Wednesday, April 15. 2015 | Comments (0)
So, what fresh horrors are visited on the imagination of Kumiko Omae? Nothing new, actually; Kumiko has spent the last week attempting repeatedly to talk to Reina Kousaka and clear up the tension between them. Unfortunately, the problem is that she doesn't actually know what to say...Kumiko feels obligated to apologize to Reina for not believing the Middle School band could make it to Nationals last year. Except, she honestly believes she was right in her opinion at the time and doesn't really think she owes anyone an apology for that. In fact..
Hazuki and Sapphire assure her that there isn't a problem, then. And for the record, Reina isn't acting cold or aloof in any way. She's not making cutting remarks or sidelong glances. This entire conflict, at least at this point, appears to be in Kumiko's head. And it stays there.
Well, since that plot point isn't being resolved any time soon, our three heroes move on to the entree of the day: picking their instruments. Sapphire/Midori is sticking with her contrabass, but Kumiko sees a new way to solve her emotional distress: switch to a new instrument. After all, her selection of Euphonium wasn't a matter of fate...
When I was in band, most of the schools I knew anything about (this is mostly very small schools, mind) had school-owned instruments. These consisted of all of the percussion instruments, of course; and usually the larger wind instruments: tuba, euphonium, trombone, baritone sax and tenor sax, and french horns. Alto saxes, trumpets, clarinets and flutes had to be purchased. Some of the larger or richer schools had school-owned smaller instruments as well, but usually it was just the big, expensive pieces. Of course, a side-effect was that if a family absolutely could not afford an instrument, you wound up playing one of the big instruments or on percussion, despite your aptitude or desire. In a few cases, it might also be that the family didn't actually care about their child's experience in band, and so left them to use the school's instruments until they didn't have to take the class anymore. The point being that in my own band experience, what instrument you plaid also carried some connotation of your commitment to the band. To put a fine point on it, hardly anyone ever chooses to play Euphonium or Tuba. I find it interesting that the band club in Japan is echoing this situation a bit, as Kumiko laments that not too many people ever wanted to play Euphonium; the implication being that if someone would have wanted to play her instrument, she could have taken another instrument then.
The question that must be answered about Kumiko...is she a wet noodle, or is she lying to herself?
Continue reading "Hibike! Euphonium episode 2"
Tuesday, April 14. 2015 | Comments (0)
Hoo boy. About half of this episode is Asuka-centric, as the new band members choose their instruments. The rest of the episode is about Kumiko trying to figure out how to make peace with Reina. Hibike! Euphonium is definitely a dramedy, rather than another whimsical comedy; even if the drama isn't all that deep. Although...I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the drama is going to get a little deeper than we've seen.
Sunday, April 12. 2015 | Comments (2)
Wednesday, April 8. 2015 | Comments (2)
There is a Japanese cultural phenomenon that I don't quite get. It's actually fairly universal among all cultures, to be honest, but the Japanese really add that "do or die" element. In America, we call such a thing "visualizing" or "goal setting". Affix that goal firmly in your mind, and work toward that goal. It's a tool to keep you focused.
The Japanese consider this type of thing just another in their long line of superpowers. If you "visualize" something hard enough, you WILL achieve it. Where it gets ugly is if this goal is a group activity. If you fail to achieve your goal, then SOMEONE wasn't visualizing hard enough. SOMEONE didn't want it bad enough. You can imagine what this could do to the chemistry of a baseball team, or chess team, or mahjong team.
Or your concert band.
At the Kyoto concert hall, the results of the regional concert band competition are about the be announced. For the record, I did this all through Junior High and High School. I was a band nerd, if that concept even means anything anymore. In Texas, your performance was graded with a "Division". Division 1 was excellent. Division 2 was above average. Division 3 was bog standard. Division 4 was "why did you try?" I've heard there was a Division 5, but I don't know why you would embarrass someone like that. I went to a very small school that had to field beginning players in order to have enough warm bodies to make a fully operational band...the result of which was a few Division 2 awards and a bunch of Division 3s. Our best performance ever, we received one Division 1 and two Division 2s, and one of the Division 2s had originally been a 1 but was marked out. True story; I saw the judging forms. So, winning a Division 1 was my goal all through school but it never happened. In Japan, apparently, the awards are Gold, Silver and Bronze:
Unfortunately, here and in Japan, getting a Division 1/Gold doesn't mean you go on to the next level of competition. Only the best of the Division 1/Gold teams are selected to advance.
And wouldn't you know it...
Dud Gold. Our unknown heroine and her bandmates have received top marks, but have not been selected to continue on. Satisfied with this result, she turns to congratulate her friend...
...only to be rebuffed. Kousaka Reina was ABSOLUTELY expecting to continue on to national competition.
And she's clearly not thrilled with our heroine's attitude.
Reina storms off, and as far as we know the two never speak again.
All of that drama before the opening credits. Maybe this isn't "K-on with band instruments."
Continue reading "Hibike! Euphonium episode 1"
Saturday, March 28. 2015 | Comments (0)
Most impressive. Clearly, if you were in the audience you wouldn't see a lot of the effects, as this video was recorded by a digital camera set up before hand with all of the tracking and effects built in. However, you can still see the use of front and rear projection, travelling screens (you can see the shadows moving in a few shots) and several transparent LCDs. The Sankaku Complex article I found this linked from implied that the fx-heavy/almost no singing performance was unique or unusual, however here is a concert by Perfume from 2009:
Heavy fx, dancing, and vocals so thoroughly processed that a vocaloid would shun them. I have yet to find a song that's better than moderately pleasant noise, although I'm open to suggestions if there are any Perfume connoisseurs out there.
Thursday, March 12. 2015 | Comments (0)
Only days after commemorating the fall of the Alamo in 1836, the Texas General Land Office announced today that the contract held by The Daughters of the Republic of Texas to manage the Alamo location has been revoked. This all started a few years back, when the DRT had an ugly power struggle that resulted in numerous lawsuits. To sum up, the Alamo needed some structural repairs, but the DRT were having trouble raising the money. Some younger members of the DRT were elected to leadership positions with the expectation that they would use their connections with current politicians and businessmen to acquire the necessary funds. However, some of the older members that had been sidelined for inaction threw a fit and started calling in any and all favors to get the new people shut down, including allegations of theft and mishandling of funds. They managed to force the current president out; she then went to the press. A subsequent investigation by the attorney general found all sorts of problems...all problems that pre-dated the new president.
This prompted the legislature to have the General Land Office take over responsibility for the shrine as a national park. This wasn't actually a very popular move, as our park service has been underfunded, understaffed and generally very poorly run for decades. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who did manage to save the Alamo from destruction, restore it, and run it successfully for over 100 years before all the mess started, was retained to manage the property.
Now, it's going to be managed by the lowest bid contract. As for mantainence; well, another famous Texas monument is currently sinking.
Saturday, March 7. 2015 | Comments (0)
How the battle transpired is well known. It's only around the edges that there are many disputed facts or "well-known" errors. We don't know for sure how many people or fighting men were in the Alamo, but the answer to both questions is "probably not less than 200 and not more than 280". We don't know how many Mexican troops were used to attack the make-shift fortress, but it was probably no less than 1400 and no more than 3000 at the utmost. The 1400 number would seem to be extremely reliable, as it is "four columns of infantry plus a reserve". Unfortunately, research into the matter has shown that even this number is not 100% verifiable. The number of Mexican dead is completely unknowable at this point, being reported anywhere from around 200 to as many as 2500. There is one account of Travis being killed at the beginning of the siege, and an account of him dead by a cannon on the church, and two accounts of him dead by a cannon on the north wall. Crockett was either seen dead outside the Alamo church or found alive inside, or found dead outside the fort, or alive in the ruins of a jacale outside the fort. While it is currently in vogue to consider Crockett alive at the end of the fight because of the multiple accounts of his living, the multiple accounts disagree to widely as to make them completely unreliable. The famous account of Crockett being taken before Santa Anna actually matches another story of a soldier who lived at the Alamo, and that story existed long before the Crockett story made it's debut. In fact, the only record of the Crockett and Santa Anna story has been completely discredited to all but the most fervent believers. Bowie was found in his sick bed and likely killed one or more Mexican soldiers before being killed, but that's as far as fact goes.
