New Ear Gear

At work I was recently relocated from a cubicle in the wide-open, communal area to a corner office that I share with two other people. The noisy, high-traffic nature of the corporate cube-farm was very conducive to the use of PC speakers for listening to music since it really never bothered anyone. This is not so for the quiet surroundings of my new office where music played over speakers, even at a low volume, would be bothersome to my office-mates.

In order to keep on listening to my tunes at work, I decided that I needed some new headphones. I knew that I wanted some phones that wouldn't mess up my hair, but also ones that I didn't have to push into my ear canals-- this meant getting a pair of street-style, or neckband headphones. After some online research I narrowed down my choice to two sets of phones: the Sennheiser PMX 100 and the Koss Porta Pro. Finally, the information I read about these two at Headroom helped me decide on the Sennheisers. I've been using my new Sennheiser PMX 100 headphones for nearly three days now and I think they're great!

The PMX 100 phones have a terrific sound, with a full, juicy bass response and crisp, clear high-frequency sound. The midrange response, honestly, is not exactly weak, but, understandably, isn't nearly as solid as that of my Sony V-600s or my Sennheiser HD 212 Pros either. I think this is primarily due to the physical design of the headphones, and I was able to correct this very easily with a mid-range EQ adjustment in my iTunes. What's more is that these headphones are very good at delivering sound dynamics and modulations-- for fans of electronic music, this can result in quite an adventure!

Aside from sound, wearability is also an important factor in the quality of headphones. Since this is my first pair of street-style phones, I was concerned about this when I bought them. So far, I am extremely pleased with this very lightweight and comfortable set. The circular pads cover average-sized ears perfectly. The soft, foam padding on the PMX 100s is very "cushiony" without feeling heavy like a pair of pillows. The padding also allows enough air flow to prevent that annoying condition known as sweaty ears. The over-the-ear arms that make them street-style headphones are made of semi-firm but very flexible rubber and they're softer and more comfortable than I imagined.

I really have no complaints about the sound of my new Sennheiser PMX 100s; all negative points are extremely minor and are related to their physical design. The rubber, over-the-ear arms that hold the phones in place can become slightly uncomfortable, but this is only after 2+ hours of continuous use. Additionally, the neck band, that holds the two ear-pads against the ears, tends to rest right at the base of the neck. This is perfectly fine, but sitting in a forward position can sometimes cause the base of the neck or top of the back to push the phones forward. This isn't such a big deal, really, but can sometimes contribute to over-the-ear discomfort that I feel when approaching 2 to 2.5 hours of continuous use. Taking a short break seems to take care of this perfectly.

I got my new phones for only $40 including shipping charges from TigerDirect.com, and they arrived the next day after I ordered them (nice work, Tiger!). Overall, I would highly recommend the Sennheiser PMX 100 headphones to music lovers, audiophiles and otaku of all kinds!



I want to tell you all about one of my favourite singers-- Piana! Her name is Sasaki Naoko (佐佐木直子) and she lives in Morioka. She began her career in 1999 with the band Card Skepper and later did some vocal work with electronic artist, World's End Girlfriend.

Piana released her first solo release called Snow Bird in 2003 on Cubic Music Japan, and in the U.S. on the 12K Records sub-label, Happy. 2 years later she released her second full-length solo album, Ephemeral, also on Happy. In 2007 Sasaki moved to the Japanese label, Noble, and released her third full-length, Eternal Castle. Recently Piana has been focusing on concert tours and collaboration with other artists.

She is known for her sweet, gentle voice and bittersweet, heartbreaking, contemplative lyrics. Her music is a unique combination of J-pop and underground glitch electronica with a wonderful production quality and deeply emotional melodies. I was quite taken with her voice the first time I listened to Snow Bird, and became an instant fan.

When asked about her musical influences, Piana had this to say:
I am not really inspired from other music, I woud say more from novels, poetries, or movies. Haruki Murakami is the writer I get the most influence on my music. If I hadn’t have met his works, I might not have been able to come up with my music.

Here is a lovely video of her track, なくしたもの (Something's Lost) from the album, Ephemeral.

