culture

All posts tagged culture


Due to work circumstances, I'm not in the country right now. Following international coverage, it's been very interesting to see just how addicted to our election non-Americans can be. It's quite a spectacle, this American political extravaganza, and it speaks to our ability, indeed our need to concentrate our hopes and expectations on a human element. Obama acts as a lens, a crystal clear grain that braids and magnifies those in-line with his vision, yet scatters the vagrant rays of the misaligned for future self-reflection.

It's very unfair to say that Obama's supporters are the new America. But they are certainly the empowered America. I don't think this nation should be divided, and I think the "old" America should realize that it's time to step up and support Obama as our president. I said the same about Bush, and I'll say the same about Obama, and any future president we elect- a part of America made that choice, and we should respect that other part as soon as the divisiveness is over. Look at the election maps; the states are split in mini-majorities even on a per county basis. There is no prototype American. In fact that's our strength.

Remember that our Founding Fathers did not always intend for everyone to be able to vote. They wanted voters to be educated on the issues, and to show their responsibility with property ownership and such qualifications. The reason we have the electoral system today is because our Founding Father, despite their misgivings about the mobocracy, realized that as a republic, the participation in government is not a Federal business. And so the responsibility went to the States.

So please, dear Americans. I feel this very acutely being so far from home. Remember your roots. Remember your history. Remember that even though the States give every American the opportunity to vote, you have a responsibility to vote as an educated individual, and part of that education should be realizing just how diverse and unique our nation really is, and how the electoral system exists to protect that. Remember that the electoral system was so important to them because whoever the minority opinion, no matter how wrong, is still part of America.

On Wednesday, the Olympic torch passed through San Francisco and we went down to Embarcadero for lunch to see the festivities. Predictably, the well-to-do-but-willfully-modest lower-upper-middle-class yuppies were out in force, holding aloft signs emblazoned in magic marker fury. Free Tibet! Down With China! Free Burma! Free Darfur! Free Sudan!

Fights almost broke out if not for the meaningful police presence. In the distance, I saw a Free Tibet banner, floating above a sea of sight-seeing baseball caps, meet a giant red flag of China. They lowered quickly, disappearing into the mass, and then people erupted in a mix of cheering and jeering. It wasn’t as bad as earlier in the day when protesters shook a bus they thought contained the Olympic torch, but it really caught the feelings of the moment. I watched bemused as an old Chinese woman yelled at a Free Burma chick to “stop causing trah-bul” or when an elderly man argued with a kid who had no idea what his Free Darfur T-shirt really meant.

Then again, it’s not like the adults understood what it all meant either. I don’t want to get too contentious, but the Free Tibet people have to understand that since the Mongols conquered them, Tibet has never been considered a free nation by anyone except themselves. As unfair as it is, the world runs on established documents and treaties, and none exist declaring Tibetan sovereignty.

Instead, the international community recognizes the Succession of States principle that essentially says when one state takes over another, it assumes the former’s assets. In this view, Tibet was passed over from Mongols to the Qing, Qing to ROC, and finally ROC to PRC. Interestingly, Taiwan (the ROC) actually denies Tibet’s independence. Not one foreign government supports Tibetan independence despite criticizing the violence- the world would fall apart! States would be meaningless.

So what defines a state? The answer, sadly, is everyone else. Without international diplomatic recognition, no amount of desire for independence can *make* you a state, anymore than Hawaii’s islanders can declare themselves historically sovereign from the United States. Tibetans validly point out China colonized them by force, but that essentially validates they are a subjugated state. Are our southern states rightfully independent because the Civil War formed the Union by force?

One cannot go around earning freedom by demanding it. Knowing the Chinese people well, protests and shame are only going to reinforce their adamancy. If we want results, first take politics out of the Olympics, as it was always meant to be. Then treat China as a peer, don’t bring Western arrogance to the table. They will follow that lead far better than any empty threats. Or crazies yelling out “FREE CASINOS FOR TIBET!

If there is one sector I feel comfortable making predictions in, it would be the video game sector, although the majority of it is really just a cluster of a dozen or so companies that publish for a much broader cast behind the curtain. It excites me everytime that this mini-sector is covered by market blogs, and this article is no exception. I like to read about an industry dear to my heart from the perspective of those less intimate with it. What the article says about EA‘s development difficulties with the PS3 and idealogical difficulties with the Wii, while not surprising in themselves, reminded my of how I’ve forgotten that companies are companies. Even in the business of creativity and play, the corporate speak is nothing new to investors.

