Tech’s disruptive hubris

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In the past few months, I’ve noticed these annoying messages pop up at the bottom of my emails on Gmail. Three canned, generic responses to whatever someone sent me. Not once have I ever found those things something I’d actually want to reply back with, because each one reads like those condescending automated messages you’d hear whenever the person you’re trying to call is not at home.

Apparently, it’s called Smart Reply, which is appropriate, because the existence of the feature is Google acting like they know you better than you know yourself. And that’s the problem I have with this attempt to automate everything. People have already complained endlessly about having auto-complete forced onto us and interfering with our intended searches (or worse, if our search has an unusual spelling, Google’s suggestions may ignore it entirely unless you use quotations). People despised Clippy and other online annoyers, er, helpers. Despite this, Google still acts like no, we actually like relinquishing control to some personality-free algorithm, so they’ll keep imposing it on us without even thinking to let us shut it off. Who needs authentic human interaction when you have machine learning? Egad, that name is misleading. It gives off the impression of some advanced being capable of one day ascending to supreme enlightened personhood, but really, it’s just a bunch of computer logic, with all the imperfections and biases that come with it. As the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.

And yet, tech companies really do act like these aren’t inherently flawed algorithms. No, they’re infallible deities, superior to mortal humans, and they alone alone can moderate notoriously polluted cesspools like Youtube. Never mind Elsagate. Never mind the sudden, unpredictable demonetization of channels. Never mind that social media has become a gigaphone for racism and hate speech. The algorithm is working as intended, and if it’s not, we can’t control it anyway. What do you want us to do? Hire actual humans to curate our content? You know, like those online forum things? Pah, that would mean having to deal with things like workers’ rights. Why should we be bogged down with little people concerns when we have a whole world to disrupt?

Disruption. Move fast and break things. Yeah, I’m sure all the people who got their data leaked by Cambridge Analytica are overjoyed that someone broke into their accounts, am I right? All those lower-income families are so grateful to the tech overlords for disrupting their livelihoods, eh? From San Francisco to Barcelona, by gentrification from privileged rich assholes or flocks of tourists enabled by Airbnb, tech is driving people out of their own cities. But no, they’re great visionary superheroes! Look at all the cool gadgets they’ve given us! They can transcend time and space, and save the world! Really! And on the basis of their promises of the universe and beyond alone, they deserve even more power. And even more money. These captains of industries know best, even more so than the EU, and you’re a pedo for criticizing them.

There’s something off about how our society puts so much faith into big tech. No matter how many data harvesting scandals reach the news, people not only continue to use Facebook, but act like participation is mandatory for any social events. Tech leaders still command their personality cults no matter how much they reveal themselves to be out-of-touch assholes. Perhaps the superhero metaphor isn’t far off, and people really are holding out for such heroes. I mean, you can see tech bro parallels in Tony Stark (who was even directly inspired by Elon Musk), and his flippant behaviour in Iron Man 2 can also be seen in cases such as Mark Zuckerberg dodging questions.

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The world needs better heroes.

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Resonance and Imagination

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Do you ever get the feeling that a movie was made for you?

I think the last time I felt this sold on a movie based on its premise alone was Treasure Planet (in fact, that’s why I wrote the Crystalia chapter of Fake Geek Girl Adventures aside from the Bridge to Terabithia homage; to express my fantasies of making a video game version of Treasure Planet). A movie about playing Roller Coaster Tycoon in real life is close to the awesomeness of Pirates in Space, and the fact that it’s a girl engineer doing the tycooning makes it even better. But I think the really resonant part is the beginning: the idea that people once full of imagination eventually stop dreaming.

I’m at the point in my life where I’m torn between trying to get a steady job to pay the bills or gambling on pursuing music. We’ve all heard it before; as kids, we’re told we can be anything we want. Then when we tell people our dreams, we’re told we can’t do that. Because art and creativity doesn’t make money. Because no one ever became successful playing video games. Because we shouldn’t throw our lives away. Even if doing the safe thing will make us boring, pursuing our dreams will only end with us becoming one of society’s failures, so we shouldn’t even try.