Also from the album, Ephemeral, I am pleased to offer you this free download of "Early in Summer."

Piana's website


Kounterfeit Kotobukiya

When I arrived home yesterday I was excited to see a package waiting for me at my door! I knew from the shipping label that it was my Mirei-san figure that I had been awaiting for nearly 7 weeks. I could hardly wait to open to box!

When I got into my condo and started to open the packaging, I started getting a bit concerned-- a plain, white box?? Was this a used figure? Couldn't be-- the eBay auction I won said it was new! My concern turned into worry when I saw the cheap, styrofoam packing material inside the plain, white box. As soon as I saw inside I knew what had happened-- I had been duped. :-(

Inside the cheap, styrofoam packing was not Mirei-san but a *very* poorly-crafted counterfeit rip-off. Needless to say I was very disappointed and starting to feel angry. I was preparing to write a nasty, flame-job email to the eBay seller who "ripped me off." That was, of course, until I discovered something. The auction I won had very cleverly drawn me in with a description of the "Art of Shunya Yamashita Mirei-san," but never ONCE used the keyword, "Kotobukiya." The auction never mentioned the name of the manufacturer at all because of course it is NOT Kotobukiya but a very cheap imitation made by a rip-off artist in China.
Indeed, I had received exactly what I purchased, It was, in the end, my own fault for not examining the auction carefully. eBayers beware!! The Seller to watch out for is "qpick-tradezone." They specialise in these cheap, Chinese imitations and that explains why their prices are so damn good. I should have learned by now that if something seems to good to be true, that's because it is. Now I'm back on my quest for the real Mirei-san. The REAL Art of Shunya Yamashita expertly crafted and designed by Kotobukiya.


I cannot get enough of the Tactical Espionage Action!

Let me just say that I am extremely impressed with Metal Gear Solid 4! Honestly this has got to be one of the best games ever created. For me, the intensity and realism of the game-play has not yet been matched by any other game I know. MGS4 completely immerses players in the action of the game making it feel like a first-hand experience. Kojima Hideo did an absolutely amazing job creating this game, despite his own statements about his disappointment with the end result. The graphics, needless to say, are out of this world, thanks to the incredible talents of Shinkawa Yoji.

One of the elements of Metal Gear Solid 4 that make it different from others is the complex story line. Because of this, the game includes a few more cut scenes than usual, some of which are *quite* lengthy. Some gamers have expressed a preference to skip these and get back gaming, but I actually enjoy this aspect of the game since it really gets me involved in the plot and it's related history and character development.

Another quality that's unique to MGS4 are some of the unusual pieces of equipment that Snake carries with him on his missions. Some of them aid him in his incredibly creative approaches to stealth while others help provide comfort and reduce stress. He even has an Apple iPod!

All this and I still haven't even mentioned Snake's seemingly infinite possibilities for combining, re-combining and modifying his weapons. Very simply, Kojima thought of everything. Metal Gear Solid 4 has it all. It definitely deserves a TOP rating.

Wikipedia - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots


Major Kusanagi arrives!

Allow me to introduce Kusanagi Motoko (草薙 素子), the shrewd and skillful officer of the Public Safety Commission. We know her for her authoritative role as "The Major" in Shirō Masamune's (士郎 正宗) amazing cyberpunk manga / anime series, Ghost in the Shell (Kōkaku Kidōtai - 攻殻機動隊).

Major Kusanagi appears here, as she normally does on her missions with Chief Aramaki; her sexy cybernetic appearance rendered perfectly by Takahashi Tsuyoshi of Alter. I really like this figure a lot. I was thinking I might have some difficulty finding one since this is not one of Alter's newer creations, but there are still a few hanging around.

Whew! My collection is starting to grow rather sizeable!


"Memories of Nobody" is totally kick-ass!

I just came back from seeing Bleach: "Memories of Nobody." First impression-- WOW! This is an excellent movie! I had such a great time!!

First of all, the U.S. showing of the film starts off with an introduction by Viz Media in which the voice actors, editors and production crew give a tour of Viz and explain the details of how their manga and anime films are translated for western audiences. This was a pretty kool way to build up our appetites for the main feature.

