Archive for August, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Whew, after a crazy couple of days in Vegas, I’m finally home.  I know I skipped a few days worth of updates, but there was so much going on that there just wasn’t time to tell it.  The irony of blogging I suppose.  Will have to look into moblogging and webcasting if I’m going to keep up on the content.   I’ll revisit in pictures, scout’s honor.

Anyhow, dead tired, got home about 4ish today, hung out with JT and J, promptly passed out after dinner due to lack of sleep and alcohol.

Resuming my crappy sleep schedule, I will attempt to go to sleep now, at 3 in the morning and be chipper for work tomorrow. 🙂

Super Happy Double Sized Post with Bonus Insert!

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Two day gap on this post, and no amount of WordPressing will help with this one, mainly because I didn’t write a post last night. But having read through my bullet-pointed half-ass attempt two nights before, I just really didn’t feel like I could do it again with this post. Besides, I like my prose as it wanders the countryside, over hill and dale.

My last post had content, but very little story. Not that there’s really a story here. Stories have plot and plot devices. I have a collection of scattered memories and some very vague impulses. Anyhow, let’s begin…

One step behind…

I awoke with a start. I had been doing that for the past couple of mornings, having been awaken at various times by my room phone or my cellphone as people tried to get in touch with me or grandma. Unfortunately, at each interval, my brain was a high grade mush and totally incapable of coherent thought. That, coupled with the fact that I needed to rip off my apnea mask, bound across the room to my cellphone, only to miss the phone call, contributed to making a fine layer of aggravation over severe sleep deprivation.

“H-h-hello?” My voice was dry and scratchy from the machine.

“Hello? Is this Russ?” I had glanced at the phone number before I had answered, an incoherent jumble of digits answered my unformed question.

“Uh, yeah? Who is this?”

“Shiao Pei, is grandma there?” Shiao Pei was my cousin in Hong Kong, and had been unable to make it to the reunion.

“I’m not in the room with them.”

“Did I wake you? I called earlier.”

“Uh, yeah, it’s like 8:30 in the morning here.” Cobwebs leaving my brain, I vaguely remembered an earlier phone call that came in around 7:30 in the morning. No wonder I was so disoriented.
“Oh, sorry Russ, I wanted to see if grandma was okay after her flight.”

“She seemed fine when we got off the plane. I’m just hoping she didn’t bake in the Las Vegas sun. I’ll let her know you called.”

“Thanks.” Click.

I got dressed and went to my grandma’s room. As usual, there was a fierce game of mahjong going on. I said my hellos and was promptly informed that George and Grace were downstairs, with the kids. Now, George and Grace are siblings, both married and with a slew of kids in tow. The kids are fun, and certainly much more interesting than watching 70 somethings push plastic tiles around. I wandered down to the pool, this anemic series of circles with trace amounts of water in them, with a lifeguard perched on high, bundled up in enough towels to smother a goat, presumably to block out the sun’s rays, all 56 billion of them. I did a once around, keeping an eye for Fans. The screaming kids really helped my concentration. I got back into the elevator to go back to the casino and noticed that two things. One, the temperature in the elevator was incredibly stifling and two, it was moving at a crawl, making the heat even more unbearable.

.

.

.

GASP!

Finally, the elevator doors opened after an eternity, and everyone poured themselves out of the elevator and into the casino corridor. I called George and overheard the words, “midway”, “McDonald’s”, and “lunch”. I scurried to McDonald’s, pausing just long enough to watch the circus act at Circus Circus, grimacing as a woman held onto a pole by clipping her hair to it.

McDonald’s is usually a microcosm of the society around it. For instance, the McDonald’s in China? Orderly ordering system, but everyone’s scrounging for seats. New York? No lines, just people shoving to the front. This McDonald’s, no different. The key? Screaming kids. Lots of em. Like a banshee’s wail as it cuts through a foggy shire.

But no Fans. My eardrums and I left post haste.

I went around the midway, wondering if I could find them. Short answer, no.

Defeated, I went up to the room, resigned in my fate to listen to mahjong tiles clacking.

