leynos: (Default)
So caught up in the joy of discovering a working Cygwin installation hidden deep within the depths of the Windows XP machines at work, that I kind of forgot that most people haven't a clue as to the significance of this find. "Unix? What, you mean like the people with no testicles?"


Kendo and Friday Night Politics

Anyway, since Anime Soc is done and dusted for this academic year, I can move my kendo class to a Tuesday, which means I once again have my Fridays to myself again. w00t. This Friday is the last Tokyoblu at the Venue. The reason being that the Venue is closing down. Since Tokyoblu was the first club night I went to, I feel that I owe it to them to help give the Venue a good send off.

As for the kendo, it's going as well as can be expected. I've missed about four weeks due to a combination of fear and laziness. Returning after the break went surprisingly smoothly. I found to my amusement that I could remember the names of the nine kihon-waza, but I couldn't for the life of me recall what any of them did. Never mind.

After a very rigorous warm up, the sensei took as through a variety of shinai exercises in slow motion. This afforded a good deal of opportunity to concentrate on footwork and posture. The slower pace also helped me in getting back into the swing of things.

Big Eyes Small Mouth

The first night of Stephen's BESM game happened today. The entire time was, as promised, spent on character generation. Quite an elabourate process. I now have an ingame persona that I'm happy with.

BESM is a roleplaying system designed to facilitate anime themed games. It places emphasis on roleplaying over combat (allegedly), and uses a much simpler system of attributes compared with D20. It pretty much boils down to Mind, Body and Soul. (Sounds a bit like kendo.) The game in question will begin in a heavily mythicized golden-age Japan, bordered on three sides by the beast folk, spirit folk and the dragon blooded.

In our party, there is conveniently one of each. Kunshu from AASoc is playing the spirit being. I haven't met the other two before, but they seem like fun blokes. All four wield elemental swords (think Cloud in FF7 for an idea of scale), fashioned by the human emperor as symbols of the truce binding the four races.

My character is a human samurai whose scarred face belies a dedication to spirituality and scholarship. Although loyal to his clan and emperor, a troubled past may well come back to haunt him as the game progresses.

I'm a little curious about what I've gotten myself into, as by accounts, past games with this lot have involved among other things spontaneous gender change, lesbian seduction and cute school girls going through goth phases (whatever that might entail). It certainly won't be boring anyway.
leynos: (Default)
Another thought that struck me about the kendo class on Friday is that I now feel a lot more inclined to learn than I used to. This is mainly on account of meeting people in the dojo whom I have had actual conversations with both about kendo and other interests. Before, the people I have spoken to were mostly being polite, making conversation to fill in time, or didn't want to talk at all. Essentially, I felt like I was on a different wavelength from everyone else there. This left me with a sense that I was alone–although part of the class and being taught with everyone else, I didn't really feel included, and so had less of an incentive to pursue the lessons.

It's also interesting to note that the new kihon-waza drills are just that. The All Japan Kendo Federation only officially adopted them in 2005. It is most likely for that reason that the teaching methods concerning these drills have slowly been improving since last year as the sensei and sempai discover how best to integrate them into training. I never thought about this before, but this could actually be considered a fairly radical change in something that has been around for several hundred years.

Bokuto ni yoru kihon-waza keiko-ho mnemonic:


Portrait Gallery

[livejournal.com profile] galaxy_girl00 is right, the entrance to the gallery from Queens Street is indeed an impressive sight.

As I've said before, portraits aren't really my thing, but as I've also said, my last experience with the Edinburgh galleries happened a long time ago, and my perception of the world has changed a lot in that time. For the most part, I did enjoy the visit.

To decide what I was going to get out of the gallery, I had to ask myself what portraits are for. They are glimpses into the past, albeit through a heavy filter of perception. An opportunity to look eye-to-eye with someone significant and often long dead, through the eyes of another. A portrait, done properly, speaks volumes about the person depicted, the way that person perceives themselves and the way that person is viewed by the artist and the world at large.

