Another by Hayao Miyazaki

Last night I was fortunate enough to catch a sneak preview of Hayao Miyazaki’s new animated movie Sprited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi), thanks to James Seo who obtained an original Japanese copy with English subtitles. Miyazaki was propelled into
the spotlight when his last movie, Princess Mononoke, was dubbed in English with a stellar cast; it appears that Disney will be releasing this one in US theaters on September 20th, complete with flashy website to hype it.

The lowdown? Another masterpiece, pushing the envelope on animation, with a slew of new perspectival and 3D effects that are impossible for me to give justice to with words. I was awestruck again by the brilliance of Miyazaki’s stories, which sucked me in within seconds and spit me out only a few minutes before the end (Princess Mononoke suffered from similar cheese-related issues late in the story) Oh, and did I mention that it’s so cute it’ll make you puke? The cast includes (but is not limited to):

  • an adorable 12 year old girl protagonist with spindly little legs and big feet
  • an overweight hamster that has to be flown around by his little mosquito buddy
  • thousands of little jumping balls of fluffy ash with big eyes that eat lucky charms for dinner

Like Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro, something about Miyazaki’s style in Spirited Away clicks with me: he toys with my emotions and makes me beg for more. I’ll definitely be seeing this one again in the theater, but as with every other anime I’ve seen, I’m sure the original Japanese voices will be superior to whoever Disney decides to cast.

Don’t call me a monkey, cheater

Researchers at UCSB have recently found that cheater detection is an age-old cognitive system. Using a subject they call “R.M.” who has a cognitive disability to the part of his brain that decodes social and emotional signals, they found that this fellow performed much better in certain tests of honesty than others, showing that the subsystem that controls cheater detection is separate from other areas of cognitive faculty.

Cheater detection also appears to be an evolutionarily old system, which can be found in all social primates. My limited experience with my dog Montana shows that even domesticated pets are quite good at this sort of thing. After playing fetch with him for a few years, I started to play tricks (as all good dog owners do), pretending to throw a stick and then hiding it behind my back. After one or two tosses, his cheater detector became quite refined, and he subsequently refused to play fetch with me for months. And then he ran away. These events may or may not be connected.

Time to restructure

Has anyone noticed that this site can take up to a minute to load? Or that blogdex is basically impossible to use between the hours of 10am and midnight EDT?

Hmmm… coincidence? I think not. I’m tired of people telling me that my web services suck, so it’s top priority at the moment. Hopefully overstated will be coming to you in real time before you know it.

Cambridge return

I’ve made my final return to home base after 1.5 months of New York mayhem and two weeks of vacationing. It feels extremely good to be back in familiar environs, interacting with so many people that I’ve lost contact with during my away time. But most importantly, I’m really looking forward to some level of regularity (which includes paying attention to this quiescent forum). I hope my peeps are still out there, cause I miss you guys.

Culture in vinyl

The words “vinyl culture” typically produce images of seventies furniture or overdressed club kids. A few designers have been redefining the term while pushing the envelope in the medium of action figures. In particular, Eric So and Michael Lau have been rolling out stylized icons for the subculturally aware.

At $100 a pop, only the jet set and Hong Kong toy-obessed crowds can afford them, but they’re fun to look at. Mmmm… vinyl toys.

I want a range life

Late last night, inspired by my favorite Pavement anthem, I traded some of my music gear to a friend for his skateboard, and hit the streets trying to regain a piece of my childhood. In the words of the great Stephen Malkmus:

Out on my skateboard the night is just hummin
and the gumsmacks are the pulse I’ll follow
If my walkman fades then I got
Absolutely no one
No one but myself to blame
don’t worry
We’re in no hurry
School’s out,
what did you expect?
I’d want a range life
If I could settle down
If I could settle down
Then I would settle down

Of course my range life was given some prompt closure when I sprained my ankle after about 30 minutes of raising hell in my neighborhood. As the old skateboarding addage goes, whatever doesn’t break your ankle only makes it hurt like hell for a week.