Social Media Detox vol. 2

In January I went through a social media detox and wrote about it on Medium. I would have done that this time around as well, had they not changed their monetisation, because this topic isn’t exactly an otaku one. Oh well, if you’re not interested, just skip this one.

January was crazy. It was such a busy and atypical month that I had little time to miss social media. But the subsequent months were different. Suddenly, I found myself with free time and nothing to fill it with. Social media slowly crept back into my life and made themselves very, very comfortable. Once again realizing I wasn’t working on the important projects and instead whittling away hours every day checking for new posts, I turned BlockSite back on.

BlockSite is a Chrome extension, which blocks the five most distracting sites for me. Of course, it has more features than that, but I use just this main function. This time around I’m blocking facebook, tumblr, twitter, one discussion website (think reddit) and pinterest, even though I rarely use it. On top of BlockSite, I uninstalled twitter and tumblr apps from my phone.

DAY 1

Roughly 24 hours in I already feel a lot more productive. I still had downtimes in my day, but they weren’t filled with cycling through social media. Instead I read From Truant to Anime Screenwriter and a couple of posts from my RSS feed. Today’s messages are:

Think about what you will fill the sudden emptiness with.

I feel like I spent almost a third of each day prior reading social media. I wasn’t even all that active myself. I just spent approximately seven hours every day reading snippets about others’ days. And of course, I bemoaned the fact that there just isn’t time for all my important projects. Yeah, I feel stupid. These first hours are very reminiscent of the January detox. I remember feeling dumb back then as well.

Reading a good book or blog post from a personally curated RSS feed beats gulping down hundreds (or thousands) of canapés about others’ lives hands down.

From Truant to Anime Screenwriter is a memoir of Mari Okada, a prolific Japanese writer, who has authored anime and live-action screenplays. Recently she has directed the 2018 anime film Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms. From Truant to Anime Screenwriter is a rather short book. I’ve burned through about half of it in the past 24 hours.

DAY 4

Life has its ups and downs. I haven’t felt as productive these past three days as I did on Day 1. On the other hand, I feel focused. Case in point: I have finished four (albeit short) books in the past three days.

First was Mari Okada’s From Truant to Anime Screenwriter, which I talked about above and expressed interest for in a blogpost 10 months ago. The book certainly did give me some insight into Okada’s life and her reasons for writing anime scripts the way she does. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m not too fond of her work. She does a great job developing her (mostly interesting) characters, but when there is no story, the anime just doesn’t work for me.

Second was Oprah’s Wisdom of Sundays. It took me two months to finish and it’s an okay book, but that’s about all I have to say about it.

Third and fourth are by Hiromi Kawakami, a Japanese writer, literary critic, poet and provocative essayist. She started off in sci-fi and ended up in magical realism. I read Manazuru and The Briefcase. There is enough magical realism in Manazuru for me not to like it as much, but The Briefcase was pretty enjoyable. I plan on reading The Nakano Thriftstore by her soon as well.

For the time being I started Changing Places by David Lodge. I can’t say I’ve done much outside of reading though. When I’m not buried in a book, I’m either asleep or staring into space.

DAY 6

I’m still reading a lot, but I’ve also started studying and exercising again. There is still a lot of white space in my waking hours, which means either staring into space or browsing the net. It makes me feel better to know I’m not aimlessly cycling through social media. When hypnotizing my computer screen, I’m likely researching something (like identifying a pretty bush I found on my fitness walk through the park), reading articles from my RSS feed (the number of unread posts is actually diminishing) or… stuff.

DAY 10

Like I wrote above, life has its ups and downs. I have been reading, but I haven’t done much else. David Lodge’s Changing Places was quite fun, though that was to be expected. Right now I’m reading the second book of The Campus Trilogy called Small World. (Changing Places is the first book in the series, though the books make sense by themselves too. I actually read the third book, Nice Work, in 2016. I’m considering rereading it after I finish Small World.)

Having finished seven books in the past two weeks, I have caught up and even gotten ahead of my reading plan. Now if I only found the energy to delve into my studies. Those steel I-beams, bolts of various threads, and all types of loads are waiting. And those window frames are itching to be assessed…

I realize I have been writing about books quite a bit, but I really haven’t been doing much else. What is nice about this second run of the social media detox is that I don’t miss them much. I think I have tried to open just two of the blocked sites in those ten days and each one just once. Of course, I wonder what some people are doing, but it’s not like I can’t text them or wait a couple of days until I see them again. As cruel as it may sound, if I don’t have means outside of social media of contacting someone, we’re probably not that close anyway.

