Category Archives: Balls cried the Queen

That other Walnut

Lately, I’ve been using this new product in my facial recon work — pig basement membrane, which takes the place of an autogenous skin graft. The sales rep was in the OR today, and I guess he was trying to impress me, because he’d google me (I guess) and wanted to let me know how amazing I am.

“How did you do all those things?”

I wasn’t sure what “those things” were, but since I haven’t done much professionally except collect degrees, I said, “I dunno, I just stayed in school a long long time.”

“Yeah, but you must be brilliant. I mean, you graduated high school at 16, college at 19, you were an engineer –”

At which point I interrupted him. In retrospect, I should have let him go on, because now I’m curious what all else that other Walnut did. Was he an astronaut? Did he climb Kilimanjaro whilst fighting off a swarm of killer bees? Win a decathlon? Learn to bend spoons with his amazing mental powers?

I disabused him gently of his misconceptions. We hate losing our heroes.


Karen’s BD today . . . for which I made lamb tacos, homemade guacamole, and for dessert a Duomo Tiramisu. You can ignore the linked recipe and just focus on the picture, since that’s where I got the idea. I used my usual recipe, but decided to make it more kid-friendly so that Jake would eat it for a change. Instead of espresso, I soaked my pound cake in root beer. I did not use any alcohol in the zabaglione, but used some cherry juice instead. Then I split the zabaglione in half. Half of it I kept plain, and to the other half I added 4 ounces of German chocolate (melted). I then added one thingy of mascarpone cheese to each zabaglione sauce, then folded in the whipped cream.

After I had created multiple layers, I still had a fairly large volume at the center of my Duomo that was empty. (Yes, I’d used too large a bowl.) What could I do? If I left it empty, the whole thing would collapse when I inverted it. I really didn’t feel like going through the bother of making more filling and buying another pound cake. So instead, I bought a champagne cake, a small one, and stuffed that in the center. Thus achieving a dessert form of Turducken!

Good but rich. I’ll be shocked if we even manage to finish half of it. All three of us had some, and I think we only ate about 20% of the total.


Writing proceeds apace. I haven’t done a total word count lately but I suspect I’m something like 35K or 40K words into this. If so, this is feeling like a 100 to 120K story, which is just about right. So: epublish or not? I’d like to think I’d have the time to ship it out to agents, but who am I kidding.


Darker than Black

More anime-foo from Karen.

Hmm, not much response to my Skull Man post. . .

After watching Skull Man, I checked Wikipedia for other works by Studio Bones and found Darker Than Black. DO NOT read the Wikipedia entry on this, it will spoil the series for you.

darker-than-blackI really loved DTB and went into fangirl mode after the sixth episode. At that point, I was scrambling to buy the DVDs and considering paying for next morning overnight shipping. That’s taking into account that I already knew all the episodes were all available online for free – but not in high resolution. I wanted to see every detail.

DTB is a sci-fi, film noir, espionage action-adventure about a highly skilled, paranormal assassin/spy named Hei, aka the Black Reaper, aka BK-201, aka Li Shun Sheng, aka the cursed contractor. That is a lot of names but it reflects the complex aspects of Hei’s character. At any particular moment, whom are you seeing? The spy? The other-worldly creature? The cold-eyed assassin? The tiny glimmer of a human being?

The basic premise is that a meteor hit Tokyo ten years ago. Investigators were immediately dispatched to the blast site and all but one ended up in pieces, scattered over the area. The stars disappeared, replaced by “false stars,” each representing a contractor, a human transformed into a sociopath with a paranormal ability. Governments, corporations, and mobsters saw their potential and quickly employed them as spies, assassins, bodyguards. Various intelligence agencies, CIA, MI6, FSB, etc., ruthlessly use them to gain technologic and scientific advantages. Basically, it’s a ‘John LeCarre’ world with science fiction elements.


Karen asked me to add: the meteor crash site is referred to as Hell’s Gate, and it’s locked away behind a giant perimeter wall. You don’t find out about the meteor until episode 11 or 12.

Contractors each have one ability which varies from individual to individual; one may have control over gravity or another may teleport objects, and so forth. There is a price to be paid for the power, however, and the contractor is compelled to perform some meaningless or trivial (or not so trivial) act such as place pebbles in a particular pattern, eat strange foods, drink the blood of children . . . Look, there’s a reason the show is called Darker Than Black. There is a good deal of violence but I didn’t find it too graphic. Jake did, though.

So contractors are sociopaths with OCD, or at least, that’s what their employers prefer to believe. A show about sociopaths would be rather boring and predictable, however, and DTB is anything but. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Hei tortures and murders a rival agent. Did I mention he’s an anti-hero?

Well, after that introduction, the show insidiously begins to make you like Hei. He has a dead-pan sense of humor and he is very intelligent. I do not want to give too much away, but there is a lot more to Hei than just killing people in really cool ways. He is very cool, though.

DTB is an entertaining series with great emphasis on character development. But it is not a perfect show. The producers tend to info-dump and some of the tragic moments just didn’t work for me. The 7th and 8th episodes are essentially filler episodes, but do contain information crucial to the first season’s story arc. Subsequent episodes get back on track and the action sequence in episode 10 is great. The last 5 episodes (eps. 21-25) form the ending, which I really liked. Not surprisingly, Studio Bones doesn’t coddle the audience and you need to pay attention to some degree, but not nearly as much as with Skull Man. The English dub is surprisingly good, but I did prefer the subtitled version. Both versions can be seen on the Funimation website. If you like the first six episodes, you should buy the box set which encompasses the first season, $40 on Amazon, $56 on Barnes & Noble if you prefer to be politically correct.

Please, please buy this. Maybe there will be a season 3. (Season 2 was, well, problematic.)


Skull girl

If my dear wife is a Civilization widow, then I am an anime widower. Today, Karen hijacks my blog to give you her intro to anime, with a review of Skull Man (episodes of which can be viewed free of charge here).

I’ve grown so bored with mainstream U.S. movies, I went to the other side of the world: Japanese anime. DirecTV makes it easy to download programs from “channels” like Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and Anime Network. And thus began my descent into madness.

skullman-aThe stranger shows are available on Anime Network, with everything from kiddie shows to near kiddie porn. That is how I stumbled upon Skull Man, a complex mystery/sci-fi/alt-history anime for adults.

Like most popular culture media, anime has its tropes. The songs on the intro credits usually suck, imho, so don’t let that deter you; the soundtrack music may reflect a completely different genre. Flashbacks/flashforwards are common, so be alert to changes in music, appearances, etc., and the vast majority are set in an alt-history, science fiction universe, so assume that is true unless specified otherwise. Also, watch for changes in the intro or material tacked on after the end credits, especially during the last episode. Lastly, in action/adventure anime, or even Japanese movies in general, the fighting lasts a very short time (much less expensive to animate), with the emphasis on speed, accuracy and the perfect sword cut. For example, in Kurosawa’s film Sanjuro, the climactic duel lasts about 1/4 of a second, perhaps less. The arterial blood spurt lasts longer.

But back to Skull Man. Revered manga/anime pioneer Shotaro Ishinomori wrote a one-issue manga in 1970, which featured a decidedly anti-hero protaganist unconcerned with collateral damage in his search for revenge. With some retro character and set designs intended to pay homage to the original manga, in 2007, Studio Bones used the story as inspiration for a 13-part anime series. From Wikipedia,

. . . the story closely focuses on a journalist named Hayato Mikogami who returns to his hometown at Otomo to investigate strange rumors of killings done by a man wearing a skull mask. Tailed tightly by a young photographer, Kiriko Mamiya, the two soon uncover the many strings of connections between the victims, a local pharmaceutical company, a mysterious new religious sect and strange half human, half animal creatures, which roam the night streets for blood.

This isn’t Kansas and Toto would have gotten eaten, anyway. Moreover, the labyrinthine plot is deliberately confusing and complex, featuring a host of characters with differing agendas, references to Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, Zoroastrianism, Shakespeare, and as an added bonus, excessive violence featuring monsters with three eyes.

