Thursday, January 19, 2017

Top 10 Anime of 2016

10 Treasures from the 2D World

Most people seem to be in agreement that 2016 was kinda shitty irl. It wasn't all bad, but on personal, cultural, and global levels, I'm sure we can all identify more than a few instances of tragedy and disaster. Luckily for us, there seems to be some law of cosmic righteousness where the worse our 3D world gets, the better the 2D world must become. Indeed, this was a fantastic year for anime: after a slow start in the winter season, spring, the season of miracles, more than filled our needs in every essential genre. Summer dialed back just a little, but only to emphasize the insanity of fall, a season so fantastic that it could measure up to the all-time greats, so overwhelming on all fronts that it almost became cruel, silly, taunting... "You like anime, huh? Is this what you want? This many shows???"

Well yes, that is what we wanted, this is exactly what we wanted. All the injustice and sadness and rage and ideology in the world: it is the ability to turn away from all of that and towards a screen for 22 minutes and forget that anything exists beyond it: pure escapism: that is anime. It was pretty hard to get down to even 10 this year so we're doing a substantial honorable (sometimes dishonorable) mentions section, hold on...

ANNE HAPPY♪ - On one hand, this is a typical 5-girls slice of life show focusing on your standard friendship, enjoyment, sentimentality, etc. On the other, it's a bizarre story of robots and giant board games and objectophilia. Both ways are good.
Bakuon!! - Here we have high school girls riding motorcycles and it's completely insane, with Suzuki viruses and ghost girls and Biker Jesus, really more a collection of silly biking jokes than a standard slice of life show. My favorite is the MC's voice, which sounds like she's screaming all the time.
Boku no Hero Academia - This is one of my favorite shonen manga running right now, and the adaptation didn't do anything wrong, so I still really recommend it. It just didn't have the sheer creative genius of the shonen adaptation that did make the list.
Brave Witches - Like Love Live with Sunshine, they've bravely rebooted the Strike Witches franchise with nine new girls. Miraculously, they're all great, basically on par with the original cast! But it's still just more Strike Witches, more shootan and flyan and befriendan Strike Witches. Whether that's good or not is up to you.
Dagashi Kashi - This is a worthwhile show, with great character designs, lively animation, and often hilarious plotlines, but the highlight is still the educational and bizarre candy sequences. It's much more accessible than it might seem; I'd suggest giving it a try.
gi(a)rlish number - This is basically "what if everyone in Shirobako was a jerk and/or an idiot?" The answer is a hilarious but substantial story more in line with Western sitcoms than anything else. Really cute animation, too!
Keijo!!!!!!!! - This is a hundred times better than the exclamation points would suggest, and about ten thousand times better than the premise would suggest, largely because - not in spite of - the fact that it takes itself as seriously as any other sports show. But ten thousand times whatever you were thinking is maybe still not enough.
Kiznaiver - For some reason Trigger wanted to make a Shaft show. And they kinda succeeded!? The character designs? Great! The direction? Pretty great! The plot? Never speak to me about this again. At least it simulbirthed its godlike opposite, Space Patrol Luluco.
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! - I really liked the episodes centered around slice of life antics in the fantasy world; they really created a warm community feeling. But no amount of EXPLOSION could make up for how much the fight scenes dragged and how generic it became...
Kuma Miko - This strange story of a backwater girl and her talking bear friend barely missed the list hue hue. It's pretty adorable, often hilarious, but mostly just... genuinely upsetting? A must-watch for despair-moe connoisseurs.
Long Riders! - After the madness of Bakuon!!'s high school girls on motorcycles, the sanity of this college girls on bicycles story felt kinda fresh again. But really, it's just a standard "cute girls doing [hobby] things" show, a genre which rarely produces masterpieces, instead reliably giving us warm and pleasant shows like this.
Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku - This ambitious show in the "dark magic girl battles" legacy of Madoka does some cool stuff: I liked the ambiguity of power levels, the variety of the girls' real-life forms was neat, and the last episode was pretty satisfying... but oml it was SO EDGY, like every episode was edgier and more violent than the last, I really don't need to see any of that.
Musaigen no Phantom World - Kyoani fight scenes is maybe enough of a reason to watch this, and the cat episode was sick, but there really isn't much else lol. Really trainwrecky at times, but you know what they say about looking away~
Sansha Sanyou - This is a great slice of life show with lovable characters, funny plots, and surprisingly lively animation. It proved to be just a warm-up for Dogakobo's other work this year, but it's definitely still worth a watch.
Stella no Mahou - If New Game! was too "real", check out these cute girls doing nerdy doujin things. At its best, it captured the fever, camaraderie, and triumph of actual doujin game production. The rest of the time, it was pretty standard moe SoL, and that's fine too.
tanaka-kun wa itsumo kedaruge - I was told BL actually has the best girls, and it was true! And this had some great yuri too?? And really, is it not time for me to diversify? The overlap between BL and yuri includes some of my favorite elements... Okay, but why is there tons of het in this show too? Who asked for that?

