August 28, 2004

Crossing the line

In cyberspace there are no lines to cross. With just a link, I can drop you here, here, or even here! See how easy that is?

This is one of the main aspects of cyberspace I enjoy. Cyberspace allows pure freedom to explore the mundane, the profane, and everything in between. But what happens when the virtual world steps into the real one? According to CNN Money Magazine, in October we're all going to find out. In October, Playboy will feature a number of computer game heroines in erotic poses, and in some cases, nude. I assume this will be an actual article, probably something along the lines of their occasional "sex in cinema" articles and special issues, but since my info comes from Dom's rant at Megatokyo, it doesn't even qualify as secondhand information and as such, is more or less worthless.

Cybersex is becoming more and more of a mainstream issue. This seems to surprise a lot of people, and even horrifies a few. The other day I was watching a program on Discovery Channel and at one point there was an interview with a woman who divorced her second husband for having an internet affair, despite the fact that he never once met the woman he was corresponding with in real life!

Bah, humbug!

This whole debate is, in my mind, as silly as two kids fighting over a TV channel. I am 43 years old and I still enjoy sex. I hope I will keep enjoying it until the day they plant me six feet under. And yes, sometimes I even masturbate, don't you? My kids both understand the do and don'ts of sex, at least to the extent of my ability to teach them. Sex is as much a fact of life as anything else. Some folks prefer same-gender sexual relations, some folks prefer cross-gender sexual relations, and some folks only experience sex through masturbation and fantasy. Personally, I don't see why folks in any one of these groups are so prone to getting angry at the folks in the other two. Gay-bashing, homophobia, heterophobia, or even pornophobia (is that a word? It is now! (^_^)) are all so much hogwash from where I'm sitting.

I can walk into any game store in Japan and find a section with thousands of adult titles. In America I would have to scrounge around in some back alley and in all likelihood the only adult titles I could find would be pirated copies the local shopkeeper burned off on his home computer. In Japan the legitimization of the adult industry means that the people doing the work to create the product are also the ones who profit from it. In American the illegitimacy of the adult industry also means that despite the success of Playboy, Penthouse, and others, much of the industry is victimized not by the producers, but by the theives who copy things at home and then sell them in backrooms, redlight districts, or online. In Thailand, South Korea, and even in Nevada, prostitutes work in real bedrooms (albeit, sparsely decorated ones) with real beds, get regular health checks, and the use of condoms is strictly enforced. In the "civilized" world where prostitution is illegal, prostitutes work in back alleys, cheap hotels, or the backseats of private cars, sexually transmitted diseases are rampant, the women often wind up beaten or killed by their clients, and the use of condoms is sporadic at best.

I don't care how puritanical your personal god might be. Look at the real world where real men and real women are doing everything in their power to survive another day and you tell me which approach to sexuality is the most humane, the most loving, the most compassionate, and above all else, the most rational.

Teach your kids what they need to know. Disney is great, and I love it immensely, but Disney should not be the only thing they see.

August 25, 2004

Oh, da cute!

Once upon a time in the lands of aloha, young women went around shouting, "oh, da cute!" at just about everything they came across. Nowadays young people tend to be more cynical so you're most like to see them grumbling something like, "one mo' da kine."

In memory of "da cute", I'd like to present the cutest comic I have ever encountered online: 9th Elsewhere.

It is, however, unbearably cute! Consider yourself forewarned! (^_^)V

August 23, 2004

Meandering through blogdom

I have spent the past couple of days taking advantage of the new Blogger toolbar. Clicking on "Next Blog" can land a person almost anywhere. For some reason, it has a habit of throwing me onto Asian blogs, probably because I am using a Japanese web browser. Every now and then though, I land on an Arabic blog. Arabic has a beautiful script. I wish I could read it.