That comforts me.

The game industry, for some betters and many worsers, has grown up. It’s leaving its roots in the basement of hackers. It is being held to a multi-national standard, ethically and financially. It has, despite its loss of innocence, become recognized.

And I dearly hope that, like books, radio, comics, television, and film before it, it will endure through its current phase, the scapegoat of political campaigns and modern vices, and enter the annals of pleasant anachronism. Only there is it safe to continue to work its influence as the world whirls around another threat. There, it will build better men.

Right now, the old guard thinks it ruins them. What about the teenage gunman who turns out, contrary to preliminary reports, didn’t own a single game? Or what about when the stepmother of a boy recently apprehended for the sport-killing of a homeless man opens herself and her story to Penny Arcade, telling the world that “Video games DID NOT make this kid who he was, and it’s unfortunate that the correlation is there.” Her story is haunting, even moreso if unheard.

As the year of the Golden Pig arrives, I hope that the industry will have great fortune, making it (and me) rich. Feng Shui experts proclaim this also a year of Fire on top of Water, a year of great conflict and volatility. With game legislation in furor, and the industry cycle starting anew under the duress of the console war, this will no doubt be one of the deciding years on the fate of games and their status among other media.

As your dutiful reporter of the asian masculinity-pedophilia complex, I must share with you one of the most disturbing things I've seen. English lessons, teaching subtextual phrases like "take anything you want," performed in spandex; may include random close-ups of sports bras. Doesn't any director in Japan just crack and say "Dammit guys! Just once let's do a piece without rape fantasy in it!" Thank god they never got their hands on Sesame Street. Their penchant for sesame and violating tentacles would have left Oscar lecherous and the Count breathless.

Just in time for the Oscars, we watched Little Miss Sunshine over the weekend. It is a real desert american comedy, and I loved the spot on commentary on underage beauty pageants. It tickled me to no end that people dress their girls up as whores, but when they actually act as such, some indefinite line is crossed, and they are suddenly morally conflicted. Moreover, it shows that the american ideal for beauty has girls dressing up, increasing age, whereas in Japan, they dress down, with sailor skirts and high-pitched childlike squeals.

Trying to understand why this difference exists, I think it comes down to values. Americans prize the confidant power of the femme fatale, and the Japanese prize the innocence of a lolita. I attribute American men as more self-confident, and asian men as one of two extremes: passive, or excessively male dominant. Often both. I read in the Economist recently a study that showed sexual satisfaction between couples is correlated to equal social status. It was no surprise then that Japan had one of the lowest ratings among developed nations.

The San Jose dating scene that I've seen has been indicative of cultural difference. Is it an accident that white guys and asian girls are far more common than the other way around? It would follow that if american women have the same tastes as american men (power, confidence, independence), but asian couples have a great divide what they value (master and submissive), the combination of aggressive american women and passive asian man would suffer.

Of course, when I say american, that encapsulates asian-americans, so the issue is hardly that simple. The latter is very diverse depending on which generation they are, how much cultural tradition they've absorbed, etc.

I thought this was interesting, this demographics study by the Daedalus Project of the most popular massively multiplayer online game, World of Warcraft:

Some highlights (taken from Terra Nova):

  1. Female players are older than male players.
  2. Younger players prefer Rogues and Shaman. Older players prefer Hunters and Warlocks. Rogues and Shaman also score the highest on the Advancement (goals/achievement) and Mechanics (min-maxing) motivations.
  3. Older players prefer Dwarves and Gnomes, who also happen to score the lowest on all achievement motivations. Gnomes score the highest on the Role-Playing and Customization motivations.
  4. The RL gender distribution is 84/16. The in-game gender distribution is 65/35. 55% of female characters in the game are being played by men.


What was most striking to me was that the two most common classes for whom Mechanics was the primary player motivation were the Rogue and the Shaman, and those are the first two characters I created. My obsession with games, admittedly, has always been with game mechanics over all else. Even more telling, based on the Race Motivations table, my *undead* Rogue and *tauren* Shaman fall right into an unerring prognostication.

