Return of Forever

Posted on September 18th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 9:44 pm

So, earlier in the month I was down in Seattle for a fall festival. More specifically, the Aki Matsuri that was held on the Bellevue Community College Campus. It was weird being back on that campus. Their are a lot of little things I’d forgotten about. The campus isn’t actually all that big for starters, and the places where I hung out and loitered on campus were actually pretty small relative to the environment I have now at SFU. I mean, I barely believe I ever thought that getting around campus between classes was problematic, and after the 500 person lectures I’ve had for a few classes at SFU, the classrooms seem more like study spaces.

Little things have changed – the old, dying piano has been replaced with one of the electric pianos that were used as MIDI controllers in the music production program (easiest As ever for me.) I’d recalled it being a Pepsi campus (Mt. Dew Amp being a staple for getting me through classes in those days,) and it’s all Coke products now. Funny enough, the reverse brand switch just happened on the SFU campus.

Still, the places where I made some of my longest lasting friends are all still there. The student center building, aptly nick named “the fishbowl” for it’s semi-circular floor-to-ceiling windowed front. The classrooms where I’d watch anime that are now going out of print. The bus stop where I’d disembark half awake with a venti mocha in my hand and a chocolate croissant or slice of lemon pound cake in the other. Just like the those pastries, I can’t even really get at some of those friends any more.

It was weird being back there. Brought up a lot of weird memories for me. It was a great time, and to be ungrateful in anyway would be denying the privilege inherent in being able to take 4 years to get a 2 year degree, in taking summers off (though it benefited the family to have a “free” babysitter,) in being able to going to the anime store every Friday and have 50 different manga and anime series on pre-order. I worked a mediocre retail job a couple of those years too, but on the whole, I was lucky to get the chance to work out what I wanted to do in what was probably a much lower pressure environment that if I’d been paying triple the amount per semester for classes, and living on campus in another city. As this blog entry itself is a slight testament too, I am a bit of a neurotic guy, and I think in a more intense situation, something would’ve been left by the wayside. What that would be besides the friendships made by being in that place and time, I’m not sure.

Like I said, it was weird being back there. It feels good to say that here somehow.

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California (Side B: Los Angeles)

Posted on July 5th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 12:35 am

As if attending Google IO 2012 wasn’t enough, the shift in its schedule from years past put it right next to Anime Expo 2012. When I went to book the trip, I figured I might as well get a long overdue dose of the biggest anime convention in North America. So, right as IO wrapped up, I trundled down to the Greyhound depot, and hopped on a bus headed to LA. I ended up seated next to April Vance, a BET staffer heading to their awards show. She was quite sweet, and she has a rad charity that aims to help foster children make it to college. Anyways, it was nice to actually be able to converse with a good person on the trip down, as it was quite a long trip by bus, mediocre WiFi aside. It was nice to have a perspective check too. As crazy as my week and weekend were and were going to be, it wasn’t going to be partying with Tyga or Drake crazy.

The bus finally pulled into LA at about 1 am, but thankfully, the hotel where I was to stay was a very short drive away. The digs were definitely classier than San Francisco, and it was nice to not be alone. After a nice sleep, it was time to head down and pick up my badge. Of course, it would figure I couldn’t take the shuttle between the con and the hotel without the badge, so the first day I just payed for another taxi down. It was then I realized the hotel and con were not that far from the same wholesale neighborhood my friend Masood had taken me through years ago when I first visited LA. It was a welcome dose of the familiar, even though I wouldn’t get time to explore the area on this trip.

Anyway, I finally arrived. After grabbing a free energy drink from one of the many energy drink promo trucks near the convention center (by the way, the X-Games was going on next door to the convention center,) my friends split off to various cosplay gatherings, and I snagged my press badge. Since I didn’t have a panel to immediately get to (speaking of panels, here’s my con coverage,) I ran to the dealers room to get the one item I knew I wanted and that I’d hoped would be there, the limited run Katawa Shoujo artbook. I had to get directions from another attendee to find the unassuming table in the artist alley, but once I had, I found that the book was still in stock. I proactively withheld from buying two, though I made sure to give the artist manning the table a business card with a download code. I owed them that much as I had found the game to be unexpectedly touching. Maybe once I finish music production commitments, I can finally 100% the game.

