spirit_zone: (Default)
The laziest travel blog ever comes to a close!

Todoroki Valley, Nikko, and the last leg of the trip )
spirit_zone: (sweatdrop)
My Internet has been randomly cutting in and out for the last few weeks. It finally stopped when I changed the position of our router; it had been on the floor, underneath a desk. Once I placed it on top of the desk, everything started working properly. Maybe that's because it has a direct line of travel from the desk to the living room window to the window of my room? The router was in my room when we had DSL, and maybe that's why I never experienced this problem before.

but now, there are pictures )
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One thousand sumimasens, two hundred train stations, and sixteen pineapple pies for the Beagle Boys later, I made my escape from the island of Honshu. There's much more to tell, but now, pictures.

Read more... )
spirit_zone: (anna)
I've been listening to a lot of Eisel Mazard (a-bas-le-ciel on youtube.) He's an engaging (if rambling) storyteller, has many fantastic ideas and original insights, and is in some sense a kindred spirit re: politics, veganism, and atheism.

And in other senses we couldn't be more different. He's very anti-hedonism and anti-escapism; my impression of him is that he's what you'd call a reality devotee, with a distaste for popular culture (video games in particular) and an aversion to imagination and fantasy for their own sake. A quick look at my interests will tell you that I don't take that view. To me, imagination is not a distraction, or an obstacle to living a meaningful life. On the contrary, I think that imagination is not only meaningful, but that it's at the heart of what meaning means. It's where meaning comes from when we have an experience, and where meaning goes back to when we process and reflect on those experiences. All meanings, all values, are created in the imagination. And that process of meaning-making is inherent to being human.

Pop culture and mass media have a tendency to go up themselves, because it's safe to do so and people have come to expect it. Just today, I saw a poster for an emoji movie. >_> Most entertainment media is nebulous, irrelevant to our lives, and communicates nothing of value. And a lot of "geek culture" just validates the worst of these tendencies. Critics will fall over themselves to praise something with no real merit, other than a certain kind of arch humor and superficial coolness (Guardians Of The Galaxy, I'm looking in your direction.) So yeah, I can understand hating video games, movies, TV, comic books, ect. These mediums are badly abused. But they don't have to be, and it doesn't have to be this way.

Per video games: look at how many indie games subvert the player's expectations of their own agency, and use this as a means of social commentary. e.g., how Undertale punishes the "collect-em-all" mentality in its players, becoming a criticism of a life based on acquisition. Or how The Beginner's Guide abandons conventional game rules entirely, becoming an examination of an abusive relationship through the medium of game playing. We don't even have to go indie: just look at how Metal Slug, through its Mad Magazine aesthetics, takes the piss out of war and jingoism, and subverts the entire run-and-gun genre in doing so. Waves of enemies who each have some kind of individual personality; who have their own hopes, ambitions, and fears; and who die in pathetic and tragic ways. And this is all handled so light-heartedly as to go completely under the radar. It wouldn't work in a non-interactive medium; you have to be the one committing the violence to understand how absurd Metal Slug makes violence look. Of course, Metal Slug also makes violence fun; it's a great stress ball, and one of my go-to games when I'm in an arcade. But the underlying message is there, sweetened by the addictive game design and baked into every player-NPC interaction.

The point I'm getting at is that media isn't inherently a trivial, escapist thing. Even if it's primarily used to escape. There is something that is pure and necessary in works of imagination. If you can communicate the contents of your imagination, you are in a sense telepathic. And we can't live without that kind of intimate connection, or at least it wouldn't be much of a life.

There is not so much imagination in the world that we can afford not to love it. And there's just enough imagination in the world that, if we don't invest our love and goodness into it, we put ourselves in terrible danger.
spirit_zone: (cold)
Mom's 96 year old father, my last surviving grandparent, died a couple of days ago.

