otacracy Otacracy - not-so-random stuff on anime, games, tech, and other: cool things. http://otacracy.com/component/content/frontpage Fri, 21 Jul 2017 10:58:39 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Photogenic Weekend Returns! http://otacracy.com/randomness/4-elsestuffs/113-photogenic-weekend-returns http://otacracy.com/randomness/4-elsestuffs/113-photogenic-weekend-returns pwFor many years, one of my favorite websites to keep up with was Kazuhisa Nishikawa's Photogenic Weekend.  Every week, the popular Japanese camera news site Digital Camera Watch (which I'd usually refer to by the beginning of its URL: dc.watch) would feature a new photo spread by Nishikawa, a working gravure idol photographer, created with a recently released camera.  Starting in 2004, he just kept plugging away week after week, camera after camera trained on various models. It was a really excellent feature, and one I had mentioned on this blog before.

Then one week in March of 2011: there was no new feature.  For a few months after, I would return to the site hoping to see an update... only to be met with disappointed.

Yesterday, however, while trawling the internet for news about the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, I discovered: PHOTOGENIC WEEKEND IS BACK!

After a hiatus of more than a year, the website has returned with a dedicated URL, http://photogenicweekend.net/, and a new feature. The new Olympus is taken out for a spin with model Hitomi Yasueda. Unlike previous Photogenic Weekend installments, the emphasis is on the camera's video capabilities, the article's two embedded youtube videos accompanied by a mere two photos of our model.  Still, it's the first week, and most cameras are usually put through the wringer for a good month before moving on to the next body.

(See what I did there?)

Finding out the feature has resurrected itself into a new website was a really pleasant surprise. It's definitely cool to see some of these new cameras put to use almost immediately.

It would be a bit more cool if the models were a bit more attractive, I think. :)


diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Tue, 03 Apr 2012 05:59:28 +0000
The first post of the year... http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/112-the-first-post-of-the-year http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/112-the-first-post-of-the-year Anime Los Angeles 2012

...is the first post in more than a year!

I've been going crazy in the mean time.  Good crazy, but crazy nonetheless.

Probably the biggest change has been my new job.  (Not the most important change, though. That honor goes to my girlfriend, Valerie!  ^^)  For the last year, I've been working as the audio director on a fighting game that should be released very soon.  Being a hardcore console game title, the team is working: hardcore!

My own work situation has me balancing this job with my teaching gig at USC.  If it's a day where I'm not lecturing, I'm usually spending about 4-6 hours at home doing sound and music before doing another 6-10 hours working in the game itself, whether it's further design, scripting or (oh please god no!) coding.  If it's a day where I'm teaching, well... things get out of hand.  Friday, for example, has me lecturing for 7 straight hours, from 10 AM to 5 PM.  Usually the best I can do is fit in 2-4 hours before or after that stretch... and then I get brain or ear fried. (I'm using headphones 95% of the time thanks to the open floor plan, so I'm getting some serious ear fatigue...)

Going to try to get back in the habit of posting stuff.  Who knows if it'll actually happen, though!  At the very least, I hope it's not another year before I do another post; hopefully the next one has a little more substance than this...



diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:12:26 +0000
Anime LA 2011 in Slow Motion http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/111-anime-la-2011-in-slow-motion http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/111-anime-la-2011-in-slow-motion SMJ CosplayFanime 2010Usually?

Cosplay photography kinda bugs me.

Yeah, I've been doing it for a while, whether it be for friends at cons or (rarely) at private photoshoots.  I enjoy photography, and I appreciate cosplay, but I've always considered myself more a con photographer than a cosplay photographer.  A cosplayer facing the camera with a practiced pose never struck me as quite so interesting as the con itself: a huge writhing beast, barely in control by the executive decision makers at the top and the gofers at the bottom; always undulating, creeping forwards with the funk of con attendees and the cries of memes.

Con photographs, pictures showing the convention in action, comprise the vast majority of my personal favorites.

Fanime 2010A Haruhi in hand makes...Taking Orders

I usually took these pictures with a a digital SLR.  However, I didn't have one available by the time Anime Los Angeles rolled around this year.  Instead, I had a Casio pocket-sized point and shoot camera.  Honestly, I felt like I couldn't give the con or the cosplayers a proper service with just this cam, especially next to the guys rocking out things like $1000+ Canon L lenses and even more expensive Steadicam rigs.  Still, I had to do something; if I couldn't be better with the Casio, I could be unique.

One of the reasons I got the Casio was because of its slow-motion video recording.  The Casio EX-FH100 can record video at 640 x 480 resolution with 120 frames-per-second speed.  If I can't do comparable quality-wise, maybe I can do something unique...

Here are some videos of cosplayers which follow logically from typical cosplay pictures...





And here are some videos of the con being... well... a con...


This last one, I particularly like.  We see pictures of organized cosplay gatherings like this all the time, but few see it from the cosplayers' perspective, especially as they are being called to the front.

So... yeah.  Though I did do some typical picture stuff (see: my flickr set), I did a lot of slow motion video (see: my youtube account) and... I enjoyed doing something different.  Despite a different process, I think I did a decent first attempt of sticking with what I enjoy, which is: conveying the con itself while letting the other photographers focus on doing the usual cosplay photography.

diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Sun, 16 Jan 2011 04:11:20 +0000
New Year's Resolutions...? http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/110-new-years-resolutions http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/110-new-years-resolutions Cosplay Observer (Picnik fodder)

Haven't updated this thing in months, I know.  Part of it is because of lack of time, and part of it is this general feeling that I haven't been feeling very otaku about anything.  Heck, I barely remember the last time I felt even mildy interested in any particular subject.

Hopefully this will change in the coming weeks.

I'm going to try some different things on for size.  Really exploring what my PSP can do.  Augmenting my penchant for still photography with some videography.  Creating some physical (rather than digital) games for anime and manga fans.  Writing more songs with vocals.

And then there's the really big one: COSPLAY.  Yes, I'm going to dress up.  Yes, this scares the crap out of me.  I'll probably spending some time talking my way through this and hopefully showing what I'm doing to make progress between now Fanime 2011...


diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Sun, 02 Jan 2011 07:48:12 +0000
Stuff: On Stuff http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/109-stuff-on-stuff http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/109-stuff-on-stuff Still working on moving in...

Things I like to think I'm good at include (in no particular order): teaching, writing game music, game design, photography, and talking extensively on topics I am knowledgeable on.

Things I'm not very good at include: writing about topics I am knowledgeable on and maintaining this blog.

Kind of sucks, that.  I know I have real info to share out there that people would appreciate.  Things like: greater insight into the whats and whys of my music composition process.  Or: a review of the only Wii game I own.  Or even: talking about trends I've seen in six years of teaching video game design and production classes to students ranging from 14 to 40.


I'll deal with all that.  Soon.  Even with my squeamishness about writing in a space that has sites like School Girl Milky Crisis providing material written far more eloquently.  I'll just have to get over that.  Not right at this very moment, granted, but soon.  This month, even!

Just give me a moment to get my new apartment in order, along with wrangling some decent internet service.

(One more thing to add to the list of things I'm good at: maintaining a healthy colon-to-period ratio.)

(That doesn't sound right.)

diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Fri, 06 Aug 2010 16:49:42 +0000
Review: The Olympus E-3 http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/108-review-the-olympus-e-3 http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/108-review-the-olympus-e-3

My current camera system!

After nearly two years with the Olympus E-3, it's time to put this DSLR back out on the market and into the hands of some other photographer.  Unlike the Pentax K20D that immediately preceded it, I'm letting this camera go with my respect for it and happiness with it at a high... and that's pretty darn high, considering I originally got this as a replacement for the Nikon D700 that disappointed me a while back.  This is a really good, really underrated camera and, under different (financial) circumstances, I would have kept it around for much longer as I continued building up my collection of Olympus gear.

Guess it's high time I do my usual song and dance.  Like I did earlier with the Pentax K20D, here's a rundown of what I liked and what I disliked about the Olympus E-3...

diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Wed, 09 Jun 2010 13:08:57 +0000
Review: The Horipad EX2 Turbo http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/107-review-the-horipad-ex2-turbo http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/107-review-the-horipad-ex2-turbo More Horipad EX2 pictures...

The Horipad EX2 Turbo is a good pad for Xbox 360 gamers needing a pad for fighting games.  After all, it's got six face buttons and a responsive cross-style directional pad: everything a fighting game player who prefers pads to sticks needs, right?

Actually, let's go a bit further and say: The Horipad EX2 Turbo is the best fighting game pad for Xbox 360, but it can't be your general purpose pad, even if it sports the usual analog sticks and triggers.  If you are worried that it shares a name with the poor EX2 stick Hori issued a while back, rest assured: it is a significantly higher quality product worth having as an option for players during your next fighting game party.  It may even grow to be your primary controller for fighting games.

More Horipad EX2 pictures...

The Horipad EX2 Turbo features 13 buttons compared to the standard 360 pad's 11, the extra two being the result of the bumpers featuring on both the top and the face of the controller.  From the pictures, you can see the extra charcoal color buttons featuring next to the colored ABXY cluster.  Those two extra face buttons actually have a slightly different shape compared to the main four; in practice, however, one doesn't notice the difference in shape as bothersome.  Similarly, it looks as though the buttons are situated a little too close to the right edge of the controller for comfort, but the buttons were always easy to access quickly, whether you play with a standard console grip (using primarily the right thumb) or an arcade style approach (using the fingers of the right hand, from index to ring finger).

More Horipad EX2 pictures...

The button configuration isn't totally perfect, however.  It would be nice if there was a little more space between the buttons, in order to better accommodate a four button Neo Geo style layout.  I tried playing Garou: Mark of the Wolves with thumb on A, index on X, middle on Y, and ring on LB; while I could maintain the security of having every finger in contact with buttons throughout for round after round, my right hand cramped up much faster than using the same style of play on a Sega Saturn pad (still the gold standard for fighting game joypad design) or ASCII FT pad (that sports an even better button layout than the Saturn pad, thanks to its even larger button spacing and consistent button shape).  A few millimeters here and there could have elevated the buttons from very good to great.

The d-pad is in the classic cross style, and it is an excellent pad indeed.  If you're familiar with the cross-pad Hori used for their classic fighting pad for the GameCube, then you'll be right at home with the EX2.  It's not the exact same as that earlier iteration: the EX2 sports a slightly larger crosspad than on the GameCube version, and the points are slightly raised (thankfully not to the blister inducing level of the ASCII FT Dreamcast pad).  If anything, it is slightly more responsive than that already excellent d-pad.  More importantly, after a few months of intense play, the d-pad has maintained the same level of sensitivity as when it was new; no need to smash your left thumb to register directions.  Whether it be Super Street Fighter IV, Samurai Shodown II, or Soul Calibur II, motions proved as easy to do with the EX2 pad as any other.  It's easily on par with the circular pad of the Saturn and, in my mind, significantly ahead of the MadCatz Street Fighter pads when it came to performing everything from dragon punches to 720s to "how the heck do I do this!" ridiculous (read: weird SNK style) motions.

Besides the standard controller acoutrements, the EX2 features turbo button functionality and the ability to change your analog stick sensitivity.  These features worked.  I didn't give them a super rigorous test, but it might be worth noting that I've never had higher scores in Outrun Online Arcade than when using the EX2 with the lower sensitivity analog engaged.  The extra functionality didn't really enhance my play of After Burner Climax, but using only the left analog stick, the controller felt comparable to the experience using a standard 360 pad.

More Horipad EX2 pictures...More Horipad EX2 pictures...

If you need to dual-stick, whether in Call of Duty or Geometry Wars, the slight difference from the standard 360 pad made using the pad both frustrating and uncomfortable.  The left analog stick is decently positioned, but the right stick simply felt too far away from the right hand grip, a consequence of the controller face gaining those extra buttons.  While the difference is a matter of millimeters, the slight change in position combined with the slightly longer throw of the stick meant that aiming in shooters was a much less insignificant task, causing myself and other players who used the pad to underestimate motions, overcorrect shots, and cuss.

