So I'll still feel free to talk about my soulless geek toys(tm). But try not to think I'm totally shallow and material when I do.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:54 PM

I Was Booooorrrrrrnnn To Weblog

Sung to the tune of Born To Wander. "qbullet.smiley"

Stop me if you're tired. I just amazed myself looking over what I've spewed out this morning, lunch and evening. But I'm gonna stop now so Kelly can go to sleep.

Instead I'll go downstairs and play with another of my "Soulless Geek Toys"(tm), the ReplayTV. See you tomorrow.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:47 PM

Quest For Fire

Jean and I are on a quest for The Perfect Science Magazine. Such a beast, if it exists, contains detailed articles with science which doesn't assume you are a dolt, but at the same time acknowledges that not everybody holds a Ph.D. in all the classical sciences. Jean has subscribed to Scientific American, and the first issue has arrived. So far I haven't read it, but Jean's judgement seems to be that it is a little too lowbrow.

In my bid to contribute, I today took the plunge and subscribed to the print edition of a science mag I've read online for a few months now. It is a British rag, called New Scientist. I'm afraid that Jean may find it a little too light as well, but the subject matter ranges far afield, and the best of their articles is very good indeed.

If we decide to up the ante, we are facing such august journals as Science (available only to members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for a yearly membership fee of between $112 and $250, depending on which (if any) membership we are allowed to undertake.

Then there's Nature, which has a one year subscription price for laymen of $159. I'm not hunting down the Internet links for these two until it is clear that we are going to blow that kind of moolah. Any suggestions from Internet Land?

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:37 PM

Them Against Fire



I hadn't read Suck in quite awhile, but today's pointer to Greg Knauss' mini-essay put me in mind of them, so I cruised on over and gave today's essay a read. It was very interesting, and spot on as well. In the past Suck has been known for an irreverent National Lampoon sort of hyperbolic humor, but this had a heck of a lot of substance to it.

My only question at this point relates to a quote from the article:

Schwarzkopf took the question with an avuncular chuckle, and allowed as to how it probably depended, ho ho, on which side you're on.

In this context, I take it to refer to the sense "Regarded as being similar to an uncle, especially in benevolence." So my question is, since I'm an uncle, are my chuckles avuncular?


http://suck.com/daily/2000/10/30/1.html

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:23 PM

Reading to Kelly

Kelly's in one of her phases of working through books that are a bit beyond her age. In the past we've had success reading some of the Narnia books to her, such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Silver Chair. But some of these books click with her, while others just leave her cold.

I've tried reading Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone to her, but while she was initially enthusiastic, she didn't last long enough to get to Hogwarts. "qbullet.smiley"

So we just worked our way through Ralph S. Mouse read by me, and Harriet the Spy read by Jean. More surprisingly to me is the new book that Kelly and I are reading: The Fables of Aesop. This is not any kiddie-fied version, it is the regular Penguin paperback. She just keeps me guessing.

P.S.: Kelly's first day back at school under the 'new regime' went well. Mrs. Wentzell said she was a "new person". We shall see if she is able to sustain that behavior, and indeed if Jean and I are able to sustain our 'iron wills.'

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:45 PM

I'm Not Done Yet

Actually, I am still tweaking the site. I realized that on those rare days when I post a lot of little short items, some would scroll off the home page. As a result, I increased the limit of News Items on the home page to 15.

I'd prefer to just have two whole days of news always appear on the home page, but while the documentation promises this is possible, following the directions doesn't lead to that result. Too bad.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:39 PM

Logorrhea

Oooh! I just realized. If I remember to post something tomorrow, anything, I'll have posted material two out of every three days this month!

Don't look for this virtual flood of words to sustain itself. I've uploaded all my completed reviews, and the structure of the site is to my liking now, so things will slow down. Especially as I get bored with everything eventually and move onto the next exciting thing.

The only thing that will sustain me is the knowledge that my sister Brenda, and possibly my pen pal Nami, may read this as a pale substitute for letter/email writing, at which I suck. "qbullet.smiley"

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:23 PM

Trying To Be Good

And this is why I have to be so danged strict with my lunches when I stay in the office:

From: [Cairo employee] To: don_wakefield Subject: Lunch on Wednseday Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 15:04:38 -0800

Hi Don,
We (Cairo team and partners from WV) will be having lunch on Wednesday
at Red Lobster in Washington Square at noon. Hope you can join us.

-- [Cairo employee]

Here's what I have to contend with. It's not like I don't want to go. This is one of those 'team-building' exercises I've mentioned already elsewhere. Oops, I guess I don't want to. "qbullet.smiley"

Actually, besides being a horrendous introvert, I don't have a problem going out with these folks. They seem nice, and as part of my job, I'd certainly like to build some ties with them before they return to Cairo. I'd rather do it in front of a computer screen, though. sigh

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:06 PM

Food Talk

While I eat my lunch, allow me to share the menu with you. Some background:

I'd been getting busy and real lazy about meal prep, and had taken to running to McDonalds for a burger when working late or doing late studying at the office. In addition, the company cafeteria makes really good soups (I love soup!) but rich.

So around the time of my cardiac adventure, I weighed myself, and I was up to 214 pounds. My normal active weight should be closer to 190. Oops. So I started prepping all my meals ahead of time to take to work. Some of this is modelled after Dr. Bob Arnot's Revolutionary Weight Control Program, a book I bought and had some success with a few years ago when I was training for running.

Since I'm lazy, I'm sticking to a fairly simple diet, with steady exercise (I never really gave up on the exercise, but it was harder when I tore my ankle up). So here is a typical workday diet:

Breakfast

Lunch

Snack

Dinner

work version
home version

As you can tell, when I'm home I allow myself a lot more. Also, on weekends, I'm a bit easier on myself. Still, it seems to be working. It's been around a month, and I'm down to 206 pounds. Pray for me! "qbullet.smiley"

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:50 PM

Distant Echoes

After I'd had my consult with Dr. Rudolf,
and was assured that I had WPW, and that it really wasn't that
important, I determined that it would still be a good idea to talk to my
Dad about it, since some of the research on WPW suggests that it might
be hereditary.

All of this led to my essay, "Family Culture".

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:54 AM

Family Culture

After I'd had my consult with Dr. Rudolf,
and was assured that I had WPW, and that it really wasn't that
important, I determined that it would still be a good idea to talk to my
Dad about it, since some of the research on WPW suggests that it might
be hereditary.

I called him up this weekend and we spoke about all the usual non-news
and semi-news. I mentioned that Jean had been offered a column at the
paper where she works, I told him about the blowout Kelly had had at
Kindergarten. We determined that each of us was in good health (right
now) and exchanged calendars. Dad should be driving to Florida with
Betty right about now, for instance.

Then I touched on the topic of WPW. Had he ever had an EKG? Several. Had
any ever turned up WPW? No, he had never even heard of it. Well, good. I
told him how the doctor had explained that the only way WPW would ever
likely affect my life was if I found myself in the emergency room for
anything at all. Said Dr. Rudolf:

Be sure that the first thing you do is grab the attending physician by the lapels and say "I'm WPW Type A!"

This is because emergency rooms have a standard approach to treating
elevated heart rates. They administer Verapamil,
which in the average patient is very successful in lowering the racing
heartrate. But in WPW patients, it causes problems.
Here's the medicalese:

Some patients with paroxysmal and/or chronic atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter [and WPW] have developed [...] a very rapid ventricular response or ventricular fibrillation after receiving intravenous verapamil [...]