I opened the door…and there’s George and Grace and all the kids.

“Where were you guys?”

“We went to the pool.”

“I was there!”

“Then we went to the midway.”

“I was there!”

“Then we went to McDonald’s for lunch.”

“I was there!”

“Then we came back up to grandma’s.”

“I’m here!”

Reunited, we gathered our forces and went to the adventure dome to see what kind of rides we could see. Bryce, Miles, Lucas, Chloe, George, Grace and I played minigolf, since a prerequisite on Fan Family clansmanship is an appreciation of golf (which makes me even more of a black sheep). It was a full course, so 18 holes later, it was time to meet up again with the rest of the family.

Now, every family reunion follows a certain embarrassing plan. I think there’s a script somewhere, leaked on the internet. It goes like this:

Everyone greets each other awkwardly. People mangle names as we reunite with people that we don’t see except for once a year at best. My cousin Julie still gets called Judie(sic) by my aunts.

Older generation argues about inane shit, smothers younger generation’s kids(not the younger generation, just their kids) in hugs and kisses, which I’m sure drives the kids nuts.

Younger generation corrals kids into pens. Note that while I have no kids of my own, I am still involved in corralling. Extra ranch hand, as it were. Younger generation catches up.

Someone, at some point, gets upset and storms out. This is kind of a sweeping generalization, but I’d put money on it with my family.

We meet up all together and people give an update on their lives…in Chinese.

THAT’s the crux of the problem, I’m about to describe here.

The older generation speaks Chinese as their first language, English as their second language. They’re capable of English conversation, but when it comes to a good old fashioned ass-chewing, nothing but the mother tongue will suffice.

The younger generation, well, we’re all a bunch of ABCs, American Born Chinese. It’s an accurate descriptor, except for the fact that when the generation before uses the term, it sounds like a term of derision. So the older generation insists that the younger generation speaks in Chinese, in order to “keep it real”. Either that, or to make us sound like idiots. I vote for the latter. Essentially, even though, we’re all educated individuals who have successful lives by anybody’s standards, we still sound like kids when we speak in Chinese because, well, we don’t use the language on a daily basis, and we aren’t going to because we don’t have a need. I’ve even been sand-bagging, by studying Chinese in my car on the way up to work, but I’m still sputtering when I’m trying to speak in front of these people. It’s like the fear of public speaking, coupled with doing it in a different language. No deer in headlights, the deer’s been run over already.

Okay, I’m being a rat-bastard, because I know it’s not all true. We also speak in Chinese because grandma, well, she’s super old-school and the only English she knows is “G.P.A.” No shit. Every Chinese individual, no matter how incapable they may be of English, knows “G.P.A.”, “M.I.T.”, and either “Berkeley” or “Stanford”. No, Chinese people aren’t driven, not at all.

Anyhow, we have our meetup and it, like this post, drags into an overly long session. EVERY person is expected to speak. Mousketeer rollcall, that’s grandma, Albert, Kenneth, Gene, Phillip, Roxy, Anita, Nancy, Gu-Gu(sad really I don’t know her real name), Gu-Fu, Peggy, Daisy, Brian, George, Grace, Pelly, Edwin, Debbie and me. And I know I’m forgetting people. But that was just the list for that day, since Julie, Uncle Chen, Tom, Paul, Nicole, and Stony hadn’t made it yet. Not to mention my mom wasn’t coming and Debbie’s boyfriend wasn’t either. Lillian and her husband were busy, and had to pass as well. And whomever I choose to subject to this would probably be asked to speak something in Chinese as well, regardless of ethnicity. 😛 Anyhow, to top it off, Kenneth really likes his poetry books as well as the sound of his own voice. So we get these little red booklets that are filled with grandma’s writings as a poet, which is no small feat in itself, but everytime I get one, it feels like a vehicle for Kenneth to pontificate on. And that he did. 60 pages of him speaking. Paging gun to head, gun to head, you’re needed for a medical emergency, people have bleeding eardrums.

