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All posts for the month April, 2006

So which do you want first? Too bad, adherent to my title, you get bad first.

THE BAD NEWS!

Nintendo Revolution's official name is…. get this… get ready…

Wii

Pronounced "weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee." I hope this is more along the lines of their semi-official names like Nintendo Ultra and Nintendo Nitro. I have a feeling it is, and will change, but darn it do they have to do this to us every E3? I'm mad hyped up on the Rev, and this was a major downer, on the level of bucket-of-cold-water-on-the-penis-at-4-am. I would rather it be called the Nintendo Revolutionary Pwnage Masheen. That way we could acronymically dub it the RPM and splash its adds with hot biker chicks with sleazy cleavage easing kids into a round of motion-sensing bitchslaps wi-fi wifey-style.

The RPM. $299. Harley not included. I liiiiike it. I do not like Wii. I will not play on my Nintendo World-war-two. Please give me a name that doesn't make me buy a 360.

THE GOOD NEWS! :hat:

Xstine and I have added a new member to our family! After much pregnant discussion and hours of labor, the stork delivered to us a beautiful…

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baby '04 Infiniti G35 with a shock of desert gold trim, weighing in at a healthy ton, and with a slap on its ass she gave us a vivacious engine cry from 0-60 mph. Though exhausted, we immediately celebrated by going out and and buying bags of power bars and canned food to mitigate our next five years of debt.

Incidentally, in the process of buying this car, I found out what happened to my stolen Maxima. Doing a credit report to figure out why my excellent credit score was being rejected by online leasing sites, I noticed a strange collection notice. I immediately called this nefarious collection agency up and they told me they represented a towing company. Apparently my innocent Maxima was parked illegally and towed away. The towing company now wants me to foot towing, impound, and DMV transfer fees for when they SOLD MY CAR.

Ha ha. I told them straight-up what a fuckin' scam. How about I start my own yard, steal cars, and then after a few days charge people impound fees to get it back.

Well I later called back to let them know that according to my lawyer, vehicle code section 14602.6 stipulates in no uncertain terms that should they pursue me to a small-claims court, either they will lose when I show my police report, or they will win, but wherein I am still only liable for but half the impound fees since I wasn't contacted within two days. The net amount would earn them about $68 from me. And that's without me countersuing them for selling off a ~$2000 car for $625. The collection agency whined! But sir! We don't think you'd win! Do you REALLY REALLY CROSS YOUR HEART AND HOPE TO DIE HAVE A POLICE REPORT?! Why yes I fuckin' do. I gently suggested they might be in collusion with their client.

We'll see how this tale unfolds, but I don't see my wallet with a mouthful of Oakland cock. Never again.

Few Americans have ever played this Japanese arcade game where you control Sonic the Hedgehog with a trackball. Fortunately we have a video of the game being played form beginning to end. I find this game enthralling to watch, and mourn its retirement. The gameplay is crafted with precision, every tile every animation every pop and crack at the perfect time, I can't help but crave bodily for a modern game to have half as much intensity and "suspension" of tension.

I recently found the Rules Master List, the bible of what to do and not to do in designing the perfect game. While some tenets are ripe for breaking, there are juicy tidbits like:

3. Maintain Level of Abstraction
Immersion is easily disturbed — don't make the player re-calibrate his "suspension of disbelief" and lose touch with your game

20. Make the Effects of the AI Visible to the Player
It can be tempting to model subtle choices in your AI, but unless the final results are clear to the player, you may well be wasting your time.

58. Don't Make Your Objective Your Primary Threat
If you are tasked with defeating a head Ogre, don't make all the opposition along the way solely smaller ogres.

Segasonic the Hedgehog does many of these right. I think an archive of gameplay, capturing casual and expert play through the entirety of a game, would in itself be incredibly entertaining. I'd pick up cable tv in a heartbeat if it meant I could watch people beat esoteric, oldschool, or recent releases all day long.

On a crazy whim, we drove out towards Taizhong, but ended up giving up halfway and exploring XinZhu instead. The photos tell all.

When I stayed in XinZhu years ago, I was sequestered in the Jiao Tung university dorm rooms trying to surf Chinese MTV without running into the many barely scrambled softporn channels they came on late at night. I was disappointed that I didn't get to see the real city much. But this time we really scoured it up and down.

We hit up downtown first, which was an explosion of shops, restaurants, and street vendors, and I was on a holy quest for Green Apple Green Tea Conjac Drink. It is the most delicious beverage mankind has ever invented, with the exception of Surge soda. Xstine's mom, by then, was pretty familiar with me, and very chatty. I remember when I first met her, ceremoniously at the opening of an elevator door, her first reaction to me was a shocked "ah yo!" and then a brisk turn and disappearance off-stage. For those who don't know Mandarin, "ah yo!" translates to "oh yo!" with a Scottish accent and a startled face.

But once we were off on our merry trip, and after I had made fun of her for expecting all her daughters' boyfriends to be "tall dark and handsome" in contrast to my "short light and boyish," we were good friends. It is really strange to me, the expectations asians have for their children. On one hand, her mother is keenly aware that "tall dark and handsome" still landed her in a turbulent marriage, on the other hand, she preaches it almost automatically to her daughters. Find a handsome man. Tall. Owns a house. Doctor or lawyer. Tall. Handsome too. You have to wonder how a man so tall, handsome, rich, and perfect is going to show fidelity in marriage, no? She admits to me, true, but like Xstine's dad, what other monologue can you supply her?

What fascinates me is that asians deeply believe in fate. Their word for getting what you deserve is "huo gai," translating literally to "life-meant." In other words, your suffering was meant for all along. When you study in school, your major determines your career. Your career determines your wealth. You wealth determines happiness. Is it any surprise then that asians LOVE gambling? Your ability to win is predetermined. Your ruin is predetermined. There is no personal responsibility! All you need to do is work hard, and Old Man Heaven will reward you with a lot already chosen for your life. Sadly, a life of working hard and penny-pinching often leaves the people unprepared for a change in world paradigms, or an estate tax at the end. Women are housewives, men are wageslaves, neither can reconcile nor empathize.

I talked about this in length before, having noticed it as an immutable aspect of the Japanese culture, this concept of blind sacrifice. If there is a lesson to learn, it is that Americans have this one advantage. We are not the smartest, not the hardest working, not the best behaved. But as long as we idolize individuality and the ability to adapt, we will be what Darwin terms "fittest." It's sobering, but I think important to recognize that strength while we still have it. When Josie Wales is forgotten for the Naruto spirit, we'll be in trouble indeed.

I am going to interrupt the photo albums and mention the new Tomb Raider game, on which Dan worked so hard he can never stay awake for a gaming night. I had a chance to play it, and is worth checking out if you like the genre. If you like Tomb Raider, I think you'll appreciate a more refined, dare I say more mature experience.

If you don't like Tomb Raider, like me, you'll still have fun. I had many quibbles with the game, all of which game reviewers will repeat for me ad infinitum, but in the end, what really matters to me? What matters is that however short people complain it is, I, a staunch platformer thumbsman and lukewarm Angelina Jolie fan, found those few hours pretty dang fun. Xstine, being a Tomb Raider nut and redhot Angelina Jolie fawn is going to love this game.

What really matters is that it endears me seeing a franchise that was once essentially whored into ignominy given another chance at being the charmingly old-school spelunkfest it once was. Indy with boobs but not making a fool of herself, sultry Rachel Weissish voice, and a dose of drama. The way the industry is going now, what the hell is more laudable?

Props to Dan and Crystal Dynamics for their hard work and scruples. Most of all those nifty scruples.

Photo albums for DanShui and YieLiu are up, which are pictures we took when traveling with Xstine's dad. He lives in a very tasteful sky-rise apartment in DanShui, which appeared to me to be an area with a higher income or living standard in certain areas. Outside the clusterfuck of Taipei, I guess there are many places like this.

The meeting with Xstine's parents was an interesting experience. Generally speaking, I've always been very comfortable with other people's parents. I give credit to my parents, who traditionalism meant weekly formalities greeting meeting seeing every who's who's who remotely distantly related to any friends and family. While I never learned the Chinese names for the brother of an uncle of a friend's mother, I did gain an acute understanding of Chinese etiquette and the concept of "filial piety" that the Chinese term "xiaoshuen." The term is more dreaded among Chinese scions than you could imagine.

What I noticed first off the plane was that her dad gave me a more familiar handshake, a lengthy one. Our custom here leans towards a firm and brisk shake, rather than a a long grasp, so I can say that was the only facet of the meeting that threw me off. He was an experienced and worldy business man, however, and after the initial reservation grew very warm when talking about things he was proud of, and things he disliked. I was appreciative that he was so observant of way the Asian civilization had changed, customs had mutated, and while one could hardly expect him (or my parents for that matter) to be happy about Xstine and I living together without declaring marriage intent, he was very aware of it being a superior method for marriage retainment. Last week's Economist showed how the divorce rate decreased as marriages happened later and couple lived longer before making the big step. Social disapproval of this important courtship period has contributed to a society more conservative than the American society, and yet with an similar percentage of divorces.

Other than that, we talked mostly about China, Taiwan, and stocks (of which he was earned an understanding of which most of Taiwan, being mere speculative gamblers, do not have). Like my Uncle William, I've realized that worldy business men have a more balanced view to preach despite what they practice. It is a tremendous step away from the world view of my Grampa's generation, where all white men are to be feared and China will be a rising dragon to dominate the world because of its 10,000 year history, and into a more courageous light that accept there is much to learn from gaijins.

I'd like to reference Kishore Mahbubani's excellent book Can Asian's Think? that offers clarity in the debate to rectify the Eastern and Western perspectives. His argument for the East to accept responsibility for its lagging development vis a vis its Western counterparts, and not blame the West for tangible but exaggerated and irrelevant past transgressions, seems to glimmer brighter and brighter behind each successive generation. He hopes, as I do, that a day when the East embraces, not contrapositions but its idealogical differences, will a synergy between formed, for it and us, for me and them. In short, I can see where Xstine gets her lovable skepticism for anachrononisms anonymous.

Next stop on this photo tour is Taipei. I've commented as many as the photos as I could.

