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Spice and Wolf in English  
01:26am 23/02/2010
It appears that YouTube has this series also, and they provide the English dubs in addition to subtitled episodes. Most of the English language version has to be rented (0.99 per episode) but the first two are available for free. You can find the first one, in English, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4Ztnt5ej20
So far, I'm finding it to be a lot more coherent than the slightly confused translation of the subbed version and the voices, while not great, are pretty decent.

You can find the official site, with a short trailer on the front page, here: http://funimation.com/spiceandwolf/
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Spice and Wolf  
07:32pm 21/02/2010
In the little bit of spare time that I have lately, I've been watching a few new anime. Hulu's been really awesome where this is concerned. Whoever's been making the decisions about which anime to acquire the rights for over there has, for the most part, very good taste. There are a few that I want to share, but I'll start with my favorite out of the new batch.

Spice and Wolf is the story of Lawrence, a traveling peddler, who one evening finds a minor pagan harvest goddess sleeping among a load of marten skins in his cart. Called Holo, the local villagers have worshiped her for years but have mostly ceased to believe that she has anything to do with their good fortune, and the yearly festival in her honor has become little more than a game. With the development of modern farming techniques and the spread of Christianity (or a religion that's obviously representative of it) she feels lonely and unneeded, and wants to return to the place of her birth in the far north. She insists on traveling with Lawrence and offers her 'great wisdom' as payment for a seat in the cart and a share of the food. Though initially skeptical, he agrees to take her along. Together, they travel the countryside and her many years of experience and unique perspectives on the nature of humanity end up proving useful and profitable.

This series is mild and slow-moving at first, so if you're looking for instant action or constant high drama, this probably isn't the place to get it. The bulk of the story involves Lawrence and Holo seeing the world together and learning from each other. There's a lot of time spent on descriptions of ancient business practices, ways to swindle and avoid being swindled, etc. For my part, I'm finding the lack of urgency refreshing. Though there is some conflict evident in the setting (the church isn't fond of pagans, and business involving significant amounts of money can turn nasty), it isn't overblown to the point that it becomes ridiculous and, most importantly, the conflicts remain personal rather than epic. There are plenty of things to do in a fantasy world besides save it from certain doom or traipse around it looking for tyrants to overthrow, and I always love when I manage to find good stories that acknowledge this.

And the characters are the real reason to watch this series. Lawrence isn't the stereotypical shy, clueless 'nice guy' lead that would have been an obvious choice for many manga writers here. He's smart, well-spoken, very obviously savvy when it comes to business, and not at all prone to the blushing breakdowns and nosebleeds that are standard for so many male protagonists. Though there is initially some token embarrassment when it comes to Holo's tendency to forget to wear clothes, it's quickly replaced with irritation and, occasionally, amusement. Holo, despite appearances, isn't the typical 'cute anime animal girl'. Her status as a long-time observer of, but rarely a participant in, the affairs of humanity is portrayed very well. One of my favorite scenes so far is one in which the two are riding through the forest having a pleasant conversation, when the subject of wolves comes up and Holo obliviously begins boasting of the strength of her kind and the many trespassing humans they've killed, only to be taken aback when she realizes she's made Lawrence angry. It's interesting to watch her backpedal, trying to quickly work out in her head how he must be seeing it, and attempt to find the words to explain something that seems cruel to him. When she does, it isn't a preachy, it's simply awkward. Her difficulty understanding the human viewpoint is allowed to speak for itself.

The point, I guess, is that there are no caricatures here. Holo is a girl with wolf ears and a tail, and even among anime fans, that can sometimes be a red flag if you're looking for a series that you want to be able to take seriously. Despite appearances, though, this is a wonderfully thoughtful series. The translation, unfortunately, doesn't do it justice. I don't speak Japanese, but I have a feeling that it's considerably more well written than the awkward localization makes it seem. Still, it gets the job done and if you're used to watching anime anyway, you might not even notice.

On top of everything else, it has one of the most awesome closing themes I've ever heard in an anime. Here's the full version of 'The Whistling Song' or, as I've begun thinking of it, Apple Eyes. I dare you not to love it.

