Posts filed under ‘thinking’

Kawaii feminism

When I made the unfortunate, and rather stupid, decision of moving to Japan I crated all my stuff up in a big box, marked “magic dragon island” on it and then sent it off with my body a few days behind. My beneficiaries in Japan received it, made no mention of it and when I arrived and was promptly fired from my job I left it there to sick to pick it up along with the 80 kilos of luggage I was carrying at the time. In my time in Japan I was consistently told I liked anime. Now, there’s a problem with this comment. I grew up in Houston, home of the anime nerds. We had fan subs before there were fan subs, we had anime shops well probably like a decade after L.A. or something, but we had the internet and me and my younger brother somehow managed to get entire fansubbed libraries of things like Evangelion and Vision of Escaflowne. I loved ‘m. I watched them constantly and the stories of ennui with in, the suffering of these bug eyed folks touched me. I remember somewhere towards the end of an all night barrage of Vision of Escaflowne something snapped and that was it. I was no longer into anime. Haven’t watched a series or dug a single ova since then. That was it, no more anime.

Now humans are sadly complicated things. I love anime design, I really do. School girls, hyper-cute “kawaii” (I believe that is the word) shit is awesome. I love it, but I’m not into anime. The plots don’t grab, the stories don’t move me, I just don’t feel the connection. Convincing Japanese people of this proved impossible. A simple set of stereotypes guided their actions. They could not be swayed, possibly because aggravating someone like me is the whole point. But anyway, years pass by, things trickle under the bridge and along comes Fortune Summoners. A demo on steam of a Japanese bug eyed cutesy all girl, mega-girly game. It’s awesome. Is it as awesome as Princess Maker or the DS dating sims? I don’t know, but the game has ok-ish combat. You unsheathe your sword, up to parry, and take out some slimes. The girl has ambivalent physics, jumps soar you over gaps, but also leave long skids. The game doesn’t control quite right on a mouse and keyboard to my liking, but I have a wii-mote and will try that.

Now did a group of Japanese developers across the pacific have the same experience as me growing up? No, they didn’t. They continued to fascinate over girly books and school girls with magical powers. They continued to dream. Now they apparently make low budget fantasies for trans-gender obsessed geeks. Fortune Summoners reeks of indie production values. It is a niche game in a niche game in which women are not just unspokenly superior, but cram in the hallways of its magical school and venture out to taken on foolish quests by mischievous boys. Bilitis is not a sexual action here, it dictates the very fabric of society. Cuteness becomes a virtue, and our protagonist and her new found friend share an instantaneous bond so deep it might as well be out of an Agnis Varda film. Kawaii feminism runs deep, but is its unspoken pedophilia a notion to the audience’s own unspoken inability to grow up? Does the otaku dig the kids cuz he’s still a kid himself? Maturity requires experiences and geeks, dateless and often friendless, never grow with the same maturity as others. They never learn about tricks and traps as quickly, we’re condemned like Heidegger to always be stepping into fox holes. My point is initial relationships, friendships, the bonds of socializing are often denied to the fan base that makes up a great part of these games. If I’m understanding correctly there are women biologically and culturally assigned to that sex who dig these games, but I feel like for me this is a form of extimacy. The doll like girl is out, the Alice of my dreams she has never had a relationship, never blossomed into sexual maturity, never puked at a party after a guy roofied her, never felt violated by a man (possibly one like me), she is still pure in a way I see myself. Is kawaii for male fans there fore a means of storing femininity outside the self? Is it a wish for a self that missplaced in sexuality goes unfullfilled? And is the fan boys like myself behind forming a kinda kawaii feminism? A sisterhood of the girly things?

Madonna has recently decided to inaugurate two other divas to her stage. Miss Nicki Minaj and Ms M.I.A. are now sharing stage with the sophistication of the material girl. By sophistication, I mean look at the performance in this video. Madonna is well beyond the simple hunks that defend her. M.I.A. is able to command the stage with out sexuality… well for me at least. Her politics and imagination are enough to fill a song.

The lesson behind these two gender performances (Madonna and M.I.A. Miss Minaj I will leave for another day) is that a woman’s politics or self is primary and sexuality secondary. Despite all her prolific eroticism, Madonna always remains aloof from domination, even when she desires. What these women are passing between themselves are dialogues more complex than anything found in kawaii. Having been assigned to women, these three have found jubilation in gender messages that exert a surprisingly hefty weight on the patriarchy (especially in M.I.A.’s case). And what’s with those dancers in the Madonna video? Faded out anime cheerleaders, they exist faceless and slightly creepy especially in the light of three women so articulate and complex. And perhaps that’s the point, nothing in M.I.A.’s performance or Madonna’s suggests that such storehouses of the feminine have anything to do with being a woman.

