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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Macross Zero Episode 1

This is a revised review of my Macross Zero review for the now dead Animation Chronicles site. It was mostly some fixes to grammar. I have seen all 5 episodes, so I have hindsight advantage now that I didn not then, but I feel it still stands as it is.

Title: Macross Zero
Series Type: OVA
Episode Length: ~30 Min.
Total Episodes (at time of writing): 3
Episodes Reviewed: #1

Macross Zero is the latest installment in the twenty-year-old Macross saga. All of the series, OVAs, and features made thus far have all taken place during or after the original Super Dimension Fortress: Macross (re-dubbed and cut as Robotech in the United States); until now. Macross Zero tells the tale of what happened before S.D.F: Macross.

The classic series started off with a narrator’s monologue: “In the year 1999, an alien spacecraft of colossal proportions crash-landed on earth...” then he proceeds to speak of a global war caused by the SDF-1’s descent, which pitted the U.N. against a group of nations and terrorists attempting to claim the rights to the wreckage. Zero begins with a similar monologue, but this time by the main character of the series, Shin Kudo, about how the descent of the space fortress affected his life.

This monologue gives you a small taste of the well done character and background drawings, as well as some animated versions of some very familiar military hardware – especially if you know U.S. technology – in the form of video made to look like your run-of-the-mill Fox/CNN/MSNBC news channel broadcasts from the Gulf Wars.

The M1 Abrams is your friend

Fast-forward to 2008. Shin is now a pilot in the U.N. Navy, piloting F-14’s. His squad quickly runs across a flight of MiG-29’s and proceeds to lay waste to them in a spectacular CG dogfight. The use of photorealistic CG elements (the planes) and 2D elements (backgrounds and characters) usually is not my cup of tea. I did not like Blue Submarine No. 6 because of that mix, but it seems that the technology has progressed enough that the blending is more seamless now than it was then. The detail level of the drawings is more consistent with the detail level of the aircraft as they flit through the skies, leaving nice contrails and ripping each other into little metallic shreds. During the squadron’s return flight to their aircraft carrier the carrier gets destroyed, forcing the F-14s to duke it out with an insanely fast purple variable fighter –resembling an F/A-18 – that makes short work of the entire flight, including Shin’s fighter, forcing him and his REO to eject. Shin washes ashore on the island of Maya, which is inhabited by a relatively primitive people with a mysterious link to the ‘Protoculture’. I’ll leave the story synopsis at that so I don’t give away anything that could be a major spoiler.


The really nice thing for me was the strong connection to the original Macross series. I loved Macross Plus, but all the technology was about 30 years more advanced than the end of the original series; thus the only really recognizable core Macross object was the SDF-1 itself. Zero brings back the good old familiar, yet slightly different VF-1 Valkyrie in the prototype production unit VF-0. Roy Fokker, my favorite good-guy from Macross, also seems to be one of the pivotal characters of the series as well. I also suspect we’ll see Claudia before the end of the OVA, as Shin’s weapons officer has the same last name (her brother?).

Fokker and the Zero

"Oh yeah, just weave through the missiles!
What are you; nuts?!"

The only real drawback for me was the music. Overall I think it is good, however there is one track that just distracts me. During one of the dogfights, this music plays in the background…music I’d heard somewhere else before. It turns out that there are small samples of some of the music from the Starship Troopers (Verhoeven) movie included in this particular track. The fact that I recognized it was distracting enough to me, but added to that is that it did not fit with the rest of that track or the rest of the music.

Long story short; in my book good animation, mostly good soundtrack, and so far typical Kawamori storytelling set the first episode of Macross Zero equal to, if not a little higher than, Macross Plus. The biggest drawback to Macross Plus in my mind was the reliance on SDF Macross for some of the subtext to make sense. I don’t foresee that as being a problem with Macross Zero since it is essentially the beginning of the Macross story. I would recommend this series not only to Macross fans, but also to people new to the Macross universe.

Rating: 9/10

Related Links:

Official Webpage - http://www.macross.co.jp/zero/

Water Savings

This is mainly a couple of minor personal gripes, but I wonder about its broader implications. For years now these water saver technologies, such as toilets and shower heads, have been being pushed heavily. Supposedly you use less water with the same effect, which saves you money AND saves the planet.

I have noticed a disconnect between what is promised and what happens. Ever since we went to water saving toilets at home the water bill and usage has gone up. In theory one flush should take care of any problems, but it often takes 2 or 3 to get the same effect as the old toilets took. They also clog if you look at them sideways, requiring at least 1 more flush to get it unclogged.

I bring this up because the related issue of water saving showerheads has entered the personal scene. The school replaced all the old shower heads last weekend. About half of them did need to be replaced, but I wonder just how much water the university will save with the new shower heads. The water pressure on these things is terrible and it disperses the water in such a way that you hardly feel like more than any one tiny stream is hitting you at a time. Because of this my shower this morning took a full 15 minutes to complete because I had to scrub vigourously to get the soap film off. Before it was just high enough that a light scrubbing could knock the film off, allowing me to be done within 3 minutes.

