Taking Time to Compliment Someone

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s a somewhat chilly afternoon in one of the cities I happen to be visiting in 2010. I’m standing in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts stall at a metro station, looking at the array of donuts behind the glass, trying to decide what I want to get. Secretly, as the clerk behind the counter smiles politely and awaits my order, I’m also trying to decide how much time I should be secretly looking at the clerk.

The clerk is pretty. Not stunningly drop-dead gorgeous or fashion model beautiful. Pretty, kind of a compromise between Beautiful and her younger cousin Cute. I have little doubt that much of the effect is the result of the careful and precise application of cosmetics, which I myself am not a big fan of and take great pains in avoiding. At any rate, as I tell her what donut I’d like, she begins to pluck it out from behind the glass and into a paper bag, affording me a few seconds to look at her hair. I really like her hair. It’s long and straight and neat, all nice and even, like a curtain of silk. It’s really pretty. A little rueful at the slight natural curl in my hair, I wonder how long it’d take for me to grow out my hair to her length, and how much effort it’d take to straight it out like she had managed. It’d likely burn a hole in my wallet.

A weight sinks in my stomach as I try to gather the determination and courage to do something that I wouldn’t otherwise do. I wonder what would go faster: The clerk telling me the price of my purchase and my fishing into my wallet to complete this transaction, or the completion of my courage-accumulating. Read more…

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Categories: Slice of Life, Writing

On Video Games, Sexism, and Damsels in Distress

March 11, 2013 1 comment

A forum I go to has recently been discussing sexism and video games, and the topic has been heating up a little bit. The latest round has been Feminist Frequency’s YouTube video on Damsels in Distress. A friend took a bit of time to poke me for an opinion, which I think neatly sums up my perspective on certain issues on the topic.

[5:11:45 PM] Double A: 1. if you took a male and “objectified” him in the exact same way that a female is typically “objectified”, then the reaction to it would be different (it would, perhaps, be lauded to some degree?), because of how differently each sex is viewed in society
2. there is a problem related to female objectification that doesn’t exist in male objectification, at least not in the same form
3. therefore, the problem isn’t directly related to the act of portraying a person in a certain way, but to how the two sexes are viewed differently in society
[5:13:29 PM] Double A: due to my shitty attention span, i don’t actually know if you were saying this (you probably weren’t). but it’s the idea that formed in my head after reading your post
[5:13:41 PM] Double A: any thoughts?
[5:15:04 PM] Ysionris: Yes to 1, a tentative yes to 2, and my argument has nothing to do with 3. At the moment, I’m not trying to suggest what the problem IS, at least not yet. ^_^;
[5:15:40 PM] Ysionris: Depending, of course, what you mean by “problem”. ^_^;
[5:16:24 PM] Ysionris: Rather, I am describing the lens by which two different groups of people view an issue, but I make no claim as to whether any of the lenses are skewed, problematic, or…well, anything. I’m just saying the lenses exist, and they view things differently. ^_^;
[5:17:00 PM] Double A: yeah i figured you weren’t saying #3. still, what do you think of it? the idea that portraying women in a particular way is linked to negative perceptions of women
[5:19:23 PM] Ysionris: I think, as with many problems nowadays, we need to view them from a reference of context, and the contention between deontological and utilitarian moralities. It simplifies the issue too much when we say there’s a simple, elegant solution to the entire thing, when – in fact – the issues are complex and not subject to a single convenient theory. ^_^;
[5:22:17 PM] Ysionris: I’m a bit of an oddity amongst people who try for gender equality, honestly, in that I’m honestly not opposed to sexual objectification per se, much in the same way I’m not opposed to pornography. We all have our guilty pleasures, so to speak, many of which revolve around sexual desires and the fantasy that sex is somehow easily available. So in as much as I’d like to roll my eyes at some portrayals of women as targets of desire, this single phenomenon is not something I’m opposed to. This being said, however, I am highly apprehensive of how PREVALENT this is. Read more…

Categories: Politics and Society

A Review of “Tomb Raider (2013 Reboot)”

March 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Most of us have never been shot with guns before. I think, especially given how modern shooters nowadays still give player characters the ability to soak up plenty of hits, then completely regenerate so long as we go for a few seconds without actually being shot, we do not fully comprehend just how painful it is to be shot with a gun, and so dying because a helicopter gunship has just gunned you down seems more like an inconvenience than a terrifying way to die. Accidentally slamming your toe into the wall really hard, though? Yes, all of us know how badly that can really hurt. And that is why, I think, the new Tomb Raider works so well as an origin story, a narrative detailing how an inexperienced civilian woman painfully grows into an iconic heroine. Because while most of us can’t imagine how painful it is to actually be shot at by guns, we can imagine how painful it is to constantly fall down cliffs, crash into rocks, be thrown into walls, and otherwise be the plaything to nature’s ragdoll physics presentation. Because that’s how Lara spends her time throughout the hours of a Tomb Raider playthrough.

