New Years Taiwanese Style! Happy New Year 2011~!

Nobody does fireworks like the Taiwanese- nobody! Watch it until the end, simply spectacular. (And I’m someone who actually doesn’t care much for fireworks!)

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-26

  • New post: Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-19 http://bit.ly/fWpIsI #
  • Someone actually made a video game that's 100% pure audio without a video component at all. http://bit.ly/emFlM6 #
  • United- Amazing new Chinese high quality supermarket has opened for business on Adelaide Street North- grand opening is on the 29th. #
  • New post: Merry Christmas! http://bit.ly/ety2gd #
  • As a Christmas Treat for all KFAT listeners, Al Maitland reading of 'The Shepherd". This is how audio readings can… http://fb.me/Atn3owY3 #
  • just turned my 2010 tweets into a nifty word cloud – http://2010.instatus.es/s/?4jDBUQE #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-19

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How I came to love Go

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it on the blog, but I’m a Go player. It’s a game I’ve come to appreciate more with time, and easily one of the greatest games developed by man.

Now, you might think that since Go is from Asia, and I spent years living in Asia, including Japan, I might have picked the game up and learned how to play there. This, oddly enough, is not true. I actually learned how to play Go here in Canada after I’d finally settled here, and now look back with regret on not being able to play while I was over there since I’m sure finding a Go salon wouldn’t have been all that hard.

In a weird bit of irony, when I was twenty or so I bought a Go set at a game store that was having a clearance sale. I was in my “Japanese stuff is cool!!!” phase at the time, and since it was something I associated with Japan and it was cheap I bought it. I took it home, Shanghaied my buddy Ron to play with me, and we spent a Saturday afternoon trying to play it using the horribly written rules booklet that came with it. Unable to figure it out, I stuck it in storage  where it lay (like Buck Rogers or Eric Cartman, cue music…) for 18 years. A little over a year and a half ago I found it, decided I wanted to take another shot at it, grabbed my friend Mad Unkie G, and decided to play.  However, I did a little online search for rules and came across this site, which had an amazing online interactive tutorial on how to play.  Using those rules, G and I had a blast, and were both hooked.

We began to play every week or two, and both of us started to teach other people how to play. (The very true saying about Go is “Five minutes to learn, a lifetime to master.”) I bought a book on the subject and I studied it for a while, played against the computer, and we pretty serious about it. I thought I was doing pretty well at it, until I played my Korean boss who turned out to be a ranked player of the game. It wasn’t a game, it was him teaching me how to play, but the difference in levels was so disheartening I actually stopped playing for a while. Eventually it came down to the occasional game with G when we managed to make our schedules work (I’ve had a super-busy year) and me playing against a computer from time to time. (Unable to get past beginner level.)

Then, a month or so ago I happened to notice a poster at school for a Fanshawe College Go Club. Curious, I sought them out, and to no surprise they turned out to be a bunch of computer science students. (Go naturally appeals to logical thinkers.)  But, joining in and playing them rekindled both my love and appreciation for the game, especially in a social setting, and I’ve gotten back into it with a passion. I got another book on the game, and began to study it in earnest (the desire to kick Go butt strong in this one…) and I even started to play online against real people. I also started to read Hikaru no Go (again, I read the first couple volumes a year ago when I first got interested in the game) and suddenly it makes perfect sense to me and I can even understand what they’re talking about and appreciate what’s going on.

Will my new found love of Go last the test of time? I don’t know, but I’ll find out and have a lot of fun doing it! If anyone hasn’t had the chance to try playing Go, check out the link to the online tutorial site above and give it a go, you might just find a new love like I did!

Sage Advice for the D&D Player

As this week’s release of John Rogers and Andrea DeVitos’s excellent Dungeons & Dragons #2 proves, D&D and comic books go together like… well, like escapist fantasies set in worlds with super-powerful characters that are built on tenuous, ever-changing rules. And like comics, the D&D rules invite all sorts of questions to figure out just how the hell they’re supposed to work.

For over thirty years, that was the domain of Dragon Magazine and their “Sage Advice” column, where players could write in with problems to get semi-official answers. Unfortunately for fans of esoteric, incredibly specific knowledge everywhere, the column is no more (having since been replaced by, you know, the Internet), but my pal Mike Sterling recently sent me a link to a searchable archive of 680 “Sage Advice” questions and answers culled from over a hundred issues of Dragon.