Okay, that’s probably not the implication that the production team is going for. But the point is, they have an amazing, potentially timely idea here, and I really want the movie to succeed for that reason. I know trailers tend to focus on the slapstick, but I hope they still remember that resonant core at the heart of the movie, because that’s what everyone’s going to remember. Going back to Treasure Planet, after the initial buzz of the pirates in space premise subsides, we still fondly remember Silver’s surrogate father relationship with Jim. With Terabithia, I actually don’t remember much about the fantasy world, because it’s the slice-of-life framing story about this wonderfully imaginative girl that inspired me to attempt an extended homage to the novel from a millennial perspective. And also why I’m so interested in this movie. I know Nickelodeon is capable of capturing imagination in animation, since they made Hey Arnold! and pre-seasonal rot Fairly Odd Parents. So I’m supporting it, because whether good or bad, this is a dream worth keeping alive to inspire others to do similar things.

Reconciling geek culture with anti-consumerism

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One thing you hear all the time in fandom circles is the need to “support the industry.” Sounds like the consumerist version of “support our troops, doesn’t it?” Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. We’re not cheering on an organization that sends people off to die in the name of destabilizing foreign countries like Iraq. We’re just throwing money at faceless corporations that often have a track record for destabilizing their employees.

After seeing the huge kerfuffle over Rockstar employees’ 100 hour work weeks, and Telltale’s closure suddenly putting 200 people out of work, I have to wonder, what took so long for gamers to suddenly care about workers’ rights? I ask myself the same thing every time a news article like this comes out, from tales of overworked anime employees to Hideo Kojima’s sacking leading to an exposé of Konami blackmailing employees who leave. It reveals something unsettling about fandom; in general, we simply don’t care, because we only see the brand, and not the people behind it.

But that’s not true, is it? Probably my favourite thing about fandom is how dedicated it is to getting up close and personal with the people involved with creating the stuff we love. Voice actors tend to be big names in fandom, and in particular, people expressed their admiration for Maddie Blaustein long before much of the world started to think about respecting transgender people (to the point that the anime fandom somehow managed to be united in commemorating her death). Geek culture has also led to a profound impact on art and creativity, from the current generation of cartoon producers inspired by magical girl anime to hip-hop referencing Dragon Ball. It’s not just about overpriced toys and Skinner Box gameplay tactics, right?

Obviously, not all fandom is created equal. Yet it’s telling that despite the mainstreaming of geek culture to the point that calling oneself a geek is nothing out of the ordinary, the face of fandom is still the reclusive white male nerd. One of the reasons is because they’re the demographic that spends the most money. You know that gatekeeper who insists you’re not a real nerd unless you’ve watched a certain amount of shows (and only the correct versions) or invested most of your life into video games? That’s called conspicuous consumption. It’s all about chasing the next big thing, defining yourself by what you buy with your time and money. And those who live their life that way don’t have time or attention to care about what goes on behind the scenes, about the overworked employees cranking out games. We can be told hundreds of times how cruelly the animals we eat are treated, but if we don’t see it, that becomes all too easy to dismiss.

For a while, I wondered how I could reconcile the cognitive dissonance of being both a geek and a socialist, to care about the welfare of the common people while participating in a subculture that seems to value money and products above all else. But really, every subculture has dealt with the conflict between art vs commercialism, and there’s no reason why geek culture too can’t build a supportive environment focused on encouraging creators. It starts with seeing those who make geek media as people rather than brands, and acknowledging their contributions rather than attributing it to some faceless organization. It starts with seeing geek media as art rather than as mere products. Instead of “support the industry,” let’s support people.

The ethics of editing blog posts

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A lot of things change over the course of a year or several. Heck, it may not even take a week for me to alter my opinion on something. What seemed okay to write down during a one hour, unedited stream of consciousness may come off as embarrassing upon reading it again. (Seriously, nothing I will ever read or watch will be as cringe-worthy as my first fictional story drafts) So, it’s often tempting to go back and change things to fit my current mindset.

This presents a problem, however. By publishing a piece of writing, people get the impression of something finished and fixed. If you change things afterwards, particularly without notifying people of the change, it breaks the trust you have with your audience. And no matter how wangsty my writing can come off at times (sometimes, I just quickly crap out stuff when I’m depressed, after all), I always strive to be sincere. Sure, going back and polishing blog posts may remove some things I’ve regretted to say, but if I end up changing my words, such an actions begs the question of how much I mean what I say. That’s why I normally don’t remove or change posts unless it ends up involving someone connected to my real life or compromising my anonymity.