There is no matter of fact recording of events. Certainly, the way in which the subject is posed and dressed, the items they choose to associate with are all elements from the real world brought into the image, however even these can be artifacts of the creative process, especially in the case of posthumous depictions. In one example, a painting of a Labour MP from the 1920s, whose image I found noble and haunting, the Glasgow canal in the background was an addition requested by the artist to honour his close association with the area.

I found that I enjoyed the 20th century portraits the most, in part because of the freer experimentation with styles and materials. I felt that the greatest significance of this section was the way in which it offered an alternative view of a familiar world in an era so dominated by the rigidity of photographic depiction of life. It is the people that make this world, and the recording of one person purely through the labour of another offers an insight into those people in a way that neither the camera nor the written word can achieve.

The Victorian gallery could be viewed similarly. It told a lot of the era, and the heroes of that time. Of the rise of the savant class, and of the role played by royalty and empire. It's dangerous to view the gallery as a crystalline historical documentation, but as a window into the past, specifically the minds of a people past, it is an invaluable experience.

It was in this light that I viewed the Scottish history gallery. Placed in chronological order, the paintings here depict significant figures in the period of Scottish history from the battle for independence through to the Act of Union. The greatest impression I got from this was of an age of utmost reverence. Portraits here serve the subject above all else, as an instrument of vanity and propaganda. While this will always be true, in this age of our history more than any since, the paintings served as weapons in a war of opinion.

It is perhaps because of this that I enjoyed this section least. Of course, it is important history that is depicted, but here more than anywhere else in the gallery, the subject will be most guarding of their flaws and most eager to project an image as above themselves as they could. Consequently, there is little room for artistry that does not serve this goal and little variance in style over what is a significant period of time.

I have to add, lunch in the gallery cafe was fantastic. I may well have to visit again if I'm in the area around noon.


I showed up at the Wellington Statue at two pm. No sign of the PSC stall anywhere. After ten minutes of waiting, I received a phonecall from a friend who needed help finding the roleplaying shop from where I got my funny dice. This being preferable to standing around doing nothing, I helped him out.

That task done, I headed to the cinema where I watched Inside Man.

Inside Man

There is a rare breed of film that sets out to be purely entertaining, where the filmmakers believe in this goal, leave their baggage at the door and accomplish the task in a way that leaves the audience feeling satisfied and not in the least bit guilty that they enjoyed themselves. No prizes for guessing that Inside Man is one of these films. Gerwitz intricate plotting and Lee's flawless timing and oversight put all the right elements in place for what unfolds.

Cinematic slight of hand is the order of the day, as pages in the story turn revealing just enough clues to let us guess at what will transpire without being certain that our answer will be correct. Inside Man wants us to guess, and the cast of players in its bank heist tale play along with us. The trio of commanding screen presences, each charismatic and likable in their own way do battle through wit and guile. It's impressive that such such suspense and intrigue is created in a structure with no real bad guy.

Denzel Washington as the detective, who works with the audience to delve behind what at first seems like a straight forward hostage situation, is the one who we spend most of our time cheering for. But it's hard not to find admiration for Clive Owen's bank robber who executes the perfect crime with icy calm and steady nerve. Our admiration only grows as the full extent of his planning becomes apparent. Even the sly fixer, played with impeccable suave by Foster, who at first seems like our enemy, eventually comes to earn our respect. As she wisely informs the detective, she didn't get where she did by making enemies.

It's entertainment, not high art, but as entertainment the film sits among a small vanguard of similar recent titles that have provided us with an evening of entertainment that we didn't feel the need to question. This is a film that believes in itself and delivers accordingly.


For tea, I made myself a stirfry of tehina and broccoli, according to a recipe I found on E2. The last time I tried this, it didn't turn out quite right, but for whatever reason, it tasted delicious this time round. I may well be ready to subject others to this particular piece of culinary experimentation. This was followed by cheese and oatcakes, which I will have to do more often, and plenty of whisky. (Freshly opened bottles of Macallen 10 and Highland Park 12.) Not a bad evening in.


