28 October 2010

Show homophobia the red card.

I'm a fan of association football, and I'm an advocate for LGBT rights. There's a brand new campaign to promote awareness of homophobia in football and to kick it out of the game: Red Card Homophobia.

It started out over in livejournal, but they also have tumblr, facebook, and twitter accounts, and a forum.

Anyway, all this to say that I wrote a piece over there on football culture and homophobia. Go have a read!

19 October 2010

Anime rec: Patlabor

Part two in a potentially-ongoing series.

Patlabor is a franchise about a misfit band of cops assigned to robot crimes. It's a giant robot show for people who hate giant robot shows.

In the vaguely near future (or recent past, as it's nominally set in 1998), giant robots (called "labors") are developed for use in construction. Naturally, people being people, criminals get the bright idea to use them to commit crimes. The Special Vehicles Units are born to fight these crimes, using patrol labors -- Patlabor.

Mamoru OSHII and Headgear have their fingerprints all over the series; if those names mean anything to you, you know they mean awesome.

There exist several series, from the original OVAs, to a TV show, to a second set of OVAs, and three movies. Sadly, they're mostly out of print in the US. (Right Stuf has the movies and TV series right now, but not OVA2.)

Of course the one I'm going to talk about is OVA2, aka The New Files. Wikipedia is utterly useless on this score (which goes to show just how underappreciated this series is), so this fan site will do. Warning, warning: there be episode summaries and, naturally, SPOILERS.

Our heroine, IZUMI Noa, is a new recruit to the SV2, who really digs giant robots. She nicknames her labor "Alphonse" and spends evenings polishing him. Her support driver, SHINOHARA Asuma, is a semi-outcast heir of a major labor manufacturing company.

There's also Captain GOTOH, whose dry, sardonic wit is unparalleled, OHTA, another labor driver, who prefers to shoot first and question witnesses later, Kanuka Clancy, on loan from the NYPD, and NAGUMO Shinobu, head of the SV1 and Gotoh's rival of sorts.

The SV2 is the red-headed stepchild of Tokyo PD, and brass think they're a waste of money.

Two episodes stand out in my mind: Episode 7, "Black Trinity," and 8, "Seven Days of Fire."

In "Black Trinity," our heroes have to find a yakuza (mobster) with three moles under his arm. Because of circumstances, they do this in a public bath, which happens to be frequented by yakuza. The scene in which they attempt to surreptitiously sneak peeks under yakuza armpits is comedy gold. Added bonuses for anime nerds include references to Golgo 13, Hokuto no Ken, and original Gundam.

In "Seven Days of Fire," we focus on the mechanics, who are stuck fixing the wrecked labors time and time again. Except they don't want so much with the fixing, because the chief mechanic found their porn stash and burned it, so they're on strike.

So why is this a mecha show for people who hate mecha shows? One of the things people hate about mecha shows is that they're basically ads for the robot model kits Bandai is putting out, with lots of flash and fighting and politicking, but not so much character development or interaction. [This applies to a lot of mecha shows, but more recent ones are better with the character thing. Thankfully.]

Patlabor isn't like that. There aren't epic space battles, double- or triple-crossing anti-heroes, or new robots introduced to sell more toys. It's about the people, the SV2, and how they interact. Yes, there are robot fight scenes; they're cops. They go hunting bad guys in their giant robots. But it's still, at root, about Noa and Asuma and Gotoh and Ohta and Clancy and how they deal with brass that wants to cut their entire unit.

It's a fun show, and one that too few people have seen on this side of the Pacific. Unfortunately, with it being out of print, I don't see that situation changing very soon.

10 October 2010

World Beer Festival 2010

This year I went in with a crazy new plan: not tasting any beer I already know I like. I have to save up, right? There's only so much beer a gal can drink.

brewery, name of beer, style, description from program book, rating, notes.

Abbaye de Leffe: Leffe Blonde, Belgian pale ale. "smooth and fruity with a spicy aftertaste of bitter orange." 5. Very smooth, refreshing, akin to a Belgian white.

Abita Brewing Co.: Andygator, helles doppelbock. "dry finish with a slightly sweet flavor and subtle fruit aroma." 3. It's doppelbocky, but somehow odd.

Atwater Block Brewery: Vanilla Java Porter, robust porter. "made with chocolate malt, blended with vanilla and Java coffee beans." 4. As advertised, there's vanilla and coffee flavor. Kind of like drinking espresso with a shot of vanilla.

Aviator Brewing Co. Didn't get to try the Devil's Tramping Ground tripel because they were out. The brewery's just over in Fuquay (pronounced few-kway), so I could go try it there.

B. Nektar Meadery: a) Vanilla cinnamon mead, "light clover honey, then aged on American oak with whole vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks." 4+. I love cinnamon, and I love vanilla. This is awesome.
b) Orange blossom mead, made with orange blossom honey. 3. Kind of like orange flower water.
c) Wildberry pyment. "made with shiraz grapes, clover honey, and natural strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry flavor." 2. The wine grapes are what did this in for me. Tasted like wine, yuck.

Brasserie Lefebvre: Blanche de Bruxelles, Witbier. 5. If you like Hoegaarden, you'll like this. Very refreshing and balanced.

Breckenridge Brewery: Agave Wheat, fruit beer. "American style unfiltered wheat ... [with] Salmana Agave." 4. The fruity flavor was a bit odd, but it was still drinkable. I think I like their Vanilla Porter better.

Deschutes Brewery: Black Butte Porter. "slight hop bitterness up front enhances the distinctive chocolate and roasted finish." 2. I think I'm figuring out what I don't like in some porters, and it seems to be ones that have more hops in them.

Foothills Brewing: People's Porter. English-style robust porter. "Firm unsweetened chocolate flavor with moderate notes of caramel and toffee, an herbal hop bitterness up front." 2. See above re hoppy porters. The label art is a socialist realism homage.

Heavy Seas Beer: Yule Tide 2009. Belgian Tripel. "slightly sweet with a complex malty flavor." 4. For a tripel, it wasn't too heavy.

Huske Hardware House Brewing Co.: Sledgehammer Stout. "An imperial oatcreme stout ... finished with lactose for extra body." 3. I think this was more like a porter than I prefer.

North Coast Brewing Co.: Brother Thelonius, Belgian dark strong ale. 3. I don't remember much about this one. It was heavy. The label art depicts Thelonius Monk.

Roth Brewing: a) FoeHammer, Barleywine. "well-hopped, heavily-bodied beer ... sports hints of toffee and apricot." 2. I'm not a fan of barleywine in general. The crew wore plastic Viking hats.
b) Forgotten Hollow, cinnamon porter. I didn't try this at the festival, but I had it at the Flying Saucer the other week. 4. It's got a huge cinnamon flavor. If that appeals to you, give it a try.

Samuel Smith: Taddy Porter. "very dark porter, fairly full in body." 4. This is most of the way to a stout.

St Martin: St Martin Brune, Belgian strong ale. "Sweet caramel flavor, some molasses and fruit with Belgian spice notes." 3. I had a sip of Ben's, but I don't remember much about it.

Starr Hill Brewery: Dark Starr Stout. Dry stout. "pours like velvet and drinks like a slice of grandma's pumpernickel bread." 2. Too bitter.

Thomas Creek Brewery: Dirty Monk. Belgian porter. Not listed in the program. 2. Too hoppy.

Top of the Hill: Old Well White. 4. It's not Hoegaarden, but it'll do. [For those not in the know, TOPO is in Chapel Hill, and their beers are all named for local/University landmarks and people.]

Triangle Brewing Co.: Belgian-style Golden Ale. "complex mouthfeel, strong malt flavors, spicy hop presence and soothing alcohol warmth." 3. I think I prefer their white ale.

Unibroue Brewery: Maudite. Belgian dark strong ale. "aroma of wild spices and floral hop notes. It is spicy vinous, and deliciously complex." 4-. This was an end of the evening try. I think it was OK.

Weeping Radish: Peachy Keen, Kölsch. This wasn't listed in the program book, but the brewer told me it was a Kölsch with peach essence. I don't like the Kölsch style, but this was OK: very fruity. 4. [I wanted to try Black Radish, but they didn't have it.]

Weyerbacher Brewing Co.: Merry Monks. Belgian tripel. 4.

I look forward to next year!

02 October 2010

An artist who's on my wavelength

One of the things I love about Berlin is its history. When I walk through the streets, it's almost like I can feel the people who came before, or imagine the buildings that were there a hundred years ago but aren't anymore.

Russian artist Sergey Larenkov takes recent photographs of cities (Moscow, Berlin, Kiev, among others) and matches them up with historical photographs (mainly from WW2), then puts them together, so you have modern-day Muscovites walking down the street past a gun emplacement or the Reichstag simultaneously whole and under attack.

It's like he read my mind.