June 2013 Media Thread

by ArisKatsaris1 min read1st Jun 201356 comments


Personal Blog

This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing! To see previous recommendations, check out the older threads.


  • Please avoid downvoting recommendations just because you don't personally like the recommended material; remember that liking is a two-place word. If you can point out a specific flaw in a person's recommendation, consider posting a comment to that effect.
  • If you want to post something that (you know) has been recommended before, but have another recommendation to add, please link to the original, so that the reader has both recommendations.
  • Please use the comment trees for genres. There is a meta thread for comments about future threads.
  • If you think there should be a thread for a particular genre of media, please post it to the Other Media thread for now, and add a poll to the Meta thread asking if it should be a thread every month.
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Online Videos Thread

The Slow Mo Guys are fabulous. An excellent example of how a new tool makes artists.

Fanfiction Thread


Munchkinry, smart antagonists, classical literary references, works better if you know both Type-Moon and Sekirei or have read Gabriel Blessing's In Flight which is oddly readable but nowhere near as smart.

Okay, so I'm partway through this having read neither source. Curious, I looked up the Sekirei... now... what is the 'plan' supposed to achieve? I mean, suppose we're the heads of MBI. We've got 108 (bizarrely symbiotic to human) aliens in our custody. Let's have almost all of them kill each other because... what? And they go along with this because... they like fighting, I guess?

Is it still a mystery? If so, is there enough to trust that there is a good explanation?


They'll revive you afterward

ooooh. Well, okay, that helps some. Still not sure on the 'why' but that removes the big 'why not'.

The original anime source is mindless fighting harem comedy from what I've read, and even attempts to rationalize the world assume the plan's originator is insane and substitute a different source of intelligent opposition. I would have trouble rationalizing that.

Kyon: Big Damn Hero. Self-described as a Tvtropes/Haruhi crossover.

Nonfiction Books Thread

Fiction Books Thread

That's my current read! Hey! I'm reading the same EY is!

(Yeah, that actually did make me feel "cool" and "hip" and "with it"...:P )

One of the reviewers is quite discouraged by the overuse of the Deus Ex Machina/Diabolus Ex Machina tropes:

We start out in an alternate reality which is, well, alternate, but seems pretty reasonable. Then, all of a sudden, surprise! People can travel through time! Okay, alternate reality with time travel. Then, all of a sudden, surprise! You can go into a book! Well, that wasn't much of a surprise, since I'd read the back cover, so we'll let it go. Then, all of a sudden, surprise! There are werewolves and vampires in this world! Oooo... kay. Then, all of a sudden, surprise! The characters go through a black hole! At that point I just rolled my eyes and stopped caring-- if the whole thing was completely random, then there was basically no point to the book. No matter what mess the author got the protagonist into, he could just come up with a "oh yeah, I didn't tell you this before but they can teleport from place to place by wiggling their nose!" type of thing to save the day.

I don't recommend that book, which makes me feel suitably contrarian.

(For roughly the same reasons as shminux's quote. I felt like the universe was interesting on the surface, but didn't have any depth.)

Calumet "K" by Samuel Merwin and Henry Kitchell Webster, from 1904. A very Analog/Astounding piece of engineer-fiction about an unstoppable can-do kind of fellow. Despite being completely contemporary, if you'd read this in Analog or Astounding in the '50s-'80s you wouldn't have batted an eyelid. I'm quite surprised it hasn't been taken up by the business literature field.

It's unfortunately most famous as a major influence on -yn R-nd, who appears only to have obtained from it the idea of the hero-engineer, which she then added as flavour to her own weirdness. (Compare the actual influence of You Can't Win by Jack Black on William S. Burroughs - the Black book is very readable and was a best-seller at the time.) Don't let that taint it for you, it's a cracking good read.

Television and Movies Thread

I've been watching several ongoing anime series recently. It can sometimes be fun to watch shows as they air rather than afterwards (at least if you like discussing online), so I'll give my mini-reviews so far. I also list the number of episodes I've watched out of the anticipated total, and include links for free online watching (some shows may not be available in all countries).

