Twin Stars Book 2, Episode 8 “25” released!

The second from last episode of Twin Stars Book Two is now up for your listening pleasure! Go check it out!

Enjoy!

Rob

History in Manga Form

When many people think about manga (Japanese comic books) they they tend to think in terms of cliches– big eyes, hyperdrama, weird over-the-top sex and violence, and so forth. Of course, what they tend to forget is that ascribing those things to “manga” is a little like saying that all TV is stupid and vapid crap. Yes, it may have some general truth, but in fact there’s a lot of good stuff there that isn’t like that at all you’re mixing together with the crap. Manga is a medium, like TV, or Novels, or Podcasts, it’s not a genre or type of literature. It is neither good nor bad, and covers a huge amount of territory in it’s breadth and depth.

Today I’d like to discuss Historical Manga, or stories that are set in different historical periods than our own. This is a genre of manga that gets very little attention, but which is actually producing some really high quality works that people are really missing out on. Especially since almost all Japanese manga historians (people who do historical manga) tend to be consummate researchers about their periods and topics of choice, and can really bring those times alive in ways that pure text rarely does. I myself had an interest in various historical periods, but reading some of the manga I’m going to list here today has actually changed my perspective on how dry and boring history could be and made me see it as something much more exciting than we tend to portray it as.

So with that in mind, let’s look at some of the best I’ve found:

(Note, that because of the realist nature of these stories, take it for granted they are Mature stories and meant for adult audiences. As such expect realistic and sometimes graphic displays of sex and violence.)

Vinland Saga– An amazing story of a norseman named Thorfinn living through the events of early 11th century England that covers this period in a way I’d never imaged before. It’s foremost an action-adventure-war story, and extremely violent, but the story and art really captures the times and bring them to life in a way that’s more about capturing the times and less about trying to impose some modern filter on history.  My regret is that there’s no official translation of if so I can’t buy collections for my bookshelf. (One note, the very first story has a totally unrealistic weird little character in it (you’ll know him when you see him) which is the only time that style of character appears in the otherwise almost hyper-real story so don’t let that put you off.)

Historie– The story of Eumenes, a man who would later become the secretary to Alexander the Great, and his journeys around the ancient world of the Mediterranean in the 3rd century BC  (or ACE, for you young folks). The art here is simple, but the story is clear and straightfoward.

The Ravages of Time– A “re-interpretation” of the story known in English as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, an epic set in 2nd and 3rd century China during it’s warring states period. This puts a new spin, and a much more human face on the epic war story, bringing the battles of hundreds of thousands of men down to the personalities of the different generals and their retinues. Great art, and a well-told story make it another one I wish someone would officially translate so I could have a bound set.

Vagabond– This one is another re-interpretation of history, but this is in many ways a more realistic version of the story of Miyamoto Musashi than the Eiji Yoshikawa novels it draws from. The artwork here is very lavish, detailed and realistic, and the events are very well told. This one is available here in North America and is a suggested buy if you enjoy it.

Ceasare– Set in Italy, it’s story of a young man and his student life with Ceasare Borgia, one of the most important figures in Italian history. A little bit romantic for my tastes, but an interesting period piece.

Mercenary Pierre– This one is the story of Joan of Arc as told from the point of view of a mercenary in her holy army.

Sidooh– Similar to Vagabond in tone and art style, but about two young brothers trying to become Samurai during the end of the Edo period. Again, real setting, but fictional characters.

Wall Street Journal talks up Audio Drama

The Wall Street Journal this week had an article on Fine Rune Productions, one of the higher quality producers of Audio Drama on the net. It’s an amazing coup for our artform, and hopefully will help to get more and more people to give Audio Drama a chance. Congrats Fred!

Media Anxiety

One of my friends, Don, is always getting pissed off at the media for various reasons, but one of his big complaints (okay, besides that they’re outright lying to us most of the time) is that people have ridiculously short memories about certain subjects. In particular, they forget that every new form of media/technology has usually been accompanied by a counterpart scare in society.