So, it looks like I have a few options:

  • Keep my opinion posts unedited for the sake of preserving the fossil record. The downside is that I will only be able to clarify that I don’t agree with a particular entry if I end up writing something closely related to it, which is not always guaranteed.
  • Edit the posts, but with a revision record showing the changes. This is a compromise solution that spares me some fossil record embarrassment, but it still has the problem of removing my original words.
  • Maintain the original words, but adding footnotes or endnotes clarifying my current position. This seems like the best compromise, but a post that’s been edited does not distinguish which edits have been made, so I will have to maintain trust that I will never edit my original words except when it ends up being connected to my real life.

It seems that I may end up going with the last option if I do get around to updating my old posts at all. However, my fiction writing, on the other hand, is fair game for editing since I’ve already clarified that what I post here is a work in progress and if I actually want to get it published, I will have to remove it from the blog anyway.

I will thus leave this with an open question: How would you deal with your old, cringe-worthy blog posts?

Some fictional media things I dislike

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One of my motivations for writing reviews is to show things from a perspective that doesn’t get brought up very often. At first, I went in thinking I’d do both things I liked and hated, but then I realized: it’s actually more fun to either defend things that most people are indifferent to or hate or promote artists that are relatively obscure in the public eye. Besides, there are so many angry online critics out there that the schtick’s gotten old. Still, there are quite a few things that I have particular antipathy towards, so I may as well compile them here.

  • Atlas Shrugged: Judging it solely on its merits as a novel, it’s essentially a narcissist’s poorly written revenge fantasy against the world, where rationality means blindly trusting in some magic metal and that most people will sit through 60 page speeches without falling asleep. The fact that people consider something so unrealistic a meaningful political statement would be hilarious if some of those people weren’t actually in charge of nations.
  • Metroid: Other M: The game’s infamy has already been well documented, so I’ll just sum it up as one of the most badass women in video games being reduced to a whiny, useless anime waifu. On the plus side, it’s also become an iconic example of how not to write a video game story, and serves as a counterargument to the idea of the creator’s original vision being something sacred and inviolable.
  • Torchwood: It’s a breakthrough in homosexual representation with the entire cast being casually pansexual. And it has a potentially interesting message about how powerless humanity really is in the face of the wider universe through deconstructing the secret agent genre. All this is wasted on an unlikable, incompetent cast. Seriously, the Season 1 finale has the Torchwood crew nearly doom the world by committing mutiny against their leader and opening a dangerous dimensional rift for no reason, and somehow, they’re all forgiven and keep their jobs.
  • Pokemon Origins: People love it because it’s a faithful adaptation of the original Pokemon games’ story. Except it’s a completely soulless, paint-by-numbers rendition of a story that was considered mediocre even at the time, and even its supposed faithfulness is betrayed by Red’s bullshit main character powers. For all the original anime’s faults, at least you never doubted that Ash cared about his Pokemon, whereas Red seems to treat his goals like a mere checklist. It’s one of the laziest examples of nostalgia bait there is.
  • Hearthstone: For normalizing the concept of needing to either pay hundreds of hours or hundreds of dollars before you can start having fun. The time or money spent on these free-to-play games could instead go towards many more productive things, like better video games that you only have to pay for once.

Dishonourable Mentions:

  • Toy Story 3: It’s not bad on its own merits, but it doesn’t do things much different from Toy Story 2 or The Brave Little Toaster, and comes off as emotionally manipulative nostalgia bait. Which makes it all the worse when people exalt this movie as the finest animation has to offer and dismiss anyone who criticizes it as a troll. I mean, it’s important to have dissenting views, or else critics may as well just be advertisers.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Again, not the worst thing out there, and I actually like Homura quite a bit, but it primarily comes off as a clever deconstruction to those who haven’t actually read or watched many fairy tales or magical girls. Seriously, the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, for instance, have plenty of stories that are just as dark and morbid relative to their Disney counterparts. Heck, the Full Moon wo Sagashite manga already beat Madoka to the punch in disguising a grim story about death in cutesy idol singer clothes. Also, the non-Homura characters are pretty underdeveloped considering the magical girl genre is driven by compelling characters and relationships.
  • The Social Network: For having one of the most insipid, objectifying portrayals of an Asian woman character I’ve ever seen. Imagine a tabletop RPG where all the white guys get cool, awesome characters, while the only character available to you has no role other than being the white guys’ fetish toy. And you’re supposedly the voice of a generation. Yeah, I know Asian fetishism isn’t exclusive to this movie, but after seeing so many awesome Asian women on screen and in real life, it was an unpleasant reminder of how Hollywood still sees us.
  • The Literary Canon: Honestly, classic literature fans are some of their worst advocates. I’m confident that saying that you need to read specific dead white male literature in order to be purer than the common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd does more to turn people away from classic literature than anything else (other than English class making reading into the most boring chore ever). Which is a shame, because many of the classics really are worth reading on their own merits. Perhaps classicists could take a cue from the Jane Austen fanbase in making those books actually sound fun.

Who is Seiko Oomori?

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For the uninitiated:

This is Seiko Oomori. After you’ve seen the video, you’re probably wondering, “What’s with this girl?” Well, strap yourself in, because it’s a long story.

The Anti-Idol Paradox

A lot of Anglophone commentators refer to her as an anti-idol. At first glance, one can see why she has this reputation. This is your typical idol song:

Pretty much fluffy bubblegum pop sung by teenage to young adult girls in cutesy skirts and high-pitched squeaky voices. It’s a huge phenomenon in Japan right now, to the point that they’re the centre of a lot of popular anime, video games, and anime conventions. Their appeal stems from them being girl-next-door archetypes, symbols of innocence and purity who fans can admire and follow closely. The genre is also fairly controversial, especially to people outside Japan, since idols’ images are highly controlled by management, their interactions with older male fans can be off-putting, and, well, they’re manufactured pop acts. Even other Japanese musicians will avoid the idol label because it carries a lack of talent connotation. But not Seiko. Despite being a very talented singer-songwriter who plays her own instruments, elements that tend to get an artist promoted as supposedly sticking it to the fakeness of the music industry (often by the music industry itself, funnily enough), she has nothing but admiration for idols.

Sure, at first glance and listen, she seems to subvert everything idols stand for. Many of her songs take perky, catchy idol melodies and turn them into something twisted and dissonant, often with pretty depressing lyrics and themes, and she can belt out some pretty sweet punk bangers. It helps that she also rose to prominence at around the same time that Brand-New Idol Society was literally declaring “IDOL IS DEAD” and mucking about with their violent, grotesque antics. And yet, calling her anti-idol is ironic. She endlessly fawns over Sayumi Michishige of Morning Musume, to the point of writing an entire song about her and even showing off her Sayumi body pillow (yes, really). She regularly writes the usual fluffy fare for other idols, and has a song in her own repertoire cheering idols on with their own catchphrases. If anything, she’s probably the biggest idol fangirl out there, and has done way more than most to promote them. To be honest, while there is merit in the subversion of idol conventions, I feel the “anti-idol” label has snobbery connotations coming from people who think they’re too good for pop music, which they end up projecting onto artists like Seiko even though it doesn’t really fit (worth noting that BiS isn’t truly against idols either; Pour Lui was also inspired by Morning Musume to start the group, and many people are fans of both traditional and alternative idols since they often intermingle).

Indeed, Seiko has repeatedly expressed her annoyance with being pigeonholed by labels, and deliberately contradicts herself to confound people. Her music is similarly all over the place, with her albums alternating between low-key and introspective to loud and in-your-face bombastic. If you pick any of her songs at random (or even from the above links), it’s like a genre roulette. And yet, you can instantly recognize her distinct voice and style, like there’s a common thread tying all her music together that says Seiko Oomori. At this point, one could say that’s her hook. She does her own thing, not giving a crap what people think, and is rewarded for standing out from the crowd. She’s a loud and vocal Japanese woman in a culture which primarily promotes conformity and submissiveness, and people admire that in her as a result. Heck, I myself find her (and alternative idols as a whole) a very welcome addition to the male-dominated punk genre, especially since up until being introduced to the likes of her and BiS, I’ve never seen punks that were so unapologetic girly before. Representation for the win, yo.

And yet, I still think there’s still more to the story.

