XyberTimes

Curious Bits From a Curious World

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Dungeon & Girls

Developer: iQubi Inc.
Publisher: Lunosoft Inc.
Format: Android
Price: Micro-transactions

First, let me say that Dungeon & Girls commits what I consider the most egregious sin of mobile gaming. It starts the game before you can enter into any settings or options, which keeps you from adjusting sound levels before play. This a sin because with the nature of mobile gaming you will most likely find yourself in a public setting and no one wants to hear your noise. Thankfully D&G doesn’t commit the second sin and actually allows you to adjust the game audio as well as allowing you to play other background audio. Personally I like to listen to audio books or podcasts while playing mobile games and a surprising number of mobile games do not allow for background audio.

Dungeon & Girls bills itself as a dungeon crawler deck building game. As you traverse the dungeon you use your deck of cards as both your movement tokens and as your actions. While in the dungeon you’ll see a bar along the left side of the screen broken into 5 meter increments with monster and box icons spread randomly throughout. If you stop your movement on one of these icons you either find a treasure chest or a battle respectively. At the top of the screen you have a display telling you how far you are from the end of the dungeon and the top left of the cards currently in your hand show you how far you can move by using that particular card. Defeating monsters and opening treasure chests can gain you loot which you can sell for gold or give to your partner to increase their affection towards you. The higher their affection, the more powerful they become. All very standard mechanics with no surprises from a competently made game.

Calling Dungeon & Girls a dungeon crawler is a stretch. There’s no exploration, no mapping, no constant back and forth, no getting lost. The dungeons are literally a straight line from beginning to end and a minimum of strategic foresight negates most of the risk of play. During the play-through above I was in almost zero danger and by the end of that first level I was defeating enemies with only a few attacks. Dungeon & Girls is an attractive game, but not a very challenging one. Most of the replay value will come from attempting to collect all of the partners and different loot and building affection with your partners. It’s free with a shallow learning curve and quick pick up and play style, so go ahead and give it a try for yourself.

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The US, Race, and Soviet Propaganda

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There will be a major spoiler for an 80 year old movie.

Circus (Tsirk) is a musical comedy produced in the Soviet Union and released to audiences in 1936. It was colorized in 2011 and is currently available on the Amazon video service. To this day it remains a well regarded film, first with the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation as well as wider audiences. The story follows an American vaudeville performer, Marion Dixon, who uses a cannon during her routine touring Moscow with her German manager. It turns into an extended tour as the local director wants to produce a similar act for the Soviet Union and Marion falls in love with a Russian engineer.

Throughout the film there are references to a terrible secret that Marion holds. This secret is responsible for Marion’s international touring as she feels she cannot return to the United States because of it. In turn her manager is shown to use this secret as leverage in an attempt to keep her in line. There are a number of song and dance routines, some romantic tension and lightheartedness and then the big reveal. Marion’s manager not happy with losing control of his meal ticket decides to tell everyone in attendance at her performance her dirty little secret… she has a black baby. The Soviets in attendance respond at first with absolute bafflement, “So what?”, they say. They cannot understand why this German or anyone else should care what race this child is and begin to ridicule this buffoon before an extended lullaby segment where the breadth of Soviet Union ethnicities are displayed.

One of the Soviet Union’s favorite avenues for criticism of the United States was race. Whenever the US was attempting to bring international pressure against the USSR on the basis of human rights, among other things, the USSR would shoot back, “Who are they to criticize us? Do you see how they treat the blacks or the asians? These things don’t happen under communism, we are all brothers.” To them it was just further validation for the vilification of the corrupt capitalist system that allows for a few to keep down so many. While the Soviet Union was producing Circus this is what the US was up to via American Racial History Timeline, 1900-1960:

1930

The Hays Code prohibits depictions of miscegenation in Hollywood films. (Brown and Stentiford, 533)

Nation of Islam founded in Detroit, Michigan. (Brown and Stentiford, 566)