All this means is that I shouldn't receive the standard treatment
for racing heart, as it could actually make things worse. I need to
carry around that EKG and try to communicate my condition if I find
myself in need of emergency medical treatment.

So back to my Dad. On hearing this, he related a similar issue that he
lives with. It seems that while serving in Korea (as a medic), he was
sent with several other servicemen onto a refrigeration ship, Korean in
origin. Shortly thereafter, he and all his fellows came down with an
illness that was for several days undiagnosed. Eventually it was
diagnosed as pneumonia, and they were all treated successfully.

However, to this day, he must inform doctors, whenever they take an
X-ray, for whatever reason, that there is a 'fibrous strand' in the
lower-right quadrant of his lungs, caused by scarring from the
pneumonia. It will show up as a shadow on his lung, and has been there
since his youth in the Navy. Can't have the doctors rushing him off to
oncologists every time he gets an X-ray.

Echoes

The reason this is interesting to me is that it sort of echoes my own
situation, and is a bit of history of my father that I had not heard
before. My relationship with my Dad is a bit distant, I think. When my
sister and I were growing up, he was a stern authoritarian, and did not
hesitate to 'use the belt' for martial punishment. Add to this the
fact that I am introverted and perhaps stereotypically Finnish (stoic,
withdrawn) and it all adds up to a less than embracing relationship with
him.

Now over the years this relationship has mellowed, but we still don't
talk about very deep topics all that often. My father's own life is one
of those shrouded areas. I know some of the popular anecdotes, but I
doubt that he'd open up and tell me of his childhood fears, or what was
good and bad about his relationship with his own father. Truth to
tell, I am inhibited from asking. I can't bring myself to probe that
far. I'm not sure if it's really that important to me, but it does
illustrate why this little anecdote is of interest.

Confession

I know that I am boxed in by my personality. I'm not the deeply
touchy-feely type of person, except in my own narrow tribe. Kelly can
hardly breathe sometimes for all my hugging and nuzzling. Jean can have
my hugs and kisses any time she wants. But California cuddly I am
not. In a team-building exercise at work once, the 'facilitator' tried
to get us to give each other back massages, at which point I sat down,
and nearly walked out. "That's it," I said. So I do have my
limits, a wall around myself.

I am okay with this, most of the time. But it does cause problems for me
at times. A few years ago, my mother died. While I'd known that she'd
been having problems with her health, I truly had no idea that her life
was threatened. I was surprised when my dad called to tell me she had
passed away.

My wife and I flew to Michigan to attend the funeral. My sister wanted
to know if I wanted to view my mother in the casket. I was not, nor am I
now interested in viewing the inanimate remains of somebody I once
knew. It doesn't give me peace, help me accept that they are 'really'
dead, or any of those other things people tell you when they have open
casket viewings. So of course I stayed at the opposite end of the
funeral parlor from the casket.

I was matter-of-fact, closed off, business-like during the entire
trip. If anybody ever told me the cause of death, I didn't hear
it. After the fact, my Finnish stoic facade prevents me from asking. I
just don't find it appropriate. So I have an idea what ended my mother's
life, but not the facts. I suppose for Kelly's medical records, I will
have to make the effort eventually.

The real point of this passage is that when I got home, I felt numb, I
helped unpack, then sat on the couch just staring into space. My wife
came in to ask me some day-in-the-life kind of question, and I just
started tearing up. I ended up crying for an hour, gut-wrenching sobs,
accusatory howls, snot and tears and all the unpretty symptoms of ugly
grief. After a while, the physical manifestations died down, and I don't
think I cried about the whole thing ever again. But I surprised
myself. I knew I missed my mother, and was sad she had died. But
I thought I was outside of the deeper responses. Or rather I didn't
think about it at all.

So now I think about mortality and turn my eyes to my Dad. I know we
don't have a truly close relationship, and I don't think we ever really
will. We are too much alike in that respect. But I don't want to make
the mistake of being the prototypical Finnish male, and completely miss
the signs, should they come. I don't want to come home from a funeral
not even knowing what took him, not even knowing if I feel, until the
storm takes me. I don't know what this means, but I'll be thinking about
it for a long time.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:42 AM

In the Name of Halloween...



...I offer up this mini-essay by Greg Knauss, Suck's "first outside contributor". Anyway, I thought it was funny.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:41 AM

Reconciled

Jean and I had our discussion on Sunday. We took advantage of a period when Kelly was camping downstairs to have our little chat. It was difficult and painful--even after twenty years together I have to fight introvert tendencies when under stress. It is made all the harder that Jean and I don't get to talk, bond really, alone, without Kelly very much at all. So while there was a period in our lives when we seemed to be able to complete each others' sentences, that doesn't happen much anymore.

In any case, we worked through the miscommunications and got to the meat of the conflict. Now Jean is clear on how I intend to police Kelly's morning breakfast, and I'm clear how stressed Jean feels about Kelly's Kindergarten fiasco. I hope Jean has a clearer idea of the wrestling I have to do with Kelly too.

Kelly had her first 'enforced' breakfast today, and did try to deflect things by being by turns funny, cute, precocious and so on. Jean was home for it, so she saw the game. Jean is home today with what is probably a flu. We got enough food into Kelly's stomach to satisfy me, and I took her to school. Cross your fingers!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:15 AM

October 29, 2000

Another Saturday Night

We had another Kelly Crisis(tm). Jean had told Kelly around six times that Kelly needed to put away her toys or Jean was going to start throwing them out. The appointed hour arrived, and Jean picked up a container for a toy and put it in the trash. Kelly promptly retrieved it, with a defiant and grumpy look on her face.

Jean 'extracted' the container and returned it to the trash. Kelly began to cry and made accusations of meanness and unfairness. We assured her that we still loved her despite her being so mean. "qbullet.smiley"

Short story is that we sent Kelly to her room for an hour. She seems to have digested the message well enough to regurgitate the party line, but I doubt she believes what she did was wrong.

The big surprise for me was when Jean said she was angry not just at Kelly but at me too. It seems that regardless of the number of things I did that day, I didn't do enough. Apparently, I was supposed to nag Kelly to keep her toys under control. Sorry, I won't do it. I think it is enough to have the pick up time at the end of the day.

I didn't contradict her in front of Kelly, but I'll have a talk with her when we go for a walk on Monday (our weekday walks are the only time we can really talk without having Kelly insinuating herself into the conversation).

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:45 AM

October 28, 2000

Saturday Without Cartoons

I just spent the last half hour listening to music on my laptop with Kelly. It was a curious mix, including Suzanne Vega, Leon Russel, The Pillows (FLCL) and the OP from Excel Saga. So we get modern anime soundtracks mixed with fringe pop rock and seminal Blues Rock giants. That is one of the advantages of having a five-year old. She is non-critical and enjoys anything (in small doses).

The reason we were listening to music (courtesy of Napster, don't worry, I own or will soon buy all the albums named), is that Kelly is not allowed to watch cartoons this Saturday morning. She is not allowed to watch cartoons due to a rule we have now. Read all about it in my new musing, "Raising Kelly".

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:33 AM

Raising Kelly

I just spent the last half hour listening to music on my laptop with Kelly. It was a curious mix, including Suzanne Vega, Leon Russel, The Pillows (FLCL) and the OP from Excel Saga. So we get modern anime soundtracks mixed with fringe pop rock and seminal Blues Rock giants. That is one of the advantages of having a five-year old. She is non-critical and enjoys anything (in small doses).

