Saturday, April 4, 2015

Like an Englishman in New York

Lately I feel weirded out again. I have these phases when I get depressed and feel utterly lonely because no one around me is like me or understands me.

At work I often feel at the wrong place. I don't share the humour of my coworkers and sometimes I despise their dull jokes and rude behaviour. Especially one external coworker is annoying me to no end - but I seem to be the only one. Am I too sophisticated? Plus I think I did some really clever work, for example I guessed the cause of a bug where programmers were searching for days; but my idea was dismissed. Even after it turned out, hours later, that I was right, no one acknowledged it.
Is there an expression for feeling superior to your peers but instead of feeling good and proud, it just makes you sad and lonely?

There were also several events in the last few weeks to maybe trigger this feeling further.

The Death of Leonard Nimoy.
When I was a certain age and struggling with what maybe was the oncoming of a clinical depression, I wished I was a Vulcan. Superior in mind and especially in control of all emotions, not letting those get in the way. So of course Spock was my favourite character of the original Star Trek series.

Surprisingly Nimoys death was big news in mainstream media, too.
But when I searched for products, you know, fan merch, I mostly got those "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock" stuff from Big Bang Theory. And it made me wonder: how many people actually saw Star Trek, the original series? Most, it seems, just know him from Big Bang Theory or the new Star Trek movies, like some kind of second-hand geekism.


The Death of Terry Pratchett.
Even though of course I was aware it would happen sooner or later, this came as a shock, too. Pratchett is one of my favourite authors, and it was always a joy to hold a new Discworld book in your hands and be able to read it. It felt like not only Sir Terry died, but with him Susan Sto Helit, and Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching and Sam Vimes - they all died, too. Additionally I'm following his daughter Rhianna Pratchett on twitter and felt sorry for her. It also made me terrified of thinking about my parents dying.

Seeing how she dealt with this made me admire her more. I'm not a big gamer myself, so I'm not interested too much in her role in the gaming industry. But I read a piece on her and her relationship with her father and it made me feel like she's a kindred spirit. In a way, maybe, a better version of myself. And I thought: Wow, it would be great to have a friend like that. Someone who maybe not shares all of my exact interests, but someone who understands and listens.
Anyway, I did wear all black at work the next day. Since I always wear rather dark clothes, no one noticed. I did not mention it, I was afraid of condescending remarks and how I'd react to them.


I feel like a lot of the good ones go, musicians, too, and I'm not sure those who are still there are good enough to fill the gap. Music and books are very important to me, but what will the future hold?


The partial Solar Eclipse in Europe.
I badly screwed this one up myself. Since I'm following scientific accounts and a few astronomers on Twitter I knew about this beforehand. But I had other things on my mind, procrastinated, whatever - and I only remembered a few days before that I'd need special glasses to watch it. I also underestimated the demand and the supply of these glasses. Other than  with the total eclipse in 1999 hardly anyone sold these glasses this time. And those places were sold out. So in the end I couldn't get any. I was rather angry with myself because it would have been no problem if I had just taken care of it a few days earlier.

No one around me was interested in watching the eclipse and most considered my quest a little peculiar. I actually built three different kinds of pinhole cameras the evening before and took them with me to work. Two or three coworkers got interested then. I got excited when I realized our shutters acted like pinhole cameras, too, and you could watch the eclipse right there, tenfold, in our office. I could not understand how people around me could be so indifferent. I just don't get it! This happens so rarely, who knows whether we'll have a chance this good ever again, the weather was wonderful. How can they get excited about a worldcup that happens every four years, but not about this?

I could hardly do any work during the morning and then went out around the time of the highest eclipse to try out my pinhole cameras. There were three others there. Three! Ok, it was just one door of many, but still... One of them had special glasses (old ones from 1999) and I could borrow them for a few glances. I was really happy about that. The others were curious about my equipment. Something as simple as a pinhole camera fascinated them so much, like a magic trick - and those were grown-ups, mostly working in IT. I felt like I came from another world.

After it was over I felt so happy that I could experience this. I wish I could have shared it with more people, shared my joy. I still can't get my head around most people being so indifferent and letting such a rare event pass without a single glance.

And even worse: a lots of German schools locked their pupils inside. Yes, you read that right: school, responsible for ecudation children, locked them inside during this rare event. Media repeated again and again that you shouldn't look into the sun and the with the shortage of special glasses they just took the easy and safe way. Some schools even closed the shutters. I have no words for how appalled and disappointed I am. I understand the need to be safe, I myself refused to looks through a space blanket. But Pinhole cameras are perfectly safe, cheap and easy to make. Even a famous TV physicist posted a rant about how we live in a society of fear mongering.