Taipei, the city itself at least, is very modern. Too modern in some ways. But in almost every corner of the city you will find the ubiquitous night-markets, or "yie-shi." These act not only as one of the primary forms of entertainment for people, but a functional place to get cheap goods as well. Many food carts will sell you a dinner's worth of noodles, buns, fried meats, or red-bean dessert for a measly buck or two, and you can get a satay kabob or fish balls for just $0.25. I didn't find the living costs overall to be that much different than the U.S. when adjusted for income, but snacks like these were undoubtably in their own caste of bargaindom.

Before I went, Bob warned me. There are "no hot chicks" he said, and those words gave me drive to prove him wrong. I can say that for Taipei at least, he was dead right. My theory, I later elucidated to him, was that the food there was so toxic, and the student's life preparing for their brutal exams was so stressful, and the air was so corrosive, that every girl there was obliged to wear layers of make-up capable of combatting bio-terrorism. Add to that their penchant for superficially copying the gaudy dress style of their Japanese counterparts, and you had a patentable formula for bad taste, bad fashion, bad looks. I'll post up pics of Xi Men Ding later, but where the college students were, things got a bit better, and I attribute that to college life being a relative cakewalk. Relative to high school I mean. Xstine's still has agonizing nightmares of cramming 12 hours a day for entrance exams.

But what really surprised me were the guys. Donning ambigusexually teased "Jap-rock" mullets and carrying women's coach bags to match the ever-fashionable and ever-present Verizon guy glasses, they were a force powerful enough to reinforce the emasculate male stereotype for asian dudes across the globe. Taizhong, which is a major city in central Taiwan, had much beefier guys with denim and T's, buzzcuts and attitude, and generally looked much better. Taipei, however, was damned.

But enough with criticisms. There will time for more later… hahaha… I've got to say that Taipei changed alot since I last went, eight years ago. The stores brim with service, to the point that I became uncomfortable when forced for sake of sanity to ignore greetings and hello-come-try-our-snacks' every five minutes. Every storekeeper was a veritable rainbow under the constant Formosan rain. And the people themselves, when face-to-face and not driving like assholes, are incredible friendly. Many many times did they eavesdrop on our distress and help point the way to the next attraction our confused expressions graciously accepted. American like to think we are a friendly people. I think we are too busy thinking we are, and altogether not in constant surveillance for silly lost tourists.

Most memorably, I had bowl after bowl of beef noodle soup, a Taiwanese delicacy. I plan to write a who's who book of best beef noodle soup places in Taiwan, and will be the emminent beefnoodologist of greater Pacifica. Even with the sly heat sabotaging every "gloomy" day and wrecking the crust of Axe deodorant I was swathed in, I had no fear plunging into the perils of beefy gluttony. Here, for just $3, was the soul of Taipei, and it was addicting.


First photo album for Jiou Fen is up! Comments within as well. Took me forever, what with real life and photo conversion DPing me.

I decided to recount our Taiwan trip not by daily accounts, but by theme. I've got about 6-7 memoirs to dish out, so bear with me.

Our time there was hectic, and in my semi-fluent haze I didn't manage to capture all the names of places and peoples and things that we experienced. Also, I have to apologize for the crappy camera work. We bought a new Cybershot T7 for the trip and and hadn't gotten used to it. Moreover, I found out that asians don't like being photographed, and I often had to do it secretly, quickly, and ignorantly. If you watch Taiwanese news you'll notice this strange cultural phenomenon. Any accused or accusing subject will run past the press with a towel over the head or a motorcycle helmet. So without fail, some lackey would rush over to tell me that their innocuous national treasures (read: shopping malls) could not be photographed, to which I respond with a big rude Americanized "oh dwei boooo chi." That's Mandarin for "I'm sorry, sorry that I'm a culturally obtuse snob, but I got my pics anyways, seeeeyaaaaa."

While the pictures of Jiou Fen, a tourist hamlet north of Taipei fractured with deep and exciting markets to explore in its almost catacombic alleys (save for the sliver of rain glazing the inner trail), seem mostly undistilled, don't let that fool you. The moment we left airport and entered Taipei's urbanosphere, it was like entering the atmosphere of a different planet. Humidity, pollution, and the sheer density of the residential sprawl almost lured a gravitationally warped spring to my steps. This wasn't Planet Silicon, however entrenched in a valley it was. But lucky for us, alot of the smog was washed out of the sky by the tropical mini-storms that constantly barrage the island mini-nation.

I'll save the details of the personal encounter with Xstine's parents for the next entry, but what hit us first wasn't anything about marriage or life in the States. Our first challenge was trying to survive non-stop nightly excusions out into the night-market maze that formed what one could consider the primary tourist firmament to pierce before leaving ground-zero for the other wonders of Formosa, all beginning the second we reached her mom's place. And damn did her mom walk fast.

Back in the USofA at last! Taiwan was a blast, but overweight white folks and 10-lane freeways have never looked cozier. Whew! More to come, tons of photos to post, snide remarks to italicize, and snobby capitalist commentary to follow!

Summary:
:up: Everything went GREAT!
:down: No hot chicks.