The Menhera Connection

This is where I have to post a disclaimer: Be very careful with the term Menhera. Like with anything related to mental health, there’s a loaded, derogatory connotation to the term because of how stigmatized and misunderstood mental illness is. However, I post about it because I feel it’s key to truly understanding Seiko Oomori’s appeal.

Menhera, in short, refers to those seeking mental well-being. It has spawned its own variant of kawaii subculture, a kind of corrupted cuteness showcasing girls wearing their emotional wounds out in the open (for instance, its mascot, Menhera-chan). The whole thing may seem like Derelicte-style appropriation of mental health issues, but the key distinction is that it’s a form of self-expression by those who identify as Menhera, and not an outsider taking advantage of that self-expression (we hope).

In a way, it makes sense. Society generally expects people to hide their emotional pain, especially in a conformist society like Japan which doesn’t like people rocking the boat (heck, in the Japanese context, Menhera often gets used against anyone who shows nonconformist behaviour, similar to how the word “deviant” in English tends to be used primarily in a negative sense). Menhera art, in contrast, shows cracks in the happy, cutesy metaphorical mask, laying bare the troubled person underneath.

Seiko Oomori’s music sounds like it would fit in that mold, given that she has a tendency to go all in with her emotions, and she repeatedly sings about death and emptiness. Her passion is best heard in the opening song I posted, Ongaku wo Suteyo, Soshite Ongakue (Cast aside music, then move towards music), in which she repeatedly screams out the words “Music is not magic, but music is…,” sounding louder and more desperate with each iteration. And the album this song was first released on? Its name translates to “If I can’t use magic, I want to die.” As Ryo Miyauchi so aptly put it, “she actually takes this music thing very seriously.” So much so, that she became absolutely livid when another band retorted with “Music is magic.” (for context, it’s sort of like replying to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” in how it misses the point).

But again, Oomori isn’t the type you can easily pin down with labels (although “Menhera artist” arguably makes more sense than “anti-idol,” since she’s not doing it for shock value, but out of sincerity). Keita has argued that she herself is not Menhera, but a spokeswoman for Menhera. She doesn’t just wallow in her suffering, but by laying bare her heart, she also sends a message of strength and hope, that it’s possible to overcome pain. This, I’m convinced, is Seiko’s true power. The source of her magic.

The Patron Saint of the Shit and Ugly

I haven’t yet posted my personal favourite Seiko Oomori song, but now is time to bask in its glory.

This is it. The climax of her output thus far. Idol punk at its finest. A giant FUCK YOU to society’s norms from the voice of a cute Japanese woman who cast herself as a god trapped in a mortal’s body. The opening line? “Once upon a time, there were men and women and others.” Yes, she went there (it’s fitting that on the same album, she sang with the non-binary Noko of Shinsei Kamattechan). The rest? Well, I’ll just quote Ryo Miyauchi:

Hearing a musician who vaguely looks like me (at least from a foreigner’s eye) scream things like “I can’t even go outside in this body without putting on make up,” “I don’t really want to get married, I’m content, so don’t mind me,” or “ugly or just a piece of shit, I want to change the world” in my first language shattered my world. Now, watching her do the same but for a live audience? It’s a miracle any part of “Dogma Magma” was even allowed for broadcast in the first place.

I want to draw attention to the line, “Even the shit and ugly want to change the world.” It’s so powerful, Seiko even released a T-shirt of it. It ties in perfectly with the song’s thesis, that everyone deserves to be God, no matter who you are. And this is why her connection to Menhera subculture is relevant. Whether she identifies with the label is not as important as her sticking up for those who identify as Menhera, empowering those that most of society neglects. She may be a deviant idol, yet she, like all idols, makes music to spreading happiness and optimism to others.

And her next album’s opening song reaches out to her listeners in a more personal sense.

By laying bare her own insecurities as an artist, (Every second I die and am reborn again
Pick up the corpses one by one, and love; It’s scares me to have a moment that suits you turned into forever), she’s offering herself as a metaphorical sacrifice to the listener to convince them to live. One of the top voted comments has a commenter point out that she uploaded this video on September 1, which is infamous in Japan for being the day in which the most suicides occur in the country. After hearing her message, they are looking forward to school tomorrow even though they were late on that day.

I don’t think a YouTube comment has ever moved me to tears before, but I can’t help myself when reading that.