Okay, whew, that's it, that's enough. Or too much. Let's move onto the actual list!

10. Yuri!!! On Ice

Yes, I watched this. No, I wasn't tricked by the name. I watched it cause loads of people - including people that don't usually watch this "flavor" of anime, even people who don't really watch anime at all - kept telling me it was a great show. And it is! This is, before anything, a really solid competition show about figure skating: the crises of motivation are meaningful, the rivals are lovable (JJ Style!!), and the uncertainty of their success compelling. You truly feel their heartbreak and triumph, so what more could you want?

Well, if that was really all I wanted, I could have watched dozens of other shows. Shows with like, cute girls and stuff. But we aren't just about cute here; what truly sets Yuri!!! On Ice apart is its bold sexuality. Where so many series' fanservice is so inconsequential you can't even process it, the relationship between Yuri and Victor is explicit and meaningful. Moreover, that energy and gravity carries into the many skating sequences, infusing them with greater significance. It captures the intensity, fragility, and, most importantly, beauty, of the sport itself.

9. High School Fleet

After the runaway success of Kancolle and the rest of the military-moe genre, it was inevitable that we'd get cute girls crewing ships too. Most of these shows try to avoid villainizing any of their cast through either inhuman enemies or making the battles a harmless sport, but neither would suffice to adapt this genre. And sure, the justification they use is a little weak, but this cake-eat greediness allows them to nail all your favorite ship-movie tropes: cautious exploration, human-on-human tactics, spooky fog of war action, crises of command, and desperate survivalism.

But that survivalism is also domestic, and the show exceeds as a slice of life, too. All your favorites are here again, and supercharged by the unique setting: intimacy, relaxation, friendship building... it's hard to choose which episode is my favorite: the climactic battle or the wonderful festival. The cast is gigantic, but it doesn't dilute the experience, as even the most minor characters are interesting and lovable. The intersection between wartime job and peacetime personality creates a new dimension for each character; it's hype to meet other captains or high ranking staff and really believe that they've earned it. Oh, and they're all adorable, but that prolly goes without saying.

8. Scorching Ping Pong Girls

Okay you might have heard of a little show called Ping Pong? In the last few years, it's gone from a cult favorite to a crossover hit to the gospel of competitive Melee players. And I loved it too, I put it as my favorite show of 2014. But what was the one universally agreed upon flaws? Not enough cute girls!! Well, here is our salvation. No okay yes this is a very different show than Ping Pong. Instead of the Wallace-esque investigation of competitive attitudes, we start with the assumption that playing ping pong is fun and that's good enough and go from there. Their discovering and expressing this doki-doki feeling is so visceral and addictive that even I, barely coordinated enough to both sit and type, want to give the sport a try.

This straightforward motivation lets the show dive deeper into the mechanics of ping pong, too. The various spins and drives are pushed to almost parodious levels, but seeing how they match up is pretty exciting. Sure, the designs might look goofy, but the simplicity allows for really dynamic animation of all these absurd smashes, soundtracked to some kickass beatz. And once you see them in action, and the friendship they build off the court, they'll look a little less Western-How-to-Draw-Anime-bookcore and a lot more adorable and hype.

I think hype is really the only word for this series. Seeing new characters and wondering how strong they are? Hype. Mid-match revelations leading to comeback victories? Hella hype. Somehow being able to shout at length about how much fun you're having in the split second where the ball is hitting the paddle? This is the hype we live for. I think the bottom line is that this is Ping Pong Saki, and that should say enough either way.