After being very unhappy with the way Blizzard was changing the game, and being tired of the childishness of the playerbase after beta ended, I created my third character, a Hunter. Their chart shows Hunter players as scoring the lowest in teamwork and advancement, reflecting my sentiment at that point. Even more interestingly, the order of the characters I created, Rogue, Shaman, Hunter, fall in succession on the chart describing average player age. I began with the class most played by the youngest group, and ended in the class most played by the oldest players.

Interestingly enough, Xstine succumbed to the unspoken forces of her gender, and chose a Priest both in beta and after release, a common choice for women. After PvP was released and her options for Exploration and Customization were limited, she switched to a Rogue. Today, as we play DDO, a game with rather limited exploration opportunities, she has a greater interest in the mechanics of character creation than she ever did in WoW. Her main? One of the best rogues/fighters on the server. :ninja:

Yesterday, a reader had some dialogue with me via comments over my rash indictment of James Xi Zhang and China’s imposition into world trade. He brought up some good points that many are feeling right now in the apparent fallout of the American government, so I’ll use this post to address my thoughts:

Hi am back…yes of course China is a huge threat to companies here, but is that stopping companies from getting most bang for their buck? Not really. By sending everything to be manufactured over to China, they aren’t looking at the future of Americans – their consumers. So I guess the big question is who is responsible for our future/change necessary for a better future? Individual consumers ??? (No – Americans are cheap, lazy, and selfish for the most part) Companies ??? (No – they are heading us down a downward spiral where China rules) Government ???? bingo. They need to regulate our (companies and consumers) greedy butts. That’s one advantage China has over us- much more control (although perhaps now unstructured and chaotic) over their companies and people. I believe they are looking at the future. They are improving everyday. You should look at their environmentally friendly plans – all of which beat any green attempts here. I’m not pro-China. Just concerned at the way things are going these days for America. Yes we are all to blame, but more so the government.

O btw I don’t see how Mr. Zhang represents the corruption in China if he’s not guilty at this point. I believe he’s very much American. I know you’re not totally serious but this is someone’s rep on the line. I’ve been in a lawsuit before and if you’re not guilty and someone is telling you are….not fun. So that’s why I’m pushing this point so much… From what I heard, there’s no proof so far, so until then stay nice. Thanks for reading. This is great fun…

I understand where you are coming from, and I feel the same way about the lack of government intervention in what is clearly a self-destructive relationship between consumer and corporation. But you draw some conclusions that come from the wrong direction.

First, exporting American jobs to China is not necessarily a bad thing, and it is certainly inevitable as the world becomes more globalized whether people want it to or not. Lower prices mean better savings, more money to spend elsewhere, better cost of living. The problem is that the prices were so good that the consumers lost their heads and sent our national savings rate into the negative. We lose more jobs to Mexicans than the Chinese, and studies have shown that wages for Americans as a whole, or even for the working classes, took little to no damage. If unemployment really did match immigration rates, the country would have more than twice the unemployment it currently has, and growing.

Secondly, China exhibits a pretense of tight control over its companies, but it also turns a gigantic blind eye to the many it chooses to ignore. The government is even less empowered than us to make sweeping reforms because the corruption is entrenched at the state and provincial levels. I’ve been following their environment reforms, and as admirable as they are, they were created because of how POOR local regulation has been, and the ecological damage there has been immense. Their new policies are amazing, but by the time they’re implemented, alot more damage will be done.

Finally, Americans need to stop blaming the government. Doing so is what led to the tragedy in New Orleans. People seem to forget the vote to enter war with Iraq was unanimous. People seem to forget that after going into war, you need to supervise it as well, not just let the commanders do whatever. It’s no accident that welfare reform under Clinton actually decreased dependency on welfare. America is a REPUBLIC, not a democracy, per intention of our founding fathers who purposely designed the government to be inefficient. We have electoral votes. It is the duty of We the People to organize those votes against the forces of gerrymandering into a keen weapon of change, not sit at home and complain about it.

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” -Thomas Jefferson

As for Mr. Zhang, regardless of whether he is guilty or not, you can’t deny it gives Asian men a bad rep in times when Asians have been accused of spying in Federal buildings and stealing from Texas Intruments.