We manage to make to the restaurant, Chinese(natch), only by virtue of saying that we have a reservation that we need to meet. I told the guy that we’d have 30 people coming, and somehow on the way to the restaurant, that number magically dwindled to 24. Go figure. Fortunately, the restaurant wasn’t packed, so it wasn’t like we impacted their bottom line.

After that, I went with Kenneth, Nancy, Daisy, Peggy and their friends that they brought along to this venture (which included a former Miss China pagent winner) to go see Ka, the Cirque du Soleil production at the MGM Grand. They had an extra ticket and wanted me to have it. Score! Now, Ka could be a post in itself with how cool it was, but I’ll just address highlights. The crux of the show is this giant moving platform that’s used to show an arrow-marked cliff face, a sandy beach, a battlefield and a boat. The story revolves around these two imperial twins and their fight with an enemy. The story is easier to follow than most Cirque stories, and that platform is just the coolest thing around. I want one in my house. Kenneth almost got kicked out for taking flash photos. I would have laughed my ass off if he did. I mean, I remember the last Cirque show I went to and how I said no one wants to be “that guy” that gets the acrobats killed. I take it back, I think Kenneth would have no qualms about it.

Ka was so cool, I bought the program. Of course, I usually do, but that’s a testament to their awesome art direction, not my rampant consumerism.

After Ka, we were at the south end of the Strip. Everyone else wanted to walk back to their hotel, which was about halfway up the Strip. I figured that it was late at night, that I was probably not going to get a chance to do this for a while, at least not when the temperature was good (77 degrees in the evening), so I opted to walk around and explore the hotels all the way up to my hotel, Circus Circus, which is at the north end of the strip, roughly 3 miles away.

I’m proud to say I did it, I went into New York, New York, Paris, Bellagio, and Monte Carlo, and walked by Venetian, Treasure Island, and Caesar’s Palace. Just really beautiful buildings, inside and out. But they do run the same after a while. Each place has the requisite night club, sports bar, high profile act with celebrity named theatre, six different restaurants and a shitload of slot machines. The themed ones really went to town. Entering Paris, I really felt like I was in Paris again, at the base of the Eiffel tower, on a wonderful spring day. New York, New York was incredible as well, with areas that felt like skyscrapers and New York in a real heyday era. And there was a really cool stand in the middle of Caesar’s Palace that served slushee’s with alcohol in them. 🙂
I also got to see the cops out in force, getting medieval on drunk and disorderlies on the street. Lots of cuffs, lots of people sobering up.

When I got to the end of the trek, I was hurting. 3+ miles (taking into account my in-hotel wandering) and several hours later, I showered and collasped on my bed.

Day 2 in Vegas

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Looooong day.

Short post.

Not really wishing to exert the energy to stay up, but wanting to divulge the contents of my brain onto my site, I will now dispense wtih bulletpoints.

  • Woke up
  • Met with dad and grandma.
  • Gu-Gu and Gu-Fu were already in the room.  (Those are honorifics, meaning great-aunt and great-uncle, respectively).
  • Waited for Uncle Kenneth and family.
  • Waited some more.
  • Waited even longer.
  • Uncle Kenneth shows up with family and his friends from Taiwan.  Haven’t seen Peggy and Daisy, my cousins, in years, decades practically.
  • Kenneth insists on handing out poem books to everyone.
  • Waited for Uncle Phillip and Aunt Roxy.
  • Room full of Type As practically explodes with ego.  I retreat quietly to the adjoining room.
  • Pictures taken.
  • More pictures taken.
  • Even more pictures taken.
  • Headed down to lunch.
  • Buffet.
  • Ate.
  • Gu-Gu got mad and stormed out. (regular occurance, like the tides and clockwork)
  • Spent afternoon with Daisy, her husband Brian, and Peggy.
  • Went to the carnival part of Circus Circus.
  • Won a stuffed animal.
  • Came back to my room.
  • Took a nap.
  • Went to Rio with Dad.
  • Saw Penn and Teller perform.  FUCKING AWESOME.
  • Got DVD signed and pictures taken.
  • Went to BONANZA: THE LARGEST GIFT SHOP IN THE WORLD.
  • Came back to my room.
  • Succumbed to the lack of internet.
  • Stayed up way too late.