After that, I would manage to catch the panels I was supposed to hit, even if at point I would get turned around in the convention center and end up at places like the Homestuck cosplay gathering, which was so large it could probably be a con in itself. I’ve never actually read/played any of the MSPaint Adventures, but that display certainly has me curious, since it had the cosplay draw similar if not greater than mainstream anime like Naruto or One Piece have had at their peaks.

Later on, I managed to catch up with an old friend of mine from ToonZone, Corey Barnes. He went from being a forum mod and writer for us to being a successful animator whose worked titles including Archer, China, Il and SuperJail. I hadn’t seen him since 2008, and it was great to catch up with him. He had a number of great stories about working in animation and how a lot of these shows operate. Though, I’m a responsible guy and can’t relate the crazier bits. It does get crazy though.

It was great to hang with him though. For starters, he drove me back to hotel every night and down to the airport. Having a driver in LA who is used to that traffic might as well be like having a guardian angel. Everything is easier. Plus, it means if there is any place they think would be cool to see in LA, like a restaurant, well, you get to see it. It’s rad. Secondly, it was cool to see a creative and bright individual like him actually get work. Back in the ToonZone days, he’d have little animated projects and webcomics, and it was cool to see a peer turn that into a career. Of course, most importantly, he’s just a funny dude to hang out with. Plus, hanging with him meant going to Anime Expo’s Last Comic Standing events, and while I’d always been curious about those kind of panels at cons, I’d always ditched them for hanging with friends. This time, there was no trade off.

I also managed to catch up with my old friend Ben Applegate, who is another ToonZone success story. He’s gone from being a cool friend who got me my mod and reporting positions at ToonZone, to being a manga business wunderkind doing Kickstarters to translate classic manga from Osamu Tezuka. He was quite busy at his booth, and it only occurred to me way after I’d committed to splitting a hotel that I probably could’ve stayed with him, but still, it was great to see him if only for 20 minutes. I hope he can keep at these Kickstarters in the future. It may be how most niche manga are licensed and released in future.

The con as a whole was a bit weird though. I didn’t find much in the dealer’s room that appealed to me, but people clearly gobbling up merch. In fact, they were so aggressive that Panty And Stocking boxset (one of the few things I wanted besides the KS artbook,) was sold out before I even made to the con. It was the first time in a long time I left with a relatively robust wallet, that was kind of a downer. Meanwhile, I loved the news coming out of the con – the anime industry seems to be in much better health that it was after the crash, and while it’s not the zany excess of 2007, that may be healthy. Don’t get it wrong, I loved those days; it was a lot of fun coming home with a suitcase full of DVDs I received just for asking good questions at panels. However, it nice to see that the huge cons are still full of fans, and that more people keep coming into the medium.

In fact, I expect to see the US otaku population to continue to rise. On the flight back, I ended up seated across the aisle from another person who had attended the con, so we chatted a bit. On the way out of the terminal down to baggage claim, the chat continued, and this person happened to let slip that her first anime was Gundam Wing, which saw on Toonami at age 8. I was 17 when Wing aired on Toonami, so this was a little bit of perspective I’d forgotten. Namely, while the industry has changed, the seeds that were sewn during the boom era are still flowering into devoted, creative fans. Not everyone bailed when the anime bust came, and for a number of teens and young adults, it’s clear anime has just been part of the background of their lives. I’ll bet some of them end up on working animated series or manga translation just like people in my generation, and in turn they’ll inspire future generations.

It’s weird, but the California trip ultimately feels like it was about the future. Google IO was about the physical details, especially with the Google Glass announcements. Anime Expo was the human factor, and it was more cyclical than purely progressive. Yeah, we may live in an amazing future with amazing portable computers in our pockets connected to the greatest knowledge repository our species has ever known, but for now at least, that doesn’t mean there aren’t passionate nerds sewing up cool outfits and flying out to distant cities just to share them with people who are strangers by name yet not by culture. There is something wonderful about that all, and I needed to see that again.

I’m back in Vancouver now, and supposedly the weather this week will pick up and match what I had in LA and San Francisco. However, it’s clear it wasn’t just a dose of sun I needed, but rather perspective as well. I’ve got that now, and I intend to use that energy. I have brilliant albums to finish with my friends, I have a degree to wrap up, and there are “endless possibilities stretched out before [me].” No complaints anymore, because I how dare I waste the time on it takes to make them.