7. Amanchu!

Let's move on from all this competitiveness and tension into the realm of Iyashikei, of real anime, into the paradisiacal seaside town of Amanchu!. We join newcomer Teko, feeling a little distraught and reserved in her new home, as she forms a fast and frantic friendship with Pikari, who's like an extreme version of HidaSketch's Miyako. There's all your typical slice of life bonding stuff, and it's lovely, but the focus of their relationship is diving, Pikari's beloved hobby, which she joyfully shares with the initially nervous Teko.

Like many "cute girls doing [hobby] things" shows, the journey we take with Teko to understand diving is enthralling and educational. We share in her tensions and triumphs, witnessing her fantasies of the open sea and wishing alongside her for them to come to pass. The real brilliance here, though, is how long they spend before Teko actually goes on a proper dive (spoilers: it's a long time). The magic of that eventual victory is made all the more sweet by the detours along the way.

This pacing reinforces the show's best quality: yuri. No, I mean sentimentality. This isn't just a sentimental show, but a show about sentimentality, about finding meaningful moments in life and remembering them and treasuring the memories. Diving, yeah, but also flower viewing, silly games, and, most importantly, friendship. No, wait, I mean yuri, which actually is still the best quality. I mean, the way they parallel the realization of the show's wonderful moral message, Teko finally entering the ocean, and the advancement of their relationship? That's genius, that's just straight up storytelling gold.

6. 3-gatsu no Lion

Shaft's only 2016 series, 3-gatsu no Lion tells the story of Rei, a young shogi pro. This is no Hikaru no Go - a simple look at the strategy and competition of the game would be way too easy. Nor is it just a character study of the players, though... sure, the narrative of sacrifice and determination that professional play necessitates is compelling and significant here - the aftermath of Rei's wins and losses, for him and his opponent, is especially haunting. But even that would be too easy!

No, no, what they went here was for some real life shit. Shogi is just a part; wacky best friend(?) Nikado is more than a rival(?); all his opponents go home and really live. There's Rei's tragic past, but also the warmth of the Kawamoto home, and but their tragic past too. There's the shogi hall, but also the river, the bar, the school roof. Happiness and sadness and silliness and intensity, nothing is black or white (I told you it wasn't go), 100% real life.

And Shaft went for it in the direction, too. You already knew it was gonna be gorgeous, but unlike the unreal landscapes of Monogatari, the settings here are very grounded in reality, building on the style of last year's Kofuku Graffiti. The emotional range of the show is expertly depicted in everything from editing to shot composition to colour; you feel, down to your bones, the intense isolation of the shogi game, the churning darkness of Rei's memories, the lively warmth of the Kawamoto sisters... Shaft's direction here begins to exceed any preconceived limits of anime, into the realm of Ozu and Bergman, into true cinema, or, dare I say it, kino?

Okay that's a fine spot to stop for now

Look forward to the top 5 soon!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Top 5 Short Anime of 2016

Doing this list too now

There was a lot of good shorts this time so here's a little list just for them. It's a good warm up for the more substantial ones which are coming Soon™.

5. Oshiete! Galko-chan

The basic joke here - that Galko is surprisingly innocent and nerdy despite her gyaru appearance - provides a funny skeleton, but it's the meat of the show that sticks out: at considerable length, and with educational frankness, the girls discuss topics that any other SoL show would reduce to a single gag. Once you add just the right amount of heart, it's anatomically perfect!

4. Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou

Follow our titular hero in his quest to become a master DJ and fry cook, while learning that the roles aren't as dissimilar as you'd think. The artstyle has an endearing amateurishness, the extended cast is hilarious, and Agetarou's struggles and successes are compelling. But best of all: the songs they play, and the insights into dance music they provide, are genuinely fresh and funky.

3. Teekyuu

2016 blessed and/or condemned us with episodes 73 through 96 of Teekyuu, comprising seasons 7 and 8. Watch this Tim-and-Eric-plus-tennis-minus-budget audiovisual odyssey and reflect on the fact that not only was this allowed to happen, this was allowed to happen eight times.