The reason we were listening to music (courtesy of Napster, don't worry, I own or will soon buy all the albums named), is that Kelly is not allowed to watch cartoons this Saturday morning. She is not allowed to watch cartoons due to a rule we have now. The rule is this:

Needless to say, Kelly did not get a good-behavior grade yesterday morning at Bridgeport. In fact, she had the worst blow-up that she has had in living memory. We started the cartoon rules because she was having some behavior problems, and the rules seemed to help. But Friday she completely lost it. Here's what happened:

In the morning, the teacher, Mrs. Wentzell, asked all the children to put away their art projects and prepare for the next segment of the class. Four of the students were too involved in playing to listen to her, and failed to put away their art projects. Mrs. Wentzell quietly picked up the artwork of those four students (and yes, Kelly was one of them) and placed it all in the trash.

Three of the students were dumbfounded, with slack jaws, witnessing the consequences of their uncooperative attitudes. But one walked defiantly over to the trashcan and retrieved her work. That was my Kelly. She screamed at Mrs. Wentzell, and proceeded to cry and scream some more when Mrs. Wentzell tried to correct her. They made her sit in a corner of the room, but she didn't calm down. They made her move to the hallway, but she continued to scream. She was sent to the office, where she drove everyone crazy. A visiting policeman tried to talk to her to help her calm down, but she would not be consoled.

Jean arrived to pick Kelly up, and ended up having a conference for a half hour with the teacher. So now Jean is upset, and Kelly is sitting in the living room with no cartoons until noon.

I'll admit she has great resources when told she cannot watch cartoons. She has been listening to tunes on my laptop, eating her breakfast, playing tapes in her little tape player, playing with her dolls. In other words, doing just fine in the absence of television.

In the meantime, I mull over what has caused her behavior problems. It's a pain in the butt being a parent, especially when you don't particularly want to be one anyway. Jean was the one who wanted a kid, but I committed to it, so here we are.

I grew up in a house where spanking as a form of discipline was an accepted way of life. Well, not accepted by me. Since we have had Kelly, we have never spanked her, and I am not about to start now. I have subscribed to the notions put forth in the book Parenting With Love and Logic, the basic principle of which is to let kids make decisions as early as possible, when mistakes are usually not too damaging. And let the child 'own' the consequences of their actions.

What this means is that I've been letting her decide what she has for breakfast on school days. The hope here is that if she gets hungry at school before snack time, she'll realize that she needed to eat more at home before going to school. But the morning of her blowup she ate very little, and that probably contributed to her problems. So in the spirit of letting her 'own' the consequences, we told her that for the next few months she was losing the priviledge of choosing her breakfast in the morning and that she would have to eat what we chose for her.

Another factor that might have contributed to her blow-up was lack of sleep. My wife observed that our usual pattern with Kelly is to start moving her to bed at 8:30pm. First Jean visits her, reading her a story, then I do. But generally, Kelly and I relate by play and goofing around, so she ends up getting worked up just before bedtime. So there's another switch in our routine. Kelly now goes to bed at 8pm (one half hour earlier), and I visit her first. Hopefully, that will help her to get more sleep.

A final factor that may have contributed to her blow-up: this morning she is displaying all the outward signs of a cold. If she was coming down with the inward symptoms (tired, achy, stuffy) yesterday morning, then that would have a big influence on her behavior. So we nurse the cold this weekend as well.

None of these factors excuses her behavior, in my opinion. And my own responsibility is not to be waved away either. The two steps of controlled diet and extended sleep are my attempts to take responsibility for my side of Kelly's blow-up. What this all boils down to is that parenting is hard. It would be easy to spank her for misbehaving, it would be easy to make every decision for her and have a perfectly behaved little doll. But I want her to be able to make good decisions at a very early age. Sometimes, giving her control means I overstep and give her too much. Then we fine tune.

I hope that we don't have to restrict Kelly's rights even further, though we made the dire hint in her hearing that if she couldn't learn to control herself, we might have to visit the doctor. And who knows what a doctor might want to do? Maybe vitamin shots! Shiver. So Kelly is motivated to learn self-control, and I am motivated to help her. I just need to find that fine balance between freedom and control that will let her grow up to make good decisions for herself.

Thanks for listening.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:27 AM

Raising Kelly

I just spent the last half hour listening to music on my laptop with Kelly. It was a curious mix, including Suzanne Vega, Leon Russel, The Pillows (FLCL) and the OP from Excel Saga. So we get modern anime soundtracks mixed with fringe pop rock and seminal Blues Rock giants. That is one of the advantages of having a five-year old. She is non-critical and enjoys anything (in small doses).

The reason we were listening to music (courtesy of Napster, don't worry, I own or will soon buy all the albums named), is that Kelly is not allowed to watch cartoons this Saturday morning. She is not allowed to watch cartoons due to a rule we have now. The rule is this:

Needless to say, Kelly did not get a good-behavior grade yesterday morning at Bridgeport. In fact, she had the worst blow-up that she has had in living memory. We started the cartoon rules because she was having some behavior problems, and the rules seemed to help. But Friday she completely lost it. Here's what happened:

In the morning, the teacher, Mrs. Wentzell, asked all the children to put away their art projects and prepare for the next segment of the class. Four of the students were too involved in playing to listen to her, and failed to put away their art projects. Mrs. Wentzell quietly picked up the artwork of those four students (and yes, Kelly was one of them) and placed it all in the trash.

Three of the students were dumbfounded, with slack jaws, witnessing the consequences of their uncooperative attitudes. But one walked defiantly over to the trashcan and retrieved her work. That was my Kelly. She screamed at Mrs. Wentzell, and proceeded to cry and scream some more when Mrs. Wentzell tried to correct her. They made her sit in a corner of the room, but she didn't calm down. They made her move to the hallway, but she continued to scream. She was sent to the office, where she drove everyone crazy. A visiting policeman tried to talk to her to help her calm down, but she would not be consoled.

Jean arrived to pick Kelly up, and ended up having a conference for a half hour with the teacher. So now Jean is upset, and Kelly is sitting in the living room with no cartoons until noon.

I'll admit she has great resources when told she cannot watch cartoons. She has been listening to tunes on my laptop, eating her breakfast, playing tapes in her little tape player, playing with her dolls. In other words, doing just fine in the absence of television.

In the meantime, I mull over what has caused her behavior problems. It's a pain in the butt being a parent, especially when you don't particularly want to be one anyway. Jean was the one who wanted a kid, but I committed to it, so here we are.

I grew up in a house where spanking as a form of discipline was an accepted way of life. Well, not accepted by me. Since we have had Kelly, we have never spanked her, and I am not about to start now. I have subscribed to the notions put forth in the book Parenting With Love and Logic, the basic principle of which is to let kids make decisions as early as possible, when mistakes are usually not too damaging. And let the child 'own' the consequences of their actions.

What this means is that I've been letting her decide what she has for breakfast on school days. The hope here is that if she gets hungry at school before snack time, she'll realize that she needed to eat more at home before going to school. But the morning of her blowup she ate very little, and that probably contributed to her problems. So in the spirit of letting her 'own' the consequences, we told her that for the next few months she was losing the priviledge of choosing her breakfast in the morning and that she would have to eat what we chose for her.

Another factor that might have contributed to her blow-up was lack of sleep. My wife observed that our usual pattern with Kelly is to start moving her to bed at 8:30pm. First Jean visits her, reading her a story, then I do. But generally, Kelly and I relate by play and goofing around, so she ends up getting worked up just before bedtime. So there's another switch in our routine. Kelly now goes to bed at 8pm (one half hour earlier), and I visit her first. Hopefully, that will help her to get more sleep.

A final factor that may have contributed to her blow-up: this morning she is displaying all the outward signs of a cold. If she was coming down with the inward symptoms (tired, achy, stuffy) yesterday morning, then that would have a big influence on her behavior. So we nurse the cold this weekend as well.

None of these factors excuses her behavior, in my opinion. And my own responsibility is not to be waved away either. The two steps of controlled diet and extended sleep are my attempts to take responsibility for my side of Kelly's blow-up. What this all boils down to is that parenting is hard. It would be easy to spank her for misbehaving, it would be easy to make every decision for her and have a perfectly behaved little doll. But I want her to be able to make good decisions at a very early age. Sometimes, giving her control means I overstep and give her too much. Then we fine tune.

I hope that we don't have to restrict Kelly's rights even further, though we made the dire hint in her hearing that if she couldn't learn to control herself, we might have to visit the doctor. And who knows what a doctor might want to do? Maybe vitamin shots! Shiver. So Kelly is motivated to learn self-control, and I am motivated to help her. I just need to find that fine balance between freedom and control that will let her grow up to make good decisions for herself.

Thanks for listening.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:27 AM

Raising Kelly

I just spent the last half hour listening to music on my laptop with Kelly. It was a curious mix, including Suzanne Vega, Leon Russel, The Pillows (FLCL) and the OP from Excel Saga. So we get modern anime soundtracks mixed with fringe pop rock and seminal Blues Rock giants. That is one of the advantages of having a five-year old. She is non-critical and enjoys anything (in small doses).

The reason we were listening to music (courtesy of Napster, don't worry, I own or will soon buy all the albums named), is that Kelly is not allowed to watch cartoons this Saturday morning. She is not allowed to watch cartoons due to a rule we have now. The rule is this:

Needless to say, Kelly did not get a good-behavior grade yesterday morning at Bridgeport. In fact, she had the worst blow-up that she has had in living memory. We started the cartoon rules because she was having some behavior problems, and the rules seemed to help. But Friday she completely lost it. Here's what happened:

In the morning, the teacher, Mrs. Wentzell, asked all the children to put away their art projects and prepare for the next segment of the class. Four of the students were too involved in playing to listen to her, and failed to put away their art projects. Mrs. Wentzell quietly picked up the artwork of those four students (and yes, Kelly was one of them) and placed it all in the trash.

Three of the students were dumbfounded, with slack jaws, witnessing the consequences of their uncooperative attitudes. But one walked defiantly over to the trashcan and retrieved her work. That was my Kelly. She screamed at Mrs. Wentzell, and proceeded to cry and scream some more when Mrs. Wentzell tried to correct her. They made her sit in a corner of the room, but she didn't calm down. They made her move to the hallway, but she continued to scream. She was sent to the office, where she drove everyone crazy. A visiting policeman tried to talk to her to help her calm down, but she would not be consoled.

Jean arrived to pick Kelly up, and ended up having a conference for a half hour with the teacher. So now Jean is upset, and Kelly is sitting in the living room with no cartoons until noon.

I'll admit she has great resources when told she cannot watch cartoons. She has been listening to tunes on my laptop, eating her breakfast, playing tapes in her little tape player, playing with her dolls. In other words, doing just fine in the absence of television.

In the meantime, I mull over what has caused her behavior problems. It's a pain in the butt being a parent, especially when you don't particularly want to be one anyway. Jean was the one who wanted a kid, but I committed to it, so here we are.

I grew up in a house where spanking as a form of discipline was an accepted way of life. Well, not accepted by me. Since we have had Kelly, we have never spanked her, and I am not about to start now. I have subscribed to the notions put forth in the book Parenting With Love and Logic, the basic principle of which is to let kids make decisions as early as possible, when mistakes are usually not too damaging. And let the child 'own' the consequences of their actions.

What this means is that I've been letting her decide what she has for breakfast on school days. The hope here is that if she gets hungry at school before snack time, she'll realize that she needed to eat more at home before going to school. But the morning of her blowup she ate very little, and that probably contributed to her problems. So in the spirit of letting her 'own' the consequences, we told her that for the next few months she was losing the priviledge of choosing her breakfast in the morning and that she would have to eat what we chose for her.

Another factor that might have contributed to her blow-up was lack of sleep. My wife observed that our usual pattern with Kelly is to start moving her to bed at 8:30pm. First Jean visits her, reading her a story, then I do. But generally, Kelly and I relate by play and goofing around, so she ends up getting worked up just before bedtime. So there's another switch in our routine. Kelly now goes to bed at 8pm (one half hour earlier), and I visit her first. Hopefully, that will help her to get more sleep.

A final factor that may have contributed to her blow-up: this morning she is displaying all the outward signs of a cold. If she was coming down with the inward symptoms (tired, achy, stuffy) yesterday morning, then that would have a big influence on her behavior. So we nurse the cold this weekend as well.

None of these factors excuses her behavior, in my opinion. And my own responsibility is not to be waved away either. The two steps of controlled diet and extended sleep are my attempts to take responsibility for my side of Kelly's blow-up. What this all boils down to is that parenting is hard. It would be easy to spank her for misbehaving, it would be easy to make every decision for her and have a perfectly behaved little doll. But I want her to be able to make good decisions at a very early age. Sometimes, giving her control means I overstep and give her too much. Then we fine tune.

I hope that we don't have to restrict Kelly's rights even further, though we made the dire hint in her hearing that if she couldn't learn to control herself, we might have to visit the doctor. And who knows what a doctor might want to do? Maybe vitamin shots! Shiver. So Kelly is motivated to learn self-control, and I am motivated to help her. I just need to find that fine balance between freedom and control that will let her grow up to make good decisions for herself.

Thanks for listening.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:27 AM

Raising Kelly

I just spent the last half hour listening to music on my laptop with Kelly. It was a curious mix, including Suzanne Vega, Leon Russel, The Pillows (FLCL) and the OP from Excel Saga. So we get modern anime soundtracks mixed with fringe pop rock and seminal Blues Rock giants. That is one of the advantages of having a five-year old. She is non-critical and enjoys anything (in small doses).

The reason we were listening to music (courtesy of Napster, don't worry, I own or will soon buy all the albums named), is that Kelly is not allowed to watch cartoons this Saturday morning. She is not allowed to watch cartoons due to a rule we have now. The rule is this:

Needless to say, Kelly did not get a good-behavior grade yesterday morning at Bridgeport. In fact, she had the worst blow-up that she has had in living memory. We started the cartoon rules because she was having some behavior problems, and the rules seemed to help. But Friday she completely lost it. Here's what happened:

In the morning, the teacher, Mrs. Wentzell, asked all the children to put away their art projects and prepare for the next segment of the class. Four of the students were too involved in playing to listen to her, and failed to put away their art projects. Mrs. Wentzell quietly picked up the artwork of those four students (and yes, Kelly was one of them) and placed it all in the trash.