I don't have many feelings about the man, and most of what I do feel is colored by his decision to live with my aunt, who's been practicing a kind of Amish shunning of my mom for a long time now. Over the last ten years, she wouldn't answer email, rarely spoke on the phone (and often not at all), and wouldn't show her face when my parents visited her dad at their home. Her behavior -- somewhere between neurosis and sociopathy -- has caused a lot of grief over the years, and that situation continues. Even now, my uncle refuses to address it. So we won't be going to the funeral, or having any further contact with them. When the estate papers arrive in the mail, Mom will sign them, and that will be that.

I hope he didn't burn through all his savings, and that my aunt didn't talk him into cutting us out of his will. My aunt and uncle are both well-off, and would probably want to shut us up and keep us away more than anything, so there's some hope on that front. It could mean that we get to remain in California. Especially if our building gets sold off at some point in the future.

I don't do well with people's silence. It probably makes me a hypocrite, because I've left the social part of the Internet more times than I care to remember. But I don't want to do what my aunt did to someone and keep them in emotional pain for years. I don't want it done to me, either.
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My family's long-term economic situation isn't great; we've been doing alright in L.A., largely because of rent control and occupying the same apartment for 40+ years. But that situation is tenuous... development is happening on our block, and even if our complex doesn't fall to it, we need a little more financial security than we currently have. Right now, it looks like we'll be purchasing a house in Cleveland and moving there later in the year, possibly as soon as this summer. I'll be in Japan for May; no sooner will I get back than I'll have to start making preparations to move. Exciting times.

As a reminder, I'm also on Twitter. Expect politics, philosophy, weebism, and salt.
spirit_zone: (sweatdrop)
So there's a site called Anime Feminist, and it's kind of spiffy. While feminist writing on anime is not a new thing, and can be found on numerous blogs, this is the first site that I know of to explicitly dedicate itself to feminist criticism. I love that they pay their writers, the articles are (generally) high quality, and I hope for much more to come.

That said, I'm not comfortable with their policy on fansubs/scanlations. As it's worded, it seems to go beyond "don't link to them, for plausible deniability" to "they aren't a part of legitimate fandom, don't even talk about them under any circumstance". So I wrote this to their staff.

Hey, I wanted to ask: can you consider softening your stance on fansubs and scanlations?

This is important to me because, one: much of anime and manga fandom is built on fan translations, and two: as it stands, it seems like you aren't welcoming of poorer and otherwise marginalized fans.

I've purchased anime that I wouldn't have because of seeing the fansub, and the same is true with manga and scanlations. But even if that weren't the case, fan translations are an important part of the culture, and have been from the beginning. Fansubbers and scanlators put in a lot of hard work. And their efforts not only help raise awareness of a title, but can help to show the flaws and issues in an "official" translation.

With regional limitations to streaming media, the decentralized and international nature of file sharing can be crucial to being able to see a title at all. Also, depending on where they live and under what circumstances, someone might not be comfortable with importing a title with LGBT themes. Or even able to do so.

Finally, I don't like the division that your statement of policy creates between "real" fans who purchase and "fake" fans who pirate. All fans, including consumers of fansubs, contribute to fan culture; yes, with our money when we're able to. But also with our energy, ideas, and criticism. Our blogging and vlogging. And our sharing what we love. That shouldn't be discounted or stigmatized because it runs up against copyright law. On the contrary, it's what has made anime and manga fandom so vibrant today.
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I really want California's Senate Bill 179 to pass:


At the same time, I'm concerned about Senate Bill 270:


Both bills were introduced by Toni Atkins, a senator who's extremely progressive on most issues. It seems like criminalization and oppression of sex work is one thing that both the left and right can agree on. :/

Laura Agustin on migration and sex trafficking.
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They had been exchanging bodies for some time; jumping in and out of each other's lives from the other side of the country. It was unpredictable; sometimes they would go weeks without switching, sometimes they would switch multiple times a week. Inevitably, they made plans to meet each other. Eventually, they fell in love.

At first, they had the perfect relationship, and wanted for nothing. But for some reason, now that they were sharing the same space, whatever caused them to switch was no longer happening. They couldn't inhabit each other, be each other, like they used to. And no matter how close they were, they couldn't help missing the way things had been. They began to drift apart, and finally they separated.

