Tag Archives: television

The Trip Part 5: Corregidor Island

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It was like seeing the set of a big budget movie, only it really happened. Corregidor was a 90 minute ferry ride from the docks in Manila. Along the way we could see a myriad of tiny fishing boats bobbing up and down in the waves. From there, we loaded into open-air tour buses that reinforced the Universal Studio Tour feel. However, as we passed the distance numbers on the road and the dilapidated pill boxes in the trees, everything became just a little more real. None of this was for show, everything had a purpose of some kind. This was where the fate of the world was decided long ago.

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In British Columbia, there are no great battlefields. Aside from the paranoia of the Japanese internment camps, the bases for training soldiers, and perhaps the odd submarine, war was a stranger to my part of the world. All the battles for Canada as a nation were fought on the east coast.  BC’s border disputes were decided in the halls of government rather than through the barrel of a gun. Corregidor is unique among WWII battle zones. While London, Berlin, Pearl Harbor and Tokyo were all rebuilt for the sake of the people living there, Corregidor was home to no one save the birds and monkeys. Its guns were rendered obsolete by the events of the war.  In addition to the museums and monuments, the ruins of the base that once defended Manila bay serve as a reminder to those who died in the war.

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There something about all of those ruined structures that can’t be captured with photographs. A step in either direction reveals never-ending caverns of lonely building guts. It reminded me of the last scene in “Slaughterhouse Five” after the fire-bombing of Dresden. There really is such a silence after a massacre. It’s not the kind hear, though. At once you think about the people who made those buildings their home and the mechanical savagery by which they were destroyed. The bullet holes conjure images of a young soldier leaning on a machine gun trigger until his box of ammo was empty, yet the look on his face is the same as if he were working an industrial press.  The craters and pock-marked concrete were only a inkling of the violence that took place here.

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As the tour went on, we learned about how the Americans and Filipinos had defended the island until their ammunition and water had run out. We walked through Malinta Tunnel, where they had lived while the Japanese bombers deforested the island. When they surrendered, the Japanese marched all 72,000 of them up the Bataan peninsula, which we could see in the distance. 54,000 made the journey alive. When the Allies retook the island in 1945, the Japanese soldiers, honoring their Bushido code, would commit suicide by jumping off of cliffs overlooking the sea. That was where the Japanese government eventually erected their own shrines to the sons they had lost there.

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In this day and age, we are so removed from the horror of that time. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan almost seem like small-time thuggery by comparison. Americans, Filipinos, Canadians, and Japanese now visit this place as tourists, whereas 60 years ago they would have been the bitterest of enemies. The fact that there has been peace between those countries for so long raises a few questions. How could we reconcile what happened here with what we have today? What changed? Was it our ability to communicate over television and computers? Do our well-heeled post-war lifestyles prevent us from getting the idea to kill each other? And whatever caused this reconciliation, can we put in a bottle or a book or something so we can send it to places like Afghanistan and Iraq where they really need it?

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25 Random Things About Me

Call me a follower, but I love reading these things. Here’s my contribution to the meme beast.

1. I’m pretty sure I saw an e-mail version of this list in the late 90’s.

2. I’ve yet to learn anything really terrible from these “25 Random Things” lists. (Knocks on Wood)

3. My Wife says I make a Chewbacca noise when I get upset.

4. I have had exactly one job after university that had any expectation of permanence. The company folded their office just in time for Christmas.

5. I lament the fact that World of Warcraft has all but killed table-top Role playing games.

6. My first two cars were red ford tempos.

7. I can remember the exact moment when I learned to read on my own. I was 4 years old, the book was “Go Dog Go”, and I was trying to read before bedtime.

8. I rarely drink, and when I do, it’s usually with people I trust and the harder the stuff is, the better. Maintaining a buzz gets expensive when you’re my size.

9. I have worn costumes outside of Halllowe’en.

10. I’ve been told I look like Dwight Schrute from The Office. I wonder if this is affecting my career at all.

11. My so-called “published works” include: 1 play, a webcomic, a newspaper article, this blog, and a letter in “Wired” Magazine.

12. I have delusions of learning how to draw well.

13. My relationship with my wife is proof that you can change your life for the better by just saying “Hello”

14. Actually, I said “Excuse Me”, but the lesson is much the same.

15. My first celebrity meet-up was with Phil Brown, who played Uncle Owen in the original Star Wars. It was at the San Diego Comic-con in 1998.

16. I can live without television, but only because internet technology has gotten so advanced.

17. People have told me about the harmful effects of the aspartame in my Diet Coke. They never mention that it’s also addictive.

18. I suppress my consumerist urges by maintaining a sizable amazon.com wishlist.

19. People who I know have blogs, but I wish would blog more: Theo Hua, Tarra Nakatsu-Hua, Erin Stoody, Sandy Deng, Phuc Tram, Melissa Quinn, and Chris Vance.

20. My collection of Gundam models has an armistice with my wife’s Cherished Teddies figurines

21. My Favorite PC game of all time is Master of Orion II.

22. I’m often tempted to question people when they make cryptic Facebook statuses.

23. I believe that the 1990’s killed the idea of Artistic Integrity.

24. I never wear sweatshirts because I tend to overheat. I don’t know why my body does this. Maybe I need a once-over with a geiger counter to make sure I’m not radioactive or something.

25. The Hershey Sidekick was the greatest candy bar ever.

EGM And the Ravages of Time

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The world felt a little poorer yesterday when Ziff Davis announced the cancellation of Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine. It’s been years since I bought an issue, but I still vividly remember it as one of the joys promised by my weekly allowance in the early 90’s. The issues back then were monstrous, chock full of reviews, previews and curious looking ads. Large sections of the magazine were dedicated to Japanese games. They were primitive by today’s standards, but by 1993’s standards, they were all but magical. Some of them even offered a glimpse of this advanced form of cartoons known as “anime”, which at the time was mostly found on Nth generation VHS tapes in the back rooms of specialty comic book stores.

The passing of EGM makes sense. Over the internet I can get printed columns, talk radio, and even entire television shows dedicated to video games. Why bother with a magazine that’s going to be stuffing a closet within a month? Still, no one likes to see a piece of their youth dry up and blow away. Now that we have this recession on our hands, we can expect more of this sort of thing.

Everyone has a little corner of happiness that just isn’t economically viable anymore. It might be a favourite shop that’s closed down, a cancelled television show, or sports team that’s folded. We rationalize by telling ourselves that we’ve grown out of the things that we like, but when you’re fighting through the daily commute, getting yelled at at work, and paying your taxes, what’s so grown up about dealing with all that and gradually abandoning your happiness options?

In 2001, I attended Sakuracon, my first anime convention. It was a reward I gave myself after a university co-op, but it was really an excuse just to leave town for a while. It was apparent that I wasn’t going to graduate that year, and my social life was going nowhere. Thinking anime was still a rapidly shrinking niche genre, I was expecting a few card tables of merchandise in the dealers room and maybe a video room. I could not have been more wrong. There were at least a half dozen video rooms, a full dealers room, cosplayers, and riveting panel seminars. I also made friends that are still with me today.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t let go of those things you cherish, even if they seem silly. Following your passion can lead you to good places, even if that place is in an easy chair listening to a favorite album or reading a favorite book. It doesn’t matter that what you like isn’t economically viable at the time. Anime was on the rise when I went to that convention, but now most of the companies that translate and sell it in the west are scaling back like most companies these days. There’s a cycle to these things. Even as trends ebb and flow, we can always find new ways to experience what we like.

Anyone else watch this?: Hate By Numbers

It’s hard to have common culture with anyone these days. I am told there was a time when people of all walks of life could meet up at the “water cooler” to discuss shows named “Seinfeld”. Now, even if a show is popular enough for everyone to watch, they’re most likely story arc shows like 24 and Lost. Any attempt to discuss said shows are met with screams of “NO SPOILERS!” followed by a dive behind the nearest desk. This is why I enjoy internet shows. They’re short, contain no interconnecting plot lines, and they usually have a comments section where you can discuss the show with other fans. However, I don’t want to discuss these shows with people on the internet. As much time as I spend on the computer, I’d rather find out what people I actually know personally (and I think that would you out there, reading this) think about these shows. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce one of my favorite internet shows, Wayne Gladstone’s Hate By Numbers.

Hate By Numbers is actually kind of a strong word for what Gladstone does on his show. He has a very calm and cool demeanor as he takes video clips from various sources and lists what bothers him about them. Here he describes how juxtaposing breast shots with video of animals being neutered might turn a news fluff piece into an odd form of aversion therapy. You may recognize this form of commentary from the Daily Show. This may be no coincidence, as Gladstone also writes for The Daily Show’s Indecision 2008 Blog. However, where the Daily Show focuses on the foibles of world leaders, Gladstone looks outside the news spotlight to find out just how bizarre television has gotten. Armies of production crews are assembled, millions of dollars are spent and this is what we, as a people, have come up with. With our civilization in this state, I am glad we have Hate By Numbers to remind us that “No, you aren’t going insane. Kid Rock really is a boil on the face of popular music.

Olympics

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So the other day Sara and I were watching the encore presentation Olympic Opening ceremonies. As for the ceremonies themselves, they were fantastic. With over 15,000 performers, complex lighting effects and wire-fu to put the best action movies to shame, I doubt any country is going to top this kind of spectacle for long, long time.

The encore presentation on the CBC happened at about 3:00pm, but we were intrigued to find out how NBC handled their coverage. Rumor had it that ratings in the States depended on the victory of their athletes, and events that Americans did poorly in were simply ignored. We wondered how this way of thinking would carry over the coverage of the opening ceremonies and the parade of nations.

At first things were pretty similar to the Canadian coverage, although there was more explanation of the performance in the commentary. It took away some of the fun of interpreting the meaning of the performances, but it was interesting to hear some of the facts about what went into creating them. For example, the ceremonies involved creating images the coordinated movement of thousands of the performers. Amazingly, no markers were used to keep them in place as they created the fantastic designs on the stadium floor. However, as the parade of nations started, things started to get a little weird.

On the CBC, as the parade of nations went by, we heard the stories of the flag bearers, the athletes and how they got to be where they are. Stories such as how one of Japan’s equestrian athletes had been competing since the 1960s, or how the US flagbearer was a refugee from the Sudan.

Later on NBC, the first thing they mentioned about Canada was how we liked to pay people to compete for us and how we never won a medal during the Montreal or Calgary Olympics. Sara and I looked at each other and said: “Did Canada just get dissed?”

It turns out we weren’t alone in being talked about this way. For every nation that came around the track it was how many medals this country won, or how much they didn’t win, or how they’ve yet to win a medal. It wasn’t really offensive I guess, but it really shows off the priorities of the American coverage.

If the Olympics are a grand international society party, I guess the television coverage of these shows would be the impolite whispers spoken in hushed tones around the punch bowl. If only we could translate and consolidate all of the myriad interpretations of this event. We’d get some serious gossip and if we’re lucky spark a diplomatic incident.

On a related note, I hope Tokyo gets the bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. Just think of the events that can be inspired by Japanese game shows. Who would take the gold in an Olympic level competition of “Squishy-Squishy”?