There are always a few peripheral characters in the Pixar films that I fall utterly in love with. In the case of Wall-E, it’s the adorable clean-up drone M-O (they always boast clever names, too), whose facial expressions come entirely in the form of LED eyes yet manage to capture all the curiosity of an intelligent animal who is coming to terms with human ingenuity.

Which leads me, of course, to Wall-E. This is a beautiful, breathtaking film in every sense of the word. From the scene it paints of the inevitable convergence of the current human condition (both from an environmental perspect and a social one), to the promulgation of corporation to an extra-terrestrial scale, to our dependence upon automatic processes and loss of love for learning, to the effects of infinite loneliness and longing, Wall-E as a film transcends and redefines animation itself. There, I said it. It has aesthetic value that is surely equal to any film as well as philosophical implications that are relevant to us – today – on countless levels…and it conveys most (if not all) of this without dialogue. Think about it. Everything Wall-E achieves, he does so without words, without a soul, without religion. All he has is his curiousity and his faultless, incorruptible innocence.

The depth of field animation, and in particular, the depiction of weightlessness in space is just beautiful. There is no other word for it. Wall-E and Eve’s dance in space is surely the most beautiful and touching sequence in Pixar’s history. Oh, and just quietly…things are still looking up.

I guess this means I’m gonna have to start thinking about my best and worst of 2008. It will be a bit of a tough call, as I’ve been uncharacteristically occupied, at least over the last few months, and have partied more vigorously, more regularly, this year than I ever have before. The result? I must be getting old. I have that familiar feeling that time is flying by. I feel the year(s) whisking by at unfathomable speed with utter disregard for patience or etiquette. This year, more than any other, I have caught myself in moments of contemplation and admiration at the infinite serenity that the world offers by virtue of its simple existence. There are patterns and balance and beauty to be found everywhere if you’re only willing to take a few minutes out of your day to sit back and think about things

Stop worrying about your job. Stop worrying about your boyfriend. Stop worrying about your deadlines. Stop worrying about money. Take a look around. A speckled bird, humbly inspired, ran across the road, when it could have flown.

I’ve been thinking a bit about Christmas back in Australia, and how I’m kinda really gonna miss it. The weather is always nice (re: not freezing), and it’s always accompanied by a pretty pervasive good mood, plenty of eating and drinking, and of course, the promise of cricket, parties and more amazing weather. Some of my fondest memories of the past few summers have been Boxing Days, Australia Days, New Years’ Eves, that sort of thing. Apparently New Year’s Eve isn’t such a big deal over here, at least not in the same sense. From what I can ascertain, it involves docile trips to shrines and such and reverence for the first sunrise of the new year. It’s a far cry from the utter immorality of New Year’s Eve back in Australia. Back there, you’re lucky if there is a shirt in sight, or a non-alcoholic beverage. My Aussie friends and I have already started plotting a rampage on January 26th. Rain, hail, snow or tsunami, it will definitely involve shorts, thongs, outdoor barbecues and (more than likely) Vegemite and Tim Tams (since they are the only uniquely Aussie foods you can buy over here).

Oh, did you guys hear? A black guy is gonna be President of the United States. There’s something to mull over the old noggin’. I can’t possibly add anything to further elucidate the significance of this. It’s so strange being in a country like Japan, where national pride runs so deep but general knowledge about politics is so limited. Seriously, beyond local council elections, the average Japanese person has no idea about the political situation in their own country, let alone internationally. It’s because their elections are structured differently from the ones we are used to, and because the Emperor and his family still carry such symbolic importance, that the image of solidarity and stability is unfaltering, even during times of severe economic panic. Of course, the fact that the media is so saturated with ‘major’ issues like two Russian-born sumo wrestlers getting caught smoking weed doesn’t do much to raise awareness of ‘lesser’ problems like war. This was front-page news for at least three weeks back in September and August. Why? Because sumo is the national sport, and anything resembling a blot on the integrity of the symbol that is Japanese nationalism is nothing less than the worst thing that could happen in this country.

Take a look at the flag, for further evidence:

It’s, uh, bold. To say the least. Even more so than when I was back in Australia, I have been depending on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for my news, at least when it comes to America. I’m not quite so keen to read thousand-word articles on The Australian or The Age websites, though, on account of I’m already starting to see the waking world in bleary-eyed, pixelated format, and I don’t want to exacerbate the problem. But you know what’s great about high-speed internet? All forms of media are available on-demand. Give me convenience or give me death. Just don’t spoil the party, Mr. Rudd.

On a related note, I find the routinely inflammatory comments that appear on news websites absolutely fascinating. At the time of writing, the most recent comment on that article I linked to above reads as follows:

“I didn’t vote for the twit, I hope the people who did are satisfied we have a now have a monkey running our economy and our internet.”

So many great things about this post, not the least of which is the level of political engagement with the real issues at hand here. But it’s indicative of the vast majority of what constitutes ‘commentary’ on the internet. I believe most people’s internet practices have evolved so as to completely filter out all user comments, except in the case of community message boards, but the phenomenon of semi-anonymous propaganda is incredible. The ability to conceal one’s real agenda and distill one’s real motivations into a handful of characters is something that we are seeing for the first time in human history, and the manifestations are countless. What is it that compels people to comment on articles like this in the first place? Who do they think is actually reading them? Do they not realise the abstraction that occurs when you substitute your real name and address for an internet handle? It goes without saying that the vast majority of these comments would not be made in a real-life scenario, eg. in general conversation, or even during a political discussion amongst peers over dinner.

I feel like going back to university just to investigate things like this. In fact, I feel like going back to university full stop. Seeing how my students’ eyes widen when I explain that ‘percent’ comes from the Latin words ‘per’ and ‘cent,’ and that ‘per’ roughly equates to the Japanese possessive particle の(no), and that ‘cent’ means ‘hundred,’ is a great feeling. In these rare cases, I truly feel like I’m helping them learn, and that what I have to offer them is actually valuable and rewarding. I want to regain that feeling for myself.

It’s lunch time. I had better sign off and go make my presence felt.

Take care, friends.