Attack on Titan (9/25): Really intense action show about a future where humanity is forced to stay behind walls to avoid man-eating giants. Good art direction and exciting and well animated fights. Some good atmosphere and mystery elements in the setting and background too. Suffers a little from teenagery "all authorities are bad" syndrome, and the characters are good but not great. Probably the best I've watched this season. Also has an extremely good opening theme song. Warning: very violent/gory.

Flowers of Evil (8/13): Artsy show about a neurotic high school student being pulled into (mildly) "evil" behavior by a crazy classmate. Uses rotoscoped actors over detailed painted backgrounds for a look I like but which puts some people off - although don't be put off by the jerky animation in the first episode - they smooth it out from ep 2 onwards. Many scenes have extremely high social tension, but I found it well worth suffering through - and there are some really beautiful scenes later on. Ultimately though it's not exactly an epic battle to save the earth, and you may or may not be able to sympathize with the main character and his endless bad decisions.

Valvrave the Liberator (8/12-24): Giant robots in space piloted by highschool students. Sort of 1/3 serious, 2/3 parody. Pretty funny and entertaining in an over the top way, but muddy characterization and storytelling prevent it from being truly top-notch.

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (8/13): Giant robot show about a 16 year old space-war veteran who gets trapped with his AI-driven robot on a primitive water planet where people live on giant ship-clusters. Probably the most disappointing show of the season for me. Nice art direction and animation and good characterization, and characters generally behave in a logical/consistent way, but the story doesn't seem to know what it wants to be and hasn't gone anywhere very interesting yet, even this close to the end, and is hinting at being a somewhat lame morality tale.

Bonus review for an older show I completed recently:

Serial Experiments Lain (13 episodes): This is one of the best shows I've seen. A very atmospheric story about a girl who gets caught up in a cyberpunk conspiracy. Makes me think of things like Snow Crash or Deus Ex, but without all the testosterone-driven action. The animation seems low budget but is artistically very nice, and the story does a good job of being mysterious without being too vague (for the most part). Let down slightly by jamming in a bunch of unnecessary real-world conspiracy references, but that was only really in one episode. Also has a very 90s conception of computers and the internet, but for me that was kind of nostalgic. It's quite slow paced, but I was never bored.

So, Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I watched the first three episodes, and now want advice from those who have watched it to completion before I watch any more. Potential spoilers ahead for the first three episodes.

Fb sne, vg unf orra zbqrengryl tbbq. Abg gur nznmvat gung jnf cebzvfrq va cnfg zrqvn guernqf, ohg V npxabjyrqtr gung gung fbeg bs guvat jvyy bsgra gnxr n srj rcvfbqrf gb ernyyl trg fgnegrq.

Ohg bar guvat vf ernyyl tengvat ba zl areirf. Gur punenpgref' furre... fghcvqvgl jvgu ertneqf gb guvf jvfu guvat. Ybbx, V xabj gung znxvat n tbbq jvfu pna or uneq. Vg vf n tbbq guvat gb guvax guebhtu gur bcgvbaf naq pbafrdhraprf pnershyyl orsber znxvat n jvfu. Gurer vf ab funzr va qrsreevat znxvat n jvfu sebz gur srne gung lbh unir abg pbzr hc jvgu n tbbq bar lrg, pbzvat hc jvgu n tbbq jvfu vf uneq. V rira qba'g rkcrpg nyy punenpgre'f gb tb nyy UCWRI naq hfr gurve jvfu gb znkvznyyl bcgvzvmr gur havirefr.

Ohg gb abg rira or noyr gb guvax bs bar fvatyr cbgragvny jvfu gb znxr!? V yvgrenyyl pnaabg vzntvar jung pbhyq or tbvat guebhtu gur urnq bs fbzrbar jub guvaxf gung. Gb guvax gung gur jbeyq nf vg vf abj vf gur orfg bs nyy cbffvoyr jbeyqf lbh pna vzntvar... Gung arrqf n fcrpvny glcr bs fghcvqvgl.