Three of the students were dumbfounded, with slack jaws, witnessing the consequences of their uncooperative attitudes. But one walked defiantly over to the trashcan and retrieved her work. That was my Kelly. She screamed at Mrs. Wentzell, and proceeded to cry and scream some more when Mrs. Wentzell tried to correct her. They made her sit in a corner of the room, but she didn't calm down. They made her move to the hallway, but she continued to scream. She was sent to the office, where she drove everyone crazy. A visiting policeman tried to talk to her to help her calm down, but she would not be consoled.

Jean arrived to pick Kelly up, and ended up having a conference for a half hour with the teacher. So now Jean is upset, and Kelly is sitting in the living room with no cartoons until noon.

I'll admit she has great resources when told she cannot watch cartoons. She has been listening to tunes on my laptop, eating her breakfast, playing tapes in her little tape player, playing with her dolls. In other words, doing just fine in the absence of television.

In the meantime, I mull over what has caused her behavior problems. It's a pain in the butt being a parent, especially when you don't particularly want to be one anyway. Jean was the one who wanted a kid, but I committed to it, so here we are.

I grew up in a house where spanking as a form of discipline was an accepted way of life. Well, not accepted by me. Since we have had Kelly, we have never spanked her, and I am not about to start now. I have subscribed to the notions put forth in the book Parenting With Love and Logic, the basic principle of which is to let kids make decisions as early as possible, when mistakes are usually not too damaging. And let the child 'own' the consequences of their actions.

What this means is that I've been letting her decide what she has for breakfast on school days. The hope here is that if she gets hungry at school before snack time, she'll realize that she needed to eat more at home before going to school. But the morning of her blowup she ate very little, and that probably contributed to her problems. So in the spirit of letting her 'own' the consequences, we told her that for the next few months she was losing the priviledge of choosing her breakfast in the morning and that she would have to eat what we chose for her.

Another factor that might have contributed to her blow-up was lack of sleep. My wife observed that our usual pattern with Kelly is to start moving her to bed at 8:30pm. First Jean visits her, reading her a story, then I do. But generally, Kelly and I relate by play and goofing around, so she ends up getting worked up just before bedtime. So there's another switch in our routine. Kelly now goes to bed at 8pm (one half hour earlier), and I visit her first. Hopefully, that will help her to get more sleep.

A final factor that may have contributed to her blow-up: this morning she is displaying all the outward signs of a cold. If she was coming down with the inward symptoms (tired, achy, stuffy) yesterday morning, then that would have a big influence on her behavior. So we nurse the cold this weekend as well.

None of these factors excuses her behavior, in my opinion. And my own responsibility is not to be waved away either. The two steps of controlled diet and extended sleep are my attempts to take responsibility for my side of Kelly's blow-up. What this all boils down to is that parenting is hard. It would be easy to spank her for misbehaving, it would be easy to make every decision for her and have a perfectly behaved little doll. But I want her to be able to make good decisions at a very early age. Sometimes, giving her control means I overstep and give her too much. Then we fine tune.

I hope that we don't have to restrict Kelly's rights even further, though we made the dire hint in her hearing that if she couldn't learn to control herself, we might have to visit the doctor. And who knows what a doctor might want to do? Maybe vitamin shots! Shiver. So Kelly is motivated to learn self-control, and I am motivated to help her. I just need to find that fine balance between freedom and control that will let her grow up to make good decisions for herself.

Thanks for listening.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:27 AM

Zoo Pictures

I promised that I'd put up some of my pictures from last Sunday's trip to the Oregon Zoo as soon as I could get online from home. Now is the time.

Rather than try to overwhelm weblogs.com, I've put sixteen pictures up at Photopoint. That way, anyone who wants can look at the thumbnails there, and if they like a picture, clicking on the thumbnail will load the larger image.

All images have been scaled down to fit in a 640X480 frame. Pictures were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 950. Some after-photo editing was performed in Photoshop 4.01 on a PowerMacintosh 8500/120.

And believe it or not, all photos were uploaded using a 33.3Kb modem! "qbullet.smiley"

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:43 AM

October 27, 2000

Taming of the Shrew

And while we're at it, please kill the story direction in Angel which has turned police detective Kate Lockley into a whiny, willfully ignorant shrew. I just don't buy it, and it took a strong woman character and turned her into a strong annoying asshole. Just stop it.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:15 AM

Buffy 08/24/00



Don't know if I should make this a regular 'feature' or what, but sometimes this show tickles my funnybone.

Buffy finds a glowing sphere, about the size of a baseball, and shows it to the gang:

  Giles: It appears to be paranormal in origin...

  Willow: Why do you say that?

  Giles: Well, it's all shiny...

Buffy confronts Spike outside her house:

  Buffy: Why are you outside my house? In five words!

  Spike [ticking off his fingers]: Out .. for .. a .. walk ...

  [and then after a teeny pause, thumb]: Bitch.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:55 AM

October 26, 2000

Heart's Ease

I had my consult with Dr. Rudolf today. It was a great big pain finding his office, but I got there in time (early in fact). The upshot:

So I'm golden for another few years. In another week or so I'll be having my physical, which got bumped when Dr. Selby was too overloaded, but I don't think we'll be seeing any other dramatic developments.

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:58 PM

October 25, 2000

New Reviews Posted

I've posted two new reviews:

These are the last two of my recent reviews which I tried to recover. Any reviews I post hereafter will be new. I look forward to writing a review of FuriKuri next.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:01 PM

Peter the Great

"Alexander"

There are rare moments in a person's lifetime when he or she discovers a
hidden talent, one which represents the path not taken. Say one has
dedicated one's career to software development. In the evolution of his
self, the software wonk might try his hand at writing. And then that
rare magic moment would manifest itself, revealing that he is actually a
gifted writer, skilled in conveying the kernel of a topic with
effortless ease. This is not one of those rare moments.

I won't even go into all my faults as a writer. I leave that to the
reader who bothers to plow through my turgid prose. But I've come to
recognize one very clear shortcoming. I can't for the life of me
clearly describe why I like a particular anime. If you've suffered along
with me through any of my previous reviews, you've seen me puzzle over
such gems as Tenshi ni Narumon, knowing I liked it but at a loss
as to why. Well get used to it. Confused I came into this world, and
confused I shall ever be.

Now that I've done with that unburdening, let's take a look at
this month's puzzle. The name of the show is Alexander, and it is based
on the life of Alexander the Great, in much the same way that
U-571 is based on the capture of the Enigma cypher machine in
WWII, and the manner in which Gladiator is based on the reign of
Commodus over the Roman Empire. This is to say, very, very
loosely.

Real history tells us that the British captured the Enigma machine,
before America even entered the war. The best historical accounts of
Emperor Commodus' life suggest that he either died of an illness, or
poisoning at the hands of his advisors. And oh, yes, he never had a
general named Maximus. I won't go into any such myth-puncturing when
looking at Alexander, but just keep it in mind as we proceed. Oh,
alright, there were no -- to the best of our knowledge -- flying
sorceror-assassins of the cult of Pythagoras in ancient Greece. But it
wouldn't be an anime if they were missing.

I don't even need to give a synopsis of the story background, since that
at least is relatively accurate, and recorded for anyone willing to do a
little reading. So instead I'd like to spend what remains of this column
considering the style of the show, which I'm told will last 13 'acts'.

Alexander is the product of numerous fertile minds. It is based
on an original novel by Hiroshi Aramata. According to the official site
for Alexander, he "combined his life-long interest in the subject
with over 5 years of painstaking research to present his own unique
interpretation." And he certainly didn't let that painstaking research
sully his unique interpretation.