February 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm Leave a comment

The Lulz

The Lulz (iPad autocomplete already contains the phrase Lulz in capitals no less) have become the celebrity hackers that Hollywood will one day throw into our future as the past. They are at times an almost perfect imitation of what hackers from The Wachowskis would act like (google the dudes who made the matrix), in fact the fiction of the hacker, the past Hollywood imagined appears to have infiltrated the present, remember hackers? Remember all those 2600 kids and wanna be 2600 kids like me backorficing each other while over irc arguing on the merits of if or if not hackers actually dressed, acted, or even bore a similarity to the actors in that film?

I do. I also remember a little irc server, set up on the back of a bank’s mainframe, or what the dude claimed was a discarded unix server from a bank, to get on it you just had to know. I was kinda lucky at that time because I was in the rom scene so I had an fserve serving up rooms which i played in slow motion on an ancient Macintosh. It could manage super nes rooms with a little effort. I don’t think my teenage brain ever registered rom hacking as illegal, neither did it occur to me that flash rom carts were just now coming-out and folks were downloading game boy games to game boys, puerto rican sys ops were flirting with 14 year old girls, and we head no idea what the names on the channel that owned the server were up to. Joining the servers other channel was an experience in waiting as the seemingly always on nicks stood there in silence like the arbiters of a kafka story, working their way to some goal far away from the social scene. If you started joking you could stay. Those chatrooms disappeared for me after high school. Computers moved on, games became isos and burnable (I ruined a ps one with an ancient soldiering iron and a mod chip one summer while my mom lived with “friends” between houses) I got einhander to work with out a mod chip and was elated as was I by that square Enix fighting game that I absolutely loved for some reason. My mom’s temporary house came with a big tv and all those lights from square’s games still impress me. The world was abuzz with the dawn glow of the Internet age, anything was piratable, napster and gnutella were downloading music, my college Internet connection introduced me to high speed connections, content was free and piling down the internets like lemmings in the sea. I had video games up to my knees, sega Saturn, dreamcast, psx, neo geo Roms, I played darkstalkers alone in my dorm room, I got a slim sony viao and broke it in a matter of days. The iPod came, and I had music, never used iTunes, I left college, I moved in alone to an apartment. I went broke, I ended up in Asia. That’s when I found the chatrooms again.

The slow decline of life to the everyday is something we all dread. Life doesn’t begin till you’re forty, the Chinese say. My life at thirty was depressing in the extreme, but at least I had made it to semi-stability. That’s when the most ludicrous idea occurred to me, to make video games. I began by starting up my programming lessons again and learning ruby, this naturally lead to JavaScript, to processing, to flash, back to JavaScript, through a little python, back to android sdks aka java, and then today porting a flash project over to ruby. I posted on a million forums and then I ended up in chatrooms. And then the developer conferences, Denver, San Francisco, Shanghai. I met similar illusioned human beings at all of them. In San Francisco at Gdc I was hanging out with two devs from a Chinese mobile phone company when one of them decided to show me something. The dev said he found a room around the corner. We went down one of those paths and out into that city, the tangle of knots impenetrable to security cam, the place where bodies go to disappear, and somewhere on the router we were way back in the metropolis in the part where the chat rooms and the casinos become one. I remember a bar where sys ops went to trade python commands, and another where the Lulz were said to hold unions meetings, but then I saw it, hovering over in space, that impossible feel, the way the ops stood, like marble statues with funny names, and I understood I had been taken back to that room, somehow we had walked into he past the year of the emu when games became physically decoupled from their packages and the companies fought them instead of making them available. It was surreal to see all those games incorporable again, like finding your grandmother’s soul in the attic. We had come from the year of the eshop and arrived at the backbone of internet’s commerce, the first transmission of immaterial goods, lifted from the cardboard and plastic of their origins. Ok I was lying, I couldn’t see the games,but in the room 10 names sat in marble silence. And the Dev said, we found it like this 30 years ago. The silence in the room was startlingly, tangible, the way a white screen worked, and that’s how I learned about the Internet. My best friend , my buddy of twenty years, always there with me.

Well that’s how I remember hackers ending.

June 22, 2011 at 9:07 am Leave a comment

Diary of Woe or the educator’s dream

I am sitting around again tonight solving some basic problems with programming and I was reading this interview with David Foster Wallace, so Mr. Wallace and i am chatting in my head, or more accurately he is giving me advice, “who does it have to be a video game?” he asks and quietly i am of course agreeing, silly me adding to this digital spectacle, but something in what Wallace says, my Wallace not the dead one, presents me with a kinda vision of society I hadn’t been privy to other wise, with out technophilia the u.s. Has no room to grow. If we weren’t in love with ipads, we wouldn’t be purchasing them. Modern literateis growing in spurts, imagine if we valued or saw progressions in language as we value modificstions in chip size, what would we think of colson whitehead’s calm acceptance of the creative life in apex hides the hurt? Would we find in jennifer egan’s recent writing a vertigo of emotion that uses time, subjective time not the type of clock cycles, to push meaning to its edge?