Then we get to the movie, which is absolutely amazing. The story is extremely well-written and very exciting-- packed full of action, feeling and well-placed comedy. There are a number of things that made the movie so excellent (besides Matsumoto Rangiku's (松本 乱菊) huge boobs). Some unique plots and character developments are particularly thrilling for fans of the Bleach series-- most notably: an astoundingly-strong team cohesiveness amongst Soul Society Squad Members, a demonstration of Rukia's awesome and relatively unseen Soul Reaper abilities and some uplifting Kuchiki (朽木) sibling camaraderie between Byakuya (白哉) and Rukia (ルキア)!

Finally, what made seeing this great film even more enjoyable was seeing it on a big screen with an audience of other anime fans who were just as enthusiastic about the movie as I was-- something I've never experienced before tonight. I am very glad I went to see it.

One thing's for sure-- it is not necessary to be a fan of the Bleach manga/anime series to enjoy this excellent movie. The story is unique and specific to the movie and the great story allows the characters to stand on their own without previous knowledge of their history. That being said-- you have one more day! Go out and see it-- you won't be sorry!! Check out the Viz Media official movie website to find out where you can see it!


"Memories of Nobody" in US cinemas Wednesday and Thursday

"Memories of Nobody" is the feature-length anime film based on the awesome Shonen Jump manga/anime, Bleach. The movie first hit theatres in Japan back in December of 2006 and is now finally coming to U.S. theatres after being licensed by North American distributor Viz Media. The writer is actually Sogo Masashi, not Kubo Tite (久保 帯人), and is a completely separate story that's not part of the regular series. This is great for fans of the Bleach series who haven't yet gotten to the end of the story-- there's no need to worry about spoilers.

The film will have a very limited run-- Wednesday and Thursday only, so don't miss it! Details about the movie, as well as a list of theatres can be found on the Viz Media official movie website.


Akihabara, we love you.

In memory of the victims of yesterday's horrible violence in Akihabara (秋葉原), I am dedicating today's post to our beloved holy land, where the senseless attacks took place. I dedicate this post to the victims, their loved ones and to Japan in general; so that she may remain safe and secure.

Akihabara (which is usually known to us as 'Akiba') is situated in an area of Tokyo that, in the Edo period, was just outside of the Sujikai-gomon city gate leading into Edo. The area was known for the shops owned by Samurai-class craftsmen.

After a huge fire destroyed the area in 1869, a Shinto shrine was constructed on location. The shrine was named Chinka sha (鎮火社), or "fire-prevention shrine," as a symbol of the huge blaze having been extinguished. Interestingly, because of the name, large numbers of the city residents thought that the popular fire-controlling god, Akiha (秋葉) was enshrined inside of it. This misconception led to the common name of "Akihappara" for the shrine's surrounding property, which means "Akiha’s square". This is how Akiba, or Akihabara, originally got its name!

Much later on, after World War II, a marketplace grew around the electrical manufacturing school that was located in the area, which is now known as Tokyo Denki University (東京電機大学). Wireless radio goods were particularly attractive to the shoppers who visited the area.
Throughout the next few decades, technological developments in consumer goods, personal computers and telecommunications led to a massive expansion of the Akihabara Electric Town (秋葉原電気街) district. Akiba's reputation for availability of the very latest in technology was further reinforced with the modern developments in video games, mobile phones, digital cameras.

Finally, the huge rise in popularity of manga and anime that occurred toward the end of the 20th century gave birth to a new social movement. Those of us who take part in it tend to live a somewhat different lifestyle, cherishing technology of all kinds, characters from anime and manga, and moe-moe obsessions like Maid Cafes. These cultural changes firmly sealed the district's status as the Otaku promised land.

Today, we can run through the streets in a state of pure bliss, shopping for manga, figures, DVDs and the world's most cutting-edge electronics, while taking time to enjoy the amazing arcades, and otaku street performers. Ahhhh Akiba, there is no other place like it and we hope to *safely* continue feeling the joy and excitement she provides for the rest of our lives.