So, additionally to feeling lonely and cut off, I'm also sad about what this world is coming to. There is so much fear in this world and freedom and equality and peace are eaten up by it. And many of the people pretending to protect freedom are sowing fear and feel like I can do nothing but watch helplessly.
But this issue probably is better of in another blog post. Read more on this article...

Monday, January 26, 2015

busy time hiatus

I'm sorry that there's not been much happening on this blog for some time. You'll have to have a little more patience.

There's a lot happening in my life at the moment.

Just before christmas my parents transfered their freehold flat and the rest of the debts to me. I have to refinance everything (it's a good time to do this). It was a lot to do, with the lawyer, notary and all the talks with the different financial institutions involved. So christmas holidays weren't as relaxing as they could have been.
Today I had (hopefully) the last meeting at a bank and until the end of February everything should be done. but it'll have cost me more of my reserves than I had planned.

I've also got to have dental treatment. I'd had to organize an estimate of costs and collect my "bonus books" from three different past dentists, to prove that I've been at the dentist every year for the past 10 years - because then my insurance will pay more. Still, it's going to be several hundreds of euro.

I have three tickets to go see Queen & Adam Lambert. Of course this is great, but with all else I hardly had time to look forward to it. I had to organize a hotel and train ticket for one conert, I still have to organize train tickets for the other two.

And then my fridge broke.
It's not simply a fridgy, I have a "pantry kitchen", which means that fridge, sink and cooktop are all together. I don't have much room, so I had to get such a small kitchen. The repairperson said it'll be uneconomical to repair the fridge, but he said I can take it out and replace it. So besides that repairperson costing me a hundred euro (even though he couldn't do anything) and the new fridge costing me several hundreds of euro, I'll also have to look for a small fridge that'll fit and a company that'll carry the fridge up to the top floor, uninstall the old one (completely with un- and reinstalling the sink and siphon) and take the old one with them.

It's so much at the moment that I sometimes feel like a deer in in the spotlight, paralysed, not knowing what to do next.
I'm away from home for 12 hours everyday, I have to make calls during my work time. The last week I got home and had so many things to organize that I didn't even have something for supper until after 9 PM.
I'm so mentally exhausted. So, so tired.
I have a history with clinical depression and sometimes I'm afraid I can't make it through, though I'm always telling myself that it's only some more weeks and I'll take one step after the other.

So, I don't really have a lot of time to write reviews at the moment. Read more on this article...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

short reviews of Fall 2014 animes

I think I liked the Fall season better than the Summer season of 2014. There were a couple of surprises there.
For the first time I watched some really short animes, even two of them.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san

Kohina is a little girl who lives alone for some reason. To cope with things, she likes to pretend she's a doll. She also really, really loves instand cup noodles. One day she accidently summons a fox spirit called Kokkuri-san, who wanted to haunt her but then became more of a surrogate mother. Two more spirits start living with them, a pedophile stalking dog spirit and a drinking and gambling playboy Tanuki.

Kohina is really abit weird - she's drawn so weird, so small. And nothing is explained to why she lives all alone, as a little girl. And Inugami, the dog spirit was really creepy and too much of a pedophile, for my taste.
Kokkuri-san and Shigaraki, the Tanuki, were likable characters though. And the alien classmate was hilarious.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san is a light, enjoyable comedy. I really liked the opening credits, too, such a catchy tune.




Orenchi no Furo Jijō

This was one of the surprises. I didn't read the details before and so I was surprised that the episodes were just a few minutes long! But it soon became one of my favourites this season.

Tatsumi is a young man who lives alone. One day he finds someone collapsed on the riverbank and after rushing to help, he finds it's a merman. Wakasa from then on continues to live in Tatsumis bathtub. Wakasa is a bit childish, very clueless about the human world, enthusiastic and easy to impress. Sometimes his friends visit, there's Takasu the octopus who's good at fixing things and giving massages, Mikuni, the jellyfish who can shrink and doesn't need food and Maki, the tiny hermit crab.

It's really a bit of a strange set-up and with just about 4 minutes per episode there's not much of a plot. Of course there's some yaoi innuendos going on, but it's only hints for the fangirls, the anime itself is harmless. The opening is strange, too, it looks much more dramatic while the anime itself is pretty light-hearted.