2. Koyomimonogatari

This collection of Monogatari side stories flew under the radar when it aired web-only in January, but for fans of the series, it's a must-see. The stories weave themselves throughout the show's chronology, giving us rare and nostalgic glimpses of our favorite characters in different "modes". And while they remain familiar, the roles they play are shuffled; each instigates, advises, or impedes Aragagi as he attempts to solve the episode's mystery. Given the normally languid pacing of the series, you may not think much could happen in under 15 min, but it's a complete and fulfilling story each time, with everything you love from Monogatari - twists and punchlines, diegetic breaks, and poetically perfect endings - super condensed but still substantial, with each episode feeling like it exceeds the boundaries set by the one before it. And just when you think you've seen it all, the show transcends the bounds of a "side story" entirely, in one of the craziest finales of the year.

1. Space Patrol Luluco

Okay but if transcendence is what we want here, nothing can match the insane trajectory of Luluco. This is like... they took all the Triggeridium that they squeezed out of Kiznaiver, and then used that to fuel a rocket. Into the sun, which exploded. Into a giant robot, which transformed into a larger robot, which then fought another giant robot. And then they both exploded. This is just an analogy, the actual show's content is much crazier. If you love Trigger, you have to watch this show. If you love anime, you have to watch this show. If you are a living human being with a heart beating in your chest, you have to watch this show.

Okay that's it

Hey that was pretty easy, short = easy, I'm gonna do my albums list really short too

10. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (2016-03-14 Revision)
9. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (2016-03-15 Revision)
8. TOYOMU - 印象III - なんとなく、パブロ (Imagining -The Life of Pablo-)
7. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (2016-03-30 Revision) 
6. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (2016-04-02 Revision)
5. Kanye West/Dorian Ye - The Life of Paul
4. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (Original Release)
3. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (2016-06-14 Release)
2. D.R.A.M. - Broccoli (ft. Lil Yachty)
1. Lil B - Black Ken

Wow yeah very easy, music journalists have you been disrupted?

More lists to come soon unless I am a buster.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Song of the Day #346 - world's end girlfriend - in Silence / in Siren

Hello again

I dunno if the above link actually lets you play the track or what but uhhh... here we are again doing Song of the Day! After like a month and a half, sheesh. It was a very eventful time. Lots and lots of things happened. Some were bad, like shutting down, and losing my mp3 player, and school becoming very busy, also pretty much everything in the news. But some were good too, like apollo/pth growing very quickly, and getting a new mp3 player, and passing all my classes. And then I went to New York for a bit and it was good and I took these pictures and I just got home and I am very tired.

But I wanted to write a bit about this song, it is a fantastic song, it made me feel very fantastic whenever I listened to it. No matter if I was stressed or sad or happy or excited or what, I could listen to this album, and when I got to this song, it was as if all my emotions were crystallized and fell away from me, and I saw them from a distance, and they seemed perfect and beautiful but distinct from me, not controlling me, something else.

And something else filled me up, something completely new, as soon as the vocals started. They're so tender, so beautiful, and so simple... I'm really loving this style of a singular, straightforward, totally "clean" vocal line wrapped in so much complexity, drums and strings and synths, I loved it a lot in weg/Have a Nice Day!'s NEW ROMANCE, and here I love it for basically entirely different reasons lol. There it seemed like an avenue into the song, a way for the song and your hypothetical karaoke performance of the song to be merged. Here, it makes the song into something entirely Other, but a recognizable Other, an Other I associate with everything tender and beautiful and unreachable, e.g. or possibly i.e. yuri. I haven't bothered to try to transcribe and then shoddily translate the lyrics, outside of the few, very evocative, words that I know and can catch - "ai", "sayonara", "wakata", etc. - because I'm worried the real meaning of the song will conflict with this image that I find so immediate and understandable.

The way all the other sounds, besides that introductory piano, which is sort of like a between-meals sorbet, emerge from the vocals is really stunning to me. I mean first off just because this is a polysymphony of world's end girlfriend in his prime, which is basically the prime of anyone in this mode. There's gorgeous strings and chimes like ice and chords that feel like they're coming from your gut and sharp jazzy drums and apocalyptic howls and the pure electricity from an electric guitar and remnants from the territory only he can enter, like the sound at 3:43, what the hell is that? And it's all suspended across this swelling and shifting world, reflecting both the boldness and maturity he's shown in his structuring on this album... It feels like the entire soundtrack of some JRPG rushing up to meet you.