While I'm sure that the director contributed to the vision, I don't know
how much influence over the look and atmosphere of the show he had. For
the record, note that he was Yoshinori Kanemori, and that he has also
directed Galaxy Express 999, Final Fantasy and others. Feh
on the producers. Who knows what they are thinking, on any given day?

Of course the jewel in this creative crown, the pearl of this video
oyster, the prize in this Crackerjack (tm) drama, is none other than
Peter Chung. If you haven't heard of him, shame on you. He is my
personal hero of the animation world, responsible for inflicting on the
world that marvel of originality and tribute fused together, Aeon
Flux
. If only for this one work I will worship at this altar for
many years to come.

Far more of his work has been in the realm of character design than in
actual writing and story development. In 1994, starved for more Peter
Chung, I sank so low as to watch Phantom 2040 religiously on
Saturday mornings, despite the fact that his only involvement was to
contribute the character designs (actually the writing for the show was
not too bad and a cut above many of the made-for-USA kids' shows of the
time). Fortunately the very next year marked the launch of the Aeon
Flux
television series, an encore brought about by the unquestioned
popularity of the original sequences found on MTV's Liquid
Television
.

Imagine my surprise to hear that the creator of so many angular,
anatomically questionable heros was going to turn his talents to
Alexander the Great. I was certainly excited to hear it, even if he once
again was constrained to merely designing the characters, rather than
contributing to the story.

Now years later (his character designs were completed in 1996), the
grand design has come together. The multifarious minds behind
Alexander have delivered up their child. Alexander is a
sprawling epic told in several episodes of a more personal scope, as
Alexander wins the respect of his people, and then falls prey to
overweening pride. Amongst the characters we have Alexander
himself, Roxanne, the daughter of a powerful Persian clan leader and
eventually his wife, Alexander's friend Hephaestion and a cast of
thousands.

I viewed the first two episodes in the original Japanese, without
subtitles, so perhaps I can be forgiven my bemusement when Alexander is
attacked by the utterly spooky Pythagorean assassins, who are convinced
that he will be the agency of the end of the world. Olympias,
Alexander's mother, is also a trip. We are treated to a flashback of her
giving birth to Alexander while entwined with giant serpents. She's
apparently all for her son becoming the world-destroyer.

None of this is made any easier by the set and costume design which has
about as much to do with ancient Greece and Persia as General Relativity
has to do with Dr. Who. Colors are bright, buildings are postmodern,
everything is very jumbled. But lest we rush to blame Peter Chung,
consider this quote from an interview with him: "First, I started by
doing research, before the director, Mr. Kanemori, told me to quit the
research and only use my imagination... if [the director and writer]
didn't like something, they said so, and I'd change it."

And change it they did. Alexander's tutor and mentor, Aristotle (yes,
that Aristotle) ends up looking like a fugitive from a Cockatoo
farm. In a major battle fought in the second episode, where Alexander
disobeys direct orders to brilliantly win the day, I found myself
reminded of a Civil War Battle re-enactment as presented by Cirque du
Soleil
. Colorful, yes, but also distracting, if you know more than a
little about the period.

The parlor pieces also have that jarring quality, like watching Imago or
Burmese shadow puppets presenting Hedda Gabbler. While I could go
on with the jarring images and obscure references to other culturally
puzzling phenomena, I hope you get the gist. It's fun to poke fun, but
enough is enough.

I've deliberately stayed away from the details of the story in this
column, not because it is hard to tell what is going on (the official
website
has some excellent information, synopses and character
descriptions) but because I think the substance of the show
should be experienced by each of you. It is certainly worth the
investment of an hour or two to watch the first two episodes. Personally
I intend to watch more, since I am interested in the evolution of
the relationships among the characters, invented and historical, who
have been introduced thus far.

But I felt it was only fair to prepare the path, as it were, on this
journey, by letting you know what was discordant about the show. If you
approach it as a purely fantastic creation in the typical anime vein (I
found myself thinking of Yotoden more than once while watching),
or if you are woefully ignorant of history (and there is no reason why
you shouldn't be, where ancient Greece and Persia are concerned), then
Alexander will seem a peculiar and rich brew.

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:54 PM | Comments (3)

The Wild, Wild East

Two summers ago, at Anime Expo 1998, I was privileged to witness a new
anime show which was to become quite hot in Japan: Trigun.
Trigun does something fresh with a respected genre, paying
tribute to Sergio
Leone
and the spaghetti westerns which have since become
classics.

I admit I'm not too plugged in to the licensing announcements of
American anime companies, or the American arms of Japanese ones, but
I've heard that Trigun is supposedly coming to the
U.S. soon. So now might be a good time to revisit my viewing of this
intriguing series.

Trigun is a 26-part anime series, somewhat episodic, but
constructing an overall story arc. The setting is Old West in flavor,
though the Old West of The
Good, The Bad and The Ugly
, or Wild, Wild West.
Technological anachronisms abound, as do trick guns and bizarre
characters. After a brief period it becomes clear that this society is
the remnant of an interstellar colonization effort. What went wrong in
the colonization is the main thread of the story arc.


Trigun the anime is based on Trigun the manga, authored
by Yasuhiro Nightow in 1995. A new manga, Trigun Maximum, is
still running in the magazine Young King Ours
today.

The cast of characters includes the Good Guys, such as Vash the
Stampede (early in the series identified as being responsible for much
mayhem, with a bounty of $$60,000,000,000 [the '$$' is not a typo]),
and the Bad Guys, who are so bad, they even get a Team Name: the Gung
Ho Guns. I've said that Vash is a Good Guy, potentially giving away a
story point, but it's pretty clear to the viewer, if not to the other
characters, that he is good, noble and crazy, in the best Lupin/City
Hunter tradition. It is true that mayhem happens around Vash, but
Vash is usually trying to stop it.

I could go into the details of the driving story arc, but that *would*
be giving too much away. Suffice it to say that Vash has enemies,
powerful enemies, who want to destroy him. The chief Bad Guy directs
his lieutenant, Legato Bluesummers, to harry and humiliate Vash, and
Legato generally does just that, commanding the Gung Ho Guns, a
rogue's gallery of characters the likes of which always populated the
old Wild, Wild West television shows. Just a sampling of these
rogues:

The tone of the series ranges from whimsical, hilarious and goofy to
downright depressing. Characters enter our awareness, show their
humanity, and all too often die. Vash is the Fool, traveling from town
to town on a journey of discovery. Sometimes he is able to help
people, other times he has to watch them slip through his fingers.

Joining him on his journey are two insurance agents, sent to find the
source of all the claims their company has been flooded with recently.
One is Merril Stryfe, diminutive but tough, and the other is Milly
Thompson, tall, cheerful, and not the brains of the team. But she
does carry a big gun. Most of the main characters
carry a gun of one sort or another, usually a trick gun (i.e. a gun
concealed in an unexpected way, or a gun with flashy performance
features).

Does all this hang together? Remarkably well. Even viewed in raw
Japanese, which I don't speak, I found the stories engaging and fun. I
was a bit taken aback by the dark turn of later episodes, but they do
eventually resolve into a--sort of--happy ending. I once was told that
the Japanese have a word which describes moments which are both happy
and sad. Here Nightow and the anime creators bring that word alive. If
you can handle an anime where not all the Good Guys live, and the
happy ending doesn't include a wedding and a castle, Trigun is
definitely worth your time.

