Tag Archives: video games

Fidget Spinners and Buddha are Unrelated

Buddha

I just had a long vacation. I didn’t go out of the country but I did go out of town for a bit. I spent most of my vacation working at home. Yes, I have several jobs. So yeah, yay staycations! One good thing is I got back to making art. Yay art!

This work is not really about fidget spinners, but it is there. And while I really don’t have much against fidget spinners (they do serve a purpose for those dealing with ADD), I’m a tad annoyed with their ubiquity. It’s not that I’m railing against trends or shaking my fist on what kids find fascinating these days. After all, my living room looks like an arcade. My wife and I spend a lot of time playing video games together instead of watching movies. It’s just that fidget spinners seem to embody the laziness of current trends.

Take television for example. The most popular shows, at least in South Korea, tend to be reality television. Put a camera crew with some celebrity, have them eat something, call it a show. Forget writing. Look at movies. Take an existing intellectual property and turn it into a movie, forget the hard work of creating something new. And I can go on and on with rehashes and the laziness of all sorts (get off my lawn, you kids!).

And then we have fidget spinners. My wife was surprised at what little it does. Remember when there was skill involved in novelty toys? Things like the yo-yo or a skateboard or even Japanese kendamas. Now you just have things that just spin. No skill whatsoever. Buy it and boom! You’re in the club! Because learning to play something takes too much time. It’s the smartphone + Google combo of toys. Why learn something and retain it in your head, when you have a phone and Internet connection that would make you an instant expert on things? And that is where the fidget spinner fails. You buy it, you play with it for a couple of minutes, then you forget about it. It’s bubble gum. You didn’t get anything out of it other a couple of minutes of distraction. You didn’t even get to challenge your dexterity. It is a forgettable shiny object, just like a lot of things.

Now, I think I’ve wasted way too many words on fidget spinners.

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A Bit of a Break

merrick

A bit of a break from staring at the Joseph Merrick that is politics these days. It’s difficult, but I have to try hard and wean myself from my Internet habits. Even my Twitter hasn’t been that active, despite the occasional fights with neo Nazis.

Speaking of Nazis, I used to volunteer for a hospital when I was fourteen years old. I would help feed and generally assist in the care of senior citizens at Deer Lodge Hospital. It was a good experience, and I got to meet heroes who actually fought Nazis. One man, Mr. Thurston, actually suffered a bullet would while fighting in World War II. He kept the bullet that was meant to kill him, and I remember him telling me that his wife never had much love for the horrible trophy. The man was a hero, and though he passed away over ten years ago, I still remember our conversations.

Come to think of it, that hospital was filled with veterans. It was filled with dying heroes. It was famously the hospital where Tommy Prince spent his last days. It’s almost like a field hospital back in World War II. But instead of young men dying because Winston Churchill sent them to their deaths, it’s time killing old men slowly.

Ironically, to this day, there are still Nazis. There are still Nazis online ready to argue with you and ruin your day. There are still people who can’t enjoy Hugo Boss’ aesthetics without going overboard and donning a swastika armband. Nazis were evil people who lost a war. They were losers. Some people forget that. We should all live in a world where we just shoot Nazis in videogames, not where we argue with them online and in the media.

Oh shoot. That just got political again, didn’t it?

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Leave Pirate Grandma Alone

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I’ve been reading about this 86 year-old woman from Ontario who was warned for illegally downloading a game and is basically being extorted to pay $5000. Problem is she’s never heard of the game Metro 2033. The company contacting her is a collection company calling in behalf of intellectual property holders. They’ve identified her only through her IP address, which doesn’t take much to realize, could’ve been used by other people beside herself, whether it be secured with a password or not. All the activities done on one specific IP address does not translate to activities done by the IP address holder. It’s just that simple.

Going after people this way is a rather simplistic way of dealing with a more complicated problem, if it is a problem at all. Looking at the specific Ontario case, if the woman pays the collection company $5000 as punishment for her “crimes,” what exactly gets accomplished? The real culprit still gets away with their copy of the illegally downloaded software. It is unclear whether they will stop their illegal activity. The woman who paid the fine learns absolutely nothing. There will be a brief period of people not downloading software illegally, while some will still continue stealing software regardless. And the software and the company who produced it will get bad PR for their actions. I tend to agree with the expert on the CBC story (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/notice-and-notice-system-internet-copyright-enforcement-settlement-1.3823986) the whole thing is basically a cash grab for the software company and the collection agents. Many people are unaware of their rights, and they can basically be intimidated by these companies to pay up for crimes which they may or may not have committed.

But again, this is a complex issue and the dragnet collecting tactic is simply outdated with the current technology at hand. Many people get away with stealing content using VPNs or with borrowed Internet access. That makes the theory of IP addresses being linked to only the subscribers’ identities very flimsy.

Does Internet piracy truly hurt companies however? An article from Lifehacker (http://lifehacker.com/how-piracy-benefits-companies-even-if-they-dont-admit-1649353452) argues that piracy actual does benefit companies. Looking at ‘Game of Thrones’ for example, the show being the most pirated show on the Internet has helped boost its own popularity and the head of Time Warner even admits that it leads to more people eventually subscribing to their service. Of course, piracy is still stealing, and it must do a certain amount of damage. However, that amount of damage is very hard to quantify. And because hard numbers are hard to come by, it is very difficult to gauge whether the benefits of piracy outweighs the damage it does to a company, or does going after people like the poor woman in Ontario actually encourage more customers to buy their products instead of just lining up the company’s and the collector’s pockets in the short term. Looking at the game the poor lady was accused of stealing, Metro 2033 was critically acclaimed but sold poorly when it was released. However, it did receive a cult status. This cult status translated to much bigger sales for its sequel. Now, did piracy help it reach a bigger audience and attain this cult status? Perhaps.

I think the solution to piracy is actually developing content that is worth supporting. Taking software for example, I would gladly pay for software that is easy to install and use and would later be supported by the developers. This is something that normally wouldn’t be available with pirated software. I am paying for ease of use and continued support. Make buying software cheaper and easier compared to pirating them and you’ll reduce software piracy.

For movies, the ease of downloading or streaming content, the quality of the content itself, and the price of the content could affect piracy. People would pay for quality and for things that they genuinely care about. Many people would prefer to watch a ‘Star Wars’ sequel in the theaters as opposed to their smart devices. However, their love for the content could only bring them so far. If the price of watching movie theaters is too high, many people would rather watch movies at home… and if they’re not too invested in the movie and are merely curious, they would more likely pirate it. The same ‘Star Wars’ fan who paid top dollar in the theater would not be so keen to do the same for ‘Suicide Squad’ which got raked in the reviews by critics. Makers of the film could blame piracy for the movie’s poor performance in the theaters, but it could also blame its own quality as to why people would rather pirate it and watch it at home. Now, I’m not saying that I pirated ‘Suicide Squad,’ but nobody should be paying to see Jared Leto parade around in that ridiculous version of the Joker. It would only encourage him.

As for music, I think piracy has allowed people to download only the songs they like and not the entire album like people were once forced to. The trend was embraced by iTunes, and now people either bought only the songs they like or they would subscribe to a music streaming service. I believe both are cheaper compared to how we used to get our music. Unfortunately, this makes it harder for artists to make money from their craft. But then again, isn’t making music and marketing them cheaper these days than it once was? Also, piracy and free music could help smaller artists reach a wider audience. Once they gain that audience, it’s up to the quality of their material and the love of their audience to translate that into cash.

In any case, I hope companies stop going after old people for downloading games they have no idea they downloaded. It’s wrong and it feels really “scammy.” I actually played Metro Last Light, the sequel to the game that the old woman was accused of stealing. I remember enjoying it. Reading news like this however, it just puts a bad taste in what I once considered only as a pretty decent game.