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California (Side A: San Francisco)

Posted on June 29th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 5:16 pm

Since I’m taking a relaxing little 8 hour or so bus ride down to Los Angeles, I figure I can take little break and write something that for myself rather than something for Bilateral Warp or toonzone.

So, I lucked out and managed to score a pass to Google IO 2012. Thus, after a drive, a plane trip and a BART ride, I arrived in San Francisco, vastly too early to check into my hotel, yet late for the free breakfast Google provided all of the attendees present (the first of many free meals and free goods Google would provide.) Still, in terms of the stuff you’re supposed to be coming to IO for, namely informational panels, new product announcements and networking with other developers and tech enthusiasts, I have to say I’m just as pleased with IO 2012 as I was with IO 2009. There wasn’t as much in the way of live coding demonstations, but the information was quite useful. Those panels also made me realize just how much I’ve picked up from the classes I’ve been taking at Simon Frasier University. I’ve retained a lot more than I’d thought. The other attendees were quite cool as well; I had a lot of vigorous and fun discussion about all the new stuff Google dropped at the con. In fact, one of the discussions was so lively that it caught the attentions of a staff writer for the BBC. I don’t think anything will come of it immediately, but she did ask for my business card and contact information. Those discussions and panels were very exciting, and have renewed my passion for development. I can’t wait to wrap up school, and start making cool stuff.

Of course, while the previously mentioned elements are easily worthwhile themselves, Google always puts some frosting on cake by giving every attendee all sorts of tech goodies, apparel and toys. This year, they hooked everyone up with the surprisingly nice Nexus 7 Tablet, the (Made In The USA!) Nexus Q media streamer, the Nexus Galaxy cellphone and a Samsung Chromebox computer. Yes, they basically gave everyone four computers (all be it in very different form factors.) On top of that, I netted a couple Google shirts, some cute Android and Google lapel pins and even an Android Rubix Cube. It’s a silly amount of swag. I’ve already started to use the phone as my new Canadian cell phone, and I’ve already played around with the tablet. I can’t wait to dig into what the Nexus Q and Chromebox can do, but those will have to wait for a monitor or TV screen with HDMI inputs, and some WiFi. I’d write a whole bunch more here, but I have full review of the Nexus 7 coming over at Bilateral Warp.

I also managed to take break from the conference and poke around the city a little. Specifically, I took a bus up to San Francisco’s Japanese neighborhood, and paid my first visit the Baby, the Stars Shine Bright boutique. The second I entered, I was immediately thankful the staff was already busy helping another customer as I was absolutely at a loss for words. I had never seen so much Gothic and Sweet Lolita fashion in one spot, and it was really quite breathtaking. I know that at a technical level, houte couture from top line brands is made from fancier materials and with more delicate and intricate work sometimes, but seeing all of those outfits was something otherworldly. It was like I’d stepped into the film Kamikaze Girls, perhaps in part because I sort of had. Thankfully, I regained my sense by the time all was said and done, and between a quick call to Nursehella to take an order from her and the helpful staff at the store, I walked out of there with a lovely mint green, red riding hood-patterned skirt for Nursehella. If I hadn’t gotten a thing from IO, I think that store would’ve made the trip. I may be a tech geek by trade, but I am and always be a sucker for niche Japanese fashion.

However, like the title and intro says, this is part one of the journey. The next part will be my adventures at Anime Expo 2012 in Los Angeles. Considering this is my first time down there since 2007, it’ll be interesting to see what’s changed in 5 years. I already expect to a see a lot of companies missing, but I expect to see some new faces too. Good times.

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Play On On Play

Posted on June 16th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 8:27 pm

Animatic is now up Google Play Music. Of course, that’s US only, so international people would still served best by Bandcamp. I am also working on some powershell scripts to try automate uploading my back catalog to different services, but school and finishing production on Rai Kamishiro’s and Nursehella’s respective albums have to come first.

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Oddly enough, this started as a facebook post.

