Samurai Flamenco – The best worst anime I’ve ever seen.

Samurai Flamenco!

Gotou looks on as Flamenco responds to the call to action! From “Anime is Dead” blog. http://animeisdead.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/samurai-flamenco-love-and-empathy-are-beyond-justice/

I didn’t know where else to write this.

I’m just so mad right now.

I’m so mad I’m taking time out of work to write this. That’s how mad I am. Don’t tell my boss.

Last night I indulged again in my recent guilty pleasure, Samurai Flamenco, an anime created in 2013 which focuses on the life of a male model named Masayoshi.

Masayoshi works as a model, but dreams of becoming a real life superhero akin to those in shows like “Power Rangers” (in this series called the “credit card rangers”). To that end, he creates the hero Samurai Flamenco – his costumed alter ego – who will fight evil on the streets in Japan.

We first meet Masayoshi sitting naked and defeated in a back alley, where the show’s other main character, Gotou, finds him. Gotou is a young police officer, and he struggles with the challenge of knowing that Masayoshi is a masked vigilante whom he should probably report, while also knowing that he’s a complete weakling with good intentions who actually gets beat up more often than he manages to do any good.

So that’s the basic set up. The young man who wants to “fight for justice.” The cop who doesn’t share the same idealism, but who does “fight for justice” in his day job.

What I can’t express is the wonderful charm of this show. Masayoshi’s naivete and repeatedly crushed optimism is wonderfully heartening somehow. Seeing him fail to convince a stranger to put a can into a recycle bin instead of tossing it on the street makes the viewer shake his head with a smile. Gotou struggling with trying to be supportive of this truly good-natured kid, while trying to help him recognize the realities of a nuanced world is equally humorous. Their relationship is emotionally rewarding, and develops very well. As the hyper-cheerful end-credits play on each episode I notice I have a huge smile on my face.

The plot progresses at a perfect pace. A news website owner puts up a reward for the identity of Flamenco, A washed-up action hero claims to be the real Samurai Flamenco live on television where Masayoshi is a guest. Masayoshi’s agent suspects the truth and must be kept in the dark. A pop-star female arrives in costume to fight evil and can actually beat up muggers, unlike Flamenco. When Flamenco puts forth a superhuman effort just to retrieve an umbrella for Gotou, he becomes a viral video sensation.

And so on.

The whole thing just feels like a wonderfully comedic soap-opera, just barely pushing the boundaries of the absurd on occasion (super-powered school supplies, anyone?) for the sake of a good laugh.

Then episode 7 comes along. Prepare for spoilers.

The first half of episode 7 is basically normal. Gotou informs Masayoshi that the police chief wants to make Samurai Flamenco “Police Chief for a Day” and have him ride along as the police clean out a drug operation. It’s meant to be a photo op for the police department, to improve their reputation.

After the bad guys are subdued, Flamenco is allowed into the building where the drug operation is taking place. One of the criminals breaks loose and runs into another room. The police and Flamenco give chase, but the criminal throws off 4 police officers simultaneously. Samurai Flamenco and Gotou watch in shock as, screaming and grunting, the criminal transforms into a giant ape with huge metal screws in its head and a guillotine for a torso, which it then uses to chop off the heads of several police officers while yelling “I am Guillotine Gorilla!” Necks are snapped. Heads fly. Blood spurts. Gotou and Flamenco manage to shove the gorilla out of a high window, thus killing it. Then “King Torture” appears in the sky and announces that the monster is his and he’s going to take over the world. End of episode.

This sudden and dramatic change in tone, style, violence level, and theme was completely unexpected and utterly derailed everything that went before.

“It must be a fantasy, or a dream or something,” I thought. “It must be a hallucination brought on by the drugs.” I skimmed through the next episode. Another ridiculous monster, and no discussion of how it’s not “real.”

In fact, for the remainder of the show (another 14 episodes or so) it’s nothing but send up after send up of the old Japanese action shows. First cartoony monsters led by a bad guy who wants to “take over the world.” But then it’s a team of fighters led by Flamenco. Suddenly the washed-up action hero character is actually the 1970s Japanese equivalent of Nick Fury, commanding teams of fighters. Flamenco becomes more and more powerful, transforming his costume from flimsy home-sewn fabric to a high tech suit of awesome. The team pilots special ships and fights the Japanese Government which has become evil. Then an alien menace appears and sends monsters which transform into giant versions of themselves.

Of course, it doesn’t take long to realize that Flamenco is experiencing everything he ever thought he wanted. All the bad guys from all the shows he loves are appearing – and he’s the hero!  He has his tragic back-story! He has his super powers! He has his recognition! At last!

A few hints in the show, skillfully dropped, show that there’s a message in there for the viewer.