It should be noted that I have never played a Tomb Raider game before, or really paid much attention to it. I knew, of course, that the main character was Lara Croft, a British archeologist-adventurer with two handguns who probably spends most games treasure hunting while racing against nefarious organizations out for the same things she is. In fact, a friend had to correct me when I told him that there was a Tomb Raider movie starring Angelina Jolie; there were two. The only real reason why I paid any real attention to the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider was because some of my friends were rather upset at the comments some developers made in the early trailers of Tomb Raider, particularly the scene where Lara is captured and her captor suggestively makes unwanted advances on her before Lara proceeds to kick his arse with her hands tied behind her back (literally). Almost amusingly, the ire of my friends towards Tomb Raider proved to be the major reason why I ultimately even knew about the game and decided to play it in the first place, but it does present an opportunity for me to review Tomb Raider without the nostalgic bias of previous games other gamers may have. Read more…

Categories: Gaming

3 Things I’d Like to See in Dragon Age III

March 5, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve been reminded recently that Dragon Age III: Inquisition is being developed with a release date of Autumn 2013. While Thedas is not my favorite RPG universe, I’m invested in the DA franchise enough to look forward to the game. Having played most of BioWare’s recent RPGs, as well as both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II (although I’ve missed out on some DLCs because I’m a poor, impoverished person), here are three things I’d like to see in the upcoming game.

3. Better character aesthetic designs.

Okay, so I admit I trend a bit towards the Japanese side of what I hope characters look like. And I think more than a few people who talk to me regularly have long since become sick and tired of hearing me say this. But could we have a character creation system that doesn’t make everyone look so ugly? Please?

2. Less darkspawn, more human(oid) conflicts and politics.

Dragon Age: Origins has done more to color more perception of the entire franchise than Dragon Age II, and it’s one of the major reasons why I don’t appreciate the series as much as I could’ve. There were a lot of good things to say about Origins, but its main plot was its weakness, a war against an impossibly generic army known as the darkspawn, which is pretty much every primal, unintelligent, generic orc, goblin, zombie army ever. Even the presence of a zombie-dragon archdemon (and the Awakening DLC) wasn’t enough to salvage how unbelievably boring the darkspawn were, and how much they felt like a ho-hum comical placeholder as opposed to a serious, formidable enemy. By contrast, Dragon Age II was interesting because it was mostly about humanoid (you know, humans, elves, dwarves, qunari, etc.) social issues and politics that gave it more of a dynamic, more of an interesting slant and a myriad of narrative issues beyond another army of ugly zombie-orc goons.

1. A party where not every member is bisexual.

If you haven’t been able to tell by my previous posts on this blog (or haven’t read those posts), or missed the “yuri” part of this blog’s subtitle (in which case I suggest you look up at the top of the page), I have nothing against non-heterosexual pairings. As a female Warden, I romanced Leliana, and as a female Hawke, I romanced Merill. (I also have no male playthroughs.) Just to be clear, I also have nothing against Zevran in particular or bisexuality in general. In writing about this, however, I am reminded of a chapter in the manga Gunslinger Girl (which, despite a name, is actually rather cynical manga about counterterrorism, and comes heartily recommended if that’s your thing), in which the deep-cover agent Rossana explains why people consider her to be boring: “I am all in all boring. A woman without preferences. I like people from the north as well as from the south, as well as the A.S. Roma and the Lazio (both are Italian football teams), if the person I play feels the need to. My favorite food? I like everything. I trained myself to eat everything with delectation. Someone able to do anything offers no interest. […] To like everything is the same as to like nothing in particular.”

Of course, the issue of sexuality carries its own set of circumstances, and it’s not entirely right to draw a direct equivalence, but given that even the most liberal estimates put non-heterosexual persons at 15% of the world population, it seems strange to put in a party that happens to be entirely bisexual in Dragon Age II (and Sebastian doesn’t count, being a DLC character BioWare tacked on later). I’m sure that BioWare meant well by trying to adhere to everyone’s preferences by giving all players any option they liked, but I find this boring at best and offensive at worst. The idea that every companion character’s preferences is automatically catered off-the-bat to suit the “needs of the player” troubles me, as it seems to me like BioWare is giving the player the power to change aspects of another character’s personality just by virtue of playing as male or female. In Mass Effect 2 and 3, Tali’Zorah becomes an available love interest, and while I wanted so badly for her to be a possible romantic love interest for a female Shepard, it was not to be. But I respected that because it was her character, because it was her preference, because I wouldn’t actually demand someone I like to suddenly change their sexual preference just on my account. And that’s the reason why I find it a bit offensive, because there is this uncomfortable insinuation that people can just happen to change their sexuality at the drop of the hat. (Of course, some people have said that there’s no reason why everyone in Thedas can’t be bisexual because it’s a fictional universe, but they didn’t seem to be fine with it when Star Wars basically said non-heterosexuality doesn’t exist in their fictional universe.)

So I’d rather we go back to the romance dynamics of Dragon Age: Origins. Yes, by all means, have homosexual and bisexual romantic interests. I support it heartily. But please don’t make everyone bisexual again.

Categories: Gaming

Applying for a Master’s

December 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Some time ago, someone put into my head the idea that I should try for a Master’s in international studies.

Precisely how this happened is unimportant and probably a mystery. It’s probably best left this way, given I cannot even quite remember when this happened. Logically, this happened sometime after I graduated with a Bachelor’s in December 2010, and sometime before now. One would think, anyways. Given how paradoxically my memory works, though, I wouldn’t be so sure. I genuinely think that my memory actually conspires with the time-space continuum to alter reality and ensure nothing I remember is actually when they logically seemed. If this theory holds water, then it wouldn’t be surprising if someone put the idea that I should try for a Master’s in international studies in a timeframe outside the time-space continuum, because it isn’t as if time-space can flip me a larger finger than “I chose not to exist during a pivotal event of your life”. (At some point in my head, I expect hear an old man inexplicably shout, “Ysi, you can’t do that, you’ll create a time paradox~”)

But, yes, someone put into my head the idea that I should try for a Master’s in international studies. Some time after this, my contract with the county government ended alongside October 2012, freeing me of obligations and allowing me to focus on an application process for a university located in a region of the world that speaks a language I’m not actually entirely fluent in. Read more…

Categories: Slice of Life, Writing

Benjamin Franklin: The True Hero of the American Revolution

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed III lately, and while I have fairly complicated feelings about choosing colonial/Revolutionary America as a setting, it’s been a fairly wonderful game so far, with my happy hours devoted to wandering an absolutely beautiful recreation of colonial Boston. Hunting on the American frontier is also a very delightful experience, save the part where you can be mauled by a bear eight times in a row and live, but a wolf jumping on your back takes away a third of your health.

But the entire thing has put a bit of my attention on the American Revolution again, something that I really kind of left behind me since studying about in middle school (save the points where I have to deal with this conservative American idol-worship of their Founding Fathers). And since this is still fresh on my mind, let’s talk about the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers for a bit. Now, the issue I kind of want to address specifically (although wary readers will wonder when I’ve even only specifically addressed a single issue) is in the form of a question: “If there was a true American hero amongst the Founding Fathers, who would it be?”

Popular picks are George Washington, the leader of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States; Thomas Jefferson, polymath and the author of the Declaration of Independence (incidentally, I do like Jefferson very much); and James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights and the American Constitution.

I, however, disagree (and it pains me to do so, as I honestly would’ve liked to say that Jefferson was the greatest of the Founding Fathers). I believe that this title goes to someone else entirely.

I believe Benjamin Franklin is the greatest American Founding Father.

And I believe he did it by sleeping with lots of women in France. Read more…

Sarcasm and Social Justice

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

This entry is probably going to be a little divisive, and I’m not sure whether or not I’m going to regret writing this, but the feeling’s still recent and strong, and – if nothing else – it’ll provide me with a retrospective analysis on yesteryear’s logic.

Over the past two or three days, a friend and I had a fairly protracted and somewhat heated discussion concerning social justice (which honestly could’ve been handled a lot better, but we’re fine now because we’re cuddly like that). In the middle of our discussion, my friend linked a blog post called Intent! It’s F__king Magic! from “Genderbitch“. My lack of fondness for the blog’s name aside, I noticed that the article starts off with a warning in bold text about it being highly sarcastic, a tone which – frankly – isn’t precisely alien or uncommon to the social justice community. I told my friend that I honestly had very little patience for people who feel they cannot make a serious point without having to resort to sarcasm or being a sanctimonious jerk. This then led to another topic in our discussion, one of “tone argument”, which I’ll get more into further into this post.

Yes, disclaimer: I was raised in a culture and upbringing where tranquility, courtesy, and respect were expected. I am horrible at humor and have a rough time at discerning when people are being sarcastic, which undoubtedly factors into why I don’t like sarcasm very much (at least, in terms of when trying to make a serious point). These undoubtedly influence why I’m trying to say. But in spite of these influences, I also feel that my point has a degree of objective merit, and I believe this also reflects upon a broader issue that the mainstream social justice community needs to look at. So here we go.

Reader’s discretion advisory: This post is not going to make many people happy, by virtue of not completely agreeing with any particular group. So please read at your discretion, and please refrain from lynching me. Read more…

Categories: Politics and Society