The Whistling Song

O seven apples on a witch's tree
With seven seeds to plant inside of me
In springtime I grew a magic song
Then skipping along, I sang the song to everyone

I looked at the world through apple eyes
And cut myself a slice of sunshine pie
I danced with the peanut butterflies
Till time went and told me to say hello but wave goodbye

A thousand sugar stars
Oh put them in a jar
And then whistle round the world
Oh whistle round the world
I'm a little wolf inside a girl, you say
And off I'll go from June to May
Oh whistling round the world

I met a golden swan upon the road
Who was a handsome prince, so I was told
I asked it the way to yesterday
Then I was a sailor, and through the day I sailed away

Bluebird seas I sailed
With mermaids riding whales
Oh whistle round the world
Oh whislte round the world
I'm a little wolf inside a girl, you say
And off I'll go down Wonder Way
Oh whistling round the world

Through apple eyes
Oh there are rose-coloured skylines
Where flying silver spoons
Eat melting marmalade moons

Through apple eyes
I see for millions of miles
The sun's a diamond shining
In the nighttime of a summer day

A thousand sugar stars
Oh put them in a jar
And then whistle round the world
Oh whistle round the world
I'm a little wolf inside a girl, you say
And off I'll go (I can not stay)
Oh whistling round the world
Let's whistle round the world
Whistle round the world
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It Came From L-Space  
07:54am 12/02/2010
Meg was talking about booklist widgets over at her blog, so I've put this up in a few places.

Listen up, bookworms: If you aren't using shelfari.com, you should be. Basically, it's Facebook for bibliophiles. It has what I think is the best booklist widget out there, including a read, reading, and want to read list. Lots of cool extras as well, like the options to rate and review books you've read, and the ability to pick which edition's cover you want to represent each book on your shelf. Here's an example of one version of their widget: For an idea of what the full version of the shelf on the web site looks like, take a look here: http://shelfari.com/lunarhound/shelf
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In need of a dye  
10:38pm 31/01/2010
Yeah, I know, stupid title. Shut up.

you are darkslateblue

Your dominant hue is blue, making you a good friend who people love and trust. You're good in social situations and want to fit in. Just be careful not to compromise who you are to make them happy.

Your saturation level is medium - You're not the most decisive go-getter, but you can get a job done when it's required of you. You probably don't think the world can change for you and don't want to spend too much effort trying to force it.

Your outlook on life can be bright or dark, depending on the situation. You are flexible and see things objectively.
the spacefem.com html color quiz

I'm not sure about the first bit, but the second and third seem more or less accurate.

Snowed in (The NC version of snowed in, which just means the roads are slick enough to shut things down because we don't have the equipment to deal with it) and going crazy. No school tomorrow, and I don't think that's a good thing. After being inside for two days straight, I need to get out. I don't really have a valid reason to be in a dark mood, but I am anyway because, as is always the case when I have to stay boxed in too long, my universe seems to be shrinking.
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GW2 Stuff  
03:30pm 05/01/2010
Meg was kind enough to post a bit of my ranting on Guild Wars 2 over at Thumb Gods so go have a look if you have a minute or two. Yes, I know it could have used more editing first, but it's not TOO bad, considering it was finished in a bit of a rush.
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03:41am 04/01/2010
It's not that I don't get it. I'm not a sports fan, but I do understand the whole "We" thing.

"You must really be hurting after what 'we' did to you last night," laughs a gouty old gnoll of a man who can't stand on his own two feet, much less lift a hockey stick or kick a football. It's fun to feel as if you're part of a team. To wear their colors and support them and be 'with them in spirit' (though you'd never catch an actual sports fan using that term), and feel like you somehow contributed to their victory. I haven't finished reading Unseen Academicals yet, but I think I'm familiar enough with Vetinari by now to know he'll probably say something about it having all the fun of warfare without quite so many casualties and a lot less messy cleanup afterward. Although, to hear Travis tell it, he may need to see a game in Germany before passing judgement.

What I don't understand is how we who choose to be giddily enthusiastic about other things continue to end up as the subjects of ridicule when football fans and their ilk were painting themselves, chanting and pretending to be warriors long before the very first SCA'er hefted his fake padded claymore. I would like to propose that the average sports fanatic is a bigger nerd than any cosplayer, LARPer or SCA'er could ever be. I guarantee you won't catch any of us saying 'we' kicked anyone's ass unless we were in the damn battle.