So my question is, if 1/2 the water is being used per unit of time or usage, but it takes 3-5 times as long or as many usages to get the same effect then what is the point?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

News from the Gaming Front

Just when you thought he'd gone away, here he comes again; Anti-gaming crusader Jack Thompson, who now apparently thinks he's Christ-like. Sometimes I wonder if he's bipolar, given how he's normally semi-sane appearing in public appearances then acts offensive and mad as a hatter in e-mail exchanges.

I am a Christian. I believe the term is 'non-practicing'. I can't find a church where the preacher isn't either freaky wierd, the sancutary is embedded with Jumbotron 3000's, or both. I may not know much of the scriptures, but last time I checked Jesus wasn't advocating the eradication of entire swaths of the population. He might frown upon the games played, but my understanding is that he would sooner have tried to talk someone out of it to save them from sin than say they at the very least deserve to go to jail, implying game retail clerks should be killed, or getting his rocks off over a gamer who committed suicide while lording it over his net-friends. Heck, he (Christ) even asked God to forgive the Romans and Jews who condemned him to the cross becasue they didn't understand what they were doing.

If Jack were really a Christian he would know this. Even I, with my limited knowledge, know this. He might want to try following this example because he's even lost my mother, who at first thought I was lieing about the vitrol he spews until I showed her site after site of archives of his correspondence with gamers.

The sad thing is that a lot of gamers agree with the general message that kids need to be kept away from the more volent games. Too bad he's too busy calling them scum, idiots, "pissants", "Pixelantes", or whatever attempted cutesy words he's invented now to even contemplate listening and building a support base of anyone under 30.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I don't want to go on the cart....

I'm not quite dead yet.

I just got done reading this post at Little Green Footballs about the photos of the Red Cross ambulance that was supposedly hit by Israel being pulled. It could be shenanigans, it could be bandwith drain, or it could be their pics are on rotation. I honestly wouldn't doubt shenanigans.

But I also have to admit that I am predisposed to not like the Red Cross/Red Crescent. They lost me in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam when they would do "G.I. Combat Releif" stuff and charged my grandfather and two uncles, respectively, for care packages. The Salvation Army gave better packages for free. I haven't heard this just from them either. I would have just put it down to whiney relatives excagerating (I mean, comeon, all we hear about is Red Cross this and that) if not for a Marine WWII vet that came in to get ink at work this past summer. We somehow got to talking about aid agencies and he got going on it too. Tack onto that the bungling around with the 9/11 relief donations and I have trouble supporting the Red Cross.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Another example of liberalism being understanding of and nonjudgemental of others.

I thought that's what it was about right? I've noticed that many cannot practice what they preach. The latest example, an exchange from the comments section of this blurb on Expose the Left

Ranba Ral Said:
March 30, 2006

I hear the chickenhawk garbage about myself all the time. It used to really tick me off because I dumped college and tried to enlist about 2 years ago. I’d be in Mosul right now if my eyes didn’t suck too much for me to get in.

Experience tells me that the fact that at least I tried to get in, applying for a combat MOS even, apparently doesn’t mean anything either according to ‘progressives’. I’m still a ‘coward’.

Final thought: As far as birds go, I much prefer ducks. As in “water off the back of”. It’s how I’ve learned to deal with idiots.

J.Matthews Said:
March 30, 2006

I call bullshit on 33Ranba Ral.
There are plenty of soldiers with less than perfect eyesight; the government would be more than happy to give you a pair of glasses.
With the dregs, they are scraping off the bottom of the barrel and all the forced enlistments of deferred convicted felons that boil on my ass excuses no longer is going to wash.

I am sure they would have found something for your little chicken hawk ass to do.
There are always plenty of potatoes to peel and toilets to scrub.
After all, you have been licking bush’s asshole for the past few years so I am sure you are plenty use to the smell by now.

Keep making excuses, you just appear lamer with each one.

Ranba Ral Said:
March 31, 2006


Thanks for proving my point. It’s called early onset glaucoma. They debated for 6 months on whether or not they’d let me in. I appealed twice before it got to the point where I’d have to get a job to pay bills instead of playing paper games. I volunteered for 19 Kilo (tanker), and the unit I would’ve gone to under buddy contract if I’d gone in is the 172nd SBCT. After the first PDQ I said I’d do any MOS and they still said ‘no’ because apparently I can’t fly in a depressurized airplane cabin.

You know, it's great to have your own opinion and all, but one could at least try to be civil when expressing it. These people wonder why they anti-war activists and rallies are increasingly more shunned by the average citizen. Some of the protestors are great people, but many I have encountered are whiney, annoying, crass people who fall back on hurling insults like calling someone Bush's asslicker instead of even pretending to listen.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Currently Reading list

On top of class readings, here's my current book list.

