Roving Thoughts archives


Two views of Gatchaman Crowds' Joe

Thomas Zoth (note spoilers disclaimer):

And Joe? Always so cool with his smoking and drinking and apparent disinterest in his attractive young co-workers? He’s actually suicidal. His self-destructive impulses were, somewhat surprisingly, self-destructive.

My view of Joe is less grim and dark than this one. What I think is that Joe is living in a dream.

In real life Joe is a Toudai graduate who has somehow wound up in what is basically a relatively unimportant and certainly unimpressive civil service job. Outside of the office he has a second life as the classical heroic badass, too cool for words to contain; he hangs out drinking in bars looking suave and acting mysterious, for example. One way to interpret this based on the information the show has given us so far is to view Joe as Walter Mitty with actual powers. His oh so cool life as a Gatchaman is fundamentally an illusion and an act, an escape from the mundanity of his day to day drudge and something that gives his life importance and meaning. He acts the way he does because this is how heroic badasses are supposed to act; he is deliberately living out the cliche whether he admits it to himself or not. His entire self is defined and sustained by being the hero, not the civil servant.

(Spoiler warning.)

In this reading, Joe collapses against Berg-Katze in episode 7 because Berg-Katze systematically destroys Joe's dream life by shattering the illusion. There is a really revealing dialog at the end of the fight; after Joe has been unable to do anything to Berg-Katze, Berg-Katze plays the voice of Joe's inner self and digs in to Joe with the following:

[...] I can't possibly win. It's impossible. I acted tough until now, but in the end, I'm just a civil servant. I wanted to make it big, but I knew my limitations from the beginning, really. Oh, well. I guess I'll just keep trailing on in life. Not like there's a whole lot I can do, anyway. I should just give up on my dreams and resign myself to being a nobody. [...]

This is Joe's secret and soul-destroying terror: that his daytime life is the reality and his nighttime cool heroism is the illusion. Forced to face it, Joe lacks the strength to go on anyways and his doubts consume him.

(The translation I'm using comes from Commie's fansubs.)

anime/GCrowdsJoeTwoViews written at 16:40:17; Add Comment


Bike helmets are a distraction

It started on Twitter, where a conversation caused me to have a realization that's obvious in retrospect:

@cwage: so, B-cycle is awesome, but it occurred to me recently that it basically promotes people riding bikes in the city without a helmet. discuss.
@cwage: let me rephrase my earlier tweet: Nashville is not (yet) a bike friendly city. not enough infrastructure. not nearly enough bicyclist density
@cwage: thus, automobiles lack awareness, and B-cycle users are largely inexperienced riders. the combination (without helmets) is terrifying

@cks: @cwage I think the combination would still be terrifying even if the B-cycle riders wore helmets.
@cks: .@cwage Wearing a bike helmet is not a substitute for avoiding getting hit or crashing. It's just a minor safety boost if you do.

There is a lot of fuss made about people being irresponsible when they don't wear bike helmets and about how you need to wear a bike helmet to be really safe and so on. Some places have mandatory helmet laws, some places just strongly encourage it through social mechanisms (Toronto is the latter). Helmets may or may not increase your safety in practice for various reasons; there are serious arguments that they don't help once you take a total view (instead of focusing just on what happens once a cyclist gets hit).

But all of that misses the issue that I summarized in my last tweet: helmets are only a marginal improvement and if they do any good you're already in trouble. They're a consolation prize if you have an accident; you may be hurt but sometimes you'll be hurt less than if you hadn't been wearing a helmet. It's much more important not to have the accident in the first place. Getting people to wear helmets is something you think about after you've tried to keep them out of accidents in the first place. Someone who is wearing a helmet but riding unsafely or in a dangerous situation is much worse off than someone without a helmet who is riding in safety.

(This is especially bad if wearing a helmet has convinced the cyclist that they can ride more aggressively and less safely because now they have protection. Wrong (but very human).)

That's what I mean by helmets being a distraction. In practice the 'wear your helmet' advocacy has wound up causing people to focus on helmet wearing to the sad exclusion of keeping cyclists out accidents. Given limited resources, limited attention spans, and human psychology, we'd be much better off if people ignored helmets and focused on accident prevention.

(I understand the various reasons why people can't, including that it's very hard to pass up an obvious harm mitigation measure.)

biking/HelmetDistraction written at 11:36:29; Add Comment


Bike parts I've replaced (as of 2013)

For no particular reason I feel like running down all of the bits of my bike that I've had to replace due to wear since 2006. Please note that I bike a lot. People who bike less will replace less stuff.

  • brake pads: repeatedly. They wear out.

  • the entire drivetrain (with the exception of the front derailer, it's still original): repeatedly. Chains (and gears) wear too.

  • tires, both front and rear (repeatedly). See the sidebar.

  • wheels, both front and rear. Although I don't do any extreme biking I seem to be very harsh on rear wheels; I've gone through at least five.

    (The death toll: two broken axles, two used enough that the rims started cracking around spokes, and at least one that just started breaking spokes too often.)

  • pedals (repeatedly): either the physical pedals got damaged (when I was using plastic pedals) or the bearings inside the pedals got too worn. I've had two pedals actually break, with the pedal falling off; fortunately both times happened on commute rides with bike stores open and nearby.

  • brake and shifter cables. The most memorable time was when my rear shifter's cable snapped, immediately dumping me into an inconvenient gear. Fortunately it was on my commute ride.

  • pedal crank arms (I forget why).

  • the actual brake arms (sometimes called calipers): these have springs inside (to force them open when you release the brake levers). Mine seize up sooner or later.

  • the bottom bracket. This was replaced as part of chasing something else but really, it was time; it had apparently basically rusted into place.

  • the headset. The bike came with an adjustable headset (that I never adjusted the angle on); eventually the adjustable joint basically broke. It was replaced by a perfectly good non-adjustable headset which I expect to last forever.

  • the (add-on) rear rack. If I remember right, a welded joint eventually separated.

Surprisingly I haven't replaced the bike seat. It's still the original, although it's definitely getting a bit worn by now.

(I think that's everything. If I remember something else I'll update this entry.)

Sidebar: my experience with bike tires

For most of the time since 2006 I've replaced tires when they started to get too many flats. A few years ago I wound up with midrange Continental tires (I believe one step below Touring Plus's), which I've now replaced merely because they looked like they were getting too worn; my rear tire actually wore the tread pattern completely away without, I believe, basically any flats. I currently have Touring Plus's on both front and rear so I'll have some opinions on them in a few years.

In general, either I've had very good luck with my tires or I've got much more relaxed standards of when to replace them because my tires seem to last much longer than most people's. For the front and rear Continentals I replaced this year, the rear lasted over 10,000 kms (carrying a relatively heavy load, since I keep lots of stuff in my panniers) and the front likely ran over 15,000 km. This seems to be well over the usual distance ratings.

biking/BikePartsReplaced2013 written at 16:04:14; Add Comment


The Railgun and her friends in Railgun S

One of the criticisms I've seen leveled at Railgun S is that Mikoto passes up involving her friends. Evirus says:

For example, Mikoto spends most of the first cour of Railgun S sneaking around rather than enlisting the help of her roommate, the teleporter.

I can't say that Evirus is wrong because it's up to the show itself to convince its audience that events make sense and clearly the show hasn't sold Evirus on this. But what I can say is that the show did sell me on Mikoto's actions.

(There are about to be spoilers.)

First off, let's note that Mikoto does hardly any sneaking around in the first cour. She does about 90% of her work in a phone booth (and might have managed to do all of it if she wasn't impatient, but then if she had there wouldn't be much of a show) and much of the rest of it seems to have been less 'sneaking around' and more 'walking in casually'. In short, for almost all of the time she steamrollers everything in sight. The only time she actually needs any help happens when actual opponents appear (in the only actual fight) and this catches Mikoto completely by surprise when it happens.

(The show doesn't bother spending much time showing her steamroller stuff because it kind of lacks excitement.)

Beyond this, the show has sold me on a collection of reasons that Mikoto doesn't and can't involve her friends, especially Kuroko. In no particular order:

  • Mikoto repeatedly talks about this being her fault and her problem to deal with. This is somewhat irrational but the show sells me on it being her heartfelt attitude, due in part to the horror of the situation.

  • The situation is genuinely horrible (and it only gets worse as it goes along). Mikoto sees someone die in front of her and finds out that thousands of people have been systematically killed, with more happening every day. This is a huge trauma to dump on your middle school friends who are enjoying an innocent life in the sunshine. I can completely see not wanting to drag them into the nightmare.

  • Kuroko is effectively a member of the police and Mikoto is busy doing all sorts of lawbreaking. It's at least uncool to ask your police buddy to help you commit a crime; you've put them in a really awkward spot no matter what they choose.

  • Mikoto is not actually a member of Judgment and Kuroko has been shown as repeatedly trying to keep her from getting involved in Judgment operations (generally unsuccessfully, which results in Kuroko sighing a lot). It thus seems very likely that if Mikoto brought the whole problem to Kuroko officially she would immediately get sidelined (quite possibly very firmly, as Anti-Skill moved in). Mikoto is not exactly a sideline girl.

    (Of course, what we know in the first cour and what Mikoto finds out later is that going to the authorities wouldn't help anyways. Academic City is fundamentally corrupt and brutal.)

  • If confronted by a choice between friendship (to Mikoto) and duty (to Judgment), Kuroko would probably choose duty. I say this because shortly after the end of the first cour (if I remember episode numbers right) the situation actually gets so bad that Mikoto probes Kuroko about this (phrased as a hypothetical) and Kuroko gives an unhesitating answer. Mikoto doesn't seem surprised.

(Mikoto actually seemed relieved, which felt right for me. Kuroko's answer meant that Mikoto didn't have to even consider dragging her friend into the darkness with her. Of course Kuroko might have made a different choice in a non-hypothetical situation.)

anime/RailgunAndFriends written at 15:34:13; Add Comment

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