A few years passed. The woman had found a new SO, and the two of them had started living together. The man had found someone too, and the two of them had begun to raise a family. They still kept up on each other's lives... in their situation, there was no way not to... and they would regularly visit each other. Over time, they became familiar faces in each other's households.

And for the primary partners of this young couple, these visits by the "other half" were warmly welcomed. For while they shared their day-to-day life with only one body, they had fallen in love with two souls.
spirit_zone: (anna)
The human need for games, the human need for systems.

I feel like the system metaphor could explain a lot about video games; and why I still love to watch people play games, and still consider myself a part of that culture, in spite of almost never buying games for myself or playing games at home. When I visit an arcade, I feel like a part of a shared mythological culture. It's a complete system, inside of which players share a common language and identity. By stepping in front of the game machine, I'm not just consuming entertainment as an individual, I'm entering into a collective consciousness.

There's still a lot of power in games. They're not something I want to see cynically exploited; crushed into nostalgia, or worse, status jockeying. And when video game culture celebrates artists who hold their audience in contempt, or delight in causing harm, I feel like it's moving in a disturbing direction.

I still like to think that there are some good ideas wrapped up in the memeplex of "political incorrectness" that artists can use to make their art better. But I'm naive, and not used to the present day definition of "alt-right" as people with a fascination for fascism. The right-wingers I've known at least had a genuine interest in being free, in anti-censorship and freedom of expression. And while they may have held some hateful beliefs, they didn't define themselves by who they hated.

And sometimes, the struggle against fascism has led in destructive and counterproductive directions. I don't want that history to repeat itself. Maybe fists have to fly to nip something evil in the bud. But in the long run, I want to see evil dry up from lack of interest.

And when something doesn't feel right, I hope I have the courage to be a bad anarchist, or a bad anything else.

Ramble 2

Sep. 11th, 2016 12:49 am
spirit_zone: (at the controls)
Something I miss about 90s vidya: being driven to Hyper Game Action in Torrance, CA to look at row after row of Super Famicom imports. I never bought all that many, but just knowing they were there. Entire worlds that the average American will never know, unless they read Japanese or intuit their way through.

There was a phrase among those who played import games, “gaijin protection”. It referred to a part in a game (usually an RPG) where if you couldn’t read certain lines, you’d have a hard time figuring out how to advance the game. As someone who had to do a lot of guesswork on titles like Final Fantasy 5, I had a love-hate relationship with gaijin protection. But now it stands for an experience that, however silly, was meaningful at the time and that I’ll never have again. I’d like to see that sense of mystery recreated somehow. Maybe a game could use a nonsense language for part or all of its length, forcing you to form your own interpretations and rely on audio/visual cues?

I don’t miss how badly a lot of companies dropped the ball with their American systems, though. Especially Sega with the Saturn and NEC with the Turbografx. It seems almost unbelievable that a game company could sink millions of dollars into a system without bringing over 80% or more of its actual library. I guess that was the nature of the nineties economy. I remember a... cockiness to pop culture in general back then.

I started a new song last night, based on a certain yuri manga. If this idea continues to fascinate me, it may be the first song that I actually finish. I still have a lot to learn before my stuff sounds like actual music and not a robot drunkenly reciting multiplication tables to a beat. I want to be a little more fluid. I need to figure out how to worry a line like they do in jazz. You know, like you do.
spirit_zone: (anna)
If radicalism — intellectual vigilance — is remotely coherent and efficacious, then it becomes emergent from caring. One has desires and so one puts in intellectual consideration to satiate them. New discoveries propagate updates to one’s motivating desires, and one grows to recognize more just how critical having a better map of the world’s structure is. One’s endless ontological update crises gradually dissolve any extended rigid sense of self. A runaway compounding process happens and all other values fall away to radicalism itself. What different discursive traditions term vigilance, epistemic rationality, consciousness, and even freedom. The storm of recursion and meta-cognition that gives us ‘agency’. - William Gillis
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I've been called 'chaotic good' a few times. I can definitely see why: within the moral system that Gary Gygax laid out, it's clearly the slot that I fall into. However, I think there are probably more accurate ways to describe my ethical alignment. Chaos according to whose law? Good according to what metric? The coordinates of selfishness vs. unselfishness, or authoritarianism vs. individualism, don't tell the full story.