The Kalevalla - Finnish epic: Somewhat of a hard read, so I take it in sections.

The Confederate Navy - by Philip Van Stern, Philip V. Stern: It's a quick overview of the Confederate Navy, lots of nice diagrams. Lots of stuff on the Ironclads other than U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimack to you yankees who don't relize it was recomissioned).

The Book of Lost Tales #1 - By J.R.R. Tolkien, Commentary by Christopher Tolkien: Basically unrefined version of the Silmarillion. Interesting to see what all the little references in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit refer to.

Secession Homework

I am currently in a class at BGSU called "Comparative Government". We basically learn the ropes of different countries' government structures. It's like a series of 2 week junior-high government classes. We have discussion questions to do, so I figured I would cross-post my own writings here. Bear in mind, these are not the most politically brilliant pieces ever and are limited to 1-2 double-spaced pages, so it's not like I can even begin to cover all the bases.

The question for this assginment:

"Many Scots feel loyalty to Scotland and not Britain. If a majority of Scots decided democratically to declare Scotland independent, do you think that the government of the United Kingdom should allow Scotland to separate? Why, or why not? Suppose the people of Vermont (or Texas)voted to secede from the United States. Should Vermont (or Texas) be allowed to leave? Why, or why not?

More generally, under what circumstances should secession be permitted? Do you believe that ethnic or religious groups are entitled to their own nation-states if a majority of the group's members want to have a separate nation-state? If not, how should multi-ethnic states manage ethnic differences?"


Secession is a tricky topic to tackle because it has no universally correct answer. In the case of modern Scotland things are more docile than in most cases where secession is considered, making things much easier to discuss. The Scottish people feel that they are more a part of Scotland than the United Kingdom, yet they are considered by the United Kingdom and the world to be a part of the Kingdom.

Secession would probably be possible for Scotland if it were done by popular vote. The Scots already have their own parliament, governing bodies, and laws in place. They have also traditionally been capable of governing themselves, so in each of these cases self-governance should not be an issue. The one issue that may be a sticking point is the concessions the United Kingdom’s parliament has made to Scotland, such as the Scots’ disproportionate representation in the House of Commons (Munro 109). The argument that they are not represented in the currently recognized national government would hold no basis, unlike the North American colonies in the later half of the 1700’s. The United Kingdom may fight secession though Parliament, but force would probably be precluded due to international pressure.

The circumstances under which it would be acceptable for a region to secede are where the true difficulty comes into play. The ability to self-govern would be a major issue for the potential new nation. If it would be incapable of governing itself, it would most-likely become a contested ‘hot-zone’ or a lawless zone as much of the southern handle of Somalia is today. If this were to be the case, then it would probably be best for secession to not occur. If it could self-govern, then that would be one major point toward the legitimacy of secession.

Resources are another major issue. If there are resources in an area that would not have the infrastructure to effectively utilize them without their original national government’s involvement then an economic depression would be likely. If they were able to build up their own infrastructure this aspect would be effectively negated. The other aspect of the resources issue would be how willing the parent government would be to depart with them. The secessionists could argue that it rightfully belongs to the people on the land, but there would be, more often than not, a case for the parent government to step in and seize land that it has its own perceived legitimate claim to. The drive for a nation of Kurdistan runs into this with Turkey over who would control the water supply, an issue neither side seems willing to budge on.

Human rights abuses should be an aspect of the legitimacy of a secessionist movement. Semantics enter here with who defines what human rights abuses are, so this issue would be an exercise in complexity on its own right.

Religion and ethnicity often enter into the debate over the right to secede. The Kurds wish to establish the state of Greater Kurdistan, but this would require taking territory from Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, and Syria, ultimately resulting in a fragmented state. This would be the result if other ethnic groups were to secede from their current governments as well. A prime example would be the emerging state of Palestine (a case of a fragmented state within a perforated state). The major problems with fragmented states such as this are what to do about border security, trade, transportation, and the governance of regions of mixed ethnicity or religious beliefs.

When cosidering states seceding from the United States of America, popular vote within the state should be the basis for if it withdraws from the Union, as per the rights outlined in the Constitution. However, the past has proven that the federal government would probably fight this move, in a military manner if need be. In practice military strength of the state would most likely be the determining factor for the outcome of an attempted secession from the United States.

Intellectually there are many criteria that would make a secessionist movement ‘right’ or not. In the end, the legitimacy of such a movement relies on how far the secessionists are willing to go to break away compared to how bad the government wishes to keep them as part of the nation.

Works Cited

Munro, Colin R. “Scottish Devolution: Accommodating a Restless Nation.” International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 6 (1999): 97-119.

Selective 'read more' link

Blogger's FAQ has a great section on expandable posts and summaries. The problem is that the selective use one had the "read more" link on EVERY post. It says users need to figure out how to make the link appear selectively themselves.

I tried, and failed miserably. So it was on to Google.

Amit Upadhyay at Anything Else has the answer.