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:37 PM

Incommunicado



The ISP I use at home has been down with a hard disk crash for the last couple of days, so I haven't been able to post from home. Thought I'd take a quick moment to post from work. I'm still alive, all is well.

Saturday was the "NOVA" Halloween party, and I showed The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and "Bio-Zombie"! They were both well-received by the cheesy entertainment crowd.

Sunday we went to the Oregon Zoo. Jean was there because she's taking a class in Anthropology from PCC. Kelly and I went along, and wandered around the zoo while Jean was 'in class'. Stellar Cove was cool, and I'll post a couple of pictures when I can log in from home again.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:14 AM

October 21, 2000

Searching Works

Cool, searching works! There's the search box to the left, right below "Feedback" and right above the sign-in/sign-out box. According to the Manila help, Stories and Front Page items get indexed, as well as special site-hierarchy sections, but not discussions. Don't know if it will index news items, since they are considered 'discussions', so I've also created an invisible site-hierarchy area called 'indnews' for "Indexable News Items" where I'll add the news items I want to track (because they have links or info I want to save, like the "Larry Speaks" article, or "The Mutter Museum").

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:48 AM

October 20, 2000

FLCL S LTS F FN

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends! About a month late, but not a dollar short, I promise you. This here review has taken so long to write because FLCL (pronounced "Furi Kuri" after the four kana which go into it's name) is hard to quantify without introducing masses of plot spoilers. Nevertheless I shall endeavor to do so.

First, Furi Kuri is a six-part OVA series brought to you by Gainax. I believe there is also a movie. If that's not enough for you, there are three volumes of manga serializations, and a CD. Since almost all of the staff previously worked on Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou or Neon Genesis Evangelion, there is a strong artistic influence from each of these series.

Furi Kuri takes place, as do so many anime, in a world very like our own, but not quite so. As is often the case, the laws of physics are violated with cartoon impunity, and characters display a certain...robustness...which any of us could only dream of. Folks are flung through space in beauteous arcs, limbs flailing majestically, to perform graceful one-point landings on their faces, heels rapping smartly on their skulls. Do these poor creatures feel pain? Surely, but they pick themselves up and--well, they don't march back into danger, they run away like any sane person, but the point is that they can run.

Another staple of Japanese OVAs is the domination of the cast by high school (or younger) characters. FLCL is squarely in this camp. The "hero" of our story is hard to pick out in the three episodes I've been privileged to watch, but there are a few candidates to choose from:

Haruko's picture graces the top of this review. Maybe not her most flattering picture, but it does capture some of her tendency to vogue disgracefully. Along with this cast of characters we are introduced to the 'adults' in the series, such as Naota's father Kamon, and his grandfather Shigekuni. Amongst the non-human cast we have Miyu-Miyu, a rather disturbing cat, and Kanchi, a robot, pictured here behind Mamimi and Naota. It is one of those difficulties of plot spoiling which prevent me from explaining how Kanchi first arrives on the scene, though I will go so far as to note that he was given his name by Mamimi, after a destroying angel character in a video game she played.

So what's it about? It's partly about the 'ordinary' life of two kids in the city of Mabase, growing up in the shadow of the mysterious Medical Mechanica plant. That the plant looks like a giant steam iron, and in fact billows forth gouts of steam or smoke at irregular intervals is certainly a source of curiousity for these kids, but it doesn't obscure their more ordinary concerns of alienation and confusion.

All that changes in an instant when Haruko literally races onto the scene, gunning her Vespa toward an unsuspecting Mamimi and Naota. This meeting is a lot like the first meeting between Ataru and Lum, or Tenchi and Ryoko. In other words, it is disastrous, and totally turns Naota's life upside-down. All right, I think I'm entitled to at least one spoiler: Haruko smacks Naota in the head with her guitar! Why does she do it? Well, that's part and parcel of the story, but it is a truly precious scene, as Haruko shifts about the unconscious Naota on her knees, not actually moving her limbs but scooting from spot to spot in some spooky yet hilarious telekinetic dance.

After this painful first encounter, Naota is shocked to find that Haruko has moved into his house, invited there by his father as a live-in maid. It seems that Haruko is not yet done with Naota. Indeed, she is in his face, on his case and pawing other places in a most unseemly manner. Haruko is, in short, every otaku's dream. But Naota is not an otaku.

Furi Kuri is by turns moody and hyperkinetic. Mamimi broods, vamps and may be an arsonist. Haruko has a mission, plainly, and is given to outlandish claims, such as being an alien. Naota probably just wants them all to go away. Kanchi has some of the best scenes in the first three episodes, between battles, heroic posture and angelic tableaux. So I return to the question. What's it about?

In part it is about the mystery of the Medical Mechanica building, and certain phenomena associated with it (at least by some of the characters), such as the appearance of Kanchi. It is also about the growth of the relationships of the characters: Naota and Mamimi, Naota and Haruko, Kanchi and Mamimi. Oh, it's all very complicated. Anybody who tells you they understand this series has either had an advanced preview of the entire thing, read the whole run of manga, or is lying.

On a scale of one to five Shamanic Princesses, I'd have to give this one a three for inscrutability. In the realm of Kare Kano, it is a peer, both for character development and interaction, and for humor and style. The music, by The Pillows is somewhat repetitive on the CD, but is eminently satisfying in the context of the series. I especially like "Little Busters", which makes it's debut during Kanchi's second fight scene.

So without giving away more plot details, that sums it up. Is it worth watching? Yes, if you thought Kare Kano was worth watching, or Mahou Tsukai Tai, or Shamanic Princess. Not because it is like any of those series, though occasionally it holds some kindred relationship. Rather because it tries to do something a little different, and have fun with it. And like Haruko on her Vespa, Furi Kuri tears up the landscape.


Credits:

Director: Tsurumaki Kazuya

Character Designer: Sadamoto Yoshiyuki

Script: Enomoto Yooji

Manga: Ueda Hajime

Music: The Pillows

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:21 PM | Comments (2)

Searchable Site?

I've followed the instructions for making this site searchable, and updated the reviews so they'll get indexed. I think I need to wait another 24 hours for indexing to show up. If it works, I'll add a search box to the lefthand column. Keep your fingers crossed!

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:53 AM

October 18, 2000

The Mutter Museum



If you find yourself in Philadelphia with time on your hands, and you don't run to squeamishness, then allot some time (half a day is reasonable) to visit the Mutter Museum. When Jean, Kelly and I were there for the Moyer family reunion, I was fortunate enough to have found out about this place before we left, and Jean and I insisted on setting the time aside for a visit.

To me, and to Jean as well, I believe, it was the high point of the trip. Well worth the $8 general admission for each of us. I think we stayed a couple of hours, so it at least repaid the price of a movie.

The Museum's collections include over 20,000 objects, including approximately 900 fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens; 10,000+ medical instruments and apparati, primarily dating between 1750 and the present; ca. 400 anatomical and pathological models in plaster, wax, papier mache, and plastic; ca. 200 items of memorabilia of famous scientists and physicians; and ca. 1500 medical illustrations in the form of lantern slides, 35 mm. slides, photographs, drawings, and prints. The Museum continues to receive medical instruments and specimens donated by Fellows, other physicians, and individuals.

Now if only I'd heard about Eastern State Penitentiary as well, the trip would have been a real pleasure. Via metascene, here is an essay by magician Teller on his visit to Eastern State Pen.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:36 PM

Larry Speaks



A quote from Larry Wall, the creator of Perl, delivering a speech at the Atlanta Linux Showcase and Conference, on Perl 6:

As I was flying here on Delta Airlines, the monitor was showing all sorts of happy sayings.

"If you can dream it, you can do it."

    -- Walt Disney

Now this is actually false (massive laughter). I think Walt was confused between necessary and sufficient conditions. If you don't dream it, you can't do it, that is certainly accurate.

    transcribed by Nathan Torkington

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:41 AM

Words, Words, Words

Just an early morning tidbit. Here are three of my favorite words for testing out a dictionary's mettle:

nugatory

Of little or no importance; trifling.

omphaloskepsis

contemplation of one's navel

phreatic

Of or relating to ground water.

So if you're looking to buy a dictionary, don't do it unless it has these three words (and your own personal favorites). You may very well never need to know or use these words, but it is, as my old calculus instructor used to say, "a measure of sophistication".

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:59 AM

October 17, 2000

Latest Additions

I've added two new categories for my writings:

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:20 AM

Musings

Occasionally I'll write an essay on a topic that interests me. If it isn't a review I'll collect it under this article. Additionally, I'll occasionally write some bit of fluff which isn't really an essay but is too long for the front page of my weblog. Maybe I'll want it to have a longer life than the front page rollover too. That means it also goes here. So I'm gonna dub this section 'Musings'!

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:56 AM

October 16, 2000

Miscellaneous Reviews

This is a placeholder for reviews of any sort which don't fit into the Anime or Hong Kong Movie categories. Nothing here yet.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:26 PM

Dr. Rudolf

I spoke with Dr. John Rudolf today, and a nicer man you never spoke with. He's got a great 'phoneside' manner, and like Dr. Selby, lets you have all the information you could want.

The short story: I've definitely got a WPW heart. No apparent risk due to my behavioral experiences (no fainting, dizzy spells or the like), but I'm supposed to carry a baseline EKG with me so that should I ever find myself in an emergency room for whatever reason, the physicians know not to give me certain kinds of meds.

The longer story: He consulted with Dr. Selby's PA (physician assistant) and they decided I should see Dr. Rudolf for a direct examination to make sure there are no other issues. Chances are low, since my bloodwork, B.P. and other indicators of the EKG are all great, but as he says, "In my line of work, I seldom get to revisit issues. If a dermatologist sees a pimple today, next week, no problem, but..."

So I get to add one more consultative visit to my localized string of doctor and dentist visits. After this, I think things will settle down again for a while. I certainly hope so. This gets tedious after a while.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:23 PM

October 15, 2000

Hi Jean!

Now this weblog becomes really interesting. Up to this point I've labored in obscurity fully expecting to be the only person reading it. But in a fit of self-immolation, I've let both my pen-pal from >Japan and my wife!!!???!!! in on the secret. Actually, since I'm not planning on sharing any deep dark secrets here, it's pretty safe. Sorry Jean ;^)~

Nami, I hope you're reading at least some of this weblog too, as it is sort of like a running first draft for the letters and email I'll be sending you in the future. Of course, this server's bandwidth to Japan may be totally inadequate, in which case I'll understand if you don't have the patience to wait for the pages to load.

The rest of you (all two of you): enjoy what you like, and for god's sake, post a comment in the discussion group to let me know you're out there! Just kidding. I know it's jes' me and the crickets. ;^)~

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:55 PM

My Picture

If you're curious, I've added a picture taken this evening (a mirror shot) to the Feedback page. Just click on the "Feedback" link to see me ;^)~

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:37 PM

New Review Category

I've created a new review category, "Hong Kong Movie Reviews". The first movie reviewed, appropriate for Halloween, is "Bio-Zombie".

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:37 AM

Hong Kong Movie Reviews

Here are the reviews of Hong Kong movies I've written so far:

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:32 AM

Bio-Zombie

(runs 94 min.)

Woody Invincible (Jordan Chan Siu-Chun) and Crazy Bee (Sam Lee Chan
Sam) run a pirate video shop in a Hong Kong mall. Their daily lives are
spent swaggering down the mall, talking big, betting on horse races and
trying to get dates with the various women who work there. Indeed,
except for two brief forays into the outer world at the beginning of the
movie (and one final visit at the end), the central cast of this movie
are the owners and workers at the various shops in the mall. Although we
see customers, they are early on ciphers, and later, zombies.

Running a beauty shop are two cute young women, Jelly and Rolls (yes,
they are actually called that in the movie, at least in the subtitles).
They are of course the constant victims of Woody and Bee's attentions.
Rolls is also the target of the unrequited love of a nerdy sushi chef at
the corner food court, Sushi Boy. On another floor, a cellphone store
('used' cellphones at bargain prices), we meet Brother Keung and his
wife. Brother Keung is an even bigger talker than Woody and Bee, if that
is possible.

The early part of the movie is spent introducing each of these
characters and giving us time to recognize their fundamental roles. A
handful of characters are basically good, but most are flawed or even
bad. This gives plenty of targets when the flesh starts to fly.

After this chatty beginning the various fates begin to intersect when
Woody and Bee are instructed by their faceless boss to bring his car.
While they are going to the shop to pick it up, we are introduced to the
source of the movie's action.

And now for a brief digression. When I was a child, decades ago, Marvel
Comics was at the height of its popularity. Stan Lee was one of the
founding fathers, as it were, and he was giving interviews everywhere,
magazines, television. Anyway, I saw an interview with him on a talk
show, and he was a very funny guy. His main thesis was that other
comic companies had very implausible superheroes, who flew threw the air
because of magical powers.

"But ours", he said with a wide grin, "they fly for very good reason".
The Incredible Hulk simply leapt very high like a giant grasshopper.
Thor would throw his hammer and since it was on a thong around his
wrist, his body would follow. Spiderman gained his powers quite
logically, when he was bitten by a radioactive spider. And so on. Stan
Lee clearly having fun, tongue planted firmly in cheek.

I mention this little anecdote because Bio-Zombie has a similar
attitude. While George Romero's original zombies, from Night of the
Living Dead
, are the result of mysterious radiation from a passing
comet, Bio-Zombie's zombies are caused by biological warfare agents,
created by the Iranians. A rogue canister of this chemical agent
disguised as a soft drink bottle is the source of all the chaos in the
movie.

So Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee cross paths with the 'real' world when
they--well that would be telling. Suffice it to say, for some reason
they bring an infected person back to the mall with them, and the world
begins to unravel.

The bio-agent is infectious (of course) and anyone bitten by a zombie is
doomed to become a zombie as well. Soon the mall is teaming with
shambling flesh eaters, and some measure of tension arises. I say only
some, because the tone of the movie even now is irreverant and
slapstick. References to video games abound, and any tool found around a
mall is pressed into service in the role of zombie slayer.

Overall, the movie follows this progression: first third chatty and a
bit slow, second third building toward the climactic zombie battle,
final third gory and exciting, but ending more somberly. I don't think
I'd give this movie more than a 6 out of 10, but with Halloween coming
up, it is certainly appropriate, and cheesy and low-budget enough to
make for silly fun.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:41 AM

Hong Kong Movie Reviews

Occasionally I'll post a review of a Hong Kong movie I've watched.
The links will be added here as they appear.