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Slacktivism as News

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I grew a mustache for Movember once. I didn’t donate money towards cancer research nor did I get my prostate examined. I grew a mustache. That was my bit for help the cause against cancer. By growing a mustache, I was informing people about the need for cancer research and preventative measures… except I didn’t really personally donated money nor make any precautions. Deservedly, I got criticized for it, but isn’t it any different than many of the causes we see on the media these days?

The problem with Internet media is that it’s quite easy to produce, easy to consume, and that many news outlets rely on sensationalistic click-baiting, or what I think is more appropriate, guilt-baiting.

Now, I don’t mind a good cause. But recently, there’s been a lot of energy put on causes that in my opinion don’t really amount to anything in the most practical sense. An issue is manufactured out of a bigger and more real problem and slacktivism is encouraged. They come in all degrees of seriousness, but sometimes they’re so insignificant that it’s no longer amusing. As an example, let’s look at Eli Keel’s article on Salon, It’s time for Marvel to make Magneto black. Yes, this was on a news site.

In the article, he writes that what makes the comic book villain Magneto great is that he is based in a real-world historic tragedy. And now that Marvel is rebooting all of their characters, it’s time to make the character black in order to reference the Civil Rights Movement (ignoring the fact that the whole humans vs. mutants theme in the X-Men books is an allegory to the Civil Rights Movement). Since the election of their first black president, the US has been undergoing quite the surge in racial tensions, especially recently with the way police officers have been policing black communities. But is this really a battle one has to fight in the comic books? Should the tragedy of the Holocaust be replaced by the Civil Rights fight? I don’t think so. I don’t think great black leaders would waste time campaigning to change the motivations of comic book super villains (make Magneto a civil rights bad guy?!). There has got to be a better way to address civil rights issues, and it’s not in changing comic book characters. Sure, comic books have championed many social issues before, and in many ways they have influenced young minds and made them better people, but if you’re going to fight for civil rights, don’t campaign a company to change their characters. It is probably the least you can do for the cause. In fact, you might even alienate people who A)love the character and would not want it changed and B) are annoyed that you are fighting the civil rights fight by barking at comic book creators instead of doing something yourself. Instead of asking people to create a solution, how about making a solution?

And this is what annoys me about many of the Internet causes. It gives people the illusion of actually doing something positive without actually doing something to help the cause. For one, I see too many articles talking about rape culture, perpetuating the belief that we are living in an environment where rape is encouraged/celebrated. Really? But aren’t rapists jailed? When and where do we exactly celebrate the brutalization of women? Not in the United States. But from the way the articles are written, you would be forgiven to think that a third of all women are victims, and that society is high-fiving itself for making it so. And what do the articles ask in return for such dire message? Share the article. Click like. Spread the message and you’ve done your part.

If rape is such a trend in society, then shouldn’t we be more proactive about it? Why are we sharing links? Why aren’t we writing to our congressmen or campaigning at their doorsteps? Why aren’t we locking up all men? Why are we making Youtube videos debating whether video games are training young men to become rapists? Why are we marching half-naked? Whose minds are we actually changing? Either we don’t understand the meaning of “culture” in “rape culture” or our modern day approach to sweeping social problems is the most lackadaisical.

I guess the biggest example of the flash of the pan, guilt clicking, share this or you’re an asshole story is KONY 2012. The campaign to get rid of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, was so viral that I kept seeing it shared on Facebook for weeks. Now while Jason Russell, the campaign’s creator suffered a bit of a meltdown, but the cause itself was worthwhile, after all, Joseph Kony is a horrible guerilla leader. But after all the Facebook shares, television media coverage and street campaigns, Joseph Kony still walks the planet. It made us all feel good liking the stories and sharing it to our friends. It made us all feel worldly, well-rounded, and conscientious. But it didn’t really do a damned thing. Jason Russell was criticized for being a bit narcissistic, appointing himself a savior of Ugandan children. Truly, the whole thing was an exercise in narcissism. We all felt good for “doing” something good, and now we’ve forgotten about those poor children. And I don’t want to be a pessimist, but I believe that even if Magneto became black and everyone on the Internet agreed that there is indeed rape culture aimed against women, ten years from now, we’ll still be having issues regarding race and sexual violence.