I am amazed Studio Bones decided to produce this series. The targeted demographic must be male adult anime horror fans who enjoy paying close attention to details. Most of the time is spent on character development, particularly in the middle episodes, and the action sequences mainly occur in the last three. The plot is NOT spoon-fed to the audience and I had to watch the series twice to understand why everyone did what they did, how they did it, and when did it happen. Bones did play fair, though, with all the questions answered if you look hard enough, but sometimes you need to look really, really hard.

So, in general, I enjoyed this anime. It’s not perfect, e.g. I didn’t like the name “Cocoon of Chaos” which may simply not translate well. The general quality of the animation was good, with CGI effects blending well with traditional hand-drawn techniques. The original opening song sucked but was replaced with a better alternate in the version provided by Anime Network. You can watch the episodes for free, but if you like the first few, you should BUY the series so as to encourage the production of this type of program.

OK, next time, I’ll write about a more mainstream show (Darker Than Black), and I’m not talking about kiddie porn anime(s).


Wingnut sighting!

In response to Monday’s post on Hillary Clinton, Tim1 writes:

youre a dipshit. the idea that anyone who says anything bad about hillary is pure and holy and anyone who defends her is sullied and acting disgraceful is dumber than dumb…jeeze – yes go vote for someone else…fuck you we will have the numbers (we undersand the math side of this stuff a hell of a lot better than you or the revered kos) but dont worry – youlll have nader to vote for again…so you will be able to consider yoursel unsullied.

I was hoping this would happen. So…did I attract a pro-Hillary psycho? Or a Republican nut case who wants her to be the Democratic nominee because she’ll be easier to defeat?

Going by the blind hatred against Ralph Nader, I suspect Republican. Also, the commenter lacks even elementary writing skills yet manages to use the word “unsullied” and the phrase “sullied and acting disgraceful” seems closer to the rhetoric used by hatred-spewing pseudo-Christians. This person may be following instructions to insert key talking points into his own incoherent rant.

Before anyone accuses me of rampant paranoia, recently Fox News and their Republican masters attempted to smear Barack Obama with the madrassa lie and then blame the attack on Hillary Clinton. Perhaps this nut is trying to drum up a fight between the supporters of Democratic candidates.

Any way you cut it, the letter is worth its weight in humor gold. That combination of ignorance and arrogance . . . sweet.


Walnut Has No Underwear…

because the airline lost his luggage. God only knows when the Delta is going to find it. I asked Jake how often they lose our luggage and we estimated about 33% of the time. They have approximately 24 hours to find it before having to cough up some money to replace it so, of course, they dig it up after 23 hours.

It could have been worse, I suppose; he could have booked a flight with JetBlue. To quote from the AP article,

JetBlue is offering refunds and free flights to passengers who were stranded on airplanes [at New York’s JFK airport] for more than three hours during an ice storm. The airline is under heavy criticism for leaving hundreds of passengers on planes for up to 10 hours…Many of the stranded passengers didn’t make it back to the terminal until 6 p.m. Most had boarded their aircraft before 8:10 a.m. Some of those jets were incoming flights that had been on the ground since 10 a.m. Six flights were stranded for more than eight hours.

JetBlue wasn’t the only culprit this time; American Airlines stranded passengers on a Miami flight for more than three hours. And last December, according to this AP report,

A similar incident happened on Dec. 30 [2006], when American Airlines and American Eagle diverted 121 flights found for Dallas to other cities because of thunderstorms. About 5,000 passengers were left sitting on parked aircraft, some for eight hours. One of those advocating for a passengers’ bill of rights, Kate Hanni, a California real estate agent, was stuck for hours on the tarmac on American Flight 1348, with her family.

And before that, according to this USAToday article,

The delay that intensified pressure on airlines in 1999 involved the so-called “prisoners of Northwest” — thousands of passengers who sat grounded in airliners during a winter storm at Detroit Metro Airport. Some planes had no food or water and overflowing toilets.