Posted on June 15th, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 11:30 pm

I think I’m beginning to see that many of the friends (especially real-life contacts) that I’d most like to get an update from aren’t actually using social media regularly anymore. It’s at most the occasional photo, maybe a little blurb about catching a movie or going to a band. Rarely is there a moment of personal emotion, or at least feels like it’s been a lot less common. No talking about work (though in the NDA era this is no surprise,) no talking about relationships (perhaps to be expected as people settle down,) but even the university-aged people rarely talk about how classes are going (and I don’t see why that’d be a problem.) Everyone seems to play their cards close to their chest these days, even when that doesn’t seem necessary.

Though, maybe that’s a signal-to-noise problem.

After all, it feels like there’s been a massive increase in the amount re-shared content that I’ve usually already seen repeatedly. In a sense, re-shared content plays a role in face to face human interaction, but that interaction re-contextualizes and personalizes the information itself. It is also by default a conversation, and thus less likely to hit the mental filter of “saw that; can’t be bothered to comment further on it.” In a sense, you can’t have seen it, because it was already changed by the fact it was brought up in a conversation.

This leave all leaves me wondering how “social” social media is. If the future of Facebook is memes, old news stories, and self-promotion all relayed such that it doesn’t spur interaction, it’s going to go the way of MySpace. Facebook had a vitality because of new avenues of conversation, but conversation needs some personality to get started, and for the most part, wholesale re-shared content lacks personality. That’s not to say I’m not guilty of exploiting memes and internet pop culture myself, but in that sense, I exploit that information – I re-contextualized it when I put it in a song or a photo. It’s not just re-shared, it’s remixed.

However, I think a solution would be to have a means to block re-shared material from certain pages. This way, you could see the information shared that has personality, but stuff from content aggregators that only exists to be regurgitated could be filtered out, making the entire experience more personal. If part of the success of social media is the fact that it lets people connect in a fashion previously impractical (a broader range of people, a greater amount of transparency,) why have the artificial impracticality of a lack of fine filtering? In real life, you can take in the information from people you’d like to have, and ignore the topics on which you don’t share. More importantly, the topics you don’t care about don’t drown the information you do care about. Hyper re-sharing on Facebook breaks that real life consideration, and in this case, that change subverts the functionality and usefulness of the service. If you have to spend an hour on Facebook just to get at interesting content, you’ll stop spending time on it entirely.

That said, I’ve written this post while my site’s twitter bar is displaying a tweet I made about a news article I read on another site. Even after recognizing why social media is sometimes dysfunctional, it takes effort to not be that guy linking to stuff he read online. On that note, I relayed that news in own my words, trying at least to put my own character into the content, and that may be the difference.

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Purchases & Downloads & People You Should Know

Posted on May 28th, 2012

Filed under: General,Music News — Karl Olson @ 12:22 pm

The webstore is back up. It’s still not pretty, but for the first time ever, I can offer international shipping. It is, in the words of Mr. Dink, “very expensive”, but it’s there. For those who don’t buy things, have a fresh mediafire upload of Animatic at the store as well. My friends said I should’ve made the free version .wma files, but I am not a sadist.

Meanwhile, I want to take a moment to recommend two releases by two artists who I think any fan of mine would almost certainly enjoy. In fact, both are at least two orders of magnitude more popular than me anyway, so I really hope my half-dozen regular readers already copped these releases and know these people. Let’s not leave anything to chance though:

Richie Branson – Otaku Tuesdays v.1: Richie is a dope mc and a producer, and he is self-proclaimed King of Otaku Rap. Normally, I’m not sold on boasts like that, but much like YT Cracker’s self-proclaimed crown, it’s 100% legit. He sticks to themes, while not sacrificing delivery and production. Every track covers a seminal piece of anime, yet it never feels impersonal nor like simple summary – he makes each track count. For any friend you can’t get into HipHop, Richie is probably the best gateway artist since Random, and like Ran, his style makes him a great Nerdcore artist to relay to Hip-hop-obsessed friends. He and I are currently working on a collab centered around The Big O, and really, I just hope I manage to keep pace. You should check him out.

Adam WarRock – NeoTokyo: Speaking of sticking to themes, Adam WarRock knocks it out of the park with his new Akira-themed release, NeoTokyo. Adam’s an amazing MC as well, and it’s definitely on display here. He definitely captures the story and setting of Akira, and DecepticoN punches in with fitting and clean production. The impressive part is that this is basically the average for WarRock; he’s been knocking it out of the park like this for a while now, and previous works touch on anime as well; for example, he samples Evangelion on his track “Human” off his second album, “You Dare Call That Thing Human​?​!​?” and the usage was dead on. All this culminates in a similar refrain on my part: if you’re not following Adam WarRock, you should be.

All in all, otaku-centric Nerdcore was never something I could ever really lay sole claim to anyway, but these days, I really think anyone into me should be aware of artists working with the same themes. You’re missing out on too much otherwise.

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Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop

Posted on April 3rd, 2012

Filed under: General,Music News — Karl Olson @ 1:36 pm

So, the lovely dose of early-00s cartoon nostalgia this past weekend was followed today by the lovely luck of getting a whole bunch of clothes for $3 dollars an item. After taxes I was only in it for about 20 bucks for 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of cargo pants and 2 new sweaters. Honestly, I’ve hit so much in the way of clothing deals in the past few years I really didn’t anything I picked up, but when you’re talking 3 bucks for any new item of clothing, it’s worth it if it fits. Of course, my neurotic side is just waiting for things to de-laminate and implode as often seems to be the case for me.

If this convention-loaded weekend goes swimmingly, I can only assume I’m going to be completely gutted by my finals, or my fans decide my new album is a national tragedy and generally awful.

Though, I am having a lot of trouble writing my final paper.

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What Is Thy Desire

Posted on April 2nd, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 12:35 pm

I think this post with out question gives me posts to fulfill that blogging requirement I mentioned long ago in January.

After my massive and fully unplanned for Toonami binge, all of the little catchphrases and quotes that probably shaped all too much of my late teenage years and my early twenties echoed around my head. Outlaw Star was particularly loaded with those quotes, such as the one I used in the title. It’s valid question. It’s still one that 12 years later I don’t have a perfect answer to, as evidence by all the rambling in this blog.

All I know is that this week, “it’s showtime!” as they would say on The Big O. I have a lot to knock off the plate this week, so that last moment of maximum, top-notch relaxation by watching some classics from my youth was more than welcome. It was inspiring too. I don’t know what I want, but I know what I must do.

“No one’s gonna give you a map, you’ve got to walk your own path.” – Hilda, Outlaw Star

And walk it I shall.

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April Fools Love Letter

Posted on April 1st, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 1:52 am

In the July of 2000, my life’s course was irrevocably altered. After having seen a simply epic TV promo for an anime (Japanese cartoon,) named Tenchi Muyo, I absolutely had to watch it. So, on that July day, I flipped the channel to Cartoon Network, and watched the show. At first, I was just as unimpressed as I was with the other anime shows, but ultimately I did really fall for the show. By the next summer, I had started to collect anime series on DVD, and two summers after that, I attended my first anime convention. All of this was thanks to a little anime block on Cartoon Network by the name of Toonami and the fact they aired Tenchi. So much of my life as it is now is directly tied to that interest. I probably wouldn’t even be going to university in Canada if not for anime, as it was friends in that community that got me to go to SFU for Anime Evolution back in the day.

So, when Cartoon Network decided to use the Toonami packaging as an April Fool’s gag. I have to say, I was overwhelmed. It’s been over a decade since that fateful day, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t at all be the man I am today without that. It’s weird to think about that.

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And now for something completely different…

Posted on March 23rd, 2012

Filed under: General — Karl Olson @ 8:15 pm

1. I bet I have totally made that reference before. I am a terribly unoriginal dude.

2. Something different. Namely, spring is beginning to break. Truthfully, that’s technically as timed, but it’s so wintery so late this past year and the year prior, it’s really lovely to have some sun. I could really use some sunshine on the regular after months of multi-layer cloud sheets that even left mid day looking muted and gross. I think I want to try be more social next semester. I really hope I can swing Google IO/Anime Expo, though, I know that’s a long shot. More practically, I hope the weather stays nice so I walk to the local mall more often, and so I feel more inclined to pop out in the evenings and hang out with my various SFU social groups.

Well, my two SFU social groups. As is my style apparently, I have two different friend groups again. The Computer Science Student Society (CCCS) and The Altered Reality Club (ARC.) There is some overlap between. Where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, Genki Society at BCC and Anime Kingdom. At least I think I can probably dodge any drama when I see it. Maybe. For now, I’ll take it as it comes I guess.

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