Blogs are online journals, so it is no surprise that the vast majority of them are egocentric, after all, we write a journal to ourselves, not to the whole world. I still don't really understand what compels me to make these entries, and I won't even try to guess what drives someone else. Of all the blogs I've visited the past few days, this one deserves special notice: Hi to Me!

I have been told by many people that I have no sense of humor. It may be true. Hi to Me!, however, is far and away the funniest blog I have ever encountered! Now there's a person who knows how to tell a joke!

I have run across a dozen blogs lately talking about the United States dropping a nuclear bomb on China at the end of WWII and thinking that this idea is somehow "funny", or worse yet, "satire". Did George Bush say something really stupid recently related to this idea? All of these blogs are attempting to poke fun at G.B., who is certainly enough of a ham to deserve to be satirized, but to my mind that does not excuse perpetuating a historical falsehood. This is exactly how cultures become indocrinated to accept error as fact and to regard history as being irrelevant. If these "commentators" really want to take the wind out of George's sails they need to find a way to satirize him while restoring the historical accuracy, thus dealing him a double whammy. I don't know that G.B. said something, all I do know is that some 12 year-old kid is going to read those blogs and come away convinced that American bombed China. An entire future conspiracy theory is being given birth by a group of people who do not understand that the first rule of satire is to replace an error with the truth, not perpetuate the error.

For the record: The United States has dropped two nuclear bombs on populated targets, Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Both of those cities are in Japan, not China. If you see someone claiming otherwise (even as a joke), then please take advantage of their comment box to correct them. These two attacks were horrific enough, there is no need to make up a third one.

On another front, some writers simply have no respect for their audience. Why are so many blogs written in purposely bad English? I'm not talking about honest mistakes by people who are still learning, I'm refering to people who write things like, "ne1 kin sey dat, bud the pplz alys lrn da rl dl inda nd."

Good grief! What is this garbage? Is this some kind of hip modern code? English is not a brutal enough language already, now they have to throw out the rules altogether and attempt to write it phonetically? Have a little respect for your readers, people. Like it or not, publishing live on the internet means that real people are going to be stopping by trying to decipher what you have to say. Readers who come across your blog are trying to learn your unique view of the world. They want to see the world the way you do. How can they understand your perspective on life if you throw up a cryptic wall and transform one of the most exception-laden languages in the world into a chaotic tempest of random characters? If you don't want people to read it, why post it?

If you can write clearly, please make an effort to do so. Potentially millions of people will be reading your humble words, especially now that Blogger has made you so easy to find. Give them a chance to understand you before you shut them all away.

August 10, 2004

Once upon a time in cyberspace

Misty Memories of Another World

It has been almost three years since a group of terrorists hijacked some planes and destroyed the modern Tower of Babel. Three long years of wars in Afganistan and Iraq, inspired in no small part by American paranoia. And yet, the horrible imbalance in quality of life around the world that generated the anger of the terrorists still remains. In short, nothing has improved and whole lot has actually gotten worse.

Keep this in mind, because the stage we play out our lives upon has a dramatic and lasting impact on each of us individually, often in ways we cannot begin to imagine. My own problems are related to the most innocent of modern devices, the credit card. I have been carrying and using a Citibank Mastercard for almost 20 years now. Over the past three years it has become almost impossible for me to use my credit card online. You see, Citibank keeps a database of personal information and when you try to use your credit card online, the personal information you provide at the shopping cart page is compared with the personal information in the database and if they match, the sale is authenticated. But the Citibank database does not like non-US addresses and I have lived and worked in Japan for eighteen years now! Whenever I try to buy something online, the databases don't match, and my purchase is declined. This problem has become noticeable worse ever since 9/11 and in one case, an online store told me straight up that they would not accept an American credit card with an overseas billing address! Part of the problem is that modern American businesses have no motivation to seek out overseas customers. Paranoia and xenophobia have finally replaced greed and covetousness as the primary drive behind American business. Although, in all honesty, fear of reprisal has always played at least a minor role in American business practices.