BX, svar. V nz trggvat gbb uhat hc bire fbzrguvat abg jbegu trggvat uhat hc ba. Ohg rirel gvzr V jngu na rcvfbqr guvf tengrf ba zl areirf yvxr n svyr ehaavat bire zl enj areir raqvatf. Vg vf npghnyyl zragnyyl cnvashy sbe zr gb jngpu gung.

Vg'f cebonoyl whfg zr jub unf guvf cnegvphyne unathc, naq lbh nyy cebonoyl guvax V nz orvat fvyyl. Jryy, znlor guvf whfg uvg n fber cbvag sbe zr be fbzrguvat. Ohg vs V nz gb pbagvahr jngpuvat guvf (juvpu V jbhyq yvxr gb nf vg jnf uvtuyl erpbzzraqrq va cnfg zrqvn guernqf), gura V jbhyq yvxr fbzrbar jub unf jngpurq vg nyernql gb pbasvez bar bs gurfr guvatf:

Rvgure 1) Fur hfrf gur jvfu nyernql, naq trgf vg bire jvgu. Znlor gb oevat Znzv onpx gb yvsr be fbzrguvat, gung jbhyq or n ernfbanoyr (vs abg irel perngvir) jvfu. Ohg gung vf hayvxryl nf fur vf boivbhfyl gur Bov-Jna svther, naq fb, sbe cybg ernfbaf, zhfg erznva qrnq.

Be 2) Gur cerivbhfyl nyyhqrq gb nznmvatarff fgnegf, naq fbba. Vs vg vf nf nznmvat nf crbcyr unir orra fnlvat, gura V thrff gung pbhyq chfu guvf fber cbvag gb gur fvqr.

Naljnl, cyrnfr ernffher zr va guvf ertneq. V jbhyqa'g jnag gb zvff bhg ba na nznmvat navzr orpnhfr bs bar fghcvq ovg, ohg ba gur bgure unaq, vg'f ernyyl, ernyyl naablvat. Lrnu, gur jubyr guvat fbhaqf fvyyl jura V jevgr vg qbja, ohg gunax lbh sbe gnxvat lbhe gvzr naljnl gb nqivfr zr ba guvf. Vg vf zhpu nccerpvngrq.

I almost stopped watching after three episodes as well - it starts out fairly slow. It was totally worth watching though, I'd wholeheartedly recommend going on.

One problem that a lot of people have with the series is that Madoka doesn't really seem all that protagonisty, and her inability to make a decision about what to wish for no doubt contributes to this. The non-spoiler response is that there is a reason for this, which I personally found to be highly satisfying (your personal milage, of course may vary). The heavilly spoiler version is: Juvyr fur qbrf trg n punapr gb fgrc hc va n fvtavsvpnag jnl yngr va gur frevrf, gur ernfba Znqbxn srryf fb ha-cebgntbavfgl rneyl ba vf orpnhfr sbe gur ohyx bs gur frevrf, fur vfa'g gur cebgntbavfg: Ubzhen vf.

There's a non-meta reason. (Well, a differently meta reason.)

Even heavier spoiler: Madoka is so indecisive because Ubzhen ercrngrqyl qrfgeblrq havirefrf jurer Znqbxn znqr n qrpvfvba, va beqre gb fryrpg sbe n Znqbxn uncyrff rabhtu gb or cebgrpgnoyr. Jr frr guvf ba pnzren!

I say you should stick with it. I suspect that, given what you've said, you'll be similarly annoyed with a few characters not introduced yet. Several of the reveals and the ending will probably make up for it, though, especially since it kind of addresses some of your complaints.

Thanks for the advice. These are the words of reassurance I needed. I will stick with it, a bit more at least.

A Hansonian might say that Madoka Magica is not about Madoka!

Three eps in is not really much; give it a bit more time.

[-][anonymous]8y 2

Neither 1) nor 2). The awesomeness increases drastically, as the end of the series approaches. Most people I've talked to feel it was worth it (it's only six or seven hours of footage), but some (including my boyfriend) disagree.

