torrenting with no fear

I’ve become markedly more paranoid about bittorrent in the past few months, with all the news of systematic, widescale lawsuit shakedowns and the craven willigness of ISPs to hand over private IP address data. This is a perfect case study of how not having anonymity and privacy can lead to outright persecution, even if you are totally innocent of any copyright violations (fair use or not).

I don’t use BT for much beyond catching up on anime and various TV shows. Netflix doesn’t always have what i want, and even if it does I have to compete with the rest of my family for slots in the queue. And trying to catch things when they are broadcast is essentially impossible (no DVR, either). Ultimately I have to either be able to time shift or not watch at all; and paying more money above and beyond the cable TV and netflix subscription is just too high a barrier.

Unfortunately, the threat posed by the copyright tyrants is no longer negligible. So I do watch less and less TV nowadays (and play more Warcraft, read books, etc*). Though I did just discover CastTV which was indispensable for catching up on Doctor Who Season 5…

What I want is a way to torrent without losing my privacy. I did try PeerGuardian, which is a constantly updated realtime list of suspicious IP addresses to blacklist, but it never worked for me – the blacklist just doesn’t download from their server. I suspect the load is too high for a volunteer open source project to handle. The more compelling solution seems to be a paid proxy service, such as BTGuard, which is surprisingly affordable. If I understand BT correctly, even using a private tracker like BakaBT won’t protect your IP from the Bad Guys, so I am pretty sure I am going to have to bite the bullet on this one. BTGuard is intended primarily for torrenters, but I might as well also start using proxies for my casual browsing as well. There’s also the TOR project which purports to protect your web traffic from being intercepted… not sure I entirely understand that yet, but worth looking into.

I guess I’m not really sure how paranoid I should be. But the present system of just blindly and openly surfing and torrenting doesn’t seem sustainable.

*all these hobbies of course are competing for the tiny sliver of time I have late at night to myself, since my waking hours are dominated by family and work.

Earthsea crossing the Pacific

Looks like Gedo Senki is finally being released in the US:

Disney has announced that it will theatrically release Studio Ghibli’s Tales from Earthsea (Gedo Senki) in the US on August 13th under its Touchstone Pictures banner. The movie, directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of revered anime director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro) several books from Ursula K. Le Guin’s series of novel. The feature premiered in Japan back in 2006, and hit other English speaking territories, such as the UK and Australia since then, but its US release has been delayed due to the Sci-Fi Channel’s now expiring hold on the Earthsea rights.

Cast for the English dub includes Timothy Dalton, Willem Dafoe, Cheech Marin and Mariska Hargitay.

Reviews of the movie weren’t especially positive, especially by the standards of the frequently lauded Studio Ghibli, and it is generally remembered a cause of friction between Hayao and Goro Miyazaki. Le Guin was likewise cold to the work.

Presumably, Disney will get the characters right on the box art! 😛

For what it was worth, I really enjoyed the movie, especially the visuals. Obviously, UKL is the authority on whether the movie was true to her vision or not, but as a reader I have equal claim to interpret it, and I frankly thought the movie evoked the spirit of the Earthsea universe well. Especially the dragons. They really, really got the dragons right. The reviewer at TOR was also positive, but restrained, so your mileage may vary – but I definitely recommend this, especially for watching with older kids.

Satsuki and Mai, together again

I picked up the new deluxe edition of Totoro, to replace our mysteriously-vanished copy. I haven’t actually watched it yet (maybe tonight) but I already know I am going to miss the english voices of my old Fox version, especially Satsuki.

My 8yr-old, who I think deserves to inherit the Fledgling Otaku label, noticed something both highly hilarious and deeply troubling on the cover of the disc box. It’s readily apparent on the cover scans on Amazon. See if you can find it.

Totoro deluxe version
What is wrong with this picture?

I can’t stop staring at it, now. Yikes. Please, let there be better attention to detail inside the box than outside! we’ll find out tonight. Somehow I am not really confident about Dakota Fanning here.

Cowboy BeBop ends

I just finished watching the final disc of BeBop. Steven said he got “mugged” by the ending (his minireview here). I am frankly, dazed.

