Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Support the Earthquake Relief Effort in China

Support the earthquake relief effort in China by donating to the Red Cross Society of China or your national Red Cross Society.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Some May 12th Sichuan Earthquake Pictures

Pictures taken from a thread on Tianya. This is truly a tragedy, I just hope those living in the affected areas are rescued soon.

In Chengdu, a hospital was evacuated onto the streets. Residents formed circles to ensure a doctor could safely deliver a baby.

A man kissing his pregnant wife's hand, assuring her that he will be with at her side.

Parents and grandparents soothing babies.

Students at a Lanzhou primary school hiding under desks.

A man comforting his wife/girlfriend.

In Xian, People's Liberation Army No. 323 Officer Hospital erected tents to accommodate their 700 evacuated patients.

Malls were closed due to concerns of aftershocks.

A building in Chengdu shows cracks after the quake.

Hangzhou residents looked up at the buildings from where they were just evacuated.

Many buildings collapsed in Dujiangyan City.

Students at a Dujiangyan City middle schools were buried in the rubble.

Premier Wen arrived at the affected areas within hours.

A brave pregnant woman lowered herself down a hospital wall using sheets tied together.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Art of Spoiling

I found this not too long ago, thought it was rather funny. I believe it originated from this blog post.

The following is my translation, with added links and small modifications where appropriate. My notes are in parentheses and italic. A word of warning though, this is about spoilers, so it inevitably contains spoilers.

There are many forms of art in this world. Some make you shed tears, some make you shed blood, some make you shed sweat. Others make you first shed tears, then sweat, then blood. Yet others make you first shed blood, then sweat, then tears. Of course, we are not here to discuss the latter two kinds.

In his renowned work, On the Spirit of Our Time, Sir Walter Stewart described the art of spoiling as "noble and intricate, truly the pinnacle of human wisdom". Werner Heisenberg also mentioned spoilers in his Copenhagen: Stories about Me and Bohr that Must Be Told, saying that "[his] ideas concerning nuclear fission were inspired by spoiling, that perfect mental exercise". He also declared that "fission and spoiling are identical in principle, the collision of spoilers and reading results in the release of twice the fun".

Ok, maybe I made those quotes up myself, but that doesn't affect the legitimacy of spoiling.

So what is spoiling exactly?

It's walking outside movie theatres in the United States, holding high signs that read "Darth Vader is Luke's father" on May 21, 1980.

It's shouting into megaphones repeatedly "Hui Man Keung (Xu Wenqiang) is killed by a hail of bullets the moment he walks outside the door" to Hutongs full of people just before the Chinese New Year, 1981.

(The Bund was the single biggest hit on Chinese television at that time, pretty much everyone was watching it.)

It's annoucing that "Bruce Willis's character is actually dead" to a crowd halfway through watching The Sixth Sense in 1999.

It's waiting outside Japanese comic book stores, and telling every happy-looking teenager holding a newly purchased copy of the Kinda'ichi Case Files volume six who the murderer is in 1993.

It's sending out emails to everyone in your address book with the content "the Grail is beneath the Louvre, and Sophie is the descendant of Jesus" in 2004.

It's after having waited for hours in line to buy a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, flipping to the important parts first, phoning friends who were patiently waiting for the Chinese translation, and kindly informing them that "Dumbledore is dead" in 2005.

Speaking of Harry Potter, I have a friend named Luo that's even more ingenious. He changed his MSN messenger nickname to "Dumbledore is dead", and started signing on and off repeatedly. Those who did not wish to be spoiled could only watch helplessly as their screens were flooded with notification windows informing them that "Your friend 'Dumbledore is dead" has signed on.'

It's obvious that the holy act of spoiling is not at all devious. It is in fact quite an ethical thing to do. Spoilers serve to bring the truth to humankind -- only a bit earlier than expected. There is no greater reward than the moment of terrified surprise that undoubtedly registers in the eyes of the spoiled. It is indeed worth every bit of trouble you went through to obtain the necessary information.

The spoilers that reach the largest audience, though, are not made by me, my friend Luo, or any other individual. They are manufactured by an enormous cabal with agents around the country, bringing spoilers to people everyday just for their own amusement. I am, of course, talking about China Television Daily's synopsis column.