But again, the truly stunning part is the way that all of this seems to not be the setting for the vocals, but an expression of it, the manifestation of just the facet that can be reflected in audio. It is her vocals that command the tempest, her feelings. And it makes me really feel like everything else in the song, all this complexity and violence and completeness, all of it exists in the feelings of just this one girl. Of course it does, where else could these concepts exist? They must be in the feelings. And thus feelings must be the most important thing. As soon as I start to really believe that, which happens every time I listen to this song, it feels like the rest of the album, and the rest of my feelings that are orbiting around me, and everything happening in the world, and space and even stars, is cast again relative to the heart and mind of this one person, this vocalist: every single thing is just one facet of her emotions. It is dizzying, it is beautiful. And eventually, when I sort of regain myself, everything makes a little more sense, everything is in proportion, and my own little feelings of love or fear or loneliness or happiness feel like they have galaxies within them, but not in an overwhelming way, in a way that if I just sang some simple lines or said a few things I think it would be fine.

I'm off school now and all I want to do is write write write. Magomiutsuken is still coming "soon" although I'm falling into the trap of just adding more and more half-finished things YET AGAIN hahahaha. There's a lot of other song of the day posts I wanna do but tbh they're gonna be lower priority than other things. Like 2016 posts, I have to start working on those soon, I'm really excited to do them, anime and music were both really wonderful this year. Oh and the blog just hit 100k views!! So that's pretty great too!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Song of the Day #345 - Ween - You Fucked Up

You really fucked up

I'm not really feeling any better about Trump winning the election. Rn I am lamenting the internet. It is not the most important tragedy of the election by any stretch but we have plenty of time for all of them.

For years now, I have fought against the pond scum that is the alt-right flooding onto my favorite sites, like reddit and 4chan. Most people know that reddit went from extremely nerdy tech-focused link aggregation to the home of /r/the_donald, but I feel like there aren't many of us anymore that remember when 4chan was leftist. Given the site's unique "provocation = proliferation" pattern, it isn't surprising that the dominant culture is the outside world's "counterculture", and indeed, until the Obama administration, 4chan was mostly anti-Bush, socially progressive (albeit often in a needlessly vulgar, irreverent way), and economically leftist.

Mostly, though, it was apolitical, and this is what changed more than any political shift between the Bush and Obama years. Through a well-documented and systematic attack, the white supremacist website Stormfront disseminated their lies and conspiracies on 4chan. Their goal was to reform the angsty misfits that have always been 4chan's core into outright racists and hardcore conservatives. It was, unfortunately, an overwhelming success. Before, 4chan's self-identification as outcasts, loners, and even losers was owned by each and every one of them, it was almost a point of pride, and if there was some discontent underneath, it was an intimate sort of blameless sadness. But the Stormfront invasion convinced them that for every injustice or unhappiness in their lives, there was an Other to blame. By focusing their dissatisfaction into rage against Obama, minorities, and "SJWs", they created the horrific fusion of memes and hate that is the alt-right.

I fucking hate these people. They're completely creatively bankrupt. Their medium is only the shitpost, their only cultural contribution photoshops of Pepe. Every single day I am shocked to find /pol/tards posting on places like /mu/ or /lit/ or /a/. Do they think a single person they admire in these fields agrees with them? Could they actually believe that anything they were doing or saying was in any way "cool" with anyone they find "cool"? How could they look at all these amazing works of art that were produced from the sadness and pain and injustice that they too felt, these beautiful works that seek only to make some sense of the world, to find some balance and peace within it, and think, nope, it's brown people, brown people and cucks, they are the problem, and I have a cartoon frog that says so... god dammit, beyond not a single one of them ever producing anything of worth, they actually ruined so many memes too, I used to dump Matt Furie comics on /v/ so many years ago, but now...