Of course, there are many examples of stories that guilt the public, become viral, and actually do something significant. The water bucket challenge was a huge success which allowed the MDA to raise a significant amount of money without that horrible Jerry Lewis. Good for MDA! But with every video of people actually donating money after getting water dumped on their heads, there are others which didn’t really amount to anything, except maybe a few views, a couple of likes, and some comments.

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Random Rant

I woke up early Saturday morning with an urge to get crafty. I keep seeing these cardboard mounted deer heads in restaurants and stores. They sell pre-cut cardboard deer heads in stores and online anywhere from $20-$60. I decided to make one myself and save some money. I created a fake deer head out of plastic before. It’s mounted right above my living television. So I knew I can make an animal head in a weekend morning. This way, I don’t feel like I wasted my weekend just lounging around, watching movies, and playing video games.

deer heads

Boom. Made three. It took longer than I expected to cut them all out. I didn’t want to make huge mounted heads, so instead of cardboard I just had them printed on really thick watercolor paper.

colored deer heads

Painted them with acrylic to add some strength. It’s not much, but it should keep them from drooping. Today, I’m gonna get cheap frames to mount them on. Not bad for a Saturday morning project.

Speaking of movies, I decided to watch Full Metal Jacket again. I realize that the documentary Room 237 is all simply about theories regarding Stanley Kubrick’s motivations for The Shining, but theory or not, his imagery is truly rife for deeper interpretation. He really does seem like a “bored genius” who is a few steps ahead- and in in those few steps, manages to put so much meaning into his film, leaving viewers to sift through clues and red herrings. Of course, the message in Full Metal Jacket is quite clear, but it doesn’t make him any less of a genius.

I also watched Welcome to the Rileys which feature James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart. I miss James Gandolfini. There’s something incredibly human to the characters he plays. Kristen Stewart is not bad as well. I keep seeing her in many independent films these days. I guess she’s trying to wash away Twilight with a bit of indie cred.

Canada has a few teams at the NHL playoffs this year. The Winnipeg Jets barely got in, but I’m glad they’re in nonetheless.

Been playing a lot of Bloodborne lately. Just like the other Souls game, it is punishing but is quite addictive. Hidetaka Miyazaki is a genius. I’m a grown man and should really stop playing video games, but games like Bloodborne will keep me distracting myself in front of the TV until I’m old and gray.

Here’s an advice to married men out there. If you’re wife clearly doesn’t appreciate your sense of humor, STOP TRYING. Stop making commentaries and observations. Stop trying to make her laugh or smile. Who are you trying to impress anyway? It’s not gonna get you laid more. You’re making jokes and commentaries for your own benefit and not for her. She doesn’t want to hear from you. She wants her humor from the strangers on television. Just stick with banal observations. “The sky is cloudy today. I should bring an umbrella.” Stick with that. Save your wit and humor for your friends. That way, no one gets annoyed or offended.

Update: Framed and done.

framed_deer_heads

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Yay Dancing!

We passed by this one arcade during our vacation in Osaka. This dude and his group of dancers were always there. My wife suspects they are paid by the owners of the arcade in order to draw a crowd. I say it’s passion.

Back from vacation. I need to get back to working and making art soon. Unfortunately, reality hit me hard with a vengeance, along with a case of food poisoning the first meal I had when I got back. Of course, the doctor suspects days of alcohol plus heat fatigue might’ve contributed as well.

We’ve been to Tokyo several times but my wife enjoyed Osaka more than our Tokyo trips. It was her first time there and she finds the people friendlier, more relaxed, which is not to say that people in Tokyo aren’t friendly and relaxed at all. Osaka is also a bit more tourist friendly, with many attractions within walking distance to our hotel. The only time we really had to take deal with the confusing subway system was going to the Matsuri Festival. We had a good time. Some random observations though:

The Japanese really love their western music. Previous trip, I kept hearing Green Day in places I went to. Now it’s mostly pop peppered with 90s/2000 punk and ska.