In my case, I can remember the various Video Games scares, the D&D scare, the Internet Scares (they started right after the WWW became commonly used) and of course the Heavy Metal scares (it’s making our kids into Satanists!) of my youth. (My grandparents and great aunts were terrified of Ozzy Osbourne. Not realizing that he’s normally as stoned as a statue.) It’s almost like the media make money off scaring people (hmmm…imagine that?) but a new article in Slate by researcher Vaughn Bell shows that perhaps there’s just something endemic in humans that any change is accompanied by fears. So maybe the media in the end is just acting as a mirror to what’s already there?

My favorite quote from the article:

The writer Douglas Adams observed how technology that existed when we were born seems normal, anything that is developed before we turn 35 is exciting, and whatever comes after that is treated with suspicion.

Either way, I think we need to all just chill out. There’s an old saying that I’ve loved since I heard it, and is embedded in Rob’s personal book of quotations:

There are two kinds of fools in the world.

One fool says: If it’s old, it’s better.

The other fool says: If it’s new, it’s better.

For those who want to learn more, here’s an interview with the writer from NPR’s On the Media from earlier this week.

Trees

I live in the city of London, Ontario- also known as “The Forest City” because of the sheer number of trees interwoven in between the buildings. In fact, if you go up on a local hill and look down upon the city from certain angles you won’t even see a city, you’ll see a forest with buildings sticking out of it.

Because of this it’s fair to say that I’d always taken it for granted that people grew up surrounded by trees and nature until I went on my first trip to the American city of Detroit. Even Toronto and Hamilton have trees (just not as much as London), but the first thing that struck me about Detroit was their absence. Sure, you find them once you get out into the suburbs, but the core of Detroit it just miles and miles of pavement with only a few scraggly trees to show for it here and there. It felt so dead to me, and once I’d realized it was the lack of trees I knew why.

I think we need trees, both because of the air they process, and perhaps on a deeper psychological level where they keep us in contact with our place as part of the biosphere. Not to get all Avatar on you, but I do think we easily forget we are part of the natural life of this planet, and we need to think of ourselves more as custodians and less as occupants. Without the different parts of the biosphere, from plankton to trees, the system will begin to fall apart, and we’ll be wiped out eventually by our own stupidity and short-sightedness.

Not to end on such an unhappy note, go check out this cool story from the blog IslaFormosa that inspired this post.

Augmented Reality Maps

TED Talks has just posted an 8 minute presentation with one of the lead designers of Bing Maps (Microsoft’s Google Maps clone) that shows basically how they’re one-upping Google Maps. All I have to say is- “Holy Sh*t!” They have not only found a way to make it closer than true 3d, they have not only started mapping indoors, they have not only integrated space into it (feel like a trip to the moon?), they have not only found a way to superimpose Flickr photos into the scene, but they have integrated live video feeds into it as well! You really have to see this presentation to believe it!

We really are just one or two steps away from people walking around with Augmented Reality glasses and viewing the real world and enhanced world side by side 24-7.

Shin Nian Kuai Le! Happy Year of the Tiger!

Happy Lunar New Year everyone!

Another End of the Empire

I just heard one of the newer episodes of Podcastle today: Another End of the Empire. I have to say it’s 2 shades of brilliant, and funny as hell to listen to. A deconstructed story about how an evil fantasy empire meets it’s end in the most practical way.

I’ve never heard any of Tim Pratt’s work before, but he gained a new fan today!

Rob

Digital Nation

PBS in the US aired a fascinating documentary called Digital Nation this week which everyone should watch, but especially teachers since a lot of it deals with the issues of how social media and the net are affecting the classroom and student behaviors.

I myself have long felt there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we teach kids today, as the old system is becoming less and less effective. That said, as this excellent documentary shows the over-stimulation provided by constantly being in touch with the world is actually harming students and their performance in some ways as well, so we need to be careful about how we go about this.

For example, today’s kids tend to be chronic multitaskers, something that isn’t helping them or their ability to focus or get their work done. They think they can handle it, but as this documentary proves, they clearly can’t. So give it a watch:

Twin Stars Review on Wander Radio

Episode 48 of the Wander Radio podcast has an excellent review of Twin Stars by Alexa Chipman that is worth listening to. (I’d hire that girl as my head of advertising if I were making any money at this!)  Of course, Wander Radio is usually worth a listen with it’s eclectic format of music, reviews and news, so go give it a try! You just might like it!