Horipad EX2 Turbo

While I'd discourage you from using the EX2 as a substitute for the standard 360 pad for all of your game library, the fact that it has all those standard features on top of the fighting game specific features while maintaining a street price at or below the going price for the d-pad only MadCatz Street Fighter IV FightPad makes Hori's offering a no-brainer when it comes to value.  The MadCatz pad has gained a decent following thanks to being the most marketed of fighting pads available for the current gen consoles.  Neither the 360 nor the PS3 version have a space in my home, now.  It used to be that I only played fighters on PS3 thanks to its ability to use Saturn USB pads.  My Xbox fighting game library can finally be enjoyed with the Horipad EX2 Turbo.

Now if only I could continue to play Street Fighter III: Third Strike over Xbox Live...

diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Mon, 10 May 2010 20:25:05 +0000
The KFC Double Down? Double Disgusting... http://otacracy.com/less-serious/106-the-kfc-double-down-double-disgusting http://otacracy.com/less-serious/106-the-kfc-double-down-double-disgusting

KFC's Double Down Sandwich

The Double Down is a horrible sandwich.

I guess I could stop there, but let's keep it going.

The Double Down looks horrible.  Okay, looks aren't everything, but honestly: any traditional burger will be much more pleasing to the eyes.  The contrast of golden colored toasted bun and dark grilled beef?  The bright red tomato complemented by green leaf lettuce?  The Double Down has nothing of the sort.  Rather, its orange on yellow on white motif evokes memories of the worst of elementary school cafeteria food.  The lighter color of the grilled version is even worse, drawing visual comparisons to bathroom sponges.  Perhaps something could have been saved if the bacon wasn't so shy but, alas, the local KFC had both sandwiches sport bacon slices smaller than other fast food joints "junior" versions of bacon burgers.  About the only thing good about the Double Down's presentation is it tries to set up the lowest of low expectations for just how bad this sandwich will taste.

KFC's Double Down Sandwich

It almost succeeds there.

The Double Down tastes bad.  Okay, the original recipe chicken fillet ain't bad, if you're into that.  I can tolerate a few pieces of the stuff myself.  Unfortunately, they had to diminish it with slices of Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack "cheese" with no discernible flavor and and a plain as plain can be Colonel's Sauce.  Despite the almost scary artificial color of the condiments, the stuff between the chicken fillets had absolutely no kick.  The texture of the melted cheese and sauce also did an excellent job of detracting from the eating experience, complementing the decent juiciness of the fillets with a pastiness that made every bite pure torture.  The bacon could have went a long way toward saving the sandwich; however, the little bit of bacon in both of these sandwiches did nothing to enhance the flavor.  Perhaps any sort of meatiness or saltiness it could have provided was sucked away by the sheer disgustingness of the cheese and sauce that smothered it.

And that's not even the worst of it.

KFC's Double Down Sandwich

The Double Down is a bad value.  Each sandwich is five dollars.  Think about that!  Five dollars goes a long way in today's fast food market.  Subway has their five dollar foot long sandwiches that beat the Double Down in every way.  McDonald's and Wendy's are providing options including fries and beverage at the three dollar level.  Carl's Jr. has their large variety of Six Dollar Burgers which provide more flavor and more calories for the same price or even slightly cheaper.  Even at KFC, five dollars can get you chicken and sandwich meal options that include sides and drinks.

So there you have it.  Normally, this is the time where one might suggest that it's worth one try.  I'm not going to do that.  The Double Down is: Horrible.  Verging on inedible.  The worst fast food sandwich I've had in years.

Please don't eat one.

diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Thu, 15 Apr 2010 03:46:08 +0000
Undergoing the Otaku Transformation http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/104-undergoing-the-otaku-transformation http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/104-undergoing-the-otaku-transformation

Back in 2006, when (former?) game designer Will Wright was entertaining questions about how awesome Spore would be, he talked for a decent amount about: his inner otaku.

Oh yes, was he an otaku.  He loved him some crazy Russian space ships and rocked books about astrobiology a little too hard.  And we all loved him for that.