  • The man who owns the internet news site appears occasionally while things are peaceful between planet-threatening attacks and says with his half-closed eyes something along the lines of “this is so boring.”
  • The never-on-screen girlfriend of Gotou sends him text messages while Flamenco is seen battling evil, asking “Does Masayoshi look happy?”
  • The girl who saw herself as hero is humiliated when she realizes her motives are impure, and she’s nothing more than an expendible sidekick.
  • King Torture releases his prisoner, swearing to never do her harm, when she demonstrates she is a true hero, exhibiting self-sacrifice in the face of current and imminent agony.
  • Masayoshi can’t figure out how to help Gotou when there is no super-villain to fight.

You know what, writers? I get it. I’m seeing the commentary on heroism, desires, and happiness. I get it. But you know what?

That’s not what we signed up for.

For six and a half episodes Samurai Flamenco treats us to one of the most charming and well-written anime series in recent memory. Yeah, the artwork was pretty pathetic, but so what? Viewers were ready to stick with Masayoshi and Gotou for years, watching them deal with the challenges of regular human life and the conflict between the ideal and the real. It was good. It was sweet. It was everything it needed to be.

And yes, maybe that’s the point. You live the life you can, and do the good you can, because it’s perfect just how it is. You dream of amazing adventures and being something you’re not, but will it really make you happy? Is the purpose of life to avoid being bored? Is it a costume and adventure that makes a hero? No. So why not embrace all that is good in the sometimes boring, but ultimately beautiful life you have?

In that sense, Samurai Flamenco is massively impressive in that they sacrificed the entire show to proving that point. It makes it, in my opinion, one of the most powerful and beautiful pieces of art able to express that idea. From an artistic standpoint, this was a huge win.

But you know what? I didn’t sign up for that. I wanted my guilty pleasure about a male model who fumbles through life, but manages to do a lot of good with his meager efforts.

Good job, team, in making your point in an epic way. Now give me back the life I wanted.

test post, please ignore

Exposed! Getting Busted In The Buff

Being arrested is never a fun experience for anyone. But for some unfortunate folks, they must endure the whole humiliating process without any clothes on. Can you imagine being sent off to jail in your birthday suit? Talk about fresh meat. But has anyone really ever gotten arrested completely naked? Oh yes. It’s happened. . . more often than you think.

Here are three famous cases where a criminal was arrested. . . sans clothing.

1) Yeiner Perez

Perez became a Youtube sensation when footage of his naked subway shenanigans at a BART station in San Francisco surfaced online. In the video, Perez can be seen performing some pretty spectacular acrobatics as he first does naked splits on top of a barrier wall, then out of nowhere, Perez performs a backflip to dismount off of a 5-foot platform.

Unfortunately, the nude acrobat also did some things that weren’t so nice—like chasing a woman and pushing her down to the floor. He was arrested at the station but was subsequently released when police failed to bring in charges on time. Perez was arrested again less than a week later, and San Francisco’s District Attorney charged him with six counts of battery and one count of sexual battery. Hopefully when police apprehended Perez this time around, he had clothing on.

2) Brian Blake Bienvenu

According to arrest reports, Bienvenu landed in the pokey not once but twice in just over 12 hours—once for a DWC (driving without clothing) and the second time for stealing a motorcycle while shirtless. Just because you live in Florida sir, doesn’t mean you can cruise around in the nude. On his first arrest, Bienvenu was charged with indecent exposure, and released from jail within a few hours.

That same night, Bienvenu continued his crime spree when he stole a motorcycle at the Palm Beach Airport. Police caught up to him and placed him under arrest—again. This time, however, at least he had the wherewithal to put on pants before committing a crime. Round two behind bars wasn’t as breezy as the first time since Bienvenu was charged with grand theft motor vehicle—a much more serious crime.

3) Rosildo C. Santos Jr.

Santos decided to have himself a crazy night out on the town by hitting up the fine establishment of Dunkin’ Donuts two times in a row—in the buff. The 34-year-old waltzed into the donut store completely naked, “except for a trench coat over his waist.” For the record, trenchcoats don’t minimize the creepiness of walking around in public naked. They actually make it much worse. When employees were in the middle of reporting the incident to police, Santos showed up at Dunkin Donuts again! This time, however, the exhibitionist had worked up the nerve to stroll in Full Monty-style.

The officer then followed Santos, and finally arrested him after Santos pulled into a McDonald’s drive-thru. Surprisingly, Santos actually passed several field sobriety tests and the arresting officer determined that Santos had done the whole thing stone cold sober. He was still arrested and charged with “open and gross lewdness.”

What Did We Learn?