On Jan. 2, 2002, passengers on dozens of planes at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta waited up to 10 hours during a snowstorm. Delta apologized for inconveniencing 50,000 passengers, saying it had underestimated the storm and the time it would take to de-ice planes before departure.

I could probably dig up even more egregious examples of this type but I think the point is made. Of course, the airlines will fight any legislation to regulate their behavior as they did in 1999 when they promised to follow voluntary guidelines (worked really well last Wednesday, right?). So what to do? Rep. Mike Thompson and Sen. Barbara Boxer will be offering legislation on a Passengers’ Bill of Rights. Write and/or email your legislators in support of this bill. If you scroll down on the left, you’ll see the links under Don’t Worry ’bout the Government.

I’m the Daughter of a Traitor

Most of my family were thrown in internment camps during WWII by FDR for the “crime” of being Japanese-American. Of course, none of those internees ever committed even a slightly treasonous act but suffered the consequences of the loss of their civil rights.

On the other hand, my (now deceased) father’s story is a great deal more complicated. My great-grandfather was forced to leave Japan because he was a supporter of the old order. When the Meiji restoration occurred (the emperor seized control), he was on the losing side of the power struggle and emigrated to the U.S. where he was a successful farmer. He went back to Japan and bought real estate and lived quite comfortably. His daughter and her husband stayed in the U.S. and that was where my father was born.

He was sent to Japan at the age of seven to be educated. His parents stayed behind, so he was raised by his grandfather, a very strict but fair man. When the shit hit the fan in 1941, my great-grandfather publically stated that the Japanese government had their heads up their asses and would lose the war. The police questioned him but let him go. Actually, the Japanese government and military knew that it was a bad idea but, for extraordinarily stupid reasons, they went ahead and attacked Pearl Harbor anyway. Why would a government knowingly commit an idiotic and catastrophic mistake? (Sound familiar?)

In any case, my father, then 14, suffered beatings and abuse because he wasn’t a “patriotic Japanese citizen.” Determined to prove his loyalty, he ran away from home at 16 and found work making bombs in a Tokyo factory. I suppose he may have committed high treason for this activity. His bombmaking job didn’t last, however.

The U.S. firebombed residential sections of Toyko, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians who were NOT engaged in the war effort. People ran for the rivers but the heat was so intense, the water boiled and they were literally cooked to death. My father saw bloated bodies floating in the water with their skin peeling off their flesh. He escaped the same fate through sheer luck.

After Japan’s defeat and the subsequent economic dislocations perpetrated by Douglas MacArthur, my great-grandfather lost most of his money and had to sell his real estate holdings. My father eventually decided to go to the U.S. He was still a U.S. citizen.

When the Korean War broke out, my father was drafted by the U.S. Army. He served two years and was a model soldier. For the next 50 years, he worked hard, raised a family, and was a law-abiding, contributing member to society.

I believe that a rational person would forgive my father’s “treason.” He was young, his allegiance was to the country where he was raised, he was pressured as disloyal by his peer group, and he later served in the U.S. military (a rather ironic twist, imho).

This is my father’s odd history with bizarre twists and shifting patriotism (or lack thereof). FDR and the U.S. government are hardly the heroes in this story, but neither are the Japanese; atrocities abound for all.

So what country deserves the patriotism of its citizens? George Bush’s America? HAH! Not a goddamn one deserves my loyalty, but that’s a consequence of my family history and post Vietnam/Watergate cynicism.

Supporting the Troops

We’re coming up on 2000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq. Will anyone care? Besides Cindy Sheehan, that is.

I care. I can’t really comprehend why anyone would join the military with Bush as Commander in Chief and with the current crop of gutless bureaucrats who call themselves the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but I don’t want these enlistees to die.

I am sure that Bush and the Neocons don’t care. They’re incapable of any emotion except greed.

Does the public care? Bush has tried to insulate them from any effects. As a result, they haven’t sacrificed anything for this war except their children’s future. Poll numbers show that support for the war is very low but will that translate into real anger over these pointless deaths?