(If you don't know what that might be like, just imagine every little plot-related detail of every episode of every popular TV series being printed out and delivered to millions of people, sometimes before the shows have even aired.)

There exists no other genre more vulnerable to spoilers than crime novel. Spoilers are to them what the sun is to snowmen. I still remember my first time as if it was yesterday. It was during my high school years...

It was a dull late summer afternoon, a female classmate sat quietly reading in our classroom. Her short hair swaying in the breeze, long fingers gracefully flipped pages from which the calming scent of ink arose. The rays of the setting sun casted a golden hue onto every object in the room, and the insects lazily buzzed outside.

Warmed and intrigued by the sight, I walked to her desk and greeted, "Hello." She turned to face me, giving me a gentle smile, and replied, "Hello". I noticed that the book she was reading is titled Ten Little Indians.

"First time reading it?"

"Yes, I just started." was her reply, her cheeks blushing slightly.

"The Justice died, but he orchestrated the killings." I calmly stated.

I then walked away without a glance back.

On the other hand, the natural enemies of spoilers are action films. For example, there's nothing to spoil for the Die Hard series. Everyone knows Bruce Willis will emerge victorious in the end, but only after being brutally beaten first. Likewise, 007 is predictable as well. James Bond screws a woman at the beginning, screws a woman at the end, and screws a whole lot of men in the middle. And then there's the Rocky series. If you give somebody spoilers for that, the most likely response you'll get will be "Oh, there's another one out now?"

(...And it would take a team of geniuses decades to find a way to spoil something like Snakes on a Plane.)

Just like the great philosophical works beofre me, I shall end with an anecdote. It is a short, but certainly tragic tale.

The protangonist is a friend of mine. Out of respect for his privacy, I will not tell you his name is Li Ji. Instead, let's refer to him as Bob. Bob, a Han Chinese living in Xinjiang, was attending university in Beijing at the time. So every Chinese New Year, he had to take a 50-hour train ride home.

One time while a couple of us were hanging out, he suddenly proclaimed that existing electronic entertainment devices were not able to fulfill his need during the long journeys. He said that he decided to read books to keep himself occupied instead. I asked Bob what book he decided on, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms was the answer.

"What?! You've never read Three Kingdoms before?"

"I've only skimmed over it before..." he said honestly, not knowing the demons he had awoken with those careless words.

Everyone's eyes were red with fervor at that point. We looked at each other in turn, then collectively shouted, "Did you know Zhuge Liang died?!"

"I know now!" he exclaimed, just as tears of sorrow fell from his eyes.

I had never been so happy, for I had just made an astounding discovery -- even something as classic as Romance of the Three Kingdoms can be spoiled.

(This comic is rather similar in spirit to the anecdote actually.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

The9 Manually Set Chinese Realms' Isle of Quel'Danas Progress

The9, the company that operates World of Warcraft in China has announced today that all Chinese realms will have their Isle of Quel'danas progress manually set to be fully completed, since "all players have contributed as they should to the world event". They also apologized for the server problems players experienced these past few weeks, while wishing everyone a happy Mayday (a four-and-a-half day holiday this year in China).

This rather drastic measure comes amidst widespread player complaints of their servers' poor performance after patch 2.4. Many of the more populous realms suffered frequent restarts and periods of downtime, especially at peak hours. As a result, a significant number of these realms also fell victim to rollbacks. Some of the hardest hit realms had their IQD progress reset multiple times in a single day.

While most players welcome the gesture, many can't help but feel this kind of measure doesn't solve the underlying problem, that The9's servers are of questionable quality. There are also others who feel that having the IQD world event come so arbritarily to an end makes the game less immersive. In addition, The9's approach comes off as employing brute force, since they could just properly set the progress of individual realms back to their approriate stage (although I personally think it's great to have the epic gem vendor and what not available to us so soon).

The9's servers has long been a source of frustration for Chinese WoW players. Many irate players refers to them dryly as "Little Overlords", a brand of cheap basic home computers (or "learning machines" as they were advertised) popular in China in the 90's that were less powerful than Commodore 64s.