September 20th, 2011

food cookies always food

Nom nom nom

This past weekend I bought a pack of Hello Panda from the H-mart on a whim. It looked sorta spiffy and as we all know, endangered animals are always delicious. That's why they're endangered. So it stands to reason that anything stamped with the image of an endangered animal must also taste better. Just look at animal crackers for example.



I had meant it mostly for Will but he ended up scarfing down a crapload of other things. You can't get the kid to eat more than a few bites at a meal but he was munching down snackfoods like crazy. The odd part is that they weren't even very good tasting IMO. He really liked this Korean popcorn which just tasted like bland kettle corn to my tastes. I ended up dozing off sometime in the mid afternoon and when I had woken up, Shelley had taken the kids back home so the panda treats were all mine.



They were pretty spiffy overall. I was running a websearch on the items and saw a picture of someone eating them like they were cereal in milk. That would have probably been a good combo given the crunch and chocolate filling. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Incidentally, I'm only noticing now as I look at the picture but all the panda images seem to be different. I randomly grabbed nine of them from the inside of the box and now I'm curious exactly how many different pictures there actually are. Luckily, I'll probably forget all about this by the next time I'm at the H-mart or I might just be tempted to buy half a dozen boxes and conduct a survey.
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Welcome to Hell

I always find it sort of funny how long it takes for anime movies that come out in theaters in Japan to leak their way online. It's almost a fact of life now that any major movie that comes up will hit the interwebs within a couple days of premiering if not earlier. There have been a couple instances where people have even been able to swipe and copy a digital copy before the film even shows up in theaters. Maybe it's simply that the US crowd of pirateers are more organized or perhaps that the language barrier makes it so that it's harder for me to track down pirated source. Either way, it's usually not until the dvd is released that I can snag a copy and then watch the result to my profound regret. I'm not sure what it is about anime films in particular but they generally stink up the screen. It's especially baffling because the series creator often often writes the screenplay or at least has some degree of creative input/control. If I were smarter, I'd probably just skip watching them all together, but I just can't help but wonder if the next one will be one worth seeing.



So that brings us to the new Bleach Movie: The Hell Verse. As you can see from the promotional pamphlet, it came out last December and is the fourth Bleach movie released. I actually like the Bleach anime and have been watching it for at least a year now. There are a lot of inconsistencies and the storyline often moves like complete molasses but there are some really nice parts too. For one, compared to Naruto the fillers aren't nearly as brain-gougingly bad. I'm actually enjoying the current filler arc running and could just about mistake it for canon. Also, the Bleach movies have been far better than the offerings from Naruto with the first, Bleach: Memories of Nobody being truly excellent. So it was with some reserved optimism that I watched the current offering.

That optimism was probably misplaced. It's not to say that it's as awful as a Naruto movie, but there were some real plot holes big enough to drive a truck through.

The plot basically involves several denizens of Hell deciding to recruit Ichigo into helping them escape their confinement by kidnapping his sisters and coercing him into destroying the gates of hell. There was some effort to tie the story into the Bleach timeline, having a flashback of sorts at the beginning where we again see the battle between Corpse-Hollow Ichigo and Ulquiorra. Apparently Hell's inmates can escape from their prison for limited amounts of time and go gallivanting around sight-seeing. As we are told later, for some inexplicable reason the people in Hell are made stronger as they hone their combat abilities but this is all part of the supposed punishment as they are hunted by Hell's guardians who eat them when they're caught. Never fear though. The psychopaths are simply reborn to get stronger and try again.

This is one trope that I find really irritating and it's common in a lot of horror/monster movies and books. If the whole point is to inflict punishment upon someone, why in the world would you actually make them stronger and give them the opportunity to inflict ridiculous amounts of collateral damage on others. Take vampires as one pet peevish example. One of the favorite perennial vampire origin stories is that he is cursed by God for some massive sin be it heresy, warring with the church, pacts with the devil, or even the betrayal of Christ. For what we can only assume is a good and justified reason, God in his infinite wisdom decides to bestow upon him a cornucopia of powers including nigh immortality, superhuman strength, speed and senses, the ability to shapeshift, the ability to dominate others, and the need to prey upon the rest of mankind in order to survive. Oh, but he'll never be able to get a tan and that will surely balance the whole thing out. It's the classic case of being Cursed with Awesome. Even if you want to debate and disagree about how good a deal it is, you have to admit that it does royally fuck over anyone who happens to be the vampire's neighbors whenever feeding time comes around. The same sort of origin story is often found for other supernatural baddies including werewolves and witches, all of which make no sense if you believe at all in a benevolent or at least a non-assholish God.

So in the Bleach movie, instead of cursing the sinners with weakness, it's decided that the best way to punish them is to make them super strong and occasionally allow them to finagle a 2 day pass to visit the real world. This causes problems almost immediately as you might imagine.



I'm not going to go much more into the plot but suffice to say that the gates of hell opening above don't even begin to describe the plot holes and deus ex machina involved. I'm still not sure if there was any justification for any of the weird twists and turns or if maybe it was a quirk of the translation. Why isn't Yuzu dead and wtf was with that whackyass transformation at the end? We're expected to believe that those guardian whozits are so brainless as to mindlessly attack everyone around and yet somehow had the cognitive ability to decide to give Ichigo a hand? Just thinking about it gives me a headache. At least it's not completely painful to watch as long as you can put your higher brain functions to sleep.
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Nothing makes me squee like harmony and melody

While I was in Ohio visiting Chelle we had a conversation about how I usually avoid shows like American Idol like the plague. For all the years it's been on tv I've never seen so much as a single minute of it, hurriedly changing the channel if I ever accidentally ran across it. This might seem kinda strange because I absolutely love music. The problem is, I often can't stand other people singing, especially solo, because a single off note is like nails on a chalkboard for me. I probably feel as much embarrassment by proxy as whoever screwed up and it drives me bonkers. That said, there is nothing I love more than the blending of voices into harmonic bliss. It reminds me of that Will and Grace episode where the straight guy tries to sneak his way into the gay men's choir because:

I just love to sing. What can I say? It makes me feel like I'm being gently chucked under the chin by God.


That is exactly the way I feel when it's just right. I especially love A Cappella groups and have harbored a secret love for barbershop quartets and the like for years. There is something incredibly pure and just beautiful about the blending of human voices without the need for instruments and the other trappings. Like I've said before, if I could have wished for a single talent with which to excel, it would have been singing.



Anyway, I was telling all of this to Chelle and she mentioned that there was a reality show that featured nothing but a cappella groups which I had never heard of before. The conversation had completely slipped my mind until she sent me a PM that the current season of The Sing-Off had just started and I just went to take a look. For one, I was shocked to find that this is actually the third season of the show which just goes to show how much you can miss when you no longer have a tv. NBC's site still had the episode available for streaming so I popped over and was absolutely blown away. It was freaking wonderful. It just made my heart squee. It had me from the very first group song with all the various contestants.


How could you not absolutely love something like this? I immediately went to snag the first two seasons even before I finished watching the first episode. They're all downloading right now and I know I'm going to have music in my head for days to come.

As for this season, I have three groups I really like so far.



The Yellow Jackets from the University of Rochester.



Urban Method from Denver.



And Vocal Point a group from Brigham Young University.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how far these groups go and you can see that my bias is toward larger groups with more harmonizing. Urban Method is probably the one that really differs from the others but the rapper they had was really excellent and it made for a really impressive effort. I had never really thought of rap mixing into a cappella, but I guess there is a lot of precedent for that sort of thing with lyrical spoken words much like what eminem does. I can't wait for the next episode to see the other eight teams. It makes me wonder if this season is going to be longer than the previous ones. The first season was only 4 episodes long and the second, 5. I can't see how you could possibly whittle down 16 teams to a winner in that time frame and have the decision be really justifiable. One small slipup for any of the groups and it could all go poof.