And even worse is that they're wholly morally bankrupt too, but you already knew that. It isn't even the sort of capitalist evil we're so used to: there's no bottom line here, just illogical rage. These are people that believe intolerance of intolerance is as bad as intolerance of an entire culture, who believe "racist" is a protected class, who believe their specific pedigree is the inevitable ubermensch, only kept down by the conspiracies of an inferior collective. I don't understand how they can possibly achieve lasting happiness and I would feel bad for them if it was evident that they had even once considered the happiness of another person in their lives. This attitude is destroying the parts of 4chan I loved best. They have "red pilled" /r9k/ from a humble den of commiserating losers to a endless gyre of misogyny and conspiracy. They have forced fandoms in every medium into pointless blind struggles against nonexistent cabals. No longer is the prevailing attitude "this person is also on 4chan, we must have something in common, we are already halfway to friends, even if we disagree now", it's "this person shouldn't be on 4chan, because they are showing outward empathy, and they are therefore a cuck, and maybe also a shill". My most precious memories of discovering and sharing interests and emotions and experiences too obscure to survive anywhere besides a slow-moving thread at 3AM on a Peruvian pottery imageboard are being blotted out by bickering and isolationism and pride in hate.

The one thing I always held on to was the idea that I was right, that the majority of the world was on my side, that I would be validated by history... And, yeah, I still think that. I feel that just as strongly today as any other day. Four years is not a long time. By 2020 we will be back on track. I really believe that. Set back, delayed, disgraced, damaged - but back on track. But four years is a long time on the internet, and I shudder to think about how much worse 4chan will get now that /pol/ has been validated on the worldwide stage. Between this and their recent financial woes, maybe it's time I quit the site. 12 years I've wasted there. Almost half my life. Welp.

Even in the shorter term, we all know they've fucked up. Both candidates would perpetuate the sort of corporate capitalism that has been slowly choking out the middle class, sure, but at least Clinton was making some effort towards fixing widespread unchecked devaluation of labor, the true evil in the world today. But Trump... Trump straight up does not give a shit about poor people. Most of the people that voted Trump are going to pay more taxes and receive less benefits and still they voted for it willingly because they have all the same ignorant hate he does, and so maybe they can get as rich as he is, and get all the tax breaks he's giving himself and his buddies. Great.

This song is about that feeling. I'm sorry these posts aren't very much about music but that's really all there is to this song. They fucked up, and now they'll have to pay. Look forward to more political ranting tangentially related to a song in coming days, until I'm distracted by something else, probably anime.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Song of the Day #344 - A Silver Mt. Zion - Goodbye Desolate Railroad

Everybody gets a little lost sometimes

Fuck that fuck everything worst end. America elected a braindead TV meme and a supervillain. If you are famous and repeatedly say what people want to hear, even if it isn't grounded in anything remotely approaching fact, even if it lacks inner-sentence consistency, you can become the most powerful person in the world.

Well, sort of. A lot of people overestimate the power of the presidency. I don't think most of the hysterical "policies" that got him elected will ever come to pass, either because they're flagrantly unconstitutional or nightmarishly unfeasible. There will never be a mass deportation or a wall. Cheap Chinese goods are not going to be Made in USA. We might even be okay for things like the return of stop and frisk. Of course last night I would have said there would never be a Trump presidency so

The real dangers imo are:
-Anything to do with military action
-Mike Pence being evil and possibly actually smart
-Propagation of a culture of intolerance and selfishness and outright hate throughout America, especially towards minorities and women (this is the big one, but tbh it was gonna happen to some extent whether or not he won - the damage was done as soon as he was legitimized on television)
-Global economic crisis due to lack of confidence in America

These are very real dangers. I feel incredibly awful thinking about my friends in America. My dad texted me "may you live in interesting times", but it's beyond that - these are outright dangerous times for some people.

I also feel really awful about the fact that I was just so wrong, that the faith I had in the average American citizen was so ruthlessly betrayed. I would have bet money on a Clinton landslide victory. I thought the Trump presence was just a very vocal very small minority. But it turns out that many people, way more people than I ever would have thought, lack the barest shred of empathy, or understanding of economics, or ability to follow basic causality. Any one of these things undermines every opinion put forth by the Trump campaign. Fuck those people, I hate them, I hope they live to regret this. Unfortunately most of the old fuckers that voted for another ancient meme with no understanding of the modern world won't live with the consequences. And probably Trump will die too and we'll be stuck with Pence and his electroshock for homosexuals and dicksucking of the tobacco industry.

