Isao Takahata, eternal firefly

Isao Takahata passed away in April. His obituary at the Guardian reminds us of his seminal role in founding Studio Ghibli:

Takahata returned to feature directing with Chie the Brat (1981) and an adaptation of Kenji Miyazawa’s Gauche the Cellist (1982), while working as a producer on Miyazaki’s breakthrough animated version of his own manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984).

The film’s huge success led to the establishment of Studio Ghibli, the name, due to Miyazaki’s love of aviation, taken from an Italian second world war plane, with Takahata producing Miyazaki’s first work for the new enterprise, Castle in the Sky (1986).

Of course, his masterpiece was the partly autobiographical (!!!) Grave of the Fireflies, which was released as a double feature with Totoro, a sentence that still amazes me when I type it out. TOR recently had a must-read historical look at the intertwined history of Totoro and Fireflies, and the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster effect combining them must have had on audiences. Bonus, it intriduces a great theory that I am instantly adopting as headcanon:

So about that Camphor tree…In Grave, Seita lies to Setsuko about their mother’s death for a while, hoping to give her the news in a gentle way. She finds out anyway, and he tries to soften the blow by lying again, this time telling her that their mother is buried beneath a lovely Camphor tree, and that they’ll visit her after the war. (In reality, their mother’s ashes are in a box that Seita carries with him, and seems to lose, before the film ends.) Guess what kind of tree Totoro lives in? Yeah, it’s a Camphor. And Totoro just happens to be accompanied by a middle-sized Totoro, and a small Totoro. And the small Totoro just happens to be the one that attracts Mei’s attention in the first place.

So I’ve just decided that the Grave of the Fireflies characters were all reincarnated as Totoros. Big Totoro is Mother, the Middle Totoro, always the caretaker, forever collecting acorns for Baby, is clearly Seita, and Baby Totoro is Setsuko—the one who first befriends a little girl who’s the same age she was when she died.

And if I’ve just ruined My Neighbor Totoro for you I’m sorry, but how much better is Grave of the Fireflies now? If you watch the movie believing that they all get to be Totoros in the end, you might just get through it.

Thanos in Fortnite action in-game

The footage below is from my friend Chris, who managed to be Thanos in game – highly entertaining to see Thanos just wipe the floor with other players 🙂

The fun is probably over though – Thanos has already been nerfed.

Becoming Thanos

Death from Above

Chris is a class-A player and often gives out freebies to his subscribers – check it out on Twitch via his relatively subdued handle CaptainAw3som.

Yes, Neil Gaiman is still involved with American Gods, season 2

Gillian Anderson as Media

The Real Neil shows up on reddit himself to set the record straight:

I’m still part of the show and enthusiastic about it — I just did a rewrite on the first episode which starts filming this week. Bryan Fuller and Michael Green left, after disagreements over budget issues. (They wanted more than the 9 million an episode they had). Gillian Anderson was only signed up for one season. Kristen should be back the next time Easter is in the story.

Gillian Anderson was absolutely sublime. Her absence from season 2 will be a real loss. Glad we get more of Easter, at least – she was nothing like I imagined in the book, and on the whole I like the TV version better.

in defense of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

Some people have argued that there is a problem with Apu, and are upset that the Simpsons don’t see it that way.

I’ve been called and teased as “Apu” from the Simpsons many times. In fact my real full name even evokes Apu, and in high school I was one of exactly two kids of Asian descent. I smelled funny, I looked weird, I was a geek and a loner (and still am). Apu was introduced to the world in 1989, my junior year, so I didn’t have to coexist with Apu for that long, and today’s kids probably see the Simpsons as archaic TV so I doubt Apu’s cultural resonance is as relevant now as it was during the 90s and 2000s. Still, at least two or three generations of brown kids have had to endure, at some point, a comparison to Mr. Nahasapeemapetilon. That sucks, sure.

However, had Apu never existed, would brown-ness have been invisible? Was Apu the cause of alienation, bullying, mean-ness, feeling different, feeling Othered? I think Apu was a handy tool for the kind of schoolyard nonsense we all endure in varying forms – and let’s be clear, being brown meant you were privileged in a way that other minorities were not, so enduring Apu and Kwik-e-Mart jabs during adolescence was hardly an existential identity crisis of the sort that Muslim Americans (kids and adults alike) have had to endure since 9-11.

Look, soft racism is racism, racism is bad. But soft racism can be endured without losing your dignity in a way that hard racism cannot be endured without true pain. I have experienced both and frankly, being compared to Apu is a mark of pride for me. Lets ask ourselves who Apu is?

Apu is not accused being part of a cultish religion that allegedly either controls the media and the world’s finances, or is set on replacing the world’s law with a throwback system of brutal control over unbelievers. Apu is not portrayed as a sexual fiend, a criminal, or a academically talented but poorly-endowed freak, based on the color of his skin or the shape of his eyes. Apu is not a member of an elite who makes your life miserable, who has everything you deserve.

Apu is a father, an entrepreneur, and a kind person, who minds his own business (literally and figuratively), who others rely on, who has sometimes needed help. But most of all, Apu doesn’t change who he is. Apu has been the target of soft racism for 20 years and hasn’t changed his hair, his clothes, his accent, his beliefs, his values.

Let’s compare Apu to the current heroes of the Brown Folk today: Aziz Ansari and Kumail Nanjiani. I commented elsewhere that these two real-life humans have done more (on screen) to damage Brown identity in just the past couple years than anything Apu has done in the past 20. Why? Others have said it better than me:

https://themuse.jezebel.com/i-m-tired-of-watching-brown-men-fall-in-love-with-white-1796522590

The Religion (Islam) Between Immigrant Parents and their Children on Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None”

The pursuit of white women: Brown actors like Aziz Ansari have reduced brown women to a punchline

The bottom line is that the Simpsons and Hollywood have two different versions of brown males. One is someone who embraces his identity, even in the face of mockery. The other is one who does the opposite. I’m with Apu.