It's been a hectic week here as we fumble over ourselves to entertain Xstine's two sisters. We're trying to strategically hit a representative sample of restaurants and locales for them, so I haven't been able to post much. However, I wanted to share something utterly insane… a PS2 game called Giant Babe. And how. Considering their other titles include winners like Maids Uniforms and Machine Guns, I expect their echelon of game design to revolutionize the world.


(more PBF over here)

Now that World Jump Day is over, stupidity will diffuse more evenly among the 23.934 hours in the sidereal day. If you hadn't heard of it, it was a call for millions of chumps across the planet to jump up and down at the same time in order to shift the orbital path of the planet, and thereby bringing world peace, global cooling, and a climate of general inanity. C'mon folks, the idea makes no sense at all in regards to physics. If anything, if should be World Blow-Upwards-At-The-Sky Day and instead of spreading across the globe canceling out their own foolishness, they should do it all from one place… like a poisonous rainforest or something.

But the strategy they've come up with is not new. Dantesoft sent me a BBC article nicely summing up the troubles a giant EA has faced. From the folks I've talked to, what burnt people out wasn't so much the workload, but the pointlessness of said work when constantly defined and redefined by suits and producers, the worst combo for human health since the Big Mac and large fries. Try changing 3-4 managers a month. Try marketing perps invoking art/code pipeline changes. One gent, who was friends with the guy who filed the class action suit against EA, told me of a game in which developers would try to score points based on how many times they could get producers to say "in reality…," and of course bonus points if you could get them to play the crying card. I kid you not, they cried.

So I guess we are to believe that significant jumping up and down has changed the orbit of EA's heart. I'll believe it when interns stop abandoning their internships there.

But jump hard enough and you'll plummet through the Earth into China, where they're still busy at work ruining stereotypes for Chinese people stateside. Read this incredible story about how Massive Black, related to the artistic monument that is ConceptArt.org, had their business sabotaged and stolen shamefully and shamelessly by their Shanghai faction.

This is the John Grisham tale of the game industry. Where asian women here in the Valley enjoy the benefits of being stereotypical dragon ladies and kawaii dolls in the sensational yellow fever of the interracial dating scene, asian guys are haplessly painted as spies and fu manchus. Y'know why? 'Cuz of selfish assholes like James Xi Zhang and the massive fraud, embezzlement, and conspiracy he perpetrated against Massive Black. If Hellgate is delayed for this, he's a dead man.


Wow. In the continuation of our theater binge (at today's prices, two theater features IS bingeing dammit), we took one incredible ride with Pixar's Cars, the first movie all year that has left me wanting to spend more. If its illusory two hours hadn't disappeared in blink later at 11:00 pm, we would have U-turned for another lap, it was that good. It seemed to hit a holy balance of fart jokes for kids and smart jokes for 9-5 kids, and layered it all in a nostalgic, cheesy, and overly sweet slice of American pie, keeping the patriot in me brinked on tearful. I'm a sap for a movie like this, which draws upon a mode of storytelling Hollywood blockbusters have forgotten, hell forSAKEN for predictable, inbred tautology sewn into pointless SFX.

Which is not to say Cars wasn't predictable or free of cliché, just that it delivered them through a veneer of empathy that really REALLY made cars into people. I left the theater expecting the parking lot automobiles to wake-up and wave at us. I found myself questioning the geneology of a Beamer. I expected Mustangs to look at me over-the-shoulder. I wondered if my Infinity had a Japanese accent. Once again, Pixar pulled the trick they know best… bringing everyday things to a life more vivid than we had ourselves.

Forget about the incredibly shading and lighting and composition. Forget about the perfect mechanical-anthromorphic animations. I can't express how touched I was at the premise that Radiator Springs was being bypassed to save ten minutes once folks took the interstate megahighway over a humbly scenic Route 66. I hear from Californians all the time how the rest of the country is a bunch of inbred hicks. Maybe this movie will take them a notch down for a sec. It was about time for us to get a story about self-centered urbanites being the fish-out-of-water in a mostly honest, hardworking American Etc. But that's the residual Bay Area in me speaking.

So, I can now only look forward to the next release from Pixar, the immaculately animated Ratatoille in the pic above. Summer has become fun again.