DAY 13

I finished Small World and went on to read Nice Work. Other than reading I have not been doing much, but I have been cleaning a little bit at least.

DAY 17

I knocked off Nice Work on Monday, Where’d You Go, Bernadette on Tuesday and today (Thursday) I finished The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I went on some walks, studied a tiny bit, cleaned, babysat, ran some errands I have been putting off,…

Having always been an avid reader, it’s rather shameful that I hadn’t read Anne Frank’s diary until my 28th year. On the other hand, save for a couple of Remarque’s novels and mandatory school reading I haven’t really read much wartime literature. As expected, I cried reading the afterword detailing the desolate deaths of the inhabitants of the Secret Annex. Especially after the last couple of entries/letters, that were very optimistic, sadness just welled up and poured out of my eyes. Of course I knew how she met her end, but still…

She writes about D Day (exactly 75 years ago, as I’m writing this on June 6, 2019) and about the progress of the Allied forces, which fills her with optimism. And just a couple of entries later the diary ends. The Secret Annex was raided on August 4, 1944, only 9 months before the liberation of Amsterdam.

Hermann van Pels (van Daan) was, according to the testimony of Otto Frank, gassed to death in Auschwitz in October or November 1944, shortly before the gas chambers were dismantled.
Auguste van Pels (Petronella van Daan) was transported from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, from there to Buchenwald, then to Theresienstadt on April 9, 1945, and apparently to another concentration camp after that. It is certain that she did not survive, though the date of her death is unknown.
Peter van Pels (van Daan) was forced to take part in the January 16, 1945 “death march” from Auschwitz to Mauthausen (Austria), where he died on May 5, 1945, three days before the camp was liberated.
Fritz Pfeffer (Albert Dussel) died on December 20, 1944, in the Neuengamme concentration camp, where he had been transferred from either Buchenwald or Sachsenhausen.
Edith Frank died in Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 6, 1945, from hunger and exhaustion.
Margot and Anne Frank were transported from Auschwitz at the end of October and brought to Bergen Belsen, a concentration camp near Hannover (Germany). The typhus epidemic that broke out in the winter of 1944-1945, as a result of the horrendous hygienic conditions, killed thousands of prisoners, including Margot and, a few days later, Anne. She must have died in late February or early March. The bodies of both girls were probably dumped in Bergen-Belsen’s mass graves. The camp was liberated by British troops on April 12, 1945.
Otto Frank was the only one of the eight to survive the concentration camps.

Although I can’t waste time on social media, I do spend quite a large portion of my days at the computer. I have been going through my open tabs. You see, I have a habit of opening several, usually three, articles from my RSS feed at a time to read. And surprise, surprise, the longer ones often don’t get read. So right now I have 34 tabs open. I’m pretty sure some of these articles have been waiting for me for years. Seriously.

DAY 28

Eleven more days, six more books.

Daily Rituals: Women at Work by Mason Currey is a continuation of his Daily Rituals, which featured the daily routines of famous artists. Realizing the first book starred predominantly men, he wrote another focusing solely on female artists.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and The Guide to Self-Knowledge by Mark Manson are both a sort of self-help books written in his not-so-common voice. That means there is quite a bit of swearing, as you might have deemed from the title. I actually read the first one last year, but it was still enjoyable the second time around.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was a bit of a let down. The great American novel! The tragic love story! The symbolism! I have to admit the writing is pretty good. Other than that, I really don’t understand what the humbug is about.

Yesterday I finished The Collector by John Fowles. I liked the form of the book and the ending. It was a bit unexpected, which is always nice. The characters felt very believable. The monstrous gap between the ways they perceived the same events gave the story even more depth. But it was sad and I don’t think there is much reread value.

Today I finally finished The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I started it around Easter. It’s long-winded. I admit I expected more of a Nobel Prize winner.

Only three more days of the challenge, but there isn’t much pulling me back towards social media.

ALMOST A MONTH LATER

In the last three days of the challenge I read Mr. Theodore Mundstock. It’s a pretty short novel about a Prague Jew during World War II. A book about schizophrenia, fear and helplessness. I can’t say I “liked” or “enjoyed” it, but I think I can say it was humbling, relatable and even a bit motivational.

Since the end of the challenge I have been busy. There is just so much to do and rarely do I long to scroll through the endless feeds of facebook or Twitter.