Every morning on Twitter, she posts a peppy message encouraging herself and others to make the best of the day. Such a thing may normally sound like trite lines from a self-help booklet, but remember, it’s in the context of a large part of her fanbase going through depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders. Fans constantly talk about Seiko saving them and her music having a healing effect that helps them keep going in their lives. It’s no wonder she’s so passionate about music, as she in turn is saved by them. The lyrics of Magic Mirror are dedicated to them (e.g. My fame shines only for your loneliness). Her words carry special meaning because she’s one of them. One of us.

I’ve written before about how amazing it is to see a movie accurately portray mental illness, even if many people don’t see that implication. I feel similarly about Seiko Oomori, like my personal media tastes were leading me to her music all along. I was always weird, but bottled up my negative feelings because I was used to people not giving a shit (with rare exceptions who I call friends). A lot of positive messaging didn’t work on me because I couldn’t relate to it (at worst, it would remind me of my North American suburban upbringing, a culture seemingly dedicated to turning a blind eye to people’s problems). But once I became obsessed with Seiko, I finally understood. All this time, I didn’t need to be told I wasn’t broken. What I needed to hear, was that I was broken, but that’s okay. Indeed, what motivated me to learn more about her as a person was reading Sayumi’s letter to her; in particular, the part about her learning from Seiko that it was okay to let out her negative emotions. That was particularly impactful coming from one of the most iconic idols out there. Even those who seem happy and well-adjusted are often hiding some deep insecurity, and it takes someone special that one can trust with one’s emotions to let them out. I guess that’s why I still believe in idol culture after all; it’s constantly showing how powerful female friendship can be.

All this is why I wanted to spread the word about one of the most interesting artists to come out of Japan. I have barely any knowledge of Japanese, and have relied on external sources to translate information about Seiko, so if anything I say is inaccurate, please let me know. For now, though, you can learn more about Seiko Oomori through the following links:

On the Parkland shooting: Seventeen not Forgotten?

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Hear the children sing For the sick and suffering!

The city of damage control! This is how we…

Green Day

Every year in Canada, we hold a memorial to the 14 victims of the Ecole Polytechnique mass shooting. It’s a horrendous event that left a scar on our nation, a lasting reminder of how dangerous misogyny really is, and led to Parliament immediately introducing a law tightening restrictions on firearms. We call it 14 not Forgotten, one reason being that we want to make sure it stays 14. Also, last year, a pro-gun group tried to protest on the day of the memorial, and we collectively told them to fuck off.

Similarly, the UK has been scarred by the Dunblane Massacre which killed 16 children and 1 teacher. That led to the government banning almost all firearms (the Conservative government, in fact), and they haven’t had a school shooting since. Australia and Germany were also quick to tighten firearm restrictions after their own school shootings.

I’m not saying this out of hatred for the USA, quite the opposite. Reflecting on our own horrors with gun violence only makes it more depressing to see this kind of thing be repeated again and again in the country. Every time a school gets shot up, Republicans shed crocodile thoughts and prayers (while having the sheer gall to accuse Obama of shedding crocodile tears for something that shouldn’t be routine, but is). The media mentions gun control legislation for a while, and promptly forgets about it. They use mental illness as a scapegoat, propose vague, empty solutions while continuing to shut down any suggestions of improving the health care system, and promptly forgets about it. The fact that school shooters tend to espouse horrendously misogynistic and racist rhetoric online? They don’t even mention it because then they might have to look at themselves in the mirror or something. Gun nuts only get more obsessed with their murder toys and yell at everyone else until the rest of the country gets sick of arguing. Then another school gets shot up, and we go through this all over again, with Republicans and gun nuts desperately hoping we don’t get a sense of deja vu and that we all forget the other times this happened. In the words of Dan Hodges’ infamous tweet:

In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.

Dare I hope this time, things might be different? The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School certainly aren’t forgetting, and they want to make sure no one else does, as if, well, teenagers’ lives matter or something.* Teachers and other students have joined in on walk-out protests, and they’re even taking it to the legislature. Of course, for their bravery, the right-wing pundits like Fox News have went after them. They claim teenagers have no right to talk back to adults, that they don’t understand anything about complex political issues (like whether murder toys are more important than human lives), that they’re just stooges for some left-wing conspiracy.