Akatsuki no Yona

Yona is the princess of a small country, the only child of her kind father. She's in love with her gentle cousin Su-won, one of her two childhood friends. The other one is General Hak Son, a famous young warrior. On her sixteenth birthday, just when she decided to tell her father that she intends to pursue her childhood love, she sees her father being murdered by just this man, Sun-Won. Completely shocked, she's about to be killed, too, but Hak manages to save her and escape with her. Constantly on the run and in hiding, she takes some time to process what happened. Meanwhile Sun-won is crowned as the new king. Yona then decides to seek the help of four mythical humans with dragon.blood to take action.

At first this looked like another reverse harem with the annoying, helpless "heroine".  But it's actually different. While Yona is suffering at first, I think it's rather understandable considering what she just had to go through. She gets herself together after a while and starts taking responsibility and changing and growing stronger.
Still, at the beginning it feels more like it's actually about Hak, he seems more like the main person.
I also like that Sun-won is not portrayed as a completely evil person. Even after you see him coldly killing his uncle, you're still not sure what drove him and whether he wasn't right after all...

This anime is going on for more than this season, so there's still time to catch on.




Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken

As long as the title is, as short are the episodes, again only about 3 minutes. And of course, there's not much of a plot, it's more a slice-of-life anime.

Kaoro is a hard-working OL (office lady) who for some reason married an otaku. That's really all there is to day about the story.
It's funny though I probably didn't understand half of the references to other anime. But it's not as good as Orenchi no Furo Jijou.




Donten ni Warau

The three Kumoh brothers Tenka, Soramaru and Chuutarou live in a shrine together with former ninja Shirasu in an area where the sky is always cloudy. The reason for this, according to a myth, is that the region is cursed by a giant demon snake called Orochi who resides there and is reborn every 300 years within a human host.
The brothers have the job of delivering criminals to a big prison in the middle of a lake, but the Kumoh family is also part of an alliance against the Orochi. Something the two younger brothers know nothing about but will soon enough have to learn - the hard way.

One warning: this anime is really sad at times. It does have a somewhat happy ending, but it's often rather dark.
I really liked this one, enough to buy the German mangas. The art and character design is really beautiful, the characters are insteresting and there's one or two big surprises in the plot.



Read more on this article...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

worrywart

It's christmas holidays, I have a quite a few days off work and I should be happy and relax.

But I'm not relaxed at all. I'm note even able to think of a good title.
The reason is that from tomorrow on I'll be owning an apartment. Sounds rather joyous, but I'm worried.
The thing is, my parents own this apartement and it's not yet completely paid for. So I'll not only be taking over the apartement, but also the debts. If I don't take it, my parents will eventually have to sell and move out. It's all very complicated, together with the rights for my brother a right of abode for my parents and all. The debts are in several building loan contracts, which I want to end because it amounts to quite a lot per month. At the moment credit is cheap, so I want to take a new credit and use it to pay off all the building loan contracts. I'll not be able to live there, because I work in another town (which means I'll have to pay rent anyway).

I see this as a retirement arrangement. Investing in residential property is a good thing at the moment, everyone says. And I want to keep the apartement in the family, it's where I grew up, I love this place. It's a good time to take a credit, everyone says. It is not that much money, and I know that pretty much everyone who buys or build a house will be in debt. I know all this. I know it is probably overall a good idea.

But it is a risk.
I've never been in debt before. And it'll take about 20 years to pay it off.
What if we do something wrong with the contract? What if I don't get a better credit? What if something happens to someone in my family? Will I be able to support my brother with some money like I used to?

I'm a procrastinator so I'm a little late about arranging the credit. I feel bad about this, but there's nothing I can do now. I feel like I have to do more research, gather more information. At the same time I really hate this issue. I want to relax, too. I feel like I really need to. I try not to brood over it too much, I have to be able to sleep at night, but at the same time I feel like I should think about it more.
I'm so glad once all this is over and decided. But I'm afraid it'll take some time with the credit.

So from tomorrow on, I'll own an apartement. And I'll have a debt of several thens of thousands of euro.
I hope I'll be able to sleep. Read more on this article...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

red-golden leaves

I just came back from an afternoon walk. It's a nice autumn day, actually quite warm for November. The sun makes the trees glow in red-golden colours. Beautiful.



I like going for walks because it soothes the mind. You're not doing anything else, you're not going anywhere.
You're not on your bike to reach some point, you're not running to train your body, you're not walking your dog - you're just enjoying the surroundings, smelling the nature and listening to all the different sounds around you. And maybe talking to someone, if you're not alone.

I thought that I should really do this more often.
I'm usually spending my weekends at home because there's so much to do. During the week I don't sleep enough and I'm commuting, so I'm gone from home for at least 12 hours a day. I don't get anything done during the week, except for doing the laundry once in a while. So I have to get things done on the weekend. I have to do the grocery shopping for the next week, clean and do all the things that need to be done. And catch up on sleep.

Sometimes I'm wondering whether I could do some volunteering work. When I'm especially pissed off with society I think of going into politics. Or maybe join an environmental NGO.
But then I realize that I don't have the energy to do that. I'm still not sure why I feel like I lack energy. I'm taking vitamin B12 now and my iron level should be ok. I'm aware that clinical depression is looming and threatening, but as long as it's not acute I should not be this affected.

But I'll try to go for a walk on the weekend more often. Read more on this article...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

manga review: Hana wa Saku ka (Does the flower bloom?)

This is the best yaoi I've come across in a while. I've read through it online in just a bit more than a day, then ordered all available volumes. I'll certainly check out other work by this artist.

by Hidaka Shōko
Rating: 4/5 
Volumes/episodes: 5
Mature content: yes, later on (volume 4)
Genre: slice of life, shōnen ai, yaoi

37-year-old Kazuaki Sakurai works long hours for an advertising company. He used to be a promising art director but lost his spark over the last few years. He just bought an apartment but lives alone in it since his last relationship broke up; something he's rather used to.
One day on his way home he bumps into a young man and a rare magazine of his gets damaged. Luckily the young man owns the same one and offers to swap. His home is not far away and Sakurai is amazed when it turns out to be a beautiful old mansion, a boarding house, surrounded by a big wild garden.
A few days later Sakurai collapses from high fever (according to anime and manga that seems to be very common in Japan...) at the subway station. He's seen by boarders of the boarding house who think he's friends with the owner Youichi and bring him home. From this day on, Sakurai visits more often and becomes acquainted with the residents.

Sakurai enjoys the boarding house and the surrounding gardens

Youichi Minagawa is nineteen, an arts student and the owner of the boarding house. He's usually quiet but if he says something he's rather blunt (by Japanese standards), especially towards Sakurai. He reminds me a little of Haru from Free!, they share the same Aspergerish tendencies. He's very reclusive, only has closer contact with very few friends. His father used to be a great painter and a very beloved member of the Minagawa family clan, so the wealthy family takes care of Youichi and he's living quite a sheltered life.

Youich's wondering about his social abilities

I can identify with both Youichi and Sakurai. Though I'm not as bad at communicating with people as Youichi, I often feel out of touch with the world and most of the people in it. I prefer to withdraw and occupy myself with the things I like. "You're friendly to everybody, but the truth is, you're not interested in anybody" - as much as this is true for both Youichi and Sakurai, it might also be true for me. And I'm not working Japanese hours but like Sakurai I feel like I work too much, don't get enough sleep and am always tired. I don't feel like what I do is great work, we're both just going through the motions, really. Plus, my plants always die on me, too.

At the beginning it seems like Sakurai and Youichi dislike each other. At least they're not on very friendly terms, Sakurai especially seems to be irritated by the younger man. But people around Youichi are surprised at his behaviour since he's usually not interacting this much with people at all and they try to bring the two of them closer together - in a platonic way, I guess.

This is one of the things I find strange with the story: it just seems a bit strange for Sakurai to form this kind of friendship with the boys from the boarding house. I mean, their age gap is unusual. Even the adults around Youichi don't seem to mind, on the contrary. Are they so desperate for a change in Youichis behaviour? What makes them think that Sakurai is the right person to be a mentor for Youichi? Did it never cross their minds that it's not platonic feelings of friendship that pull Youichi towards Sakurai? It's rather obvious to Fujimoto, a fellow student.
Or maybe this has a cultural aspect that I don't quite understand. Maybe with the history of wakashūdo, a kind of samurai mentorship that included sexual activity, it would be more accepted? (Though thankfully Youichi is of age.)

Fujimotos warning

Fujimoto knows what's going on between them the moment he sees the two of them together. He's fallen for Youichi, too - can't blame him, Youichi is both fascinating and beautiful - and he instantly recognizes Sakurai as a rival, so he tries his hardest to seperate them. He's also the one to point out the impossibility of a relationship.
It's also not long until Sakurai realises the nature of his feelings for Youichi. He had forgotten what it feels like to fall in love - and then this time it's with a man. And the age gap is a big problem, too. He knows he shouldn't even be starting a relationship, he tries to be sensible and stay away, but to no avail. Youichi goes into this with a kind of childish innocence, he blurts out the most suggestive things and seems unaware of  the effect it has on a confused Sakurai. And just as the older man comes to terms with his feelings and the fact that Youichi might be feeling similar and decides to start something - he's about to be transferred to another branch of the company for three years.