Clearly you shouldn’t commit crimes in the first place, but you really shouldn’t commit crimes without any clothes on. While you may believe that “the human body is a work of art” in most places, being nude in public is a crime in and of itself. If you’re thinking that you’ll just post a nude pic on Facebook to get your voyeuristic needs out of your system, think again. Even if you’re over the age of eighteen, posting nude pictures of yourself on social media sites is also illegal and you could be charged with either indecent exposure or public sexual indecency. You wouldn’t want your arrest record to end up on a site like Instant Checkmate. That would just be. . . embarrassing.

If you really feel the need to socialize outside of your home without clothes on, join a nudist colony! Otherwise, keep it covered, and obey the law to avoid getting busted in the buff.

Jessica Ruane  is a true crime blogger living in San Diego. She especially enjoys researching and writing about bizzare crimes and off-the-wall arrest stories. She blogs about personal safety, crime, and online security for blog.instantcheckmate.com.

Hollywood Experiences Twitter-Organized Crime Wave

All over the world, police forces are starting to harness the power of Internet. The Spanish police use Twitter to collect information and distribute public service announcements. The Chicago police is using it to disseminate information to individual neighborhoods to help citizens avoid criminals. And even everyday citizens use online public records databases to see if anyone they know has a history of criminal activity.

Criminal Tweeting

But while the forces of law and order are using social media to their advantage, criminals are also starting to realize just how powerful social media can be. People looking to cause trouble can instantly connect with other criminally-minded individuals and start wreaking havoc at any time. The city of Los Angeles recently learned this the hard way when a “rolling crime wave” hit Hollywood.

The trouble started July 17th when tweets started calling for violence in Hollywood. One read, “Take the riot to Hollywood. Hollywood. 7:30.” A few dozen teenagers heeded the call, and began to cause chaos in the district.

Since the LAPD were already spread thin because of protests in response to the verdict of George Zimmerman, the troublemakers assumed this would be a good opportunity to cause some trouble.

Problem In Other Cities

While authorities report this is the first known instance of social media-inspired crime in Los Angeles, other cities have struggled with flash mob crime. The cities of Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington, have all seen breakdowns of order after criminals sent a call-to-arms on Twitter. Violence in Chicago even caused Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to enact harsher penalties for people who organized criminal activities using social media platforms.

The 911 calls reporting trouble started around 8:30. A group of youths were reportedly running in and out of traffic, stealing things from souvenir stores, and knocking people over on sidewalks. When officers responded to the calls, the group splintered, only to reconvene again when the police were out of sight. When it became clear that the mob was a serious problem, the LAPD sent over 100 officers to contain them.

The newly-dispatched officers started hunting for suspects who might have been involved with the criminal mischief. By the time the evening was over, 12 people—11 youths and one 18-year-old—had been arrested. Officers report that the majority of the people involved in the crime wave arrived via subway.

Ongoing Investigation

However, this isn’t the end of the Twitter-inspired crime for investigating officers. They are currently combing through hours of security footage taken from the area to see if they can identify anyone else involved in the crime. Officers suspect that the people involved used the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin as an excuse to cause chaos in Hollywood.

The Los Angeles Police Department openly solicits tips that may help solve crimes. If you believe that you know who may have been involved with the crime spree and wish to provide an anonymous tip, please call 1-877-527-3247.

Gale Winstead is a writer living in Hemet, California.  He writes about crime and social media.

Why I Decided to Leave My Credit Cards at Home

Credit cards are a fact of life for most people, but I decided to leave my credit cards at home when I realized that I was spending far more money swiping my card than I would have been if I only had cash to spend. Leaving my credit cards at home and only using them for specific purposes has given me a sense of control over my finances and allowed me to live a more peaceful life. Here are some of the reasons I decided to quit carrying my credit cards around:

Cash Back and Bonuses aren’t Worth Paying Interest

One of the reasons I started using credit cards is because I was excited about earning frequent flyer miles, cash back and other bonuses. I soon discovered that I was paying more money in interest each month than the bonuses I was earning. I also found that most cards that offer rewards charged me an annual fee just for having the account open. Rewards cards are good for people who charge large amounts on their cards each month and pay them off before they are charged interest, but most people (myself included) don’t fall into this category.

I Think about My Purchases More

Studies have shown that most people who use credit cards regularly end up spending more than they would if they were buying everything with cash. I found this to be particularly true for me. I also discovered that I put back most of the things that I didn’t plan to buy when I only have a certain amount of cash in my pocket. It’s too easy for me to swing by a coffee stand and add $4.00 to my credit card debt, but it’s not so easy when I know that I only have $6 in my pocket and I will need to eat lunch before going home.

I Worry Less about Identity Theft

Most of the time I don’t know anything about the person who is taking my credit card and swiping it through the machine. They could steal my information and use it to rack up purchases that would take me weeks to fully dispute. Cash is easier for me to deal with and a lot less worrisome. Identity theft is becoming increasingly common and I want to do everything I can to protect myself from being victimized.