And not only in America, either, but that is for another day.

That brings us finally to the real point of today's post: Magic!

I played Magic: the Gathering ("MTG", to its many online fans) from the spring of 1999 to the summer of 2002. It was, and remains, one of the most challenging and rewarding card games ever invented. My recent return to MTG came about because I cannot play Lineage II at work. At first, I was visiting the forums and posting my very own words of wisdom, but not many people enjoyed reading them. I did not want the immaturity of forum regulars to damage my experience of this great game, so I drifted away from the the discussion groups and began looking around for something else to do when things are slow at work. I wandered into Usenet again, especially Cuddleland, AFO, and RAP. Usenet does not have as many immature contributors as it once did, but it still remains a wild and woolly place where flame wars rage endlessly and an unwary user could easily find their pride and joy reduced to a heap of useless ash. Not a nice neighborhood, but fun if you can handle the fire and the fury.

Then I broke down and wrote to a friend of mine who works at the company which makes Magic: the Gathering. He dropped the hint that now could be a very rewarding time to return to Magic: the Gathering. Specifically, the next major pro set will be built around Japanese legends, folklore, and myths. Now how could I refuse such an opportunity?

The new set is called "Kamigawa", which probably means "god river", but could have a dozen different meanings depending on the kanji the designers were thinking of when they came up with the name. Judging from the official introduction (see the link in the last sentence), it will be one of the most dynamic and exciting sets they have ever produced. Well, I want to play it! That in turn meant finding some way to brush up my Magic skills, because MTG is not a simple game. My friend recommended Magic Online, which seemed like a fine idea to me! I headed over and downloaded the client, but couldn't get logged on. Why? Because in order to log on I have to pay $9.99 for the client (refundable in store credit, mind you) and the Magic Online store will not accept the credit card I have been carrying and using longer than some of their employees have been alive!

And thus we have the long rant above about American paranoia. I don't know why, but it is getting worse with every passing year. Don't believe me? Check CNN!

I don't know what kind of world you kids think you're building, but trust me, when you get to be my age, you'll be very sorry you went about it this way.

August 01, 2004

Back in Action!

I finally got bored with hitting critters over the head with an iron hammer. I put Giantina on hold for a little while and pulled Nightfall back out again. Of course, the first problem was that she was naked and weaponless! Not to worry, I headed out to the swamp in the dark elf territories and hunted Dark Horrors and Marsh Zombie Lords using nothing but her magic skills. Since she had no wand or robes, her casting speed was unbelievably slow, but with care and attention to timing, I was able to kill enough monsters to make enough adena (Lineage II money) to buy her a simple leather robe set, complete with gloves, shoes, and cap. That left the issue of what to do for a weapon. Well, Giantina has not been idle, you know, and Nightfall's old gear is what provided the cash to get Giantina going, so Giantina contributed 120,000 adena to the cause and Nightfall got a new staff (called a "Journeyman's Staff"). Not a particularly good one, but a staff. Armed with staff and robes, she hunted much more efficiently and after a week or so, had earned enough for some better robes. Now she has a Devotion Set, enough crystals and "spiritshots" to keep her going, and even a little money. Considering that ten days ago she had nothing, I'm quite pleased with her progress.

Okay, then, on to other things. I've been posting on the official forums at the Lineage II Offical Site. There are many Americans players who are not happy to have Chinese players roaming around on their servers. Almost daily someone starts a thread complaining about Chinese players and asking NC Soft to ban all Asian IPs. Since I live in Japan, this means they would be banning me as well. Not a good thing. In all honesty, though, that is not the part that irritates me. What really gets my goat is how xenophobic my fellow countrymen are becoming. America is the most powerful nation in the world for only one reason: they respect the desire of all people everywhere to live in freedom. Despite this, xenophobia is a problem that raises its ugly head every thirty or forty years. I am at an age now where I understand why xenophobia does far more harm than good, and I have posted dozens of messages trying to convince people that banning Asians from the North American servers will hurt the community, not help it. Naturally, almost no one believes me.