And speaking of fact, there is a major issue that you may be familiar with if you study history much. While the Alamo siege more-or-less happened the way we all remember, it wasn't quite as simple as that. There are several accounts from both sides of the battle that say the siege lasted for ten days, not thirteen. There are multiple accounts of a three-day truce that occurred after either seven days of siege or ten. The two sides constantly exchanged messages discussing terms of surrender, including one immediately prior to the fighting, after Santa Anna's final council. For skeptics, there is a famous account of Travis's speech before the men. Well-written and performed, dramatic, and clearly borrowing elements from, as I mentioned, an earlier moment provided by Ben Milam. And yet...there are multiple accounts of the speech and the line-in-the-sand. And they aren't all derivative, either. There is at least one account that claims the church still had some part of the bell towers, although most historical accounts claim the towers were never built.
Incidentally, here's a page discussing the first-person accounts of the Alamo siege. Sadly, there is really no way to know every last detail of what happened. The single biggest question I have in reading the account of the final battle, is why were the Texians not expecting the attack on March 6th? The Alamo garrison could have actually held of the Mexican troops much longer had they been prepared. There are multiple accounts of only two of the twenty-two cannon in the Alamo being fired before the wall were overrun. However, that could be explained by an inability to depress the cannon to fire near the walls, and the Mexican army made it past the maximum depression range before the defenders were aware. Still, it is clear, in my opinion, that the Alamo defenders did not expect an attack at the time it came. Considering the accounts of last minute negotiations, and considering they were under truce, AND considering that the following year Santa Anna published a pamphlet defending his decision to attack when and how he did based on a previously unreported offer of surrender (that contradicted every other offer of surrender he had made in this campaign) that the Texians rejected with promises to attack the Mexican forces...
...well, we don't know all of the answers. I'll leave it up to you to make up your own mind.
Friday, March 6. 2015 | Comments (0)
Santa Anna issues his attack orders: Two columns attacking the weak north wall (a well-known weakness; Mexican troops had used the Alamo as a fortification many times), a column attacking the cattle pens from the east, and an attack from the south into the dirt barricade between the Alamo church and the main entrance (the station defended by Crockett and the Tennessee volunteers, which lends credence to the reports of Crockett being seen dead on the ground near the entrance to the courtyard of the church, which would have been in route to the fallback position from the barricade.) In addition, a fourth column was to circle the compound and be prepared to cut off escape or re-enforce.
Travis receives word that the Texian re-enforcements from Goliad turned back, and the re-enforcements from Gonzales aren't coming. Knowing that this means almost certain defeat, Travis grants permission for any man to leave. This moment is often amalgamated with an earlier pep-talk from Ben Milam, who was most likely the source of the "line in the sand" speech we're all familiar with. Milam was the man most directly responsible for driving the Mexican forces out of Bexar and the Alamo in December 1835. He was killed by a Mexican sniper at the Veramendi House in the center of town; the home of James Bowie's in-laws.
Thursday, March 5. 2015 | Comments (0)
While much has been made of Santa Anna's decision to take no prisoners from the battle, our narrow historical focus on the battle at the Alamo tends to ignore the fact that Santa Anna's entire campaign across the Northern Mexican territories has been one of extreme violence. The point, as he elaborated on (briefly) at the time, was to make an example of the rebels in the north. Bizarrely, a primary reason for this excess was Santa Anna's justifiable fear of U.S. interference. He apparently believed that a campaign of terror waged across the northern end of Mexico would suppress the Mexican colonists who lived there and frighten off any attempts by America to invade or annex.
Wednesday, March 4. 2015 | Comments (0)
This is probably the single most decisive day of the siege. The Alamo defenders receive sixty more reinforcements, and a message that 600 more are on the way. Men and supplies from Gonzales will take several days to reach Bexar, especially if they haven't actually left yet. Of course, as best as anyone can tell, Travis is still expecting 200 - 300 men from Goliad at any moment. Unfortunately, on this day Santa Anna receives his own reinforcements, bringing his troop total to around 1500 at the most conservative estimate to around 5000 at the most expansive. Most accounts put the Mexican presence at between 2000 and 3000 men. The biggest factors in arguing the troop size tend to rely on conventional wisdom regarding sieges and what information Santa Anna had, as there is no reliable account of either side's number.
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