Everyone who hears something like this should be disgusted. These pundits deserve to be forever black marked for their sheer callous lack of empathy. This isn’t the first time adults have acted as if young people have no rights, but this crosses the line into pure evil (and I don’t use that word lightly).

So I’m fully behind the Parkland students and applaud them for fighting for their basic human rights, something that much of their older generation has forgotten. People around the world are rooting for you, and we should all do what we can to ensure that this time, we will not accept children’s deaths as collateral damage, and that the seventeen who lost their lives will not be forgotten.

Say a prayer for the ones that we love.

Say a prayer for the ones that we love.

Say a prayer for the ones that we love.

Say goodbye to the ones that we love.

*I don’t intend to make light of Black Lives Matter. Police shootings are every bit as appalling as school shootings, and the fact that black people have been fighting for their right to live for much longer goes to show just how embedded racism and lack of empathy are in the fabric of our culture. In fact, I suspect Black Lives Matter may have encouraged the Parkland students to rise up by laying the groundwork.

My strange feelings towards Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card

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It seems we’ve really been getting a lot of revivals recently. We had a new Sailor Moon, a new Dragon Ball, and now it’s Sakura’s turn. She’s supposedly in middle school now, but it seems none of the characters have aged a bit. I guess I should find that charming, in the sense of re-connecting with old friends, but all I can think of is how much of the new episodes are recycled content. Even The Force Awakens, as nostalgia pandering as that was, introduced different characters that could take things in interesting new directions (and say what you will about Last Jedi, but it certainly was interesting). On the other hand, Sakura’s just off collecting new cards that just so happen to resemble the old cards, having new dreams that resemble the old dreams, characters are making the same old jokes they did before, and no one even displays a hint of self-aware deja vu about it. It’s the safest and least ambitious thing I’ve seen since Pokemon Origins, and normally, this is where I’d simply dismiss it as cynical nostalgia bait, baffled as to how so many people can fall for it.

And yet, if I did so, I wouldn’t be writing this entry right now. I mean, I didn’t write a Pokemon Origins entry for those reasons, but Cardcaptor Sakura is different. It means something to me.

At this point, I ought to make a confession. I never felt like a Cardcaptor fan. Sure, I love the show, and, as I had previously explained, it does occupy a special place in my heart. However, I like it for reasons that are different from almost everyone else. Whereas most people dismissed Nelvana Sakura as a brat that was an insult to the real Sakura, I saw in her a rare androgynous magical girl I could actually relate to. My favourite character in the entire series is Meilin, and she not only tends to get neglected, if not hated by the wider fanbase, but she wasn’t even in the original manga. In fact, a major reason I’m particularly attached to Meilin and Touya/Tori (my second favourite character) is because they’re less goody-two shoes than the rest of the cast and injected some welcome sarcasm into the group dynamic. In the context of the show, it didn’t matter how offbeat my opinions were. No one made a single comment about Sakura’s androgyny, but instead thought she was awesome for it. The characters, especially Sakura herself, accepted Meilin and called her a good friend even despite her bitchiness. The anime may not have had the most interesting plot, but it was refreshing escapism at the time. Unusual girls tend to be portrayed and treated as outcasts in most fiction, even when they’re heroes, but in the context of Cardcaptors, unusual was totally normal.

And then I met the show’s online fandom. Make no mistake, it’s one of the nicer fandoms. However, when I never hear anything but scorn for the Nelvana dub that was such a key formative aspect of my childhood, it makes my opinions feel, illegitimate, ya know? Like, there’s this cognitive dissonance with hearing people praise the show for being so inclusive, yet have your feelings and experience be excluded. It didn’t help that it took me until adulthood to actually understand why I felt that way about something everyone hated (heck, the reason I wrote the Memories entry, along with the one for the Grinch movie, was because I saw no one else make those arguments). Until then, Cardcaptor Sakura fandom felt to me like a group of people having fun without me. So when I see people go nuts about the revival series, I get the feeling that, maybe, I have such a low opinion of it because it’s like a party I wasn’t invited to. It wasn’t meant for me. And it never was, because I’m not a real fan anyway, but just a weirdo playing in the corner alone.