On facebook I find value in messages and events. I use messenger.com and I suppose I might designate one evening per week to check the facebook website for events, but other than that there is just nothing.

Twitter recently redesigned their web interface and it is a nightmare.

Namely, the default view is now not a chronological feed of the accounts the user follows, but a so called “Home,” which shows the “top” tweets first. Sure, you can switch back to a chronological feed, but it will revert to the default Home if you don’t visit the website for about 2 days. I won’t delete my account, but I don’t see myself using Twitter much ever again.

tumblr, on the other hand, I might start using just about every day again.

I’m considering deleting my pinterest account, but it is a great source of creative inspiration. For example, I want to design some shelves for our cat and pinterest is chock-full of ideas.

Lastly, that reddit-like discussion website… I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll limit it to one visit per week?

In the January run I realized how much I used social media, when in reality there was barely anything useful or even convenient. This time around I had a replacement activity ready and realized I could easily read 16 books in a month, when I wasn’t checking social media every other minute.

Bottom line, I really don’t have the time to waste on something that doesn’t bring me any value. Once again, I sincerely recommend this challenge to just about anyone.

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Looking Back: 2018

Like last year I would like to take a couple of minutes to look back on the past twelve months.

This time around my activity greatly depended on my school and work commitments. Specifically with the start of the summer and later winter semester, I stopped blogging altogether. Nevertheless I had managed to revive the blog for 40 posts this year, including this one. Lesser in number, but markedly longer on average than last year. Actually, this year I wrote almost 24k words, surpassing last year by roughly 5k and making this year my most productive (when it comes to words written) yet. That’s the statistics, now for some reflection, once again courtesy of Lauren Orsini of Otaku Journalist.

2019 will be the year of the pig.

What made up your body of work this year? Which parts are you most proud of?

I feel like there wasn’t much focus to my choice of topics this year. There were reviews of whole series, both of the whole thing at once and by three episodes. There were architectural posts in August. I scraped out some old drafts and peppered them throughout the year. It’s been hotchpotch of topics.

Even so, I am proud of my summer body of work. I worked diligently writing two posts per week for several months. I finally wrote the yonkoma post that I have been procrastinating on for ages. Then I went back to school, work and having no free time whatsoever.

Blogging-wise, I don’t have any goals for next year. School and work are my priorities and if I am too busy with the two, then I just am not going to blog. On the other hand, I have 60 drafts I would like to finish…

Happy New Year!

Fall 2018 Preview II.

This is the second (and last) installment of this season’s previews. Unknowingly I picked quite a number of shorts/shorter-than-full episodes this season. Maybe I will be able to follow some of these throughout the whole three months!

Sono Toki, Kanojo wa

A series of shorts about love.

The anime will take place in Fukuoka, and will follow the love lives of four female protagonists as high school students, college students, and as working adults.

—ANN

This could be pretty bad or pretty good. One of the problems some people have with the series already is that it looks like it will be purely heterosexual. On the other hand, so was Tsurezure Children and that was very well received. My expectations so far are high in the art style department, but I’m a little worried as to how the story/stories will be. Anyway, this is airing today!

Continue reading

Fall 2018 Preview I.

Although lately I haven’t had the time to write (blame real life), I still plan on watching some, namely six, anime this season. I’m sure I won’t be following all six for the whole 12+ weeks, but a girl can dream, right? Without further ado, let’s look at the first three today. There will be a second installment on Sunday.

Jingai-san no Yome

Jingai-san no Yome (lit. Outcast’s Spouse) is airing today!

Tomari Hinowa is a normal high schooler, until one day he’s told that he has to become the wife of a mysterious creature called Kanenogi. This is the start of their newly married life.

—MU

It’s adapted from a yonkoma, so the episodes are going to be only 5 minutes long. The genre is comedy, though we expect a bit of slice-of-life as well.

Since I have not been able to get my hands on the manga, I don’t know what else to expect. The PV doesn’t give much information either. One thing is certain though—the monster spouse, who loves drooling all over the boy, is cute.

Entry on Tokyo Otaku Mode

Continue reading

Kodama in Anime

Let’s dive into some figures of Japanese folklore and their representation in anime. Today I would like to focus on kodama, Japanese spirits that inhabit trees. Japanese dryads, if you will.

Up until a short time ago, the word kodama immediately made me think of the Ghibli rendering—glow-in-the-dark bobbleheads with wonky heads from Princess Mononoke.