Not a lot happened today by contrast. Chris and I went to GEAS at two, but none of the games happened to be running. Most likely, I think, on account of the current exam season at the University. I introduced Chris to the curries served at the Mosque's kitchen, and we had a good wonder around the city, stopping off at Games Workshop. A bunch of emos on Cockburn Street mistook Chris's girlfriend for a private school on account of her work uniform. This resulted in plenty of laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation. At Chris's persuasion, I bought some produce from the cheesemonger on Victoria Road, which I shall save for later in the week.

To be honest, I don't mind that all we really did was wander about, because that's what the weather lent itself to today.

According to someone at work, the world ends tonight. I'll be at Neon celebrating.
leynos: (Default)
Kendo went well tonight, despite the dojo doing its best impersonation of a greenhouse.

After a rather energetic warm-up, the lesson once again took us through the nine kihon keiko-ho exercises with bokuto and then with shinai. Repetition breeds familiarity, and I am now beginning to see these drills not as a bewildering series of attacks and parries, but as the building blocks of combat, that will one day be put to use in sparring. The order of the drills is starting to ingrain itself into my mind, and next time, I hope that I won't have to think about which follows which and will instead be able to focus on the opportunities for study that they afford. I will devote some time this week to learning their correct names and ordering.

It came as something of a surprise to me that we were actually asked to strike our motodachis' tsuki (a guard covering the throat, attacked with a thrust). It all seemed quite dangerous to me. But I guess it shows that the sempais have a reasonable amount of confidence in us beginners if they're letting us do this.

The lesson also included a session of Uchikomi geiko, an exerciese where the motodachi makes a target available, which the kakarite attacks. Several openings can be offered in sequence and this exercise provides excellent opportunity to practice both recognizing attack openings, and the fundamental cut attacks that make up kendo. I did my best to let these attacks flow as intuitively as possible, whilst focusing my attention on footwork, posture and vocalization. (Kiai, the calling of attacks, is an important aspect of kendo, as it influences focus and control of breathing.)

I came away from class tonight feeling that I had learned a lot in the space of two hours. If I am to capitalize upon this fully, I must find time this week to study the kihon-waza ordering and to at least practice sword strokes and footwork in some way.


It's nearly ten years since I first read Ranma 1/2. Finally getting around to reading the second volume this week brought a lot back. I'd forgotten how bloody hilarious it is. My workmates thought I'd taken leave of my senses whilst I read it on my lunch break. Never mind love triangles. Ms Takahashi writes love tetrahedrons, and I'm sure it will only get far more complex as the series progresses. Each new character seems to have an infatuation with someone, who invariably hates them or isn't aware of their true identity. Or both. I can't wait to find out what happens next. A trip to Forbidden Planet may be in order.

Wuddaya mean you don't know what Ranma 1/2 is? Okay. Ranma Saotome and his father travelled to China to train in kung fu at the Training Ground of the Accursed Springs. Whilst there, they fell into a couple of said springs. Now, whenever Ranma is doused in cold water, he changes sex. Hot water changes him back again. Likewise for his father, except he changes into a panda. Upon returning to Japan, Ranma's father meets with his old friend Tendo of the School of Indiscriminate Grappling, who agrees that his daughter, Akane should marry Ranma. Akane isn't interested in boys, but gets on well with Ranma in his female form. Meanwhile, the upperclassman, Kuno, at Ranma's new school, who already has a thing for Akane, is smitten with the female Ranma form at first sight. Of course, Ranma and Kuno can't stand each other. Extrapolate from there.
leynos: (Default)
Kendo class on Friday went well. Unlike last week, I didn't miss the bus, but instead got there in plenty of time. Before class, a nice chap in the changing room explained how to put on my newly acquired hakama and keikogi. The trousers had shrunk nicely, but the jacket, which I hadn't washed yet, was still a little on the large side.

The lesson took more or less the same format as the previous week, I'm guessing because that this was done on account of the sensei's absence. Once again, we worked our way through the nine kihon-waza drills with bokuto, and again with shinai. I'm not complaining though, as this was a welcome opportunity to better get to grips with the techniques there-in.

Afterwards, I walked with some other students to Gorgie, and we talked about life etc. One of them told me about the farmer's market on Castle Terrace on Saturdays. This is something I will have to check out. Maybe next weekend. The prospect of ostrich burgers sounds very enticing.