Akihabara News
Akiba Blog

Sad news from the motherland.

Just 2.5 hours ago, a crazed lunatic attacked a crowd of people in the middle of Akihabara ("Electric Town," Tokyo). At half-past noon (Japan time), 25-year-old Kato Tomohiro of Shizuoka Prefecture sped a 2-tonne rental truck into the intersection of Chuo-dori and Kanda Myojin-dori, hitting several people. The man then proceeded to jump out of his truck and go on a stabbing spree with a 12in / 36cm survival knife. Having occurred at 12:30 Tokyo time, on a Sunday, the streets were closed to vehicle traffic and filled with crowds of fellow otaku, shoppers and tourists. The attacker was subdued and arrested on the scene, but in the aftermath 17 people were taken to area hospitals, 5 of which are confirmed dead at this time. Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Kato may have had ties to a Yakuza crime syndicate.

A very sad, sad day indeed for the victims, the poor families of those who died, for our beloved paradise, Akiba. This is depressing.



The Phonaut & DJ Wormgear live on WNUR!

After nearly 7 months on hiatus, tonight I'll transform back into DJ Wormgear to co-pilot another edition of "etc" on WNUR 89.3 FM in Chicago. Radio Show Host The Phonaut and I will take over WNUR studios for 3 hours, starting from 23:30 CDT, along with Phonaut's special guest! I've got an hour-long set of techno, ambient, dubstep and electronica lined up for tonight's listeners and I'm looking forward to getting back into the on-the-air action.

Chicagoans on the North Side can tune in to 89.3 FM; listeners in the rest of the world can connect to our high-quality audio streams via www.wnur.org. For more information about tonight's event, visit The Phonaut


Death Note the Movie, Re-made.

Hijacked from Japanprobe.com and dannychoo.com.

I know that this is already tired, old news for most of my readers, but I feel like I really need to state my opinion about this tragic turn of events. Vertigo Entertainment (The Ring, The Grudge, Shutter, etc.) has officially announced their decision to develop a re-make of the Death Note live-action movie. The film's cast will no-doubt be packed with irritating Hollywood screen actors; some unconfirmed internet sources have already named-- Zac Efron and Johnny Depp (* gag *). Since Death Note is one of my favourite stories of all time, this one really rubs me the wrong way.

Regular readers of my blog already know how I hate these American re-makes of Japanese films/anime/manga. The stories are almost always over-westernised and wind up being total hack jobs that contribute nothing to the originals nor do anything to honour the stories' creators. I really don't understand what it is that causes Hollywood writers and producers from coming up with their own innovations and new ideas. I wonder if maybe it's just a lot cheaper to rip off other ideas rather than create their own. If that's true, it's OK with me, but they should keep their hands off of these truly incredible works of art and focus on other piece of crap movies that are more likely to be *improved* by re-makes rather than violated by them.

Like I have said before, I'm through with big, money-hoarding Hollywood productions-- they are mostly big piles of garbage IMO, and I want nothing to do with them. Vertigo Entertainment, you can kiss my BUTT! I hate you.


Death Note - Figures part 4

Alright-- I saved the best for last! This is Ryuk (リューク), the Shinigami who started this whole story when he dropped his Death Note from the Shinigami Realm down to earth as a way to combat his boredom. Dropping his Death Note down to Earth also served to allow him passage to the Human Realm where he can enjoy his favourite snack-- apples from the Human Realm.

Ryuk is my favourite character in the Death Note series. Although he plays an essential, central role in Obha Tsugumi's (大場 つぐみ) story, he is only loosely connected to the human main characters. His interaction with the other characters in the story is neither helpful to them nor harmful. Ryuk is basically here, in the Human Realm, for his own amusement and interest. According to Shinigami law, he is bound to the human who is in possession of his Death Note, but his participation in human life extends almost no further than making keen observations and adding the occasional witty remark. Humans are very interesting indeed, Ryuk!

He came to us from the Shinigami Realm by way of JUN Planning and has an astonishingly realistic appearance. When you look at him, he can see your name and life-span floating above your head. I think he's super-cool, and I'm so glad he's here!