Sundry Stuff
From time to time, opinion pieces will be posted here.

Number-Crunch:  Like many people, I love doing Sudokus...  but I have to separate pencil-&-paper sudokus from computer sudokus, because all the sudoku computer applications I have seen judge performance solely on time, not on difficulty.  Usually, easy, medium, hard and evil difficulty levels are offered but, once a game is started the only thing that matters is how fast it is completed, which really just leads to making mistakes!
gameSo I have reached a compromise...  pencil-&-paper sudokus are used in bed, at a hard level, where it doesn’t really matter if it takes me 10 minutes or half an hour.  It’s the satisfaction of solving the puzzle that matters.  But on the computer, at a medium level, speed is all that matters.  I have finished some games in four and a half minutes but most take between five and six, to be judged as “fair to average”, which is depressing!

Historical Perspective:  Historians often remind us of how brutal and inhumane the Roman Empire was, and there is no doubt that it was.  But they gloss over the fact that Rome was no different to any other nation at that time in history.  There was no such thing as ‘diplomatic negotiation’.  Territorial or trade disputes were ALWAYS settled by armed conflict.  Any poor person was ALWAYS considered guilty if accused by a wealthy one.  There was no such thing as a ‘war crime’ – soldiers ALWAYS laid waste to an attacked area, and ALWAYS raped, tortured, sold prisoners into slavery – that was just what soldiers did.  From any nation.
Consequently, in no matter what country, citizens wanted their authorities to constantly demonstrate how brutal they could be to anyone who threatened them or their interests.  Any form of military weakness could result in slavery or death for them and all their loved ones.  That’s why gladiators fought to the death for public entertainment, and ‘criminals’ were executed in the most cruel way possible.  ALL people believed that might was right.

CGI Clothing:  As an ex-animator (from the now-ancient hand-drawn era) it frustrates me that all CGI characters must be animated wearing whatever they were modelled wearing.  The clothing is part of the character, and forms an outer ‘skin’ – movement is dictated by the ‘bones’ (called Rigging) of the character.  Clothing items cannot be (easily) added or removed during a scene, and CGI renders only what the camera can SEE.  See my bulletsolution to this problem.

Digital Dilemma:  Overall, CGI technology is gradually changing the appearance of animated films – mostly for short films, at this stage – and, also overall, mostly for the better.  But one thing has not changed.  Animation is still used with cartoon-style exaggeration in character design, speech and general behavior.  Animated characters are nearly always overblown, over-acted, and all comedy is slapstick.  No subtlety or understatement is used, despite CGI now allowing that to be achieved.
Japanese Anime is the opposite – characters animated to behave in a real-world ‘Japanese-normal’ fashion.  But Anime can’t tell ‘normal’ stories because Japanese film censorship treats ALL films as public displays.  Japanese film characters must never be depicted doing or saying anything offending Japanese cultural customs for public places.  An official public image ‘whitewash’ or reality-spin.  ALL ‘adult themes’ are too ‘rude’ for public display.
But...  Anime clearly shows that using cartoon exaggeration is NOT necessary.  Stories can be told in a restrained, understated way without alienating audiences.  In countries other than Japan, CGI-animated films could be made with real-world story themes, treated realistically.  Just another way of telling stories, more like books, but visually.

Culture Barrier:  In my personal opinion, Japanese Anime strikes an excellent balance between reality and cartoon sham, by using real-looking CGI-rendered backgrounds, but with characters that look hand-drawn in a realistic style – not too real, and not too cartoony.  Just stylized substitutes for real people, suitable for telling all sorts of stories.  That SHOULD allow them to tell stories with adult themes.  But it doesn’t.  Their film censorship system, treating all films as public displays, forbids depiction of privacy, where (in real-world Japan) people can do or say whatever they wish.
In a public place (like a film), showing emotion or discussing ANY adult-themed story element is considered offensive.  Anime films work around this censorship issue by substituting magic, fantasy or cultural customs as a ‘metaphor’ for anything Japanese characters cannot be shown doing or saying.  Audiences have to guess what is really being depicted!  See my bulletscripting summary here or my bulletprivacy ban summary here.

Coffee-speak!   Several short posts about bulletmaking coffee ...since so many people seem to think that I am obsessive about this subject!

April 2020:  Pandemic Thoughts:  In the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic I believe that there will be quite a few radical changes to world-wide trade and travel habits as a result of many countries being hurt by supply-chain issues – that world-wide web of delivery for manufactured goods.  It’s inevitable that politicians will insist on changes, so I have bulletlisted issues that I think will prompt vigorous preventative measures.

September 2017 :  Anime Failure, Anime Success:  Japanese Director Makoto Shinkai made an Anime film named Your Name that broke lots of box-office records, so was very popular, and came close to being a masterpiece...  instead, closer inspection reveals inherent Japanese scripting flaws unrelated to the undeniable artistic quality of the film, making it a disappointing failure.  It looked great, but made little sense.  I reviewed that film in 2019 bullethere.
But then, in 2019, Shinkai released his follow-up film, Weathering with You, which was much better!  Artistically stunning AND easy to understand.  Showing that Anime studios CAN make films with very mild adult themes, without offending Japanese audiences.  See my 2021 review of that film bullethere.

August 2016 :  Poutine on the Ritz:  During my trip to Canada a few years ago I tried Poutine for the first time.  For those who have never heard of Poutine it’s hot potato chips with gravy and cheese curds on top – often described as ‘A heart attack on a plate’...  but, like most oily, fatty, cheesy fast food, it’s also bloody delicious.  I was also amused by the story behind the the name – it was originally named Poutin ( pronounced ‘poo-tahn’ ) but the French language purists were furious when the Canadian English-speaking general public started referring to them as Poutine ( pronounced ‘poo-teen’ ) but common usage eventually won – the language purists had to back down and accept ‘Poutine’ as correct.

August 2015 :  Vanilla Slices:  I love the things!  I found a way to make them in either ‘regular’ or gluten-free form, and there is now a bulletseparate page about it.

November 2014 :  An illustrated diary of bulletmy trip to Tasmania, to catch up with Fiona, Chris & family.

May 2013 :   An illustrated diary of bulletEric & Terry’s wedding, held at Lake Muskoka, Ontario, Canada.  See also: Canada trip, below.

May 2013 :   An illustrated diary of bulletmy trip to Canada, mostly for Eric’s wedding, but also including some normal touristy things.  See also: The Wedding, above.

January 2013 :   A relieved analysis of the completion of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Fantasy series with the release this month of the bullet14th and final book.  I expect that this series will rank among master-works in the Fantasy genre, even though I had some reservations about the way it was drawn to a conclusion.

March 2011 :  An embarrassing account of what must be my first bullet‘Senior’s Moment’ and probably not the last!