Living the Good Life, Episode 13 (July 22, 2016): Preparations

Busy busy week for me. As always, here’s the lowdown:


WATCHAN:

Macross Delta 16, Jojo 16, One-Punch man dub 1, and Berserk 3.

One-Punch Man (dub) 1: I originally watched this series subtitled with the original Japanese audio and I loved it, so I wanted to see how the English dub sounded. Very, very good indeed…I think they captured the laconic, apathetic nature of the protagonist perfectly in his English voice, and all the goofy monster antagonists sound suitably silly. Gonna keep watching this 😀

Macross: No action at all this week, but there was some really great character development and the ending scene was absolutely lovely. This is definitely shaping up to be a quality series.

Jojo: This was a very cool episode. Again, don’t want to spoil anything, but it was like a sniper battle against an opponent one would *really* not expect to be a sniper. One of my favorite fights and Jojo eps so far.

Berserk 3: I…am of two minds about this series so far.

On the one hand, the story changes (from the original manga) it has made strike me as very cool. In this episode, a one-shot villain from the manga who had very little development originally shows up and is given a very interesting background/backstory that had never been seen before. I rather like it when animes diverge from the manga (I wish Jojo did this) because if I’ve already read the manga, I won’t be surprised by anything in the anime! So the Berserk TV anime is doing a better job of keeping me interested, at least better than I thought it would.

On the other hand…the animation and sound effects are so bad. While the traditionally animated parts look OK, the “computer generated” parts look absolutely horrendous, and it’s hard to make out what’s going on when things are moving quickly, like in action scenes. And every time Guts, the protagonist, slices something with his sword, you hear a clanging noise that makes it seem like he’s hitting things with a frying pan…EVEN WHEN HE’S SLICING THROUGH FLESH OR THE ECTOPLASM OF GHOSTS AND SPIRITS! It is ridiculous!

Well, I’ve dealt with worse…at least the story, as I said, makes up for it. Guess I’ll keep watching…

PLAYAN:

A ton of Vindictus. Honestly, I’m not liking it too much…I came back for Delia, the new greatsword using character, but she’s pretty bad. She looks cool, but her moves are so god damn slow. Still, maybe it’s my keyboard (I’ve noticed it sometimes fails to respond to my button inputs, in many applications aside from Vindictus) or maybe I need some more attack speed for her. Guess I’ll try to do my best…

TIMAN:

Finally back in the Dragonar groove…for now. Episode 21 is out:

https://msubsreleases.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/metal-armor-dragonar-episode-21-misson-capture-the-enemy-ma/

Now, I won’t be able to release another ep next week, cause I’m off on a research trip (more on that later). The week after next week, however, should hopefully be better. 😀

READAN:

Finally finished Wayne Barlowe’s God’s Demon.

That was…interesting.

Well, I’ll admit it straight up: I really, really enjoyed this book, and I wasn’t actually expecting to. It was written by the famous Wayne D. Barlowe, who’s known primarily for his wonderful art. He’s one of the best artists in the world when it comes to fantasy creatures and scifi aliens! So I bought his first and so far only prose novel just to support him, and I didn’t think he’d be as good with the written word as he was with the paintbrush.

Boy, was I wrong!

I’ll try to spoil as little as possible in this review, so I’ll first give an outline of the novel that doesn’t delve into important plot details. Barlowe paints (heh) a portrait of Hell that’s heavily inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost. In his Hell, the various demons were originally angels cast down there after following Lucifer in a failed rebellion against “The Throne,” though Barlowe carefully avoids any specific mention of Christianity. It’s also clear this is very much his own vision of Hell.The story revolves around yet another rebellion in Hell itself, with the intent of getting back to heaven! Lord Sargatanas, a mighty and powerful demon lord (Major Demon) is our protagonist. He has spent millennia in Hell, has grown tired of it, regrets following Lucifer’s rebellion, and now wants to return…which means he must raise an army against the current reigning lord of all Hell, Beelzebub, who took over after Lucifer disappeared. Quite an interesting premise, eh?

Barlowe runs with it extremely well. His vision of Hell is populated with a variety of characters, ranging from powerful Demons Minor, super-powerful Demons Major (like the protagonist Sargatanas), the unfortunate damned souls who also serve as building blocks for Hell’s buildings, and even Abyssals, Hell’s “native fauna” which were driven away when all the demons fell. As an aside, most of the demon names, like Eligor, Valefar, Agares, etc. come from the old famous book of demons, The Lesser Key of Solomon, which I thought was a cool touch, though I’m biased–my favorite upcoming Kickstarter game, Bloodstained, is heavily inspired by The Key of Solomon as well 😉 But anyways, this setting means that God’s Demon has a lot of elements of politics and battle strategy as well as the standard swords and sorcery fare one might find in a fantasy novel. Sargatanas has to raise an army, meaning he has to woo demons away from under Beelzebub’s banner, and then lead those armies in battle, requiring many strategems and such. All that is fantastically portrayed, the big battles and their tactics were impressive and gripping, and the individual fights were fantastic–Barlowe isn’t quite R.A. Salvatore, but he’s not too far off either, and I was very impressed to see an artist write swordplay and action so well.