The third twave feminists present a unique vision of feminity (and one that often ignores gender dessent) but one of the things luce irigary argues is that genders can’t be equal, perfect equality just wouldn’t make the thing go. Adam Curtis’ recent documentary all watched over by machinesofi loving grace makes a similar point: our view of nature as balancedis flawed, ecosystem skitteri allover the equality spectrum, life outside of human societyis rarely even. We live in a culture though, or at least i livein a culture perhaps mostly a virtuality propped by my ignorance, that values technological consumption as a virtue, i won’t get into any devils and commodity fetishism, but this is a society very much so balanced on the idea of material goods as to ignore the cultural, immaterial goods such as software are somewhat well paid, while goods such ad maternity or teaching are fairly under valued. This brings me back to Wallace, in our little chat he seems to see no difference between a software engineer and a montessori teacher, and it makes mewonder. Teaching isn’t what those that can’t do as woody allen would have it, rather it is what those that expand empathy to degrees previously unseen, those who squinch and squelter to smplify and reduce ideas, those that try to advance understanding do. At that i see a value init higher than programming,t so much of software is just there to provide consumerism with an easy taget, so much of teaching is to provide people with the opportunities for production. Education grows in leaps and bounds it is merely that new platforms aren’t deployed withthe same vigor as our game consoles, american society should be more abreast on changes in teaching.


June 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm Leave a comment

Bob Dylan

I think it was blonde on blonde on cassette tape, I have no idea where I got the tape, but the songs took me away, I understood them with a ferocity I’d never seen, the poet trampled closed to the knit innards of my heart, visions of johhana I found in London and get immersed in, apparently Richard Gere also likes this track. But what was touching about Dylan was his expansion of my malaise, the way a lonely teenager newly ensconed in a memphis attic first year in a new school could hear and experience a sense of mission so consoling. It was nice to know someone else out there had learned to believe.

May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am Leave a comment



Before there was a dictionary of birds there wasn’t an other rather there were idengious beliefs. What Audubon did was turn the owl from the moon’s twin into a scientfic object. He merely provided the languages of Artitotle and the gaze of math with preemient places in the wild kingdom.

Math, as everyone knows, is a fine hunter. It stuffs splints of certianity in all the wholes mother nature leaves. Math and science built nature a new house, one with circulating abstractions, but when exactly nature was unknown, other, was actually produced by this movement. Up to that point nature was simply a manifestation of divinity, afterwards a mirage of selves and intelligence logic never knows. To understand an owl in categories is to lose the owl in the spirits and sadly its not the mathematical owl that makes owls knowable.

April 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm Leave a comment


Quite often when we talk about games we discuss the neurocognitive effects of them. The neurocognitive model is the idea that games let us learn with out necessarily being conscious of it. Bioshock for instance requires a lot preplanning for each mission, plasmids need to be swapped, environments take into consideration, things like that.
The neurocognitive everything bad is good for you has a minor problem. It’s called fruits ninja. The game is very simple, you swipe the screen and slice fruit. The game is wonderful, I have never played anything that so vividly makes smell part of the game. If we examine the game from the viewpoint of false consciousness, we are learning some rudimentary hand eye cordination for the reward of a second of that fruit feeling. But, and this is the problem interactive media faces, simulation can addict us to different things and in fruits ninja I don’t think I’m learning very much. Still its gonna stick around on the phone a little while.

April 18, 2011 at 11:16 pm Leave a comment


Ars technica reports on a study of human languages (I’m assuming written not spoken) that treated certain grammatical functions as genetic traits. The anaylsis run showed no hereditary traits linking the 4,200 languages involved. The finding further the idea of language either list its origin or developing independently of each other. The later seems to be the case, the tendance of lips and social groups suggests languages evolved seperately got caught in pockets and bent to others’ will.

The report though wonders at the ability of children to learn so many languages in so short a time. Apparenty some Chomsky supporters proposed that a commonality in languages could explain this rapid development, but I’d like to think its more desire. Each word ingested gives the child more to ponder over, more to desire. The pecularly open desiring of childhood is a carnivore for words, by the time the adult approaches language enough socialization has adhered them to linguistic/cultural group, they perpetuate desire at the expense of others. Children learn a phrenia of cultures when they grow up multilingual and probably maintain such an openness in adulthood. Chomsky’s idea has appeal in its simplicity, and the way it makes structualism relevant, but if language’s share a commonality it’s the in the way they teach us to desire, the ethnic in thought, and not in grammar or other genomes.

April 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment

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