Mississippi – Education [State Code]
Required schools to be racially segregated, and the creation of separate districts to provide school facilities for the greatest number of pupils of both races. In addition, authorized the establishment of separate schools for Native Americans. (Jim Crow History.org)

Mississippi – Miscegenation [State Code]
Miscegenation declared a felony. Nullified interracial marriages if parties went to another jurisdiction where such marriages were legal. Also prohibited marriages between persons of the Caucasian race and those persons who had one eighth of more Asian blood. (Jim Crow History.org)

1931

Georgia – Public carriers [Statute]
Motor common carriers could confine themselves to carry either white or colored passengers. (Jim Crow History.org)

Scottsboro Boys trial. (Gilmore, 118)

1932

Third International Conference on Eugenics. (Brown and Stentiford, 530)

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment lasts from 1932 to 1972. (Brown and Stentiford, 307)

First use of “racist” as a noun in the English language. (Online Etymology Dictionary)

Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected president. His promise of a New Deal and a “Black Cabinet” in 1933 attracts many negro voters to the Democratic Party. (Brown and Stentiford, xxvi)

Louisiana – Miscegenation [State Code]
Outlawed interracial marriages. Nullified interracial marriages if parties went to another jurisdiction where such marriages were legal. Also prohibited Negroes and Indians to marry each other. (Jim Crow History.org)

Louisiana – Residential [State Code]
No person or corporation shall rent an apartment in an apartment house or other like structure to a person who is not of the same race as the other occupants. (Jim Crow History.org)

South Carolina – Public accommodations [Statute]
All circuses and tent show must provide separate entrances for white and black customers. (Jim Crow History.org)

South Carolina – Education [State Code]
Required racially segregated schools. (Jim Crow History.org)

South Carolina – Miscegenation [State Code]
Miscegenation declared a misdemeanor. Also forbid marriages between persons of the Caucasian and Asian races. (Jim Crow History.org)

1933-1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Administration

1933

Georgia – Education [State Code]
The board of education was responsible to provide instruction of black and white children in separate schools. (Jim Crow History.org)

NAACP begins its legal campaign to desegregate education. (Gilmore, 2)

Negroes launch the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” economic campaign. (Brown and Stentiford, 246)

The act which establishes the Civilian Conservation Corps forbids discrimination on the basis of race. (Brown and Stentiford, 162)

1934

Louisiana repeals its poll tax. (Brown and Stentiford, 632)

Indian Reorganization Act overturns the Dawes Act. (Brown and Stentiford, 209)

Tydings-McDuffie Act promises independence to the Philippines, strips Filipinos of citizenship, and caps immigration at 50 per year. (Nugent, 273)

The Nation of Islam comes under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad. (Brown and Stentiford, xxvi)

Costigan-Wagner federal anti-lynching bill defeated by Southern opposition in Congress. (Brown and Stentiford, 196)

1935-1950

A domestic ideal of racial tolerance, necessitated by the demands of fighting fascism, becomes the “American way.” (Gilmore, 3)

1935

Arkansas – Public accommodations [Statute]
All race tracks and gaming establishments were to be segregated. (Jim Crow History.org)

Georgia – Miscegenation [State Code]
Illegal for a white to marry anyone but a white. Penalty:Felony, one to two years imprisonment. (Jim Crow History.org)

Georgia – Health Care [State Code]
Separate mental hospitals to be established for blacks. (Jim Crow History.org)

Georgia – Public Carriers [Statute]
Required segregation on all public transportation. (Jim Crow History.org)

South Carolina – Education [Statute]
Required school bus drivers to be of the same race as the children they transported. (Jim Crow History.org)

Texas – Health Care [Statute]
Established a state tuberculosis sanitarium for blacks. (Jim Crow History.org)

Texas – Public carriers [State Code]
Directed that separate coaches for whites and blacks on all common carriers. (Jim Crow History.org)

Delaware state law requires racial segregation in public education. (Brown and Stentiford, 105)

A repatriation act is passