Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vent time.

I hate bad software. Having been a programmer for over 20 years, I know what it takes to make a good application. And it drives me up the wall paying for anything substandard, even if it was only $25-$50. Further, I had been pretty satisfied using Microsoft's Front Page for Win 98, ignoring the flaws with it, because it wasn't that hard to use and I could work around the limitations. But, then my laptop crashed, I had to upgrade to Win 7, and Microsoft stopped supporting Front Page on the later versions of Windows. So I looked around a little and found what was purported to be a decent low-end (meaning cheap) HTML editor called Coffee Cup.

Man, what a nightmare. Seems that the CoffeeCup programmers only want to focus on stylesheet support for fancy-looking commercial websites. That's not what I need for creating code to be used on What I need are simple tables, and links to images on Mediafire. CoffeeCup doesn't support tables well (they've got menu items for inserting rows into tables, but according to the CC support staff, there's no plan to implement the code for it), and it refuses to do relative addressing of page links. To insert rows I have to go into the code editor and do it by hand, which is a pain if there are a lot of tables. Plus, there's no support for column-wide selections so if I do insert a row I then have to go in by hand and reposition the individual cell contents one at a time if I don't want a gap in the middle of one column. What I want is column selection ala Excel. For page links, I'm writing the HTML on my PC, then uploading it to I don't want to hard code the page links, because I can't test them prior to uploading them to the server. But, if I do make them relative, CoffeeCup messes up and prepends "D:file\\" to the beginning of the link every time I switch views. This breaks the link even for testing on my laptop. So I'm forced to use hard links and give up the idea of local testing.

But I can live with that. In fact, I have been living with it for the last 9 months. What finally tipped me over the edge was when I was updating the Garo Special Issues webpage to add a table for Katsumata Susumu. This required that I put a new table in between the entries for Yuu Takita and Kuniko Tsurita. I'm using CoffeeCup's own copy-paste functions, and suddenly, the entire page is broken. Every time I switch between Code View and Page View, CoffeeCup adds duplicated code for both the Susumu and Kuniko tables, doubling the length of the file. Delete the offending duplication, and it just comes right back the next time I look at the finished page. Delete the page, start from scratch and add a new table for Shinji Nagashima, and the problem resurfaces all over again. I lost a full day messing with this.

Originally, I wrote a visual basic script to automate the process of generating the webpages for the regular Garo issues because of how long it was taking to do it by hand. I hadn't extended the script to the special issues because I only had 1 or 2 volumes to contend with at the time and rewriting the script didn't seem necessary. Not any more. Being fed up with CoffeeCup, I spent another hour rewriting the VBS to include special issues. Now, instead of the 30 minutes it would take to hand-edit the HTML in CoffeeCup (even when it didn't mess up), I can just run two scripts and everything's done in less than a second. This is a major deal, since I've got 3 more special issues that I picked up from Mandarake recently.

Which brings me to my next major announcement.

The Mandarake store in Akihabara seems to have gotten rid of 75% of its used Garo back issues. I went in around Dec. 17, thinking that I'd grab as many issues from 1970 as I could to work on them during the Christmas break (when my office is closed) and there was nothing there. Everything from 1964 to 1985 was gone. The shelf space was taken over by old copies of Shonen Jump instead. I didn't have time to ask the staff where the Garo issues went, but later I headed over to the Nakano store, and the Akihabara issues weren't sitting on the Nakano shelves. Nakano did still have some older issues, so I grabbed what they had up to July, 1971, which wasn't much. Mainly 4 special issues (Shinji, Katsumata, Seiichi and Ikegami), and 3 regular issues between Jan. and June, 1971.

In any event, I am getting tired of working on Garo, and had been planning on stopping when I got to the point where Kamui-den ended in July, 1971. But, if Mandarake is cleaning Garo off it's shelves, then I'll be finishing that much sooner. In any event, I've still got enough issues lined up for two months, at my current 1-a-week pace. I may take a break after that, but I don't know what I'll tackle next. I was thinking of sampling COM, but most of the COM issues disappeared from the Akihabara shop as well, kind of killing that idea. Nakano does have some COM issues, but it's a pretty small selection. The last time I was at the Shibuya store, there was nothing for either Garo or COM. So, at the moment, it looks like I'll be continuing the Garo features here on Nihon-go Hunter for no more than 2 more months.

End of vent.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Garo Feature #41

For the July, '69 special issue, I'm highlighting:

Shinji Nagashima's - Boy's Summer
Shinji Nagashima's - New Ugetsu Story

少年の夏 (Boy's Summer)

The story is set at a beach, where a young boy walks in the sand before sitting down. Crowds come in to enjoy playing in the ocean, and then leave, with trash scattered all across the sand behind them. Suddenly the scene jumps to a hospital office where an old man with a cigar is telling a younger, thinner guy something about cancer, the amount of money involved, the idea that the money might stay in the family, etc. Then the scene shifts back with the boy standing up, brushing the sand off his seat and walking back home.

新雨月物語 (New Ugetsu Story)

This is a combination of three short stories. It's related to the ghost story "Ugetsu Monogatari", which among other things was turned into a movie in 1953. In Shinji's version, we first have a hobo and his son and a dog, walking the countryside before they find a massive tree. The hobo settles down and starts carving the tree into a Buddha statue. The man dies and his son grows up and takes over the carving. But, he turns the statue into a modern art sculpture. He too dies of old age, and a passing traveler chops the remaining parts of the tree up to make crosses for the bodies of the boy and the dog, then uses the rest of the tree for firewood. In part 2, a young boy standing outside of a girl's house, holding a bunch of flowers, waits so long that his corpse ends up wrapped in with the ivy vines that grew up the outer wall. In part 3, a man dressed up as a clown and holding a sign advertising a coffee shop, watches as people pass him by on the sidewalk. At night, he goes home, takes off the makeup, and sits in front of an easel where he does oil painting. Over time he watches as one girl grows up, meeting a boyfriend, getting married and having a child. Just about when the painting of her is finished, the clown dies. The painting is put on display at an art gallery. The woman visits the gallery, sees herself in the painting and cries, remembering the clown that used to stand outside on the sidewalk.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Garo Feature #53

For the May, '70 issue, I'm highlighting:

Shouhei Kusunoki's - The Large Room
Tadao Tsuge's - Ditch Road, Part 2

大部屋 (The Large Room)

Note: The title, "Ohbeya", can simply mean "large room", an actor's common-use room, or a hospital ward. The story takes place in a hospital, where various patients are waiting for major surgery. The majority of the conversations revolve around the decision whether to have the surgery or not, with rumors about why any given decision would be bad. If you have the surgery in the morning, the doctor might be coming in drunk; in the afternoon the doctor is tired and making mistakes. If you don't have the surgery, you usually only have 6 months to live. If you do have it, you may overhear the nurses wondering where one of their pairs of forceps went, or that their post-surgery inventory of the needles is coming up one short. Two guys get the surgery at the same time; one comes out of it fine, the other starts coughing a few days later and dies under a post-surgery operation. Another patient comes in, saying that he'll have his surgery in a couple of months, so two of the ones that have already had their surgeries start joking about missing needles, and the new guy yells at them for making him worry, with the resulting tension about to flare into a fist-fight. Eventually, most of the people have left, with one guy who put off the idea of being operated on looking emaciated, coughing weakly, and near-death.

どぶ街 (Ditch Road, Part 2)

An artist approaching a pachinko parlor gets harassed by some local thugs protecting their turf. The thugs' leader comes out, recognizes the artist as his friend and apologizes to him. They go to a coffee shop to talk. Turns out the artist has fallen on hard times and lost his job. They depress each other, and go back out to the street. A woman happens by and asks the artist to meet up with her to go drinking. A little later, the thugs run to get their leader to announce that a rival gang is trying to get into their pachinko parlor. There's a fight and one of the enemy gets knifed and dies. Everyone scatters, but the police are summoned and they catch the leader as he flees the scene. The artist and the woman happen on the scene, and the woman runs to the leader to demand that the police let her husband go free. The artist wanders away and despondently kicks through some lumber at a demolished building site before walking off.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Garo Feature #46

For the Oct., '69 issue, I'm highlighting:

Susumu Katsumata's - Kapparou

かっぱ郎 (Kapparou)

A young kappa tries to fit in as a farmer in the countryside, with poor results.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Garo Feature #63

For the Dec., '70 issue, I'm highlighting:

Susumu Katsumata's - Gossip Woman

I've actually managed to skip issue 67, the special dedicated to Susumu. I need to go back and upload that one next week. In the meantime, I'm just featuring this one story by Susumu, because it's funny, but also because so much of Kuniko's works have already been included here.

噂の女 (Gossip Woman)

This is essentially a parody of Kuniko Tsurita, using characters from her various stories plus cameos by Akira Ogawa, Shigeru Mizuki, Yuu Takita, Yoshiharu Tsuge and others. The "story" is that each of the characters are being asked where Kuniko is, and they all repeat rumors that they'd heard about her.