Okay, the concept of transitions isn’t lost on me and I probably could have been more eloquent had I bothered to forgo the bulletpoint barrage.

Ah, fuck it.  I’ll tell the whole thing again in pictures on my photostream anyways.

Tomorrow, meeting up with cousins.  Much relief.  🙂

Tape delayed from Vegas

Friday, August 18th, 2006

Broke down and paid 11 bucks for 24 hours of wi-fi. I feel like I should be online now for 24 consecutive hours in order to take advantage of it.

Anyhow, the post below was written yesterday morning, but is being posted close to 24 hours later, but through the beauty of the WordPress, I can roll back the timestamp so make it look like I’ve always had the internet under my masterful control.

——————————–

In Vegas, staying at Circus Circus. It’s okay, but their gastronomic selection is like a ton of bricks. The buffet is okay, but some of the other meals are like playing Russian Roulette with your stomach.

Anyhow, after a non-eventful flight, we took a van down to Circus Circus where I napped for a bit before talking to James and Leslie about meeting up. I had the aforementioned ton of bricks and then met up with them at the Wynn Hotel and Casino. We had a drink and then headed to the Wynn poker room to play some poker. And I finally got to play in a bonafide poker room for the first time ever. We played a 4/8 hold ’em table, which was higher than what I was used to playing, but considering that it was Vegas, I wasn’t too surprised. I bought in for 30x the big bet, and started playing.

Having spent a significant amount of time at .50/1 and then dropping down to .25/.50, playing poker had gotten a little bit weary. At 4/8, it was a considerable chunk of change and I definitely felt a rush as I played. But here’s the thing to remember before you guys think that I’ve gone totally willy nilly reckless. Each bet amount counts as a unit, not as the monetary value. Okay, it does count as the monetary value, but for odds calculations and betting considerations, it’s a unitless value.

So in a .50/1, the most that can be bet is 4 dollars (bet, raise, raise, cap), while in 4/8, the most that can be bet is 32 dollars by the same logic. But it’s still unitless and basically something to accept in the course of playing the game. But here’s where it matters. It takes a certain amount of will to be able to put in a bet like that. Which is why it’s easier to make it unitless, which will then result in being able to put in the mathematically correct amount, instead of shying away from the potential of losing 32 dollars.

For the record, I was down 54 dollars. Caught some good cards early on, did okay with them, had a mediocre run of cards, and lost a few hands, but the one hand that stuck with me was this: I had kings and raised. A tight player reraised me. Now this was a woman to be feared, since she had bought in with 100 and was now at about 500. She had played very few hands and had only shown quality. But I raised her back and she capped it. We kibbitzed a little and joked that we probably had the same hand. There was a third guy in the hand, but he was a calling station. The flop came down Ace-blank-blank. The first guy checked, which was no surprise. I bet to see how good my kings were and the woman raised me. The other guy called, and I took a long time in laying down those kings. The pot was called, more betting on the turn, more betting on the river. HUGE pot at this point. Me and the guy next to me were like, holy shit, I need to see this hand. The calling station had squat, but the woman, she had Aces. I was SUPER relieved to have gotten away from my hand on the flop, but a little perturbed that I didn’t read her reraise preflop as to mean serious problems. But then again, I was really proud of myself for being able to lay down kings.

So some damage control. 54 dollars is roughly 56 dollars. 56 dollars divided into 8 dollars(the value of the big bet) is 7 big bets. So if I were playing .25/.50 like I do at work, that would mean I would have lost $3.50. Meh. I played for about 4 hours, so my rate is -1.75 big bets an hour. Not great, but not as astronomically bad as it sounded initially.

To get to the plus side, I need to shore up the holes in my game, specifically, overcards to the flop, maximizing the value I get from made hands, and not over estimating my opponents hand.

But all in all, I had a fun time, which is the point of it all anyways.