And I hate /pol/, I have always hated /pol/, I hated it when it was /news/ and /n/ and all the other incarnations of containment for people who, unlike all us other losers on 4chan, blame everyone but themselves for their not getting the millions of dollars and supermodel girlfriends they feel they deserve. For their not being the crude caricature of a rich person that they just elected. The one solace I took in this overlong overdone godawful election cycle was looking forward to seeing /pol/tard tears when Cheetoman lost but now I don't even have that. They are singing and dancing because they are too stupid to realize that they have fucked themselves and their entire economic class as hard as they possibly could.

I am so upset. I don't like hating people. I don't like writing off almost 60 million people as "at best, idiots". I might just be done with American politics. I've followed every election pretty closely since the 2000 one, when I was 9, but this is the first time I have felt so utterly defeated and abandoned. There is absolutely no excuse or forgiveness possible here.

This sucks and I don't know what to do. I've felt bleak before, sure, but that was because of myself, or of a small group of people, or something... to lose faith in such a large amount of people in such a short amount of time is a new type of devastation. Not necessarily the worst type but a new type and I don't know how to handle it.

School and personal writing and socializing all seem so pointless rn. I don't want to talk to anyone about this. There is nothing anyone can say. Even this post is stupid and pointless. Unsure what media to escape to. Anime is too fragile. Thinking about the disregard every single Trump voter would have for, say, the love of Kumiko and Reina, is so disgusting that it taints every sensory input. Cheerful music seems fake. I don't know what the fuck Chance could be rapping about anymore. I think bleak music might be our best bet. Either that or watching an entire season of 30 Rock.

Here's an ASMZ banger that might be about our witnessing the end of the American hegemony. But there's something kinda hopeful at the end. We got a little lost (well, a lot lost), but everybody does, sometimes. It's only four years. And after that we must only remember the prophetic fact.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Song of the Day #343 - Popol Vuh - Maria

Ave Maria!

It has been almost a month since the last Song of the Day post, and it probably goes without saying that I am upset about this, and that I'm upset that gaps this long happen so frequently that my being upset goes without saying. School has been busy and when I have free time to work on stuff, other projects are out-prioritizing the blog. When will we actually see these completed projects? Whooo knoooooows. I put a "preview" for the next one (probably) on the "Books I Wrote" page so you can "get hype".

Today is the American election and my plan is to avoid the internet as much as possible until it's all over and done with. Trying to follow along is too stressful. I am almost certain that the news will be good (HRC victory) but not so certain that I can overpower the media's compulsion to make me think everything is super close and down to the wire and exciting. I do not want to be excited. I want to relax with nice music and anime.

Speaking of which, are you aware that Flip Flappers is amazing and the best magical girl show since Madoka? How about that Hibike Euphonium s2e05 is the greatest cultural achievement of mankind? Did you know that Scorching Ping Pong Girls is actually a good show? Did you know that Cool Kyoushinsha is getting his absurd manga about dragons adapted by Kyoani next season? And thus we are living in an era of miracles. And a bunch of Pokemon news but where do I even begin with that? Music, too: there's the new D.R.A.M. album and the new NxWorries album and so much other good stuff that I feel like I need to scramble to catch up, but, as I said before, I don't want to scramble, I want to relax.

And so I guess I should just focus on things that are here, and have been here for 40+ years, but I guess this is some sort of bonus track that was only released in 2004? I don't know, and I'm not going to bother finding out. It isn't that sort of post. This is one of my favorite krautrock albums but it isn't really krautrock, it's some crazy East meets West sacred music fusion that, despite being such a dynamic and potentially cheesy idea, manages to evoke the same weight as the traditions that inspired it.

My favorite moment on the album keeps shifting, which I think is a sign of something good about it. For a long time it was a part in the second track - I wrote about it at some length here. Then there was a period where it was a part near the end of "Nicht hoch im Himmel" which sounds like a tempest and I don't think I can put it into words beyond that. But right now it's the very opening of this bonus track, that soft, hesitant piano, that very essence of violin... it makes me think of summer dresses fluttering in the breeze. Or it makes me think of looking up at the ceiling of an unfamiliar church the first time we walk in on the day of a performance. Or later, it makes me think of after, when the concert has washed through you, carrying with it all the memories of rehearsal, and all the other things in your life over that period that are soft enough to latch on. Man lately I have been super stressed and busy or, failing that, brutally tired and stationary, but there's actually a lot of wonderful things to feel good about.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Song of the Day #342 - Bon Iver - 8 (circle)

To walk aside your favor...

