Tag Archives: Culture

“Webcomics” book review

I found Sean Kleefeld‘s recent book Webcomics very interesting reading, despite being a webcomic… critic? skeptic? curmudgeon? Probably that last one.

I’m not opposed to webcomics. I have read various, including the (NSFW and age-restricted) OGLAF. But I still think Strong Bad E-mail #181 was and remains persuasive in pouring cold water on webcomics.

All of which I bring up in order to establish that, for anyone aware that the author has been an online friend going back to the previous century, FYI I was not pre-sold on his new book.

Despite which Webcomics was still a worthwhile purchase, impressive and offering much interest.

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Japan round-up

One of the strangest things about spending time in Japan was the surgical masks. Or, rather, how absolutely not-strange they were to nearly everyone around me. After a day or three, I got used to maybe one in five people wearing a mask over his or her face. As I spent more time riding the rails, particularly the JR Yamanote line, I found that this wasn’t even that difficult to imagine an explanation for, either. In a very crowded car, people are literally right in one another’s face, and crowded cars are the norm in Tokyo. I don’t know if the masked themselves would draw this connection— Japan disclaimer—but at all events reaching for some sort of barrier stopped feeling mystifying.

It still felt strange, though. Like someone had announced an outbreak without me noticing. While, in the meantime, the whole thing was routine to everyone else. People wearing masks were a decided minority, but I think in Tokyo it has become like, say, glasses: it has been normalized in the sense that some people wear them, other people don’t, and you really pay it no special regard.

A few other notes about Japan that should wrap up my public commentary…

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Week in Japan, introduction

“Understand, you say? Understanding is in principle based solely on wishful thinking.” – From Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

I am planning to write a bit about spending a week in Japan, recently.* First, though, I feel like I ought to preface any and everything I write with a disclaimer along the lines of the above quote.

No general statement about cross-cultural comprehension, let alone “inscrutable orientals” is intended, I want to add. I simply feel it’s important that any remarks I make are accompanied by a reminder that, in this instance, I literally did not understand most of the messages around me.

Street with Japanese signs

Did not understand.

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Opting out of the NFL

I may do a year-in-review post a bit later, but for the moment I feel like writing a bit about a minor item of 2014, in most ways: turning aside from the NFL.

I suppose the arc of my interest in the NFL spanned about 20 years. Up until high school I never took particular interest in sports, as participant or spectator. Then… peer pressure, I guess? I wasn’t drinking, smoking or taking part in any other illicit activities, but I also wasn’t comfortable with isolating myself completely from the mainstream of my peers. Adopting a team* popular among some of their number worked for me.

I think the NFL must have been the first sport/league of which I really developed a functional understanding. The NES classic Tecmo Super Bowl was undoubtedly a great help here. The 1990 season has remained my baseline for evaluating NFL affairs ever since, in a lot of ways. I still bust out this 8-bit masterpiece from time to time, too. I played a couple games of “Tecmo” just last night in fact.

In 2014, though, that has been about it for NFL stuff.

After 20 years, I simply did not return from the (period formerly known as the) off-season this year. Just didn’t really feel like it.

There is no one reason, as usual. The revolting spectacle of millionaires vs billionaires in a greed-off a couple of years ago was probably a big shove. Since then, as most observers would acknowledge, the NFL has been through a series of scandals adequate to prompt “will football survive” essays. The league’s predictable stonewalling has not exactly fed or watered my enthusiasm for it, nor has the continued extortion, by millionaires and billionaires, of public money.

I should emphasize that I don’t regard dropping out of NFL nation as a test of moral superiority. I have abandoned neither college football nor the NBA, each of which shares more than one of the NFL’s offenses. I can quibble about how the NFL seems worse, when all is added up, but the difference is ultimately quantitative rather than qualitative; if it’s wrong to be a fan of the NFL then it’s wrong to be a fan of those other entertainments. I can’t go quite that far. All of them are compromised, certainly, but we live brief lives in a fundamentally compromised world, and on the list of Evils that People Should Stop Enabling, the NFL is a long way from the top. Even I don’t make it through the day on virtue and righteousness alone; if the NFL makes existence a bit more bearable for you, I think “go right ahead” is an entirely valid answer.

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