October 28, 2007

New Anime Season - Sketchbook

After one episode this is one to track.  It's a simple slice-of-life series about a girl who likes to sketch and has a phobia about strangers.  Her classmates are delightfully wierd, from a girl who paints "darkness" as her favorite thing, to a girl who pulls out hand puppets to have an argument with herself about her favorite food, to a girl with an insect fixation, and a hapless teacher with some obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Sketchbook_1_0.jpg

Oh yeah, and some guy whose sole role so far as been to play an unwilling cat, but will probably be involved in some vaguely romantic subplot in the future.
Sketchbook_1_1.jpg

This is the hand-puppet girl again.  yes, she tries to eat it anyway, with the usual oral-blowtorch visual effect...
Sketchbook_1_2.jpg

This girl with the insect fixation also has a cocklebur fetish. Actually, all the girls seemed entranced by the cockleburs.  I always hated pulling them out of my socks, but maybe Japanese socks are cocklebur-resistant.
Sketchbook_1_3.jpg

Posted by: mparker762 at 09:30 PM
Post contains 163 words, total size 1 kb.

Getting Started with Straight Razors

Wanna dip your toe into the waters without laying out a massive amount of cash and spending months learning how to hone?  Here's an easy and inexpensive way to get started:

Which works out to $133.82 if I did the math right. The only consumables in the list are the soap and styptic, and hopefully you won't need the styptic very often (I use it maybe once a month). The soap should last at least 6 months to a year with normal use. You can do this cheaper if you pick up an inexpensive vintage razor from ebay, but the odds of getting one in easily-serviceable shape are not good unless you have a fair amount of experience with razors. I still get bitten on occasion.

For a nice upgrade from the inexpensive C-Mon the Dovo Ebony Stainless ($99) or Dovo Buffalo Horn Stainless ($160) are good choices if you live near the sea or in a humid climate. And I personally feel the Dovo Bergischer Lowe ($160) is one of the best razors ever made - modern or vintage; just make sure to cut off the stupid rubber piece on the shank since it gets loose and moves around and traps moisture underneath - and the Bergischer Lowe is not a stainless steel razor.

To get all this stuff ready for shaving takes a little bit of initial prep work.

  1. Avoiding a mess: Put the Dovo honing paste into the refrigerator. It will melt into a puddle if it gets too warm.
  2. Preparing the soap: Put the soap in your coffee mug, flat side down. If it's too large to fit then trim it to a smaller diameter with a knife, and toss the scraps in the mug on top of the puck (they'll melt back together with a few days of use).
  3. Conditioning the strop: Hold your brush under hot tapwater until the bristles are soaked (10-15 secs). Shake it out until the bristles are just damp, then run it around on top of the soap in the mug until a thick cream forms at the tips of the bristles. Brush this onto the smooth leather surface of the strop, and brush it around a bit. This helps clean any tanning and preservative residue off the surface of the leather. Wipe the lather off, then do this again and leave the lather on the strop for a few hours. Rub the soapy residue into the leather, then lather up the strop again and let it sit again, and rub the residue back into the strop again. This helps condition the surface of the leather so the razor will glide smoothly.
  4. Preparing the honing surfaces: Unscrew the straps from the mount, and put it back together with just the linen piece in the mounts. Rub the red paste into one side, and rub the black paste into the other side. You want a fairly thin coating but it should be reasonably even side-to-side (you don't want just a strip longways down the middle or something like that). Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly between handling the red paste and handling the black paste to avoid cross-contamination. Put the paste blocks back in the refrigerator, and let the paste on the strop dry overnight.
  5. Mounting the strop: Hang the strop from some solid point like the bathroom doorknob. I tied a shoelace around the bathroom doorknob, and clipped the strop onto this shoelace.
  6. Honing the razor, part 1: Grasp the handles in your right hand, and pull the strop so it's pretty tight. You don't want to pull it out of the wall or break the clip, but there shouldn't be any sag in the strop. With the coarse red-pasted linen side facing up, lightly run the razor over the strop, holding it flat on the linen and moving it spine-first down the strop. When you get to the end, roll the razor's edge up off the strop and flip it over, then run the razor down the strop the other direction. For best results the edge should start lifting up off the strop while the razor is still moving, and the flip should not complete and the edge touch back down until the razor is moving the other direction. Don't worry if this feels awkward; it's not a natural movement but with repetition it will eventually come naturally and smoothly. Despite what you may have seen in the movies, speed is not important here. Just make sure to use a light touch and execute the flips properly. One trip down the strop and back is one lap, and you should do 50 laps on the red paste before moving on to the next step.
  7. Honing the razor, part 2: Pull out a strip of toilet paper, and fold it up a few times and lay it on your countertop. Strop the razor on this strip of paper a few times to help remove any red paste that may be stuck to the razor. Use some more toilet paper to wipe off the spine of the razor to remove any paste there. You don't want any of the coarse red paste getting onto the fine-grit black side. Don't use a paper towel - they are too abrasive. And if you use a cloth towel your wife will be mad.
  8. Honing the razor, part 3: Flip the strop over so the black-pasted linen side is facing up. Strop the razor on this side again for 50 laps the way you did in step 6. Wipe off the paste as in step 7 (use different pieces of toilet paper for each step of this to avoid cross-contamination), and hold the razor above your arm and see if it catches and pops the hair on your arm without touching the skin. If it pops the hair on the upper side of your arms then you're getting close. If it pops the hair on the inside of your arms then you're ready to test the razor, if it doesn't pop the hair on the inside of your arms then you need to go back and do steps 6,7, and 8 again - some razors take a little more work their first time, and may need a few iterations through this honing sequence.
  9. Return the strop to the normal configuration: Once the razor is sharp, go ahead and close it up and put it away. Unhook your strop and unscrew the mount and put the leather back in so the smooth leather side and the black pasted sides are facing out.
Fortunately you really only have to do this once.  You'll use the black pasted side and the plain leather side every day to keep the razor at the peak of sharpness.