Recently something got out of hand again. Again it was something that was, at one point, going to be some sort of omni-document, something that would say everything and answer every question and generally not be able to exist, because that is not something documents can be. And yet it is something we can believe in, a goal we can set. The ability to set impossible goals for ourselves is I think one of the most beautiful and tragic parts of humanity. So it wasn't that, it was again a compromise, rushed out as the deadline kicked down the door. Maybe that's how it will always feel. That is fine too.

Anyways, I still did it, I got it done, and it was maybe 2/3rds of what I was hoping it would be, and that's a pass. It feels like a giant exhalation. I feel about 5 pounds lighter. Not totally weightless, but lighter. It feels like... The transition between "Moon Water" and this song! Hey yeah, let's talk about that!

I have been totally addicted to this album, and specifically this song, and even more specifically the transition into it. I very rarely listen to it without listening to all of "Moon Water" first, that feels like cheating somehow. If my theory of the album's overarching story - a crisis of meaning, memory, and expectation, and the peace that follows - is correct, then this is the crucial point where the maddening desire for some comprehensive explanation is abandoned, and a reemergence to the maybe flawed, maybe arbitrary, but ultimately sufficient real world begins.

"Moon Water" seems to be a final bid to cast everything, absolutely everything, in some relation to the firmament, to that which is logical and complete: "The math ahead, the math behind, is Moon Water". Okay, it's a compelling theory: all is math and math is like the realm of the stars - immutable and infinitely static (putting aside those uppity Apollo astronauts). It reminds me of Valuska's cosmic fascination in The Melancholy of Resistance. It seems like a perfectly logical endpoint to determinism and ontological materialism, the road he embarks down with the lamenting but unwaveringly atheistic "33 God".

But does it actually work? Can he actually live through such a viewpoint? Umm, well, how did it work out for Valuska? Really seems like he cannot. And the proof is in the music as much as the lyrics - the loop structures begin to collapse onto themselves, vocal samples are played backwards, and our beloved saxophone, familiar ally from track 1, is corrupted, twisting to a mean caricature, emphasizing all the abrasive flaws. It is a stunning moment.

And then this emerges, all the same sounds and textures, but now whole, now natural, collapsed into a feeling just like breathing. It is so wonderful, so serene... I feel I'm moved to the verge of the verge of tears every time: a deep feeling of fulfillment and release that doesn't interfere with one's day to day experience, of really occurring during it in an appreciative way, of being at peace with that location.

"I'm standing in your street now, and I carry his guitar" is a line that hit me, hard, as soon as I heard it, and I'm happy to see that it's resonated with many other people too. We've seen these interjections of "reality" in the abstract philosophizing before, but usually as contrast, as a brief moment of lucidity that only reinforces the distance of the spiraling internal galaxies... but here there is a reconciliation. Reality has become one with mentality. It's the only track where the number at the start of the name actually matches the track number, too... this feels significant... It really feels like everything is sort of "solved" here, and the following two tracks are more looking back at the crisis. The resolution doesn't seem to be in any sort of complete thesis of meaning as much as it is a long exhalation, a calming down, a moving on... Things flare up, sure: the various motifs and instruments of the album stop by here and there, and our beloved sax is returned to glory and given an extended solo, but it all returns into this "circle". My absolute favorite moment is after the little breakdown, when the main melody returns with "to walk aside your favor", it really feels truly infinite, like it would just keep going on, verse after verse, even after the part of it we can hear is finished.

I don't know if there's a whole lot I can say. I think to speculate too much on the meaning of it would be to generate the sort of frantic mental energy that the track itself is trying to dispel. I'll just leave it here, and move on. By the way, I've watched up to episode 12 of Hibike now, it's fantastic. I don't know if I'm emotionally ready yet for e13, let alone season 2. But I am proceeding calmly and in accordance with my feelings :)