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2/11/10 10:30 am - Observations on Story of the Stone

So far, the society it depicts is remarkably similar to that shown in Proust's work.  Rich people spend lots of time making calls on family acquaintances, eating, and entertaining themselves.  Mocking other people or just behaving rudely can pass for wit/intelligence.  Wealthy older men buy the favors of young men, in a form of prostitution that is both censured and enabled by their families/authorities.  Rich women have no official roles, but they often have more influence and the time to dispense it.  The Chinese legal system seems a bit more corrupt, but not much.  French relationships seem a bit more depraved, but not much.  To quote Fitzgerald, "The rich are different than you and me", but they are remarkably similar to each other.

1/26/10 09:52 pm - Plans for 2010

  1. Rewrite monster quest from the ground up, again.
  2. Finish HotHKoH again, this time adding better advancement, more monsters, rules that simplify, and a system that is in some way interesting to play.
  3. Finish knitting Shrug for wife.
  4. Read Story of the Stone before my copy goes to China.
  5. Get better at running exalted (engage all five players, with varying degrees of mechanical interest, and put more risk on the table.  Too safe.  Physical danger is just not enough.)
  6. Keep watching Soranowoto (next episode in 5 days!), even if Noel is such a freaking Rei Ayaname/Yuki Nagato ripoff.
  7. Some day, hopefully Sunday, perform a form in public representing my school.
  8. Create human life.
  9. Learn Japanese.
  10. Play some FFXIII.
Still debating: go to Gamestorm, start a band that plays theme songs for anime series that don't exist, start brewing beer, knit hoodie with big deep hood, switch careers, and/or shave off amazing mustache.

1/23/10 01:07 am - Kung Fu, Measuring Up, and Chinese Martial Culture

Been a rough couple of weeks in kung fu. I was informed by one of my Si Hings (Older Brother), Reggie, the student that re-taught me the basics of kung fu, that the Sifu didn't like seeing the same people doing forms every time, so we should give it a shot next time. Hence I might be doing a form next Sunday... I hope so. So I started showing up for late night practice three nights a week.

In short: I'm still not that great. I tried to do Lau Gar Kuen with another student named Jimmy (a youth a little more than half my age; light, nimble, and a good lion head). He knows fewer forms than me, but they are fast and precise. I tend to muddle through them heavily, getting worn out halfway through, but he was breezing through it. After a couple of sessions, I wasn't doing Lau Gar with Jimmy any more; I couldn't keep up, honestly. Instead, I was doing the first form, Mui Fa Kuen, by myself. It was kind of a big disappointment. But tonight I found out I might not even be doing that; there are these little children, you see, that would also be doing Mui Fa Kuen. It's either me or them (or maybe both, but there's not a lot of time for forms). On top of that, I don't seem to have the lower back strength to do Southern Lion long enough (or the grace, especially while bent double). Pretty discouraging. I've been pushing myself harder to try to compensate. I spend extra time practicing my forms and push myself harder during class. On my days off I do yoga to help recuperate, as well as other exercises (like snowshoeing). I've tried to eat and drink less (so that I wouldn't be so heavy on my feet), but I have a pretty difficult time fighting my stomach. Bleh.

After second class tonight, I was pretty much at my nadir. I didn't even practice southern lion because there were better students available, and I wasn't even doing that well on the dragon. Plus I found out that I was competing against grade school children for a chance to represent the school. I was beginning to wonder if this would be my last time trying to do this, since I obviously didn't have what it took. I was changing my uniform when two older students, separately, both told me that my Mui Fa Kuen was looking pretty good, much improved, actually. They're both from my class, more experienced than myself, and very dedicated. And now I don't care that much about whether or not I get to demonstrate next Sunday.

Kung Fu has always been an uphill battle for me; I've always detested sports as a waste of time, so I've never spent time in real physical training. I can't help but compare myself to other students in my class; many are younger and faster, some have been training longer than myself, or have a background in another form of martial arts, or have been lifting and boxing outside of class, or seem to pick it up naturally... etc. When I do this, I tend to end up feeling like damp toast. And I'm not sure how to deal with that, most of the time. Kung Fu is about hard work, not self-esteem. I'm not sure if it's valid to measure myself by my own progress; it seems like such and easy way out (which, while generally applicable to most situations in life, may not be applicable in a traditional Chinese setting or when training in self-defense; who cares if you're better than you were a week ago if (a) it doesn't satisfy the sifu or (b) it's not good enough to protect you from a mugger). So much to say that I was glad to have a little validation from my Si Hings tonight.