When you get ready to shave in the morning, start out by pulling the strop taut and stropping the razor about 30-40 laps on the leather side. Then flip the strop over, pull it tight again, and give it another 10-15 laps on the black pasted side. As you get better at shaving and stropping you can gradually reduce the number of laps on the black pasted side of the linen until you are doing just enough laps each day to keep the razor sharp. You may even be able to eliminate the daily stropping on the abrasive linen and only use it for a few laps on the weekend - everybody is different and has different requirements. But you should always do at least 30 laps on the leather side every day before shaving - the leather acts like a chef's steel and keeps the thin cutting edge straight and aligned.

Your basic Illinois #127 strop:

Illinois_127.jpg


One side pasted with Dovo red (coarse abrasive):

Illinois_127_Dovo_red.jpg


Other side pasted with Dovo black (fine abrasive):

Illinois_127_Dovo_black.jpg


Disassembled showing the component parts:

Illinois_127_disassembled.jpg

And hanging from the doorknob:

Illinois_hanger_front.jpg

Posted by: mparker762 at 12:48 PM
Post contains 1363 words, total size 9 kb.

Thiers-Issard Wheat Berry day

Rooney small style 1 brush
Trumper's Almond shaving soap
Illinois #127 strop
5/8 Thiers-Issard "Wheat Berry" with ebony scales
Taylor's of Old Bond Street Bay Rum aftershave

The Thiers-Issard company is one of only two remaining large-scale straight razor manufacturers in the west.  This particular razor gets its name from the distinctive worked pattern on the spine that resembles wheat berries.

TIWheatBerry_TrumpAlmond_TaylBayRum.jpg

Posted by: mparker762 at 09:28 AM
Post contains 65 words, total size 1 kb.

October 27, 2007

Moyashimon, or Deja Vu All Over Again

To explain the title, I should mention that I graduated from Texas Agricultural & Mechanical University, and that the full title of Moyashimon is "Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture".

The series begins in earnest with our hero Tadayasu at the opening ceremonies of Tokyo Agricultural University.  In a field.  With a Tractor.  In the mud.  'Cause that's just how Aggies do things the world over.  I wonder if the Japanese have Aggie jokes as well?

moyashimon_1_2.jpg

The opening ceremonies are followed by a parade.  I tastefully skipped the gung-ho pooper-scooper crew following along.  Not out of sensitivity, mind you, I'm just saving my tastelessness budget for later on...
moyashimon_1_3.jpg

Oddly enough, it appears Our Hero can see microbes of various shapes and flavors.  Not realistic microbes like these...
moyashimon_1_1.jpg

but cartoony microbes like these...
moyashimon_1_4.jpg

And here goes half of the tastelessness budget.  This is "Kiviak", which I sincerely hope is an invented delicacy.
moyashimon_1_6.jpg

And here goes the second half of the tastelessness budget.  Here's how you enjoy it:
moyashimon_1_7.jpg

I'm sorry, but I'm one of a handful of westerners that actually likes (loves? craves?) Natto, but this stuff is just nasty.  I haven't been left this slack-jawed by an anime episode since the last episode of "School Days".
moyashimon_1_8.jpg

Fortunately the action transitions to the lab and an extended demo of Our Hero's microbe-spotting ability.  And an extended demo of the lovely if somewhat dominatrix-like Hasegawa-san.  Somebody get this girl a whip and some Blue-Star ointment.
moyashimon_1_9.jpg

Summary: wierd wierd wierd in a very gritty and earthy sort of way.  I think this is a series that I will keep tracking, if only because it's so incredibly different.

This is from the OP, which is live-action for some reason.  Muddy footwear and Aggies just go together.  If it were Texas A&M this would be cowboy boots though, though hallucinogens aren't very common at Texas A&M (or weren't when I was there), and beer doesn't make you see things like the oddities on the bike rack.
moyashimon_1_0.jpg

Posted by: mparker762 at 09:38 PM
Post contains 335 words, total size 3 kb.

October 20, 2007

Random thought while watching Myself;Yourself

So do Japanese also think they all look alike?

The setup in Myself;Yourself is that the guy (Sana) moves away for a few years, and when he comes back he doesn't recognize his former friends even though they recognize him just fine. This is a common setup for dating-sim games and derivative anime, and it seems to be a major plot point in Myself;Yourself between Sana and Nanaka (she had a crush on him, and his failure to recognize him seems to have hurt her deeply).

Add to this anime's tendency to draw represent most characters as western-looking to make them easier to distinguish, and you gotta wonder...

Posted by: mparker762 at 11:50 AM
Post contains 113 words, total size 1 kb.

October 16, 2007

Minami-ke

This looks like a low-budget slice-of-life comedy.  It's about the three Minami sisters; in order of age they are Haruka, Kana, and Chiaki.  Haruka is the responsible one, while Kana looks and acts like an older Miu from Ichigo Mashimaro.  Their younger sister Chiaki seems fairly responsible, but definitely enjoys messing with Kana.  There were several laugh-out-loud scenes in the first episode, but the series is marred by some unfortunate animation choices, in particular the upside-down mouths and the unattractive thunder-thighs.

So far it's a net win though, I'm really curious to see how this one goes.  Ichigo Mashimaro is one of my all-time favorite series, so as long this one can hit similar comedic notes I'm willing to forgive its flaws.

A Mui moment from Kana.  Note the upside-down mouth.
minami_ke_1_1.jpg

Compare with Miu from Ichigo Mashimaro:
Ichigo_Mashimaro_OVA_2_3.jpg



Believe it or not, this was supposed to be pancakes...  Kana is apparently about as talented in the kitchen as Ranma's Akane.
minami_ke_1_2.jpg



There's something very wrong here...
minami_ke_1_4.jpg



Another Miu moment, now with extra ass...
minami_ke_1_5.jpg

vs Miu's more elegant wall-crashing technique:
Ichigo_Machimaro_OVA_2_2.jpg


Note the seriously bizarre mouths.  This entire scene was milk-spittingly funny, despite the thigh and mouth issues...
minami_ke_1_6.jpg


And another Miu pose for good measure...
minami_ke_1_7.jpg

Posted by: mparker762 at 06:19 PM
Post contains 202 words, total size 2 kb.

October 12, 2007

New anime season - Suteki Tantei Labyrinth

Also bad.  Made it maybe 15 minutes in before giving up.  Annoying character art and ghost detectives.  I get enough of this from the wife's TIVO selections.

Posted by: mparker762 at 11:48 PM
Post contains 34 words, total size 1 kb.

New anime season - Night Wizard

I tried to watch this - I really did.  But I didn't make it through the first episode.  Generic and bad.

Posted by: mparker762 at 11:46 PM
Post contains 27 words, total size 1 kb.

New anime season - Sugo Chara

The show mostly takes place at a school that looks like a cross between a fairy-tale walled city/castle, and the all-powerful school council has an even aller-powerful super-council made up of plaid-cape-wearing "royal guardians"...
Shugo_Chara.jpg

...who have their own crystal palace on the school grounds where they drink tea (and no I'm not making that last bit up).
Shugo_Chara_4.jpg
(note the fantastic school architecture in the background).

Our heroine wakes up one morning to find three eggs in bed with her.  For some reason she seems to think she laid them herself?
Shugo_Chara_3.jpg

One hatches and a guardian angel pops out, and our heroine gets a magical transformation and the ability to get her most embarrassing and awkward wishes granted.  At school, it turns out the cape-wearing "guardians" also had their own eggs and have their own transformations as well.  There are also hints of legends about a three-egg guardian who would someday show up.

Our heroine gets into a fight with a catboy who tries to steal her eggs, and mercifully her transformation sequence isn't a porn sequence.  There's also an amusing reverse-transformation during a particularly awkward moment in the fight:
Shugo_Chara_2.jpg

Awkward in the sense that she's about 20 stories up in the air, that is, and in her nonmagical form flies about as well as one would expect, which is to say straight down in full scream.

Other than the blessed lack of naked transformations, I can't see a whole lot to like about this show.  I'll give it another episode or two to see what the other eggs do, but I'm not holding out much hope.

Posted by: mparker762 at 11:36 PM
Post contains 272 words, total size 2 kb.

New anime season - Blue Drop

This is a strange one.  There are some truly gorgeous moments, such as this oceanfront scene:
Blue_Drop_1.jpg

Every one of those birds is individually animated (or at least a convincing simulation of it), and the swirling cacophony is utterly mesmerising.

It's definitely setting up to be a yuri show - it's set at an all-girl's school after all.  And we get a catfight in the first episode.
Blue_Drop_2.jpg

But then things get wierd.
Blue_Drop_3.jpg

I'm still uncertain on this one.  I'll give it a few more episodes before deciding.

Posted by: mparker762 at 10:46 PM
Post contains 92 words, total size 1 kb.

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