The problem with ska is that it never really evolved to anything interesting. I love early ska and would listen to Skatalites now and then. But the last time ska became popular, it was the same rift applied to 80s covers. Lame. (You know what’s lamer? When punk bands cover 80s music.)

Pet peeves: Westerners in foreign countries calling attention to their western-ness. We get it. You’re white and Canadian/American/British or whatever. Everyone can tell. No need to act or dress like a douche in public in order to be seen. No one is going to scout you and ask you to be some guest in some Asian variety show.

Whale meat is overrated.

Raw chicken and raw liver actually tastes like fish. Or maybe that’s just the “taste like chicken” quality in reverse. Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t catch salmonella.

I could really use a pet owl.

There were lots of interesting things during the trip and the Japanese delight in things that are odd. But one of the oddest things I saw was when I passed by this wedding. I’m not sure why they would choose Putin, especially with what’s happening right now in Donetsk.

Putin

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Worry Sex Children Japanese Shooter

True_Love

Random thoughts:

It’s funny how what was an all-consuming thought last week is now almost a blip. Don’t get me wrong, I still worry about things and how the events from last Monday will affect me, but now I got other things in mind… trivial yet consumes me more. And isn’t that the biggest luxury of all? Being free to think and obsess over the trivial things?

Speaking of all consuming, Norm MacDonald is right. Men don’t think about sex every six seconds. They only do so once in a while. The problem is, the minute men think about sex, it’s all they could ever think about. It takes an orgasm to get them all sleepy and out of that funk. And no, I’m not saying I’m currently thinking about sex.

Met an old friend last week. I haven’t seen him for about eight years or so. He’s now got two kids. This got me looking at my other old friends. Most of them have kids now as well. Heck, one of my old roommates has three. I don’t know how a person could afford three kids in this economy. Anyway, sometimes I feel left out. Like I should be moving on and having kids at some point. Then I remember how unstable my life can be and how demanding children are. Glad none of my orgasms ever became people.

I just learned yesterday that a girl I know in Japan is a bit of a nut… a Japanese right wing nut. It’s one thing to honor the dead and respect a bit of your culture and history, but it’s another to honor the war criminals from World War II. I honestly don’t know how anyone in Japan can take politicians and people like these seriously. Look: there was a war. Japan was one of the bad guys. Maybe some soldiers did it for God and country. Maybe some were forced. But they were the bad guys and they did some pretty horrible things. Sure, the Japanese government has “apologized” many times, but they’ve also turned back on their apologies as well. And people still honor war criminals like they deserve it.

I guess the reason why the Japanese don’t get so villified and that they sometimes get a pass for flying the Rising Sun Flag is because the media hasn’t really made enemies of them as much as they did the Nazis. It’s why Japanese educators think they can just skip the horrors they did on history books because it’s not played on the media much. Look at the last few years. How many games have been made involved shooting Nazis? How many games have been made involved shooting Imperial Japanese?

And speaking of shooting. Korean men are required by law to serve two years in the military. One man went berzerk yesterday and gunned down twelve people. He must’ve really hated the place because he only had two months to go before he could resume civilian life. And to this day, they still cannot find him. There’s a popular reality show here about life in the military. It shows comoraderie and how Korean men are toughened up in the barracks. I never liked the show because it’s all boring machismo bullshit which inadvertently wanders off to the latent homosexual. Plus, it’s a reality show. I guess they glossed over the parts where they sometimes make soldiers go insane.

How’s that for a random thoughts?

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Phone Rant

Face_turn

An advice: stop it with the phones already. Pay attention and stop staring at your phone. Having the power of the Internet at your fingertips doesn’t make you a better and more accurate conversationalist, it makes you a poor desktop computer that doesn’t show porn. If I wanted useless factoids and viral videos, I would’ve stayed at home and not gone out to dinner only to be ignored half the time. For the sake of the continuity of conversation, let’s just say Marilyn Manson was in Wonder Years. You don’t have to look it up now.