Then I watched Hoozuki no Reitetsu and saw a totally different kodama.

Instead of tiny toy-like figures with asymmetrical faces, I was met with a child-sized spirit with an apron over a kimono and leaves sticking out everywhere. Now, they are both cute, but otherwise rather different. That made me think, what about other depictions of kodama in anime? Continue reading

結城友奈は勇者である | Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero: 1-3

While searching for kodama in anime, I came across this magical girl series. One middle-school Hero Club usually helps out in their community by finding homes for stray kittens, putting on plays for kindergarten children or cleaning up the shore. As it turns out though, the club has a mission bigger than that.

As always, there will be SPOILERS for the first three episodes!

In the first episode, the girls are chosen to protect the Divine Tree and through that the world. They transform into magical girls and take on their first enemy.

Virgo Vertex

On the other side of the equation are the Hero Club members. Continue reading

Spoon & Tamago

If you enjoy my architectural posts, I recommend you check out Spoon & Tamago.

Spoon & Tamago is a website about Japanese design of all sorts. And architecture falls under design as well. So under the explore tab on their blog you can find categories of various architectural projects.

Since the team all speak Japanese, they can write about Japanese architecture, that has not been mentioned in any English source so far. Unlike my posts that are, due to my poor language skills, born from English and Czech sources.

When the team celebrated their 10 year anniversary last year, they made a short video telling their story.

Their project resonates with me, not only because their work is so meticulously researched and well-written, but also because I strive to make my blog into something similar. Unfortunately I don’t speak Japanese (yet), so I can’t research as well as them, but I aim for a dash of dorry to become an excellent aggregation of posts on Japanese animation and architecture.

Anime Mirai 2015

This is a double review, attempting to highlight the short animations that come out off Young Animator Training Project. In 2015, the project was called Anime Mirai and it spawned four animations. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get all four. Hence it’s only a double review. I’ll try to make it as spoiler free as I can.

Aki no Kanade (アキの奏で, lit. Aki’s Rhythm) – J.C.Staff

It has been 10 years since Aki moved to Tokyo to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a taiko drummer. However, trying to balance work and taiko practice is harsh, and each day is incredibly stressful. One day, Aki receives a phone call. A taiko drum festival is going to be revived after 15 years. Will she be able to come back and give technical guidance?

This is a story of finding lost passion. Before returning to her hometown to train the drummers for the festival, Aki feels like a failure for not being able to live off her drumming jobs. That she still has to keep a second job to pay her bills. But looking at the other drummers in her squad, she’s not the only one.

If you’re feeling lost on your journey and lack the drive and motivation to continue, think back to the things that made you start. That initial excitement and the reasons you have since almost forgotten might spark something. Aki remembers her training and the festivals in her hometown, the way she loved taiko drumming before it became a means of making money. Continue reading

Notes on Mitsuboshi Colors

I wrote about Mitsuboshi Colors in my Winter 2018 Preview I.

I’m expecting a cute slice-of-life, an iyashikei anime. Barely anything will happen… something like Non Non Biyori. Which is a fitting comparison since both are made by Silver Link.

Well, I can certainly say the series did not meet my expectations. There were some good moments, but those could be recounted in a pretty short post. So that is exactly what I’ll do.

Going by episodes, I have two notes on the first one. First off, the anime is very true to the manga. That’s not a good thing, because the manga is rather boring. And second, the CG is awful.

In general, the art style and the animation aren’t exactly stellar. Through out the anime you will see some scenes repeating and a lot of barely modified photos for backgrounds (at stores, the zoo and in the museum). The characters and foregrounds are animated in a very average style, nothing to write home about. There is nothing wrong with any of that, but it sure gives of a lazy/low-cost feeling. Continue reading

Natural Ellipse House

Yet another work of modern Japanese architecture is a Tokyo house that looks like an egg with a hole at the top. It was conceived by two architects, Masaki Endoh and Masahiro Ikeda. Both of these architects are little known outside of Japan, but the building I want to write about today was awarded Rookie of the Year 2003 by The Japan Institute of Architects.

It’s called Natural Ellipse House and it was a built as a four story apartment building of sorts. There were just two apartments, each taking up two stories, and the basement was shared.

I’m using the past tense, because it seems the building is not occupied by the original client anymore. Instead it is used as a hotel! That means that if you’re looking for a memorable place to stay in Tokyo, Natural Ellipse House is one option. Continue reading