During both his Comic-Con and GDC talking stints that year, he encouraged people/game devs/creative types/aliens to "develop your inner otaku."

Me, well...!  There's a whole lot of otaku in me.  Or rather: otakus.

(Yes, I know you don't add an 's' to make Japanese nouns plural, but I needed it for the effect there, see...)

I've got the anime otaku and the game otaku, sure, but then there's: the music otaku; the camera otaku; the audio otaku (who is always at odds with the music otaku); the computer otaku; the food otaku; the sports otaku; the HCI otaku; the gun otaku; the dollar store otaku; the... the...

I'm sure there's more, but they're probably hiding in here, somewhere.  Probably pretty close to the anime and food otaku, who seem to have shrunk as the months have passed.

Yeah, I'm just not the anime otaku I used to be.  It's been years since I've downloaded a fansub.  My most recent anime purchases were merely series I had watched long ago and felt the need to buy to show some modicum of support for the since imploded US anime industry.

Now, back in the day, I probably would have chalked it up to me deciding to be "mature" and forego the "otaku lifestyle" or some other nonsense that my younger self would have only a vague idea about.  Honestly, I buy in to what Will Wright was saying back then.  Even now, I can see him in some thousand dollar suit echoing shades of Gordon Gecko, proclaiming, "Otaku.  Is.  Good."

Ultimately, the problem lies in me: I'm just not that awesome enough to sustain continued development of all my inner otaku.  Which is okay.

In 2010, I'm no longer the heatsink otaku I was back in 2001.  Back then, I could get into a debate about cold-forged heatsinks (such as those from Japanese manufacturer Alpha... remember the 6035?!) being better than skived fins (was never the biggest Thermalright fan... and you could never have one big enough to deal the CFM those things needed for performance).  Nowadays, I just use the heatsink that came with my Shuttle PC and I'm done.

Back in 1998, I fit way too many facts about anime and game seiyuu into my brain.  I could rattle off all the voices for the Sotsugyou Saturn games... never mind that I didn't have the games, or even if I did, I wouldn't understand a lick of what they were saying.  (Not that I can now, but that's another problem...)

Back in high school, I prided myself on reading almost entirely non-fiction.  Now I've got Haruki Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman sitting on top of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and Max Brooks's World War Z.

Curses on my memory, that keeps me from realizing the path that I've taken to become this shell of VINCENT DIAMANTE that houses such different otaku within it today...

...and... oh.

Oh.  I'm okay.  I guess I'll hang around the way I am for now... until some other otaku decides to take up residence.  Maybe I should redevelop that cosplay otaku that used to be in here... hadn't seen him in more than a decade.  Or maybe I should find that Scriabin otaku that used to dominate my musical personality...

In the Richard Linklater film Waking Life, a woman in a cafe talks plainly about the earnest fiction of identity in the simplest, most comforting biological terms one could conjure with regard to the human condition: "Our cells are completely regenerating every seven years.  We've already become completely different people several times over... and yet we always remain quintessentially ourselves."

Seven years, eh?  Let's see if I can get it to the point where I can at least remain the same person from the beginning of writing a short blog post to the end...


Ah well.  No can do!

Here's to a good 2010: one that finishes stronger than it starts. 

diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Thu, 21 Jan 2010 04:47:51 +0000
I Got A Seven (7!) Patty Whopper http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/103-i-got-a-seven-7-patty-whopper http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/103-i-got-a-seven-7-patty-whopper The Seven Patty Whopper

Guys in Japan celebrated the launch of Windows 7 with a 7 patty Whopper.  Hacker types this side of the pond used their own open source methods to hack their own 7 patty burgers.

Me, I just went to the local Burger King and ordered one.

Yeah, the cashier looked at me incredulously as I ordered it, but the order went through swiftly enough.  On top of the regular Whopper, you just order six extra patties at $1.39 each.

Final price after tax: $12.54.

I ended up sharing the burger with three friends.  Check out more pics on my flickr...

diamante@gmail.com (Vincent Diamante) frontpage Sun, 25 Oct 2009 22:45:17 +0000