Censorship

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

A brief bit of news first off: Forum on KQED will be having an hour long discussion on internet games and the social, political and economic influences that drive them. That’ll be the 10 o clock hour. If you can’t get 88.5 KQED on your radio, you can still listen live via http://www.kqed.org.

Now the meat.

Last week, I attended a discussion on censorship in animation. Mainly it was Marv Wolfman and Ken Pontac discussing their experiences regarding their respective titles. Mercifully, Happy Tree Friends had no involvement from BSP, which is the Bureau of Standards and Practices, which allowed them to make HTF as twisted and grotesque and deliciously dark as it is. However, Ken did have many other interactions with BSP, which he was more than happy to share with us.

The requests from BSP usually border on the inane, fearing to avoid offending anyone, and in the process, pleasing no one. The group needs to think about the lowest common denominator in terms of sense of humor and appeal to that. Anything even mildly raunchy such as a burp is under scrutiny.

The thing is, forms of the BSP exist in every form of media. In film, it’s the MPAA. In comics, it’s the CCA, in video games, it’s the ESRB.

And trust me when I say that the requests from these guys really run the gamut.

Now the problem is three-fold. One, why do these guys form? And two, who gives them power? And three, what can be done to limit the stupidity?

Oddly enough, the answer to all three problems has something to do with the government.

These bodies form because they are self-governed forms of regulation. They have power because the people involved in the medium understand that if they don’t self-govern, then the government gets involved, which is infinitely worse. The third question is a bit leading. It’s actually not stupidity, it’s the level of granularity needed in order to subdivide content into accurate ratings. Given accurate ratings, the populace can then make informed decisions, thus negating the need for government intervention, which quite frankly, has better things to worry about *cough*war*cough*, instead of video games.

Let’s talk about accuracy for a second. Now, there’s been a scandal over the “Hot Coffee” mod and a scandal over Oblivion’s female skins. Let’s get something straight here. People had to MODIFY the original game in order to access these assets. These assets were never intended for public viewing. One was a scrapped sequence in the interest of good taste and it was cheaper and easier to avoid the sequence as opposed to ripping it out completely. The second was because the clothing system is extremely complicated and it’s easier to handle it with a minimum of fuss.

First off, my suggestion is that MODS should not affect the rating of the game once it has been rated. Special features on DVDs aren’t necessarily rated, why should aftermarket modifications be subject to rating? Second, given the creativity of the Oblivion and the depth that it takes, I applaud the innovation they used in doing the clothing system. They should not be penalized because someone outside of the company modified the game.

The problem about this is that Take 2, the publishers of Grand Theft Auto, handled the situation incorrectly. They tried to worm their way out of it, instead of standing up and saying, yes, we put that in there initially, and yes, we changed our minds because we thought the sequence was in poor taste. However, we cannot control the actions of our audience.

A poor analogy here would be gun manufacturers getting sued for the deaths of people just because one user went nuts. And that’s a device doing what it’s DESIGNED to do. Incidentally, gun manufacturers have been sued for that very reason, and they won.

So now here’s the new problem. Because people feel that the ESRB isn’t doing a good job, the government feels like it needs to get its big ham-fisted mitts into the mess. What will that lead to? Basically over-regulation over a first amendment right. Much of the government’s legislation seem to try to address the needs of the core individuals by stifling the actions of the outliers. And by doing so, they stifle the actions of the core individuals, hindering them in creativity, output and basic comforts.

The reality is that the government has limited powers and attempting to stifle these forms of media cannot bode well. If the government really is interested in freedom, then the best they can do is educate people so that they can make informed decisions.

Weekend festivities and the week to come.

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Went to Matt’s Friday night with Tamiko to celebrate his 25th birthday. Whereas I’m more inclined to go out and eat, Matt had us chill at his place and make pizzas. He spent Thursday and Friday making sauces and I contributed in the way that I could…by buying alcohol.

Anyhow, took a few pics, here’s some of them.

Pizza Process.

Before and After

Jacob hit the wine after we had a few beers.

Lush

Cooked pizza with seal of approval.