The farm game you play is not even a game. It’s an electronic version of Bop It (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH4XHwefPVY). Many video games end with a princess being rescued or whatever. A glorious kingdom has been restored and the people rejoice at your triumph. Your eternal farm game ends with boredom.

Don’t text your friend now. Excuse yourself from that phone call as well. I took the time to be here at your presence. Why am I competing with someone who is miles away? Your buddy is at home bored and just wanted to say hi. I’m here in front of you, bored as well. Every time you pick it up and make me wait on you, it tells me that my time is a tad worthless and whatever it is on that phone is more important than me and good manners in general.

You don’t have to take photos of food to show it to strangers in high school. There’s a reason why you don’t talk to those people anymore. You’re not going to rekindle friendships with pictures of food.

Stop staring at your phone in bed. It’s distracting and it keeps people up. You complain that you don’t get much sleep and yet you spend an hour at night learning useless things on your phone. Did you really need to read about Justin Bieber at 1:30 in the morning?

And don’t walk while you send text messages or play games. You’re a danger to everyone around you.

Your phone doesn’t make you an interesting person. It makes you dumb, boring, and rude. It keeps you from actually remembering things. You didn’t really know that thing you just said. You just read it a few minutes ago. And you’ll probably forget about it in a week. I could’ve done the same thing too. You’re not interesting. Whoever came up with whatever you said on the Internet is interesting. So stop it.

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Oh Look! Giants!

Colossus

Remember Shadow of the Colossus? What a great video game! It seemed to be a bit of a bore at first, but I managed to finish it twice; once when it first came out, and more recently when it was redone HD. It’s one of the few games worth revisiting after HD touch-ups. I love playing games that make me feel small, either it be in size or difficulty. For a moment, it makes me feel like I’m doing something bigger than wasting a couple of hours staring at my television.

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Brick Games

Winnipeg_skyline

Did a bit of exploring over the weekend. I went out to the Russian district, pet market, and flea market district. It was an interesting afternoon of sampling Russian fare, getting depressed at the sight of animals sold by the bulk, and getting lost in nostalgia at the site of people’s wares (and also wondering “who the heck buys these things?”). One thing in particular brought back memories of 1992.

Brick Game

Brick game, a Gameboy rip-off that played Tertris and other versions of the puzzle game, as well as the earliest version of the “snake” mobile game. I remember borrowing these from my friends because my parents thought it was a waste of time and would hurt our studies, so they never bought us one. I played enough Nintendo at home as it is; I didn’t need a video game to carry around. This was what everyone played if their parents didn’t want to spend $200 to get them a proper Gameboy. It was also the cheap game that crossed boundaries the same way the Nintendo Wii did. I remember my grandmother had one of these and was obsessed with matching falling bricks.

Luckily, my uncle gave us Gameboy as the Tetris-craze died down, just in time for Mario, etc. Pokémon became popular around 1994, but by that time, I was too old for the cutesy game.

Growing up, we didn’t have too many video games. We either borrowed games from friends or just lived without it. There was always an arcade nearby, but I didn’t waste money in them. I could already hear my mother tell me how foolish it would be to waste money on a game that I’m not even good at. My parent’s bought us the first NES. They didn’t get us the SNES. I had to scrimp and save before I could buy a Sega Genesis. They got us the first Playstation, and we had a PC that was capable of playing popular games at the time, but everything else I remember I had to get myself. I bought a Dreamcast from a pawn shop, traded in games, skipped on some that I simply couldn’t afford, etc.

I guess it’s this love of games and the early experience of having-but-not-really-having, that makes it interesting to me now even as a grown man. That, plus it offers a more immersive experience that just simply watching the television. I count myself lucky that I managed to find a wonderful wife who shares the same love for video games as well. She also shares the same experience of growing up and not owning one of these brick games.

It took me a couple of minutes before I could walk away and not make a very foolish purchase.

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