I know all that was quite personal, perhaps even petty. But those are the feelings that comes flooding back to me whenever I see Clear Card, and I felt it was important to be honest about them since it would influence my opinions of the anime whether I said them or not. There’s also me growing up with series that aged with me, most famously Harry Potter. If I see a new installment of something I’ve liked in the past, I’ve become accustomed to expecting new perspectives that come with becoming older or that acknowledge how things have changed in the present day. In contrast, with the new series, Cardcaptor Sakura seems permanently frozen in time, with the characters remaining static icons. I do not understand the appeal of such a thing, and it even creeps me out a bit. I mean, sure, my idea of a continuation would have a teenage Meilin cursing out everyone, and that’s good reason to be grateful I’m nowhere near the production of the anime. But it would have been nice to at least see Sakura come to terms with using her existing cards responsibly rather than go chase new cards. I’m not asking for an edgelord makeover, just a bit more coming-of-age maturity similar to some of the better Spiderman stories.

Well, those are my confused feelings towards some nostalgic kiddie anime. I hope it was at least an interesting second opinion on things, despite all the personal baggage.

On being a “content creator”

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It seems to be a term bandied about a lot these days. An awful, vacuous, insipid, empty, meaningless term. People never refer to the artists from antiquity as “content creators.” No, they’re sculptors, architects, authors, essayists, poets, musicians. In more modern times, we have film directors, television producers, game programmers, the list goes on. However, if you publish something online, somehow, those titles are too prestigious. Bloggers are not seen as essayists. Online video producers are not even seen as amateur film makers. No, just “content creators.”

What does “content” mean? Since the term virtually only gets used to refer to online submissions, we can gleam its connotative meaning by how online submissions are typically perceived: quantitatively. Web material is judged by numbers; how many views, likes, or re-shares a post receives. This, of course, turns content creation into a popularity contest. Importantly, people lose interest if you’re not constantly pushing out material. Whereas offline artists will take their time and may take a few years to release new material, online creators feel pressured to produce at a much faster rate to keep the views and likes up. The advent of 24/7 streaming is the natural consequence of this rating system.

But with so much content being produced, how much of it is actually memorable? A lot of it seems disposable. Those awful, attention-seeking prank videos that thrive on bad taste. Glorified infomercials for big video game companies. Even forum posts are considered “content creation,” you know, those messages that you post once and never see again, and are generally equated with the sewer of the Internet. If that is considered “content”, then being a content creator doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t say anything about the quality of the material you produce, and is too broad a term to set you apart from someone else. It’s a illusory title, meant to sound more prestigious than it actually is.

I’ve been thinking about this term recently, since I’m starting to get more involved in creating things. I wouldn’t want my stories, blog posts, or music videos to be labelled as mere content. Whenever I post my essays here, I do so because I have something on my mind, and I post sparingly since I want to give off the impression I have something meaningful to say rather than just contributing more meaningless noise to an already cluttered information sphere. Obviously, not every post is equal, but I hope that some of my posts will resonate with people. That people don’t just read and forget it, but it sticks with them, and they refer back to it from time to time, if only mentally. I don’t expect to change people’s minds, but it would be nice if people ended up seeing things from a different perspective.

What I’d like to create, are memories.

2018: Time for a paradigm shift

It’s about time for the blog in its current state to end. Originally, it was meant to be a diary in which I could anonymously express my feelings without anyone in my life knowing. However, once I started posting my story draft here, with the intent of eventually rewriting it for publication, I knew the blog would no longer be able to fulfill that purpose. Becoming a successful author requires name recognition, which compromises my anonymity, but in fact, the conflict extends beyond writing.

Something has changed significantly in my life in the past year, something that now allows me to pursue life goals I would never have thought possible. However, my renewed path requires me to exercise greater control over my public image, since anything you say or do can be used against you. Right now, I’ve been cushioned by the blog not attracting a huge audience, but things may not stay that way forever. So there will be sweeping changes.

I’m reluctant to end the blog entirely, since there are several posts I would like to preserve. Most likely, I may end up transferring them to a new alias. However, I definitely will take down Fake Geek Girl Adventures eventually, since I won’t be able to keep it up if I actually want to officially publish it, and it needs serious re-writing anyways. For those who have been reading up until now, I hope you found my posts interesting, and enjoy the new year.