Maybe it's better to say that I'm chaotic Apollonian. I'm full of positive goals and ideas for the future, which often, when frustrated, make me explode into a chrysanthemum firework of despair and misanthropy. Maybe that's the repressed Dionysian side asserting itself, the outcome of being too hooked in to concepts and the future and not enough to feelings and the present moment.

One of the biggest disagreements I have with Satanism, and with individualism by extension, is its emphasis on self-defense. Is self-defense necessary sometimes? Sure, and I'm not categorically against it. But the dichotomy of self-defense or nonviolence, of either hitting back or turning the other cheek, that individualism provides is just way too limited. It doesn't acknowledge the possibility of an antiviolence, of changes to society that remove the need for self-defense in the first place.

Five virtues I recognize are increasing agency, increasing complexity, increasing novelty, ending harm, and preventing harm. These aren't the only virtues, but off the top of my head they're the ones that are most important to me. If I were to start a church, I'd want these to be central tenets of it. I do like Satanism's emphasis on creativity and imagination, a lot.

AFAICT, there are only two sins, or categories of sin: causing harm, and reducing other's or your own agency to the point of causing harm. Some people need to be looked after more than others, and it's not always harmful to restrict their agency; but treating someone badly as an 'example' to others or to 'send a message' is always wrong. People are not examples or messages.

The question everyone should ask themselves is, are my actions serving the good? People don’t have to dedicate their lives to humanitarianism to be good; maybe they’re good at bringing new ideas or art into the world, and lousy at dealing with people. But I think that if someone's actions serve power, then they should betray that power and serve the good instead. And if someone's actions only serve themselves, then they need to make some changes to their lives. Even as sybaritic as I am, I won't be truly happy unless I can contribute something to the world. And unless I can help, in some small way, to make the world a slightly less terrible place.

I am chaotic, and nonconformist by alignment. But social justice, IMHO, is a far more subversive idea, and far more countercultural, than following your bliss ever was.
spirit_zone: (rawr)
Maybe one reason why the subject of telepathy fascinates us is that it's a stylized version of what our brains already do. The cool thing about being a mind-modeling species is that we get to carry around pieces of lives with us, and those could be the lives around us or simulations of other kinds of lives. For some of us, that door opens to other worlds. That's probably a special, more abstracted case of simulation, but I don't think that abstractions necessarily have less value.

One of the things that attracts me to online journals, and to the idea of keeping a "weirdness log", is the idea that inward journeys don't have to be entirely solipsistic, or removed from a social context; that the experience can be shared, at least in part, with other flesh-people. I like meeting someone and, over time, getting to meet the people in that someone. It's a form of interaction that modern society doesn't often have a place for, and that's a role that I see furry and anime subcultures (to name a couple of subcultures) filling.

Some former friends and friends-of-friends who were very into the identity-play aspect of furry started a commune in the Pacific Northwest; apparently a large one, or at least one where a large cast of characters rotates in and out. I'm not in that loop, so the details are, no pun intended, fuzzy; but the idea strongly appeals to me. A big part of why I'm drawn to the idea of living in a communal situation, besides shared physical resources and collaborating with complementary talents, is developing around a shared sense of more-than-personhood. And while I wouldn't be compatible with that particular commune for several reasons, I think it's a lifestyle goal worth keeping in mind.

There are different ways to foster the kind of fierce empathic connections and shared inner symbolic worlds that I crave, but at least one way of getting there is through the sexualized parts of fandom. It's sometimes jokingly said that BDSM is for nerds; I don't know if that's entirely accurate, but it makes sense that nerd subcultures and kink would share a particular kind of affinity for symbolic connection. I go through cycles of using F-list a lot; partly as a substitute for getting laid, but also as a way to get the imagination laid, to mutually create elaborate scenarios of otherness. There's a real value in "safe spaces" where you can leave your society-assigned self behind. I suspect that a desire to have, and give, that sense of safety is responsible for many of my kinks... it seems to be an important part of my sexuality, and my sociality.
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