Peppers and tomatoes.

Shit, looking at those pizzas is making me hungry…time to go scrounge fer food.

The rest of the weekend was uneventful. I put together a bedframe, skipped yoga because I stayed up late watching Clerks (yeah, I know, I’m bad) and talked to JT for a few hours on Sunday. Not to say that what I did were non-events, but that they did not need to be documented. Seriously, watching me do physical labor == !(pretty sight). I suppose that could be changed to (watching me do physical labor) != (pretty sight). Or (watching me do physical labor) <> (pretty sight).

Pick your syntax.

And at this point, I embrace my geekiness. 😀

Week to come? I’m heading to my family reunion in Vegas. That should be interesting. My camera will definitely get a workout. Yeah, I know, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Of course, the addendum to that saying is, “Unless blackmail is involved.” 😉 I suppose the worst pictures that will come out of it will be my drunken ass doing something stupid. Which doesn’t really deviate from the norm all that much, eh?

Anyhow, it’s family stuff, which for many people is probably as stressful as it gets. Couple with the fact that I’m helping my dad organize this and my family is tremendously critical and you can see where this is heading.

Bleh, love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t trade them in for a replacement, so you might as well learn to live with them.

ISEA/ZeroOne

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Went to ISEA/ZeroOne last night.  ISEA is the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts.  Demonstration of Electronic Art.  Very conceptual.  Very much my degree.  In fact, it turned into a bit of an alumni meeting, as I said hi to many of the grad students I went to school with while I was an undergrad in the program.  Had to catch up on damn near 6 years.  Good times.

And of course, I saw some interesting art exhibits, like the light projection onto the San Jose City Hall.

Photos, of course, are forthcoming.

AOD pics

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

Got my AOD 2006 pics up.

Some of my faves:

Close up of a poster I got from the tremendously talented David Bullock.

Terra and Robin

Bunny from Curse of the Wererabbit :

Bunny

Print I bought from Hannah, an artist sitting in the Artist’s Alley. Keep an eye on her, she’s going to go places:

Bleach

Weekend Update

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Woo, another busy weekend. Well, a busy Saturday anyways.

Went to AOD 2006, the San Francisco Animation Festival. Saw some really cool stuff, met some really good artists and talked about some good topics. And saw a shit load of cosplayers *shudder*.

After that, went to Ludon’s for a vodka themed party and had some fun, met some people.

Slacked on Sunday. I mean, totally slacked. Skipped yoga, in fact. Was going to clean the house, but said “screw it” after lunch.

Anyhow, photos forthcoming.

My Industry

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

I’ve been pondering my industry for the past couple of weeks, trying to get my thoughts together in order to make a coherent post regarding it.

My industry, as I refer to it, is the video game industry.

What fascinates me about the industry is that it overlaps with so many other aspects of our society. It’s entertainment media, but it goes beyond passive entertainment into the realm of interactivity. As far as interactivity goes, some consider it a profession, categorizing it under a sport, but is still scoffed at, seeing as how sports imply some sort of physical exertion. They’ve been under fire politically, as many forms of media have endured. They have yet to transcend into the realm of art…or have they?

There’s the potential to teach, and the potential to harm. Like any form of technology, it doesn’t do anything new, it just lets us do things faster.

It follows the 4 rules of entertainment media that I’ve coined:

1. It’ll be heralded (incorrectly) as the savior of society.
2. It’ll be persecuted (incorrectly) as the downfall of society.
3. It’ll replace another form of media as the dominant form.
4. It’ll be replaced by another form in time.

Basically those four rules mean that no matter how cool or how evil or how impressive media is, it’s not the end all be all of everything. Each medium, and each corresponding technology for that matter, has its supporters, has its detractors. Each medium doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but along a continuum, where it fits in logically with other media.

The key thing to note is that since each medium is in the continuum and they all experience the same type of support and detraction, that we can learn and predict the trials and tribulations we’ll face. And in doing so, be better prepared to handle them.

I’m starting a weekly piece where I take a look at different mediums and their relationship with video games.