The character you said was a "Bov-Jna" is not a "Bov-Jna." (Indeed, they don't appear on the TV Tropes list. Also, shame on you for linking TV Tropes without a warning.)

EDIT: Looking at the episode list, I'd say the "awesomeness" (in the sense of, "holy shit, this isn't just an average mahou shoujo anime") really begins around episode six or seven.

I think you're being a bit too literal. When someone says, "Nothing comes to mind," they may have myriad thoughts ricocheting through their brain, but none of which are fully thought through or even partially fleshed out. 'Tis unreasonable to assume that if a character professes ignorance to others (and thus the audience) they are absent ideas.

While in general this is true, it is not in this case. The show is rather clear on this. When another character offers the suggestion of just wishing for a cake, Madoka takes it seriously as the first option she for a wish that she came across. She decides against it, for obvious reasons, but her reaction wasn't "that's a silly wish, I can think of a hundred better ones" but rather "Well, this is the first possible wish that I came across so far, but it doesn't seem like a good one so I guess I will keep on looking."

See, the cake example is a good example of a lower bound for wishs. At the very least, she should have come up with stupid examples like that. That she needed even this sort of wish pointed out to her is what I found annoying.

Madoka takes it seriously as the first option she for a wish that she came across. She decides against it, for obvious reasons, but her reaction wasn't "that's a silly wish, I can think of a hundred better ones"...

Perhaps your interpretation is correct - I don't know. Keep in mind that one wouldn't deny a another's suggestion outright in Japanese culture; even if a suggestion were ridiculous, often one will show that they've considered it before offering some excuse to decline.

"Do you like cake? Wish for cake!"
"Hmm, I do like cake; some cake would be really nice right now. Maybe I should wait to hear other wishes first, though."

Ok, yeah. I can accept it as a matter of interpretation. Maybe you are right. It is often hard to see interpretations other than one's own. So lets not argue about it. Still, I don't think that dialogue that you wrote is what was going on, that wasn't how things were put, but I won't argue the point, as this is something not worth arguing about. Again, maybe you are right.

Game of Thrones finally had that scene.

I've been reading this Twitter feed of outraged fans and laughing. Am I going to hell? ;)

Have not seen the show, but I was in disbelief when I read the book. Apparently it's more impressive on screen. I'm surprised that so many viewers did not know it was coming. Anyway, probably goes some ways to weaken people's faith in the just universe.

And you are only going to hell if you don't donate all your income to the dragon... err... basilisk.

If you are, you'll have company.

[-][anonymous]8y 2

Just finished watching Life of Pi. I didn't expect to like it (because CG animals have always sucked) but the visuals are pretty stunning. It almost makes up for the story being a weak argument for the instrumental value of religion.

Arrested Development Season 4 was occasionally amusing, but didn't really catch fire like the original three seasons. I think a number of things hurt it:

  1. Most of the actors have since become major stars with full schedules. Thus the story had to be written around their availability; and there were many fewer ensemble scenes.

  2. The original series revolved around Michael Bluth's exasperation with his family's insanity. Because most of the adult characters were loathsome and pathetic in different ways, you shared Michael's pain in being part of this family. In Season 4, Michael stopped being the straight man and became as equally pathetic as every other adult. Only the younger characters (George Michael and Maeby) were somewhat sympathetic, and consequently only the episodes focusing on George Michael and Maeby actually clicked.

  3. The story didn't really come to a climax. It was more like Act 1 of a three-act structure (and not a strong Act 1 either). It feels like the writers just hit the end of the contracted 15 episodes and stopped where they were.

On the plus side, there were still a number of laugh out loud moments; and lots of new Orange County Easter Eggs for the locals. I wouldn't subscribe to Netflix just to watch Season 4, but if you already subscribe, it's worth the ten hours it will take to view.

None of the things you list have bothered me or detracted from my pleasure. (I have seen the first 5 episodes.)

I am amused by your judging a very good comedy by the standards of drama (in your point 3). Sure, almost all comedy is improved by having dramatic elements and a dramatic story line, but since very good comedy is so much rarer and harder to pull off than very moving and very satisfying drama is, it does not occur to me to regret that the show would not be a particularly moving or satisfying drama if the comedic elements were removed.

In fact, I tend to regard the purposes of the dramatic elements as (1) helping me care about the characters, which of course makes the comedic elements better, and (2) keeping my mind occupied while my "humor batteries" are recharging themselves, i.e., counteracting the effect in which the final jokes of an uninterrupted series of jokes lose their kick. Of course, neither the presence of a dramatic climax or three-act structure contribute substantially towards those two purposes.

In a way I like (what I have seen so far of) season 4 even better since in season 2 or 3 the writing got a little mean (very occasionally) in the same way that for example David Letterman (much more often) gets mean. To be precise, David Letterman used to get mean the last time I watched him about 15 years ago, but he probably has not changed that.

[-][anonymous]8y 0

One additional problem with season four, in my opinion, is that it's not tightly written at all. Because the writers didn't have any time constraints, many jokes really outlive their amusement value. For example, the scene with Lindsay and Tobias in their house in the third episode.

When I become aware that a comedy is trying too hard, it can interfere with my enjoyment. The first few episodes of Buffy were like that. They were very tightly written. There were long stretches in which not 15 seconds went by without some sort of humor. I got the sense that the creators really cared about my reaction and were probably trying to impress me. All of which made me wary, which of course reduced the probability that I would laugh. In contrast, Arrested gives the appearance of sloppiness and not caring very much, but my guess is that that is a careful choice made by people who do care very much about what they are doing.

[-][anonymous]8y 2

I understand that -- I'd rather call a show that's too tightly written "overwritten" (which a lot of modern comedies are, e.g., Modern Family, and the occasional episode of 30 Rock). I don't like that either.

What I'm saying is that several scenes in season four just keep going on past their natural end. When an episode had to be twenty-one minutes long, they didn't have this problem. On the other hand, several episodes from season three would have improved from being only fifteen minutes long after cutting out the slideshows....

I've recently been watching Bryan Fuller's Hannibal, a prequel series to the movie/book franchise set some time prior to the events of Red Dragon. The series follows FBI profiler Will Graham and his friendly psychiatrist, one Hannibal Lecter, MD. The acting and direction is superb (Mads Mikkelsen delivers an excelent performance as Hannibal, made all the more impressive considering who's act he's following). The writing is generally good; the only warning I feel compelled to give is that your enjoyment of the series will be directly tied to your ability to accept the premise that magical empathy superpowers are a thing in this universe, and Will Graham has them (the show never explicitly calls this out in those terms, perfering to just call Will "special" or "gifted" but nevertheless this is how it is). No knowledge of the source material is assumed, except that you know that the title character eats people, which most people will have gleaned purely from popcultural osmosis (and if you haven't, then I just told you, so now you have).

[-][anonymous]8y 0

I've finished the first season of Soul Eater. I didn't expect to like it -- I don't tend to like arbitrarily weird anime like, e.g., FLCL or Excel Saga, but Soul Eater is somewhere to the right of those on the Insane-Realistic axis.

It's about an academy where special humans (Meisters) form a bond with other special humans (Weapons) that can turn into weapons. Maka, the main character, is bonded to Soul Eater, and they have a Blue/Red Oni (TVTropes) thing going on.

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Space Oddity performed on board the International Space Station

From a Fun Theory perspective, this is an important proof that one can, in fact, become an astronaut rock star.

The Plateau Phase by Crispy Ambulance, a second-string Factory Records band and Joy Division soundalikes. If that sounds tempting, it'll pay off. I've been playing it again of late and thinking of it as raw material for political ranting over the top. (Someone else's, I'm not full of snappy political ranting these days, fond of Twitter-length soundbites as I am.)

Nice. I love me some second-string Factory bands.

In previous media threads I have recommended either or both of the Factory CD box sets (Palatine or the more recent one through Rhino), both of which I keep on my phone. Turns out "Digital" makes a good ringtone.

Podcasts Thread

Other Media Thread

Having these monthly seems about right to me. Anyone think twice-monthly or every two months or something else would be better?