Using Cash Helps Me Budget

using cash can help your budget

One of the reasons I carry cash is that it helps me budget properly.  If I only take $80 to the grocery store, I cannot spend more than that $80. If I use a credit card, I can plan to spend $80 on groceries, but there is nothing stopping me from spending $110 and paying interest on the charges.

Paying with Cash Doesn’t Add to My Debt

I am struggling to pay off my credit card debt as soon as possible and using the cards to make purchases adds to the debt instead of lowering it. Most of my credit card balances are subject to 14 percent interest, which means that I end up making payments totaling $1,750 for every $1,000 worth of purchases I charged on each card, assuming my payment is about two percent of the balance each month. I don’t want to spend the next eight or nine years paying off a meal that I paid for with my credit card today.

I was used to taking my credit cards with me everywhere, and that was a very difficult habit to break. When I see something that I don’t have enough money for, I write down the information and spend the next couple of days deciding if the item is worth taking the cash out of the bank. This helps me save money and eliminate impulse buys.

Jennifer Willard is a finance blogger with a great deal of experience overcoming personal debt.  After her credit card bills became too much to handle, she enrolled in a debt management program.  Since her turnaround, she has been writing occasionally for Credit Guard, along with her own personal finance blog, Crayons & Coins.

Adding a Dog to the Family.

There are few things as exciting as adding a new member to the family. Whether that be a new child or a new pet the excitement build until that final day when the little bundle arrives. Obviously in the case of a pet there is a little more choosing and a lot less effort, but the joy is roughly the same.

Now, if you happen to be at that place in your life where you already have the children and are getting them a pet for the first time, or replacing a pet, it can be joy magnified as each of member of the family feeds off the energy of the others until everyone feels like they are going to burst. When selecting a new pet for the family there can be a lot of input and the end result will satisfy everyone as much as it fails to satisfy everyone completely.

There are a lot of rules that come with any owning any pet but a lot of the rules associated with traditional pets like dogs and cats get overlooked especially when considering their interaction with children. Dogs in particular can take some basic training to integrate into a family properly.

Cats will or will not fit in your family. They are judgmental and independent and few things divert them from their chosen path.

When adopting a dog to bring into your family it can be overwhelming for the animal and for the children. Both are filled with a bubbling energy that is the whole reason to have children or a dog and both are prone to making mistakes that will get them in trouble.

A dog training class can help get your new buddy used to dealing with people and is especially handy if you get a dog from a rescue shelter where the history is unknown and survival habits might have the dog acting frightened or aggressive when presented with people. A dog training class can also be a good time to teach the children about proper care for their new friend.

Care of a pet includes not just the day-to-day of feeding, watering, and walking but also about how to approach and treat the animal.

Children often don’t know when they are taking their play too far and can harm a new pet. Likewise, a new pet can get carried away in its play and innocently harm a child. Teaching children to be careful and respect their pet will also help normalize the environment for the animal, which helps prevent a dog bite.

The SPCA has a list of recommended steps to take when encountering stray or unfamiliar dogs and children should be taught a modified version for the home pet as well.

  • Never treat a dog unkindly
  • Be calm
  • Don’t bother busy dogs
  • Be still
  • Avoid looking at aggressive dogs
  • Avoid interacting with unattended or stray dogs

Following these steps can help protect children and adults from unnecessary injury from a dog and to a dog.

Now the only hard part is convincing the family to stick with one pet and not a pet per person…

Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor and Executive Orders.

I finished two books by Tom Clancy recently: “Debt of Honor” and “Executive Orders.”

Debt of Honor was, I thought, one of Clancy’s best. As usual, it begins with multiple threads combining into an interesting tapestry of international conflict. Jack Ryan figures large yet again as a member of the cabinet of the presidency of the USA.

The funny thing, though, is that I can’t really say much more about it except that it’s good in the same way that all the other Clancy novels are good, and bad in the same ways, too. What should I say? Did you like “Hunt for Red October?” You’ll like this. “Sum of All Fears” on your list? Put this on too.

I personally liked it better than any other Clancy novel I’ve read, but I can’t say why. Maybe it’s just me. I guess the only way to find out is for you to read it yourself.

Executive Orders was more like a combination of the boring parts of “Rainbow Six,” and the good parts of “Sum of All Fears” along with a huge pile of Ayn Rand. There was a lot of fun plots, twists, and turns and conflicts, but the whole thing was dunked in Clancy’s personal political views throughout and it was actually difficult to continue reading despite the compelling story.

Executive Orders was a book that should have been phenomenal and ends up being both pandering and condescending.