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Don’t Panic (iPhone 5 iOS 10 wallpaper)

dont-panic-japanese

I made this wallpaper from a logo and free wallpaper I found on Google. I don’t claim ownership of the parts of the image, I only combined/remixed them in Photoshop.

「パニック」is the english word “panic” and 「しません」is the word for “don’t do”. Together it roughly translates to “Don’t Panic” in Japanese(日本語で).

The image is free for personal use.

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is one of my favourite anime (or アニメ which is short for the english word “animation”). The Ghost in the Shell anime series is known for its whodunnit story lines, political and bureaucratic red tape, action sequences and philosophical questions. I am absolutely drawn in by the cyberpunk genre, this series being no exception. I most recently watched the ARISE prequels and thought they were beautifully animated and had enough mystery to keep me wanting more.

What makes us alive?

This collection of bio-electro-chemical interactions happening not only along the myelinated lengths of a mass of neurons—specialized single cells supported by glial cells—but also in the interconnected and countlessly finite dendritic synapses we carry within us, all giving rise to consciousness, memory, emotion, thought. What happens when we probe a brain with electrodes and medications to discover how it functions, and finally understand it well enough to interface it with technology? Are you a monist or dualist? Do you believe in the existence of an organic soul? Does your ghost arise from biology? Can we create consciousness with software?

じゃあ、let’s take a look at what 2017 has got in store for Ghost in the Shell, shall we?

Official Trailer #1:

2017 live action movie shelling sequence depicting the assembly of Major Motoko Kusanagi:

Here’s the 1995 anime shelling sequence/intro for comparison (below). This has to be one of the most memorable sequences ever created largely due to its haunting soundtrack.

あが、まえば、てるつき、とよむなり

which I tried hard to translate, and all I could come up with was: “if dancing, the shining moon” … that’s as far as I got.

よばいに、かみ、あまくだりて

“sneaking at night into a girl’s bedroom to make love, god, descends from heaven”. These are just my interpretations because it’s difficult to find any official lyrics. I had to rely on my ears, a dictionary and educated guesses largely because the homonyms in Japanese make the lyrics ambiguous, and you have to guess at the intentions of the artist who wrote them when lyrics aren’t readily available.

For instance とよむなり if interpreted as と読むなり means “and right after reading” or “and the reading sound” or “and reading or …” the later being incomplete, and all can be valid. But I see most people interpreting it as “ringing”/”echoing” which completely ignores とよむ and focuses on なり, or they have a completely incorrect translation for とよむ.

*Sigh* Oh language.

Anyway, the ambiguity only adds to the overall effect of this, again, haunting sequence.

Below is an interview with Scarlett Johansson who will be playing Major Kusanagi, Takeshi Kitano who will be playing Aramaki, and the director Rupert Sanders. Rupert says that any time you cast someone, people are critical of your decision, stating that there are also fans who support him.

While an Asian lead in such a huge film would have sent a message to Hollywood, I don’t think it’s going to hurt the film at all. I’m a little upset, but I’ll still watch it in theatres, with Scarlett’s face being a constant reminder that she’s NOT EVEN ASIAN! Okay, I can totally see the other side, it’s easy to be indifferent or think in a global community that things like this shouldn’t matter so much. Besides Major Kusanagi doesn’t really look Asian to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be racist, instead I am sick the business and creative sides of Hollywood thinking that an Asian lead would alienate their audience or hurt their box-office earnings. But granted, you need to pick your battles wisely, and this is something I can live with. That’s it. I hope you can at least see where the other side is coming from.

Finally, here is a rundown of the setting and characters of Ghost in the Shell from Grace Randolph of Beyond The Trailer.  She does a pretty great job:

So what do you think?
Are you excited for the film?
Still hurt over the casting of Motoko Kusanagi?
Are you going to watch it?

何を思いますか?
映画を楽しみにですか?
モトコでうれしいですか?
見たいですか?

Bio-Hazard Battle

bio-hazard-battle

Coming out of cryogenic sleep, you are a pilot of a Bioship that has to find a safe place on the world Avaron for the last remaining human beings. Released in 1992, this side scrolling (to be clear it scrolls on its own) biological spaceship shooter for the Sega Genesis is now available on Wii’s Virtual Console and Steam. My younger brother Peter and I played this game this past weekend and finished it. We used the 99 lives cheat though, because I don’t do well with the punishing mechanics found in retro games (I suck at them).

From the Bio-Hazard Battle Manual:

During G-Biowar I (the first global biowar), a powerful new form of retrovirus was released as a deadly reprisal from the enemy. The viruses unleashed biological forces which couldn’t be stopped, leaving the planet filled with new and deadly forms of life.

Only a few survivors remain in suspended animation in O.P. Odysseus, an orbiting platform circling Avaron. The space station’s purpose is to keep the surviving humans alive until Avaron is habitable again. The crew of the Odysseus have been frozen in cryogenic tanks for hundreds of years, and now the onboard computer has awakened them.

Computer probes show that conditions on Avaron are hostile, but livable. The question is: where can the crew of Odysseus set up a colony? This is the question you have been assigned to answer. You must pilot a Bioship to Avaron, fly over the areas which the probes have labeled least hostile, and check out the conditions there. Find a new home for the last survivors of G-Biowar I!

 

You shoot and dodge your way though each level collecting Energy Seeds (see screenshot and section below) to change your weapon *or* power up your current weapon by collecting multiple Energy Seeds of the same colour. All Bioships start out with the Green Energy Seed weapon and it is the standard weapon for all ships.

 

Energy Seeds
energy-seeds

Energy Seeds are scattered by the space station along the flight path your Bioship will take. There are four types of Seeds, Yellow, Orange, Blue and Green. Each Seed changes the Bioship’s genetic structure, enabling the ship to generate a different type of weapon.

Your Bioship ingests Seeds by passing over them and the energy is transferred to your ship’s Power Star. The Power Star, both a shield and weapon, floats near the Bioship. As a shield, it stops most creatures from hitting your Bioship. More importantly, it uses power from the Energy Seeds to generate weapons.

Yellow Seed:

  • Spin Laser: A spinning twin laser beam. [Fires horizontally only. Soaks/destroys bullets.]
  • Fire Petal: A stream of white-hot fireballs. [A pretty standard weapon, much like Implosion Pods.]

Orange Seed:

  • Plasma Ring: A spinning ring of energy which bounces off inert matter and detonates upon contact with living matter. [A decent weapon, but increases the amount of chaos on screen.]
  • Seeker Laser: Homes in on potential hazards and destroys them. [Probably one of the strongest weapons, but sometimes can prioritize strange targets.]

Blue Seed:

  • Bond: Blue globes of plasma which attach to the creature and explode. [Niche weapon, slow rate of fire, but soaks/destroys bullets.]
  • Nova: A multi-directional burst of energy. [Difficult to aim.]

Green Seed:

  • Implosion Pods: Create a vacuum upon contact, causing damage. [The default weapon.]

 

The Bioships

orestes
Orestes
Fast
Orange: Plasma Rings (bouncing)
Blue: Nova (star)
Yellow: Fire Petal (stream)
A quick but overall mediocre ship. In most cases you shouldn’t pick Orestes.

 

electra
Electra
Slow
Orange: Seeker Laser
Blue: Bond (bullet soaking globes)
Yellow: Fire Petal (stream)
A slow ship, but has access to the Seeker Laser, arguably the best weapon in the game. Also has access to Bond, which can soak/destroy bullets, but is a little difficult to use. In my opinion Polyxena is a better ship.

 

hecuba
Hecuba
Fast
Orange: Plasma Rings (bouncing)
Blue: Bond (bullet soaking globes)
Yellow: Spin Laser (bullet soaking horizontal twin laser)
Arguably due to the two bullet soaking/destroying weapons that Hecuba has access to, it is the best ship for those wanting to play a support role.

 

polyxena
Polyxena
Slow
Orange: Seeker Laser
Blue: Nova (star)
Yellow: Spin Laser (bullet soaking horizontal twin laser)
Due to having access to Seeker Laser, this is one of the best ships. Because Spin Laser is a slightly more reliable (easy to use) weapon for soaking up or destroying bullets when compared to Bond, Polyxena is in my opinion the best ship.

 

As a side note:
All four names are taken from Greek mythology. Orestes and Electra were children of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Hecuba was the wife of King Priam of Troy and Polyxena was their youngest daughter.

 

Gameplay

According to the manual, you can choose whether you want to have 3, 4 or 5 lives and have a total of 9 continues. The game ramps up steadily in difficulty with levels getting progressively more challenging the deeper you get into them. There are often multiple enemies on screen, some of which shoot out small round red bullets that can be difficult to notice in the chaos. This is why it helps to have at least one ship with access to bullet soaking/destroying weapons (such as Hecuba). The game is made much easier when played in two player mode, with no enemies being added to compensate for the addition of another Bioship. Essentially you play the single player mode with help from a friend in two player mode. Don’t play it on Easy though because you don’t get access to the later levels if you do.

 

Music

The sound in the game was directed by K.N.U. The moniker is attributed to different individuals depending on the source. Bio-Hazard Battle ultimately has an awesome and memorable soundtrack.


In the first track the use of delay, reverb and sustain in the music creates a vast soundscape with rhythms and effects that remind me of the Predator (from the 1987 film of the same name) as well as thoughts of distant worlds teeming with extraterrestrial life.


In the second track we are treated to a more uplifting melody and short instrumental flourishes reference the theremin, which was used in many classic Sci-Fi soundtracks including The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). It compliments the faster pace of the second level.


In the third track, reminiscent of music by NIN and the like, we return to dark and brooding melodic elements that make you feel emotionally encumbered, and again the use of instruments and effects reference echo-location, heart beats, and other organic processes.


In the fourth track we hear themes carried over from previous tracks in a sort of slow, spaced out remix.


In the fifth track we hear a bass building suspense to small climaxes. At one point a sinusoidal modulated waveform along side other foreign electronic sounds, all of which meld into a strange track that conjures images of a sleuth on the trail of a killer, or spy subterfuge.


In the seventh and final track the composer(s) tried to add their own layer of melody on top an instrumentation that conjures the end credits of Akira (1988) and of course Philip Glass’s Glassworks (1982).

 

Graphics

The sprites in Bio-Hazard Battle are insanely creative, with everything from flying squids to myelinated sheathed worms and floating sperm with faces. All sprites are set on great industrial, natural and xenobiological environments, on this habitable world of Avaron, which create levels that are varied throughout, containing unique sections only appearing for a few seconds on screen never to be seen again. The Bioships themselves each have a unique look which have both aquatic and insectoid influences. The designs are organic and invoke a sci-fi nostalgia (kaiju, aliens, etc).
bio-hazard-battle-03
bio-hazard-battle-02
bio-hazard-battle-01

 

Final Thoughts

Bio-Hazard Battle brings together two of my favourite things, Biology and Technology, in a polished Sci-Fi aesthetic that stands the test of time. This 16-bit classic is a must play for fans of the aforementioned domains.

Secret Body

secret-body

There exists a section in every person that is tucked away purposefully due to fear of social stigma. SECRET BODY is an interactive art installation that explores themes of stigma and social interaction. The piece attempts to display human emotion through data visualization and measure emotion through affective science methods. The piece uses bioinformatic data to create a light pattern within ten human-shaped models, and uses the same data to create an interactive platform between the piece and the audience.

By using galvanic skin response (electrodermal activity) and heart rate sensors attached to 10 Arduino Megas and 70 LEDs, students at York University created an interactive art installation whose purpose was to explore our inner emotions and foster awareness of stigma in its sundry forms. The installation created by: Denise (Nichie) Enriquez, Dallis King, Anna Papazian and Samantha Puder for the LE/EECS 4700 course offered in the final year of Digital Media, whose focus was the creation of a group project (2014-2015).

One of the project’s goals was to illuminate and give life to emotions that we feel uncomfortable talking about or otherwise expressing due to the stigma associated with them. By using data visualization the students created a dialogue between the human and digital realms. When we think about emotions, we can reduce them to bio-electro-chemical signals happening within neurons and their dendritic synapses, but there is no digital analogue, yet. So the need to express this fundamental part of the human experience led these four pioneers (now graduates) to create visual feedback from a valence/arousal encoding schema. For more technical information please visit the project’s tumblr page.

We can feel ashamed or embarrassed by our deepest emotions and hide them away from the world out of fear that we will be stigmatized, judged and cast aside. It’s difficult to find ways to express how we feel— we use the tools of art, the brevity of language and even our physical bodies to give legitimacy and life to our inner emotional worlds. In Secret Body we see technology being used to visualize emotional data. And although I haven’t learned the lesson of stigma personally, I certainly could by opening up about what happens within the dendritic synapses and neural pathways of my own mind.

I feel just like everyone else does. Maybe not to the extent that some people feel, surely, based on how they express themselves, but I do nonetheless have the capacity to feel like every other human being, and even some (most?) animals. But it’s that social piece that makes it difficult for them all to be on the surface. We are conditioned at a young age to repress or control certain emotions for the sake of maintaining pleasurable social interactions. This makes it difficult, as we get older, because the more we keep buried and bottled up, the farther that cork will fly when pressure reaches that elusive critical juncture.

Having the fear of stigma myself, I trend towards not stigmatizing others for their experiences, but embracing the unique individuality within every human being. Our brains are all made of neuroglia and neurons, but our minds, whether you’re a dualist or monist, all react slightly differently to stimuli based on our own unique aggregated experiences— our inner narratives. We can, however, still share experiences with each other using empathy, but this is all very obvious. Our empathy should be at such a level that we no longer stigmatize others for their experiences, at least that’s what I believe.

These four young women showed Lion-hearted bravery in attacking stigma, creating a space for open dialogue and critical discourse about our inner emotional worlds. While emotions may be ephemeral this Digital Media project creates a lasting key to those doors we keep locked within ourselves.

I am very pleased by thoughts Secret Body catalyzed within me, and even though I have yet to experience the installation myself, I have been inspired by the project. I’m impressed by the use of Arduinos, sensors, algorithms and the interactive emotional interfacing achieved by these four young women. But now, I … I suddenly feel like watching Inside Out … and Mr. Robot … and Ghostbusters. じゃあ、またね!

 

Read more about Secret Body on the York Website, and on the project’s tumblr page.

yuurei

yuurei

どこも、幽霊がいます!
でも、この幽霊が生きる
人たちは、幽霊がなれば
人たちは、生きながら、
人たちは、幽霊がなる!

幽霊たちが生きる
だれかを思い出す
彼らが、見ますか
彼らが、後悔する
彼らが、付きます

元気ですか?知りません

あなたのために望みます
もあなたはすべています
私はこうかいしています
でも自分は愛しています
これは分かりましたか?
日本語からうれしいです

Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story

tokyo-story

Tokyo Story is a film about family. It is interspersed with establishing shots which capture the setting of the film. They are beautiful, serene, calming slices of seemingly ubiquitous scenery that have captured 1950s Japan. The sets are equally beautiful, with everything from shoji screens, tatami mats and sake bottles giving the audience a glimpse into a traditional past. Yet, there is a timelessness about the film. Perhaps it’s because Japanese culture honours tradition in everything from bento to kimonos. This creates a visual aesthetic that stands the test of time. It also helps that the characters are well written archetypes that are as relatable as those of the immortal Shakespeare and that Ozu had such a reverence for the past.

tokyo-story-kyoko

Kyōko Kagawa who played Kyōko in the film summarized my perspective on the condition of the modern nuclear family: for the children to grow up the family must separate and become a less cohesive unit, and in doing so life becomes disappointing.

tokyo-story-shige

Haruko Sugimura who played Shige was the antithesis to Kagawa’s character. Shige seemed to think her husband was being wasteful spending money on cakes for her parent’s visit when simple crackers would do. Money comes between us as we age. We want to have enough for ourselves— for our family, and taking care of our aging parents can take money away from that goal. From this perspective Shige’s parsimonious tendencies can be understood. When she does spend money on her parents it’s to send them away to a nice spa/resort, but ultimately we find out this is done so she can host other beauticians at her house. She even says it will be cheaper to send them away than take care of them. Something tells me she has come to terms with her parents’ mortality.

I fear that Sugimura’s character comes to encompass the way many people in the West feel about their elderly parents. It’s far easier to spend money to put them in a home (for the elderly) than it is to house them with your family and take care of them yourself. I understand that things can get messy. People can start to lose control of their bodily functions and even lose their memory, but I feel that Kyōko would always be there. The events in the movie and the behaviour of her siblings seem to cement her perspective.

tokyo-story-noriko

Setsuko Hara who plays Noriko talks to Kyōko about the human condition, and it’s in these brief moments that the movie really comes together in my opinion. Noriko knows how the modern world works and accepts that world the way it is. However despite understanding the status quo she is conflicted internally stating that in spite of herself she may become like Shige as she ages. There is a wonder and romantic aura around Noriko that I as the audience didn’t want to see tarnished. I felt like she was idealized by Ozu. Noriko reminds me a great deal of my grandmother, who lives with us.

tokyo-story-parents

Chishū Ryū who plays the grandfather Shukishi admits that he likes his own children more than his grandkids. I think this was Ozu’s way of telling us something about ourselves. It’s much easier to love those who are close to you physically, those you can see daily and share experiences with. Now I’m not saying it’s impossible to love someone you don’t see very often, I think Ozu was telling us that is how family bonds inherently work. I am not saying we can’t be empathetic and loving people, but I think this points to physical closeness as being a cornerstone of family bonding. Don’t you agree, even though it is a bit of an ugly thing to admit?

I turned 32 this year (2016) and I still live at home with my parents, two younger brothers and grandmother. Ozu’s Tokyo Story made me thankful that our family is still together, but I think a lot of Asian families tend to have stronger bonds, with less animosity and bitterness between members and the elderly living with their children. Am I mistaken? I hate to generalize and create stereotypes, but in our family the elderly are respected and they live with their children until they leave this world. My parents used to ask “who will take care of us?” and I always felt like we’d be together forever, but as I age I’m finding that keeping the family together is harder than I used to think it was.

late-spring

 

On the second disc in the Criterion Collection version of Tokyo Story there was a scene from Ozu’s Late Spring, in which a father explains to his daughter the truth about growing up. Sometimes, I find, there is a conflict that cleaves the relationship between parent and child asunder. Usually emotions run high and instead of resolving the conflict the child chooses to leave— fly the coop, leave the nest. And I am a firm believer that if this conflict can be resolved, there can be a strong bond formed between the two (or three) forevermore. The same can be said for marriages, but I know conflicts come in many shapes and forms, and something like cheating can be irreconcilable. Can you think of a relationship that ended over something retrospectively inane?

tokyo-story-ozu

Life is fragile, we never know when health problems will arise and we walk around thinking we’re invincible until one does. I wish everyone could have the same relationship I have with my parents, but I know this isn’t the case. If you are still bitter over something, think of what might happen if you leave things unfinished. Regret can follow you around for the rest of your life. These are the lessons of Tokyo Story.

Schism

My mind is blown open like the expanding universe
This phantasmagoria is mine alone to traverse

I wonder who it is that appears to haunt me
But it’s sometimes impossible to see

Faces morph the closer I try to look
They’re the faces you see when you read a book

I’m filled with regret reminded of my mistakes
Ephemeral thoughts at my heart they do rake

I know I’m only one of billions of stars
In this galaxy we call the race that is ours

But I believe it’s possible to commune with others
In opposition to the superficial difference of colours

In the realm of consciousness exists the mechanism
That serves to make connections deep within a schism

In the domain of thought and dream
Intangible and unquantifiable crossing streams

And it’s within them that I consider the possibilities
The currently unknown and all our limits and abilities

The only conclusion I’ve drawn is that I believe.

The Darkmoon Faire

I shared this at this week’s Literary Conclave (held by Stormwind University on the Wyrmrest Accord US RP WoW server).

Purple and Green,
Strangest things you’ve ever seen!
Eerie woods all around,
Fun & Games will astound!
Days are long,
Come by for a song!
ETC will shred and slay,
They’ll make you dance all day!
Many prizes to be won,
The Dancing Bear weighs ton!
Monsters have nowhere to hide,
Just don’t forget your Adventurer’s Guide!
Every month we’ll come by,
Come mounted, by ship or fly.
Step on up to The Darkmoon Faire,
Bring the little ones to show you care!

This has been a message paid for by Silas Darkmoon.