I spent the rest of the evening at the flat of a friend from work, where we drank whisky and played PSP games. As expected, I got well hammered at Street Fighter Alpha 3. We also watched Assault on Precinct 13, though I wasn't really paying attention to the film for the most part. Between us, we polished off a bottle of Grouse (hey, it's cheap), washed down with a tin of snider (as Chris termed it) each.

Since it was cold and wet outside I slept on the sofa and went home the following morning. I believe I must have drunk a little too much, as I was left with a more-than-slightly upset stomach that persisted through the day.


Apr. 1st, 2006 12:34 am
leynos: (Default)
Kendo class was this evening again. I got to the bus stop in plenty of time, unlike previously. The bus pulled up, and I waited for the door to open. Then for some reason, the bus driver changed his mind and drove off. Okaaay. Good thing I planned on taking the early bus. Sadly, this left me without time to learn how to put on my new uniform, so once again, I was learning in a tracksuit.

Despite this, and my four week absence, the lesson was actually rather enjoyable. For the first hour, we ran through the nine kihon keiko-ho exercises. These are drills, carried out with solid wooden swords (bokuto), designed to familiarize students with kendo cuts and techniques, to teach them to recognise openings and to lean responses to various attacks. Since bokuto are used, no actual physical contact is made, and watching these exercises is quite baffling to newcomers. When you are actually participating in them however, you get the feeling that not only are you learning fundamental techniques, but that you are being given a deeper insight into the structure of sword fighting as studied in kendo.

This was followed by an hour of shinai (bamboo sword) exercises. Here we actually got to whack people. In addition to drills specific to shinai, we also tried out some of the kihon practices using real cuts. Kirikaeshi is an exercise that involves, among other things, repeatedly cutting ones sparring partner to the head. Again, to an observer, this looks almost comical, with one student chasing the other up the hall whilst whacking them on the head seemingly as fast as possible. It's an exercise that offers an opportunity to practice almost every aspect of kendo, and an opportunity that should be made use of in full.

Even nicer, I actually got to talk to some of the other students on the way home. Usually they all seem very unapproachable, and it is rare that I ever manage to hold any kind of conversation at kendo.


Mar. 20th, 2006 09:31 pm
leynos: (Default)
Damn colds. Why do they have to come out of nowhere when they're least desired? (Well, you might want one if you're skint and need a good excuse to stay off work and not leave the house.)

So an early night for me, I think. (With a hot toddy, natch.)

UPS finally delivered my kendo uniform today. In a touch of sneakiness, I had them deliver it at work and managed to answer the door, and sign for the parcel, whilst my boss's back was turned. I worry that the trousers are maybe a little long. Okay, the trousers are a little long. I'll have to hope that they'll shrink in the wash. Washing them would also get the excess dye off, of which there is a lot. My hands are blue after tying the obi around my waist.

My flatmate's boyfriend let me see the short detective film he's making. It was impressive to see what he'd achieved in so short a time, although the film still needs a fair bit of work. The story was a bit hard to follow, and it all felt a bit stilted. As a knowing pastiche of the hard boiled crime thriller, it did raise a few smiles. He's definitely got a good sense of visual design however, and I am looking forward to seeing the finished version of the other film he's directing, whose unedited scenes displayed a lot of intelligent visual storytelling.

Also last night, I watched a curious conspiracy theory film about September 11th 2001 by the name of Confronting the Evidence. I call it that, but to be fair, it tries very hard to be objective and examine the evidence without prejudice. Most of the time, the film-makers work purely in the realm of physics and structural engineering. I don't agree that the film achieves this, as it frequently slips into the realm of preconception and later even into political diatribe.

Even so, going on what is said in the film, its pretty apparent that there are gaps in the official version of the story and much that is yet to be explained. I'm not convinced of the engineering and materials arguments made in the film, as I have heard other equally persuasive arguments to the contrary, but it is hard not to feel that there are still unanswered questions.

If you have the time, I think it's worth watching even part of the film, if only to get an alternative perspective on things.


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