So, about the yaoi part...
Youichi seems to be perfectly fine with desiring another man. Maybe he's glad to have found the answer to why he's never been interested in any girls before. Sakurai has previously only had sexual relationships with women, but that's not his biggest problem - though this may change when their relationship becomes more obvious to their surroundings. Youichi is a lot younger than him (nearly 20 years!) and completely inexperienced. Plus Youichi seems like he's always just going along with whatever happens, so Sakurai doesn't know what he's feeling. With his close friends and acquaintances the young mans silence somehow works but it's a big problem in his relationship with Sakurai. Youichi is very young compared to Sakurai and Sakurai feels the weight of all the responsibility on his shoulders.

Sakurai is also unsure about what is expected from him

I thought the erotic scene was rather realistic. It wasn't "I like you - you like me - let's have buttsecks - yay" like it's often portrayed in yaoi. Though Sakurai is generally more experienced, he's also inexperienced when it comes to having sex with men. It's still obvious that he knows a lot more about what's going on, and I think that's a good thing for Youichi (I think it's better when at least one of the partners knows what he's doing). Sakurai worries about him, but is also turned on by his innocence. It's adorable how Sakurai tried to think things trough, even watched some gay porn and bought some "supplies". It's also cute how fast Youichi comes the first time (ah, young men...).
Actually I think of all the "first times" I've seen in manga, this was probably the best. Though, of course, I actually have no idea about gay intercourse...

Youichi's green but Sakurai seems to like it

Two things that bugged me a little: I'm aware that calling someone by their first name only is a bigger deal in Japan. But I think being seen during an orgasm is something very intimate and after they did what they did together, I think it's strange that Youichi still calls Sakurai by his last name. I'm really looking forward to when he'll finally call him by his first name.
And I don't need very explicit scenes in mangas, but I didn't quite like how the mature content scenes were drawn. I felt it was too heavily censored. It's not like I have to see all body parts in detail, but I sometimes was a little confused as to what exactly they were doing and it's distracting wondering about that.


More aspects that confused me were that the manga jumps a bit within the time span of several months in the beginning. And sometimes it's a bit hard to tell what the characters are only thinking and how much they're actually saying out loud.


But I like the workplace setting of Sakurais life. It's a nice change to read about office work again, haven't had that in a while. Overall Hana wa Saku ka reminds me of Tramps Like Us (one of my favourite josei mangas) which is about the unusual relationship between a hard-working woman and a younger artistic man, and Fruits Basket with the boys living alone but the main family still deciding on their lives (it seems a bit strange to me, this family clan business). Then there's a little Kuragehime in there, too, I guess.

I've only been talking about the relationship between Sakurai and Youichi, but there's other interesting characters in it, too. There's also more in it about the relationship of Youichi with his fathers legacy. But I already rambled on too much.

beautiful Youichi

It's mentioned at the end of the fourth volume that the author intends to finish this up in fife volumes. But I've read the first four and a few additional chapters now and I can't imagine how things could be wrapped up in just one more book. Especially since a new "problem" has been brought up in the last few chapters. The story's pacing was slow so far, and I liked that, so it seems weird to rush now. I really hope there'll be more. and the author doesn't ruin the story with a hurried ending. Read more on this article...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

writing ideas that never go anywhere

Recently on a sunday morning I've been lying in bed and suddenly these two characters came into my head. Since I've found some beautiful pictures on Pinterest, I've been interested in danmei (Chinese version of yaoi apparently) and wuxia (martial arts/fantasy hero stories). Well, out of that, half asleep, Han and Li were created. Those are just "working names" right now, actually they resemble the names of two co-workers which inspired their characters. Another inspiration are Shūei Ran and Kōyū Ri of Saiunkoku Monogatari. I made up the story of how Han and Li became lovers - and later that day forgot most of it.

I'm still keeping those two in mind and working on it (often as a distraction when I get depressed about my current work situation) - though most probably there will never be a story. I'm not good at stories. I can make up characters and individual scenes, but I can never think of a proper plot.
It's a bit of a shame, really. While cleaning up my parents cellar recently and sorting through my old stuff I found a folder full of material about the U.S.S. Phoenix: I made up a Starfleet ship, with the whole bridge crew, their backstories and even drawings. But I never could think of a good story, so that went nowhere.

This song kind of represents the atmosphere I'm having in mind for Han and Li:
(Love this song, but unfortunately it's not available as a download in Germany. It's the ending of the anime Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru.) Read more on this article...