When so many servicemen died in the beginning of July, Bush’s approval rating dropped. The public took that as a sign that the war was progressing poorly. Still, earlier this month, there were several deaths which received scant attention.

If Fitzgerald issues indictments over the Plame/WMD hoax AND the insurgents manage to kill a substantial number of soldiers/marines this week, that might make a dent in public opinion. What will the next set of polls show?

I Love Texas Judge Bob Perkins

My God, on Friday, Perkins is ordering Tom DeLay to be to arrested, booked and arraigned, mug shots, fingerprinting, bail, the whole works. The Republican leadership was so arrogant in their belief that they were above the law, but they miscalculated. Fitzgerald is likely to issue indictments tomorrow and Frist is under investigation by the SEC. Hey, maybe democracy isn’t dead.

October is the Cruelest Month

Some of my random thoughts.

Washington and Iraq are heating up the rumor mill. Fitzgerald is on the verge of indicting Rove and Libby over Plamegate (possibly on Wednesday) and Dick Cheney is in the crosshairs. Cheney must be one of the unindicted co-conspirators but there are rumors of another unindicted co-conspirator. Could it possibly be Bush? Even if Bush isn’t impeached, the indictment of high-level aides will weaken his presidency tremendously.

Iraq’s constitution is certain to be ratified which is rather interesting since the votes haven’t been counted yet and statistical analysis shows inconsistencies in voting patterns. Does any rational human being believe that the vote wasn’t fixed? The Sunnis have no reason to support the constitution and will turn toward the insurgents as their only legitimate voice; the U.S. keeps bombing innocent Sunni civilians and reducing their towns to rubble while the Shiites and Kurds are looking for payback on the Sunnis. The new Iraqi flag should have been blood-red.

The massive earthquake hit Pakistan very hard and news reports indicate dissatisfaction with Pakistani Pres. Musharraf’s handling of the crisis. Even before the disaster, Musharraf was hardly in complete control of his country. That’s why he doesn’t want to capture Bin Laden and turn him over to the U.S.; Musharraf would be facing open revolt in the streets of Islamabad.

We’re also looking at Tropical Storm Wilma which is predicted to turn into a cat 3 hurricane. It’s going to be a record-breaking year and I keep wondering how many hurricanes will hit U.S. oil-drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The possible destruction of oil-rigs and processing plants is dangerous to our debt-ridden economy. In general, October is a dangerous month for possible economic collapse; mutual funds sell some of their holdings in October in order to lock in their profits for their yearly reports. Historically, in a weak and unstable economy, that sell-off has led to severe drops in the stock market.

We live in exciting times.

Burning Bush

The Valerie Plame case has heated up with news stories strongly suggesting that indictments are imminent. In particular, Huffington Post is fanning the flames under Bush which is particularly ominous for the Republicans. Huffington Post has graduated from Arianna’s pet project to a very legitimate source of news and informed opinion.

Will Cheney be an unindicted co-conspirator? It sounds like Fitzgerald has Libby by the short hairs; if so, Libby may flip and offer up Cheney. Would Cheney offer up dubya for a plea bargain?

That would be so sweet. Can you impeach the president AND the vice-president at the same time? Probably not but it’s a fun question.

The executive branch has become too powerful and Bush arrogantly claims presidential privilege whenever anyone tries to hold him accountable for his actions. Remember Nixon and the “imperial presidency”? IIRC, Tricky Dicky wanted to dress up White House security personnel in uniforms that suggested they were guarding royalty, i.e. Buckingham Palace or the Vatican.

The country has to hold the Bush Admin responsible for their misdeeds and kick them and their supporters out of office. If another incompetent, neocon-controlled president takes office after dubya, God only knows what will happen. I wrote my previous post on the fall of America as a speculation on the necessary factors for a military coup. In retrospect, I see that I failed to include the breakdown of constitutional law. If Congress fails to hold the President responsible for his illegal and unconstitutional actions, this is clearly a step down the road to disaster.

How many more steps will it take?

Next page →