Blogger Recognition Award 2016

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I’ve never done one of these award things before, for several reasons. One is simple laziness. You have to do some legwork to make these things work, and if there’s one thing I am, it’s irredeemably lazy. (Grammar!) They also seem to be little more than contemporary outgrowths of the same Internet self-gratifcation that’s been around since the Geocities days, when we’d all put fancy Java applets in the center of a blank white or black page, and maybe a huge block of neon text where we talk about how much we love anime or whatever.  (Everybody did this, right?)

But actually, now that I think about it, those Geocities days were great. If you never did have a Geocities or Angelfire homepage, if you never tinkered with basic HTML to get those ganked images of Tenchi Muyo! or whatever looking just right, if you never joined eighteen different webrings even though you didn’t really understand what a webring was except that it made you feel vaguely communal, then maybe you can’t relate. But I did all of those things, and it was a fun, unregulated time to be alive.

Anyway, now that I’ve been nominated for not one, but two of these things, I feel that in the interest of Internet friendness and social media properhood I should actually participate in one of them. So here it is!

Here’s how it works (I copied these directly from my the nomination, which I think is how it’s supposed to go):

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Attach the award to the post.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers.
  5. Select 5 other bloggers you want to give the award to.

Seems easy enough, though as I write this I’m sure I’ll end up obsessing over this for three hours and then wondering why I didn’t get any actual work done today. No matter, onward.

1. Thanks to the Well-Red Mage for the nomination, who by all accounts is a stand-up gentleman with excellent taste in pixel art.

2. Uh, there it is, up there.

3. I think initially this was just a Livejournal-esque rant space where I’d occasionally, er, rant. One or two of my friends also had WordPress blogs and it was also a way for us to inconsistently keep up to date on what the others were up to, but mostly it was a self-indulgent rant-fest. Gradually it morphed into a place for me to rant more specifically about media I liked. I decided in the summer of 2012 that I’d be limiting the blog to reviews (though I’d already been doing them for some time before that.) I’d returned to the US from dissertation research in Ireland shortly before that and I guess I was looking for some non-academic distraction. My love affair with the Mass Effect series had just ended with the third game, and I had a lot to say about that.

That summer I was staying in Miami, and found myself again in need of distraction. For whatever reason I also rather abruptly decided that the blog’s theme would now be horror, which naturally focused mostly on my real area of interest, the supernatural. I did a review of a Thai film called Phobia 2, and for whatever reason that post is the one I regard as the first proper review as part of the blog’s emerging focus on horror and the supernatural. (It might be more accurate to see the following post as the official start of the blog in its current form, though.) Games remained a part of my focus, too, as a few posts later I was talking about Final Fantasy VII again, and then The Last of Us.

Because I still don't think this gets enough love. Or recognition for being terrifying.

Because I still don’t think this gets enough love. Or recognition for being terrifying.

Horror had long been a great love of mine, and in particular it was a good area for me to explore my related love of the supernatural. I have a fairly broad definition of horror, though, and I’ve always been interested in pop culture approaches to supernatural stuff, from consumer kitsch like LEGO to survival horror games, so all of that has a place on the blog too. I’ve also tried to incorporate some academic stuff, with posts dedicated to various topics from the field of folkloristics, to try and bridge the gap between my dumb life as a grad student and the far more important stuff everyone else is doing. All of this has been central to the blog’s theme for these past four years, and I think I’m happy with this orientation, so I don’t expect it to change again.

4. I’m a notoriously bad social media person, and clearly not a very savvy blogger, so I don’t know that advice is really something I can offer. I haven’t been too concerned with increasing traffic (though I admit I’ve very much enjoyed the odd occasion when visits have spiked), and this post should reveal how good I am about participating in the blogging community. (I.e., not good at all). But in the interest of playing along, I’ll say that my own strategy has been to write for myself first. This may not create a “product” that others find interesting (though certainly it could, and hopefully it will if you play your cards right), but if you can take pleasure in it, if it can help you understand your own thoughts about something, then it’s worthwhile. Knowing that your writing will have some audience, whether large or small, contstrains your work to a certain degree, forces you to think even more carefully about what you say, and that can be a good thing. And of course, though it’s a terrible cliché, if you’re really into your writing, if you can communicate some of your interest to your readers, then the whole exercise really becomes meaningful.

5. Nominees for the Blogger Recognition Award:

So that’s that. I’m not certain if this was of interest to anybody or not, but it was a fun exercise. Thanks again to WRM for the nod.  If you’re not on my linked list of nominees but still want to play along, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, or post them on your own blog and I’ll link to them.

Halloween Meltdown ’16: Obon Edition

This week was Obon, a major holiday which is a sort of festival of the dead (though that’s undoubtedly an oversimplification). We visited Nara for the festivities, which unfortunately were rather less festive than we’d expected. There’s normally a matsuri, or festival, accompanying the more ritualistic parts of the celebration, but apparently Nara has split the matsuri and the main ritual components across two days. We went to Nara Park on August 15th, which meant we could see the ritual, but missed the fun and street food of the matsuri.

Still, Nara’s a wonderful place, and as always we did see some very cool sights.

The main event of the evening, as it were, was the Daimonji, a ritual wherein fires are lit on a mountainside that form the kanji dai, or “big.” I don’t really understand the significance of this character in this context, but this brief post from a Nara tourism website gives a little more information. Here’s a still from my crappy smartphone recording (the lights floating UFO-like above the crowd are the fires on the mountainside forming the dai character):

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It would have been nice to get the full matsuri experience. Instead I had to content myself with some mango soft-serve and sub-par kara age (fried chicken). Still, it was fun, and I always love visiting the Kansai region.

Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that Halloween stuff started appearing this past week or so, as both Obon and Halloween have to do with the spirits of the dead. We grabbed a few little pieces of kitsch at a Seria (a hundred-yen store, basically a dollar store). Because as we all know, Halloween starts in August.

The two large graphics are actually glass coasters which proclaim, in glorious Engrish, “Now it is HALLOWEEN today! I will carry out appearance of a pumpkin and will surprise everybody!” If that doesn’t get you in the spirit, nothing will.