I've been waiting for a comedy team of some sort to point this out on television. Trust Mitchell and Webb to step up to the plate. I know that this wasn't exactly aired yesterday, but sketches like this never get old.
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04:21am 02/01/2010
If you haven't seen this movie, you need to remedy that as soon as possible. It's about an hour and forty five minutes long, and you can watch the entire thing on Hulu.


I don't want to spoil it so I won't say anything else. Just watch it, when you have the time.
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Felicia Day as Zojja!  
06:19pm 31/12/2009
I'm probably one of the only people I know who's excited about this, but humor me for a minute or two. :P

I've already seen the second Guild Wars 2 trailer, which featured introductions to each of the major races by one of their representative NPC's, but I didn't recognize any of the voices until the latest video, "Voices of Tyria" announced the cast and had everyone's favorite geek goddess in the role of Zojja. The Asura are one of my favorite Guild Wars races (the verdict's still out on the Sylvari. We'll see if they get the faerie aesthetic that they're aiming for right) so I couldn't be happier that they managed to get her for the voice for the main Asura character. There have been two Asura featured prominently in the Guild Wars saga so far, and I love how unpredictable but completely spot on their choice of actors have been for both of them. Maurice LaMarche (Brain, of Pinky and The Brain) was as perfect as he was unexpected, playing Vekk in Eye of The North. If you've no idea what an Asura looks like, here's a picture. That's Zojja, standing in front of her golem.

Anyway, there's my little Geek out moment for Guild Wars 2. If anyone's interested, the video featuring a couple of extremely brief interviews with Day and the other voice actors, as well as some clips of the characters they'll be playing, is below.

With the amazingly detailed world, beautiful art, interesting game play innovations (Don't get me started on those. I could devote several entries just to the subtle artistry with which they're planning to handle instancing), great voice talent and the fact that it'll be free to play, I'm pretty confident that Guild Wars 2 is going to be something special.

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Today, red is my favorite color  
01:48pm 24/10/2009
There are no words for how much I love the Polyphonic Spree. There are few creative endeavors more fearless than making music like this and not giving a rat's wrinkled little asshole how stupid anyone might think it is. Other bands try to throw up "disturbing" imagery and think they're being edgy and shocking.

Bull. Shit.

With the sort of things people are used to these days, nothing could be safer. Get as depraved as you want; there's a large built-in audience who'll welcome you with open arms. And then, when a tiny handful of Bible-thumpers and priss-pots start calling you names and telling you you're going to Hell, you can pretend you've made some sort of radical statement.

Double. Bull. Shit.

You want to shock somebody? You want to make them fear you? Sing unashamedly HAPPY songs and make videos with PUPPETS.

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The Blades Return  
02:07am 20/09/2009
It's been very gratifying to see how much everyone is enjoying Dungeons & Dragons Online. At first, I was thinking I'd be lucky if I could get Dactrius alone interested enough to play it part time with me and if we were really lucky we might pull one or two WG'ers with us. World of Warcraft has a powerful hold and, while I think DDO is one of the finest MMO's ever made, the fact that it's so much less mindless is exactly what turns so many people off to it, though most won't admit that. Instead, I find that the majority of the people trying it out actually get it, and love it, and before I know it, here comes Belle, Raz, Cali, Sheeo, and the rest and the Covenent of Blades is reborn. It's been at least nine different kinds of awesome to be able to hang out with everyone in a game again, and that much cooler to do it in one as refreshingly different as DDO. Playing World of Warcraft with the WG'ers was all right for a while, a couple of years ago, but my overall disgust with that game eventually overpowered my desire to keep paying for and putting up with it. To be in an enviroment that throws actual adventures at us, as opposed to glorified sessions of whack-a-mole, is nothing short of magic. I love how DDO actually requires players to think and communicate with each other, and the fact that it's free to play now is just the icing on the cake.

In short, even though I can't be on as much as I like because of school, I'm really glad to be hanging out with all of you again and to see everyone else having so much fun. And Belle, I hope you've made that wizard because getting sick of running into runes scrawled all over the place that I can't read with my 10 intelligence. :P I swear they're getting more frequent with every dungeon.
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