While reading books like Barlowe’s Inferno and Brushfire: Illuminations from the Inferno (which I mentioned last week, by the by) will give you a clear idea of what the characters look like, AND (very important!) spoil you massively for God’s Demon, Barlowe’s prose also does more than enough for the task. He does an excellent job of vividly describing the many creatures he’s invented, whether the incredibly creepy way millions of flies compose the primary antagonist and leader of Hell, Beelzebub, or the way other demons shift their bodies to their whim, growing eyes and limbs in accordance with their needs as they send up spells and magic glowing sigils and glyphs into the skies to command their armies of summoned creatures or even damned souls. And Barlowe certainly makes it clear this book isn’t for kids…some of scenes of horrible deaths suffered by demons and other important characters are thoroughly spine-tingling and stomach-churning, minor spoilers but I recommend avoiding the later parts of the book if you have a fear of flies!

Again, no spoilers, but I’ll cap off this review with, at last, some praise for the characters themselves. Sargatanas is a wonderfully sympathetic protagonist to root for, Beelzebub is a suitably villainous antagonist to root against, the love story and scenes were great, there’s a surprising reveal about one of the damned souls that would have really caught me by surprise if I hadn’t been spoiled by Barlowe’s Inferno ( ;_; ) and the final battle had me at the edge of my seat, though it all concludes satisfactorily. A great read all in all, I heartily recommend it!

I also finished Arlette Farge’s Allure of the Archives a while ago, but forgot to review it! I’ll make up for that now…

Unlike God’s Demon, this is a non-fiction book. It’s from Arlette Farge, a famous French historian of criminology, and expresses both the emotions she feels for the archives as a physical place (the sensation of actually touching history with your hands, the amusing travails of trying to get materials sent to the proper place and getting the best seat to look at them, and so on) as well as advice on what historians should keep in mind (in terms of methodology, analysis, etc.) when they base their work on archival research. I found it to be a pretty good read overall. Quickly, here are some thoughts on some specific passages from the book.

One page 15, she offers a ringing defense of hands-on archival work, that is to say, going in there in person rather than just looking at microfilm copies (or digital reproductions, in this day and age. She says, “These systems of reproduction  are useful for preservation, and undoubtedly allow for new  and fruitful ways of questioning the texts,  but they can cause you to forget the tactile and direct approach to the material, the feel of touching living traces of the past. An archival manuscript is a living document; microfilm reproduction, while sometimes unavoidable, can drain the life out of it.”

I suppose this is true, but how would this be reflected in a historian’s work? It is, after all, hard to imagine citing an archival document and putting this in the footnote: “I held it in my hands, the feeling of it colored my interpretation.” One would have to be much more deft about it in one’s work, of course–“show, don’t tell” applies to historians as well as storytellers, I’ve found–but even then, Farge doesn’t say how an interpretation colored by hands-on archival work might be subtly different than one done with reproductions.

I found far less to quibble with in a later passage on pages 66-67. There, Farge mentions poring through a folder full of 18th-century criminal complaints, when, purely by chance, she happened on something that wasn’t supposed to be there. Whether by accident or deliberate hiding, an 18th-century police superintendant had put a letter to one of his colleagues in that folder! It was a fascinating glimpse into the personal lives of these functionaries during that time, and while Farge doesn’t mention whether or not she ended up using it in the project she was working on, it obviously had a great deal of historical value

After reading that little tidbit, I now have an even greater understanding of why my advisor wants me to go look at archives in person. Reproductions and digital copies are great, but physically poring through the archives means you can occasionally get lucky and find something really interesting or useful that happened to be filed away in the wrong place (and therefore wouldn’t have been reproduced, or moved to a different section) or otherwise might have escaped your notice somehow. Serendipity for a historian, you could say. While, of course, the chances of that happening aren’t necessarily high, and ought to be weighed against the expense and time of visiting the archives (if reproductions are much cheaper than plane tickets, no sense breaking your bank for this sort of thing), I have money and time on my side, so I might as well do some traveling. Even if I don’t strike gold like Farge did, it’ll at least be nice to get out of the house.

Anyways, I’ll just leave off this brief review–not even a review, more like my impressions and favorite passages–with this quote I really liked, and that I think historians in general should heed carefully:

“Lives are not novels, and for those who have chosen to write history from the archives, the stakes are not fictional. How to explain—without seeming to brag and without disdain for historical fiction—that if we are to do right by these many forgotten lives…we can only do so through the writing of history? When the prisoner in the Bastille, locked up for hawking pamphlets, writes to his wife on a piece of cloth he has torn from his shirt and begs the laundry woman not to ignore his cry of hope, a writer of history cannot turn him into the hero of a novel. It would be a kind of betrayal, if only because he would be immediately lumped in with so many other heroes, whose defining trait is that they were put into motion and controlled by an author’s hand.”

Pretty heavy stuff. Though I’ll probably not need to worry so much about that, it’s good advice in general. And that does it for this week’s readan!

WRITAN:

Still nothin, cause I’ve been busy getting ready for…

My trip to Duke University! While I’m still waiting for my profs to get back to me for a good time to meet with them in person about my dissertation, I’ve grown weary of just kind of sitting around, so I’m off to Duke to get my hands on more George Fitzhugh primary sources! It’s in Durham, North Carolina, which…seems to be a nice place, I guess? At least I hope so, I’ve never been there. Wish me luck~

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