Before I set Giantina aside, I finished her level 20 job change quest. She is now officially a Scavenger. In the course of finishing that quest, an interesting thing happened, so I posted it to the Offical forums in response to yet another "let's do something about the Asians" post. Here is what I posted:

Of Farmers and Fouls

I was out in NE Elmore killing bears and collecting Honey Jars for my Scavenger Quest. There were four other dwarves running around and one light elf archer. Within minutes of my arrival, one of the dwarves SoEed back to town. One dwarf girl, armed with some kind of claw weapon, began following me around killing the bears I attacked. I asked her to stop. She killed one more, said "hehe", and went off to another area to hunt. A few minutes later she was back, but just watching. I said, "Please go away!" At that point the male dwarf character hunting nearby came and shouted, "LEAVE HER ALONE", without specifying which one of us he meant. Quite silly, really.

A short dialogue ensued where I explained why I was killing bears, explained that she was, too, and added that she was probably doing the same quest I was. As we spoke, the KSer killed two more bears than SoEed back to town. The male dwarf who believed he was helping remained convinced that the other dwarf was a "Chinese farmer" and told he had already fought her once and killed her. Note that they were both white, so she must have fought back. He then SoEed back to town, leaving me, one dwarf, and the light elf.

Are you with me so far? We've got two aggressive players who have already fought over a hunting ground, a dwarf, a light elf, and me. Here where the tale changes unexpectedly.

I go back to hunting bears. The remaining dwarf comes up to me and says, "ni hao". I tell her I don't speak Chinese. There is a pause, she says, "get honey? easy?" I tell it's not easy, but yes, I am getting honey jars. She goes over to the light elf and there's a rapid dialogue in Chinese. Pretty soon another dwarf materializes nearby (logging in I think). Both dwarves start hunting bears, with the elf helping them by taking first hit, and in some cases, last hit. However, they stay clear of the area where I am and I stay clear of the area where they are. After a bit, I go up to the elf and ask if he speaks English. He says something in Chinese, and the first dwarf comes up to me asking what I need. I tell her that if the elf keeps taking first hit, the two dwarves will never get honey jars. The elf needs to concentrate on crowd control while they finish their quest. Another Chinese dialogue, three-way this time, and they modify their hunting style.

After a bit, I finish collecting my honey jars and get on with the next leg of my quest. When I get to Tomas, who do I find but the dwarf with the claws! She was doing her quest, too. We talk, and guess what, she's Canadian and speaks perfect English. She even apologizes for stealing my kills, excusing herself by saying how frustrated she was getting because the honey jars were not added with every single kill, but only every fifth or sixth, and sometimes even worse.

The only problem I'd had was with a Canadian player that another player had already killed because he'd assumed she was Chinese. There were three Chinese players hunting that area, two of them were doing their quest and one was watching their backs. Were the three Chinese farmers? I don't know, and I don't care. That's their problem not mine. Either way, this kind of scenario unfolds around me every single time I play. Yes, there are a lot of Chinese players. For whatever reason, they don't bother me and I don't bother them. This is called "peaceful co-existence".

I understand that some players have a lot of trouble. I come onto these boards everyday (can't play the game at work, after all), and read horror story after horror story. I am 100% certain that some of these miserable stories are pure fabrications by xenophobic individuals who attack first and regret it later. How many? Again, I don't know and don't care. What to do about the true stories?

Nothing. It's that kind of game!

If a player does not like this game, this environment, and this community, then they need to exercise their rights as a consumer and move on to something else. How to solve the "farmer" problem? Find the buyers, find the sellers, ban them both. How do you find them? That's NC Soft's problem, not mine.

My suggestion to everyone is simple: don't buy adena, be nice to other players, kill the ones that don't appreciate it.