Most of them are simple rules questions and people trying to figure out what exactly the difference is between the glaive, guisarme, guisarme-glaive and guisarme-volge (answer: not much), but there are some truly amazing glimpses of nerd minds at work in there. And luckily for you, you don’t have to spend the hours going through all of them, because I’ve found the best and dropped them onto some snazzy parchment for your reading pleasure! So strap on your elven chain, make your save vs. rules lawyering, and enjoy The 11 Strangest D&D Questions Ever Asked!

Party like it’s 1954!- Tokyo Manga Censorship becomes Law!

What happened in 1954? Well, besides the American dub of Godzilla being released, a little thing called the Comics Code Authority was created. From Wikipedia:

The CCA was created in 1954 as part of the CMAA in response to public concern about what was deemed inappropriate material in many comic books. This included graphic depictions of violence and gore in crime and horror comics, as well as the sexual innuendo of what aficionados refer to as good girl art. Fredric Wertham‘s book Seduction of the Innocent rallied opposition to this type of material in comics, arguing that it was harmful to the children who made up a large segment of the comic book audience. The Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings in 1954, which focused specifically on comic books, had many publishers concerned about government regulation, prompting them to form a self-regulatory body instead.

Well, it took a while for the Japanese to catch up, but it looks like they’re finally on their way. The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly (Tokyo’s city/regional government) has just passed a law regarding Manga (and presumably anime) that will go into effect in 2011. What does this law do? From Anime News Network:

Bill 156 would require the industry to also regulate “manga, anime, and other images (except for real-life photography)” that “unjustifiably glorify or exaggerate” certain sexual or pseudo sexual acts. Another section of the revised bill would allow the government to directly regulate the above images if the depicted acts are also “considered to be excessively disrupting of social order” such as rape.

Now of course, this is just Tokyo, not all of Japan. But by comparison, if say New York City of Los Angeles had a similar ban, do you think American publishers would be willing to lose either of those markets for their books? Tokyo has 39 million people, and Japan as a whole has 127 million, so do the math. As Tokyo goes- so goes the country.

The main issue here is the sheer vagueness of the bill, and that it will be administered by a group of older political appointees whose sense of “decency” will now be the one which guides Japan’s entire publishing industry. Those books which don’t meet “code”, will now be regulated to the “adult” sections of stories (if they have one, not all manga stores do) and ghettoized. That is, if they’re not banned outright, including their possession.

Now, it’s fair to say that unlike in 1954, this Bill is easily circumvented by the Internet, and that’s probably exactly what will happen. In fact, if manga publishers are smart, they’ll produce two versions of their books (much like DVD producers do)- a censored one for general sale, and an uncensored one available online only (for a price). In fact, it may even help to drive the internet-ization of manga, something the industry has been incredibly slow to do in comparison with American comics publishers.

Also, and this is my personal thoughts on the subject, I think what we’re seeing here is the result of a generational war that’s heating up inside Japan. Japan is an economically stagnant and culturally troubled country that is deeply mixed in its feelings about how its society is changing. I think of a lot of the Japanese boomers are becoming extremely conservative and frightened by the changes occurring, and things like this are their way of fighting back against that “decent into immorality”.

And, to take a devil’s advocate approach, some good may actually come from this. As someone who’s been reading/watching manga and anime since the 1980’s, I can say that there has been a definite decline in the quality of storytelling in the industry as a whole. If the artists and publishers are no longer able to use sexual content as a boost to sell their books, we may actually see them trying to be more creative in story and innovation. I’ve noted that it’s under restrictions that human become their most creative (usually to circumvent those restrictions) and this may apply to the manga industry as well. It certainly did to the American comics industry!

Update: More detail here by Brian Ashcraft on Kotaku:

http://kotaku.com/5712825/tokyo-says-sayonara-to-freedom-of-speech

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-12

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-05

  • New post: Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-11-28 http://bit.ly/dWcM4I #
  • Douglas Adams definition of Diplomacy: "I'm going to kill my brother and then kill you on the pretense that your brother did it." #
  • Watched the pilot for the Young Justice animated series, was good but not great. So far Sym-Bionic Titan and Avengers are still best. #
  • Leslie Nielson dead? Shirley you must be joking! http://bit.ly/enXkCS #
  • New post: 15 Writers who have Influenced Me http://bit.ly/gF2XfC #
  • What would a wikileak from China's Ambassadors say about America? http://nyti.ms/gZCYKp #
  • Post Edited: 15 Writers who have Influenced Me http://bit.ly/gF2XfC #
  • Witch Hunter Chronicles http://bit.ly/hH5dcq #
  • New post: Space Battleship Yamato- HASSHA!!! http://bit.ly/hdBWUB #

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