Also: writing personal posts late at night is probably a bad idea.

1/12/10 08:08 am - Street Kung Fu

If you're in Seattle around noon on the 31st of January, my club will be performing for one of the local Chinese American associations at noon on King street. I'll actually be doing one or two of my forms in the street with the club, and might be roped into being a lion's tail. So feel free to stop by if you want to see me choke in public.

Now I just have to teach myself how to do the first two forms about three times as fast as I usually do them.

12/31/09 11:41 am - More Anime Worth Watching

Just finished Eureka Seven, one of the better mysterious girl/giant robot series out there, for a few reasons. For one, the teen romance angle (you knew it was in there, right?) is actually pretty realistic, and fanservice free. Also, the series has a pretty positive outlook. The characterization was excellent; most of the characters escape from being pin-up cliches in spite of starting out with the hack premise. Although, yeah, there are plenty of tropes used throughout: mysterious girl is suffering for mysterious reasons, alternating hatred/worship of distant father, need to protect the land/gaia/nature, etc. But it was fun without being perverse... the big robots actually use giant surf-boards to skate through the air on transparent light particles, and the heroes put out a regular zine (published by a Che Guevara lookalike named "Stoner") portraying their exploits and the "truth" the government doesn't want you to know. Yeah. Another good series (50 episodes) on crunchyroll.

Oh wait, it's probably kind of natural that it was good; had the same writer as Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell: SAC. I mean, hell.

12/17/09 08:58 am - FFXIII launches in Japan today.

That is all. Back to listening to my "speaking and understanding japanese" tapes.

12/16/09 08:55 pm

I've started becoming a regular at www.crunchyroll.com. Two good finds I've just finished watching:

Natsume Yujincho: 26 episodes, two half seasons. A high school boy discovers that his grandmother was famous for beating up spirits and taking their names. He sets out to return them. Very mellow, with lots of character building and youkai legends. Good animation. Heartwarming stuff. His primary relationship is with a lucky cat/dragon that lives with him, waiting to steal his book of names when he dies, and serving as his bodyguard until then.

Time of Eve: Six short little episodes. A high school boy (yeah, yeah) in the near future Japan, with human-looking androids, discovers a hidden cafe that has a special rule: no discrimination between robots and humans. In a future society where there is currently a reactionary environment against android-human relationships, it's a bit of a heretical place. Low-key and fun, but emotionally risky.

Anyway. Good stuff.

12/15/09 03:33 pm

My ribs are contused, not cracked. Which means, apparently, that I'll be in some pain for weeks when I laugh, cough or move, as opposed to... worse pain. Cheers!

Which is good, because I have more kung fu to study. Like, how to block fast enough that the little fast guy can't hit my ribs over and over. Or how to land a punch that makes him think twice about getting in that close. Yeah, I like that one.

11/18/09 08:00 am - Playtesting

Hunters of the Hundred Tyrants of Hangrabag (name currently in traction) got a real playtest last night with all four character types (thanks John, Jonathon, and Lukas!). It kind of worked; I got a lot of positive feedback, and they also had some excellent ideas on how to improve it. I may have to pump it up to a two pager, though I'm trying to resist the pull. My testers gave me the go-ahead for a font size reduction, so I may just try to eek out what I can with my current page budget. In the end, adding more pages would probably make a better game; you'd have room for notes, more monsters, and room to provide useful directions on how to handle narration, which could make the game more than a novelty. Also, I could put in ads again, which warms my black heart. Hmm.

I'm especially excited by the artwork that Andy has been turning out for the first page; it's classy. Once these changes are in, and the art is done, should have a free pdf up on CEGames.

11/17/09 11:50 am

What's more important anyway, a mechanic that's fun to use, or is simple, or has interesting tactical choices, or that influences character decisions, or that models the desired genre?
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