Interestingly, Madeline Ashby at Tor.com is beginning a rewatch of BeBop, which is pretty timely! I have to agree with everything she said about the series as a whole in her first post on the first episode:

Bebop has what most live-action SF television from English-speaking countries does not: a definite end date, a genuinely compelling story, great production value, interesting speculations on technology and a merciful lack of deus ex machina. It’s a series set in the future, not about the future, and is thus liberated from making any sweeping statements regarding the future. Perhaps for that reason, the world of Cowboy Bebop is neither a sun-dappled utopia nor an unforgiving dystopia. We watch it from the point of view of bounty hunters, so we see the dirty cops and the crime syndicate lowlifes and the mom’s basement-terrorists with delusions of grandeur, but 2071 remains a recognizable iteration of our current world. Ganymede fishing trawlers can be converted to achieve escape velocity, bounties on cross-colony fugitives can be paid from ATM’s, hyperspace toll gates are vulnerable to bugs in proprietary software and need regular firmware upgrades. Its most optimistic prediction is also its most accurate: every colony from Io to Titan is full of signage in Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. There are brown people, black people and pale people with dreds, turbans and mohawks. Watanabe’s future is off-planet, and everybody’s there.

Given how strongly I loved this series and Champloo, I wonder if there’s a good label for this type of anime genre. What do space cowboys and samurai breakdancers have in common?

Anyway, my comment on the ending is as follows:

Continue reading “Cowboy BeBop ends”

Cowboy Bebop

Just started Cowboy Bebop via Netflix. It’s amazing. It’s clear how Firefly was inspired by this in so many ways. Theres not much to say at this point but it’s just spectacular on every axis – animation, story, characters. It’s really rare to see a science fiction treatment based in the Solar System and the terraformed moons and planets provide a huge canvas for the story. And yet you still have those 2001: Space Odyssey moments in the blackness and emptiness of space as well. The last episode I just watched even had a taste of Alien. It’s not all knockoffs but a really fresh take on these kinds of stories. Absolutely brilliant.

anime version of Dante’s Inferno

AICN has some trailers of the anime version of Dante’s Inferno coming out in a couple of weeks. They provide some minimal detail, but its enough to raise my interest:

On February 9th, Anchor Bay will be releasing Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic on Blu-ray and DVD. The anthology, with work from and Production IG (Kill Bill animated sequence), Dongwoo (Batman: Gotham Knight), Manglobe (Ergo Proxy, Samurai Champloo), JM Animation (“Avatar: The Last Airbender”), tie-ins to EA’s upcoming Divine Comedy inspired action-adventure game.

Interesting lineage. The Batmanime was in my opinion pretty uneven (I hated the Tekkon Kinkreet animation style used in part of it). But I *loved* Samurai Champloo‘s style (even though I never got around to doing a full review after I finished it).

the shrinking world of anime

An interesting discussion at Pete’s and Steven’s has me thinking that the trend for anime is one whihch basically dooms DVDs to extinction (and why are we even talking about VHS anymore?). The problem is not just limited to titles that aren’t available in North America, but even titles which may technically be available but utterly impractical to obtain. Case in point – my beloved, $5-from-Walmart copy of Totoro has gone missing (unwillingly, unlike last time). I decided I’d buy a new copy – preferably one with all the extras – and guess what? It’s out of print. The only way to get my Totoro fix for my kids is to download a torrent (and watch on our TV via our USB-enabled DVD player). I fully expect to buy a Roku or equivalent device this year to tap into my Netflix on-demand account, which will also open the door to torrent convenience (though the demise of Mininova is a roadblock – I’ll have to start actually participating at bakabt or some other community now). Even titles which are available at Best Buy, like the complete Kino’s Journey, are absurdly expensive and the sad reality is that the pricing of anime makes most of it out of reach for anyone who has mouths to feed and bills to pay. Without torrents, the few purchases I can afford to make – Haibane, Sugar, etc – would never have happened.

Ultimately, anime is a hobby and not a necessity. But if we are limiting anime to only those who can afford to play by the industry’s rules, then anime will die. It’s really just the torrenters keeping it alive right now. That sounds paradoxical but it’s fundamental reality about the new era of digital content. Give it away, build an audience, and then hope some of them will buy for posterity. Assuming you’re making decent quality anime in the first place…

Incidentally, this story about Boxee being forced to give up on Hulu is pretty emblematic of the thorny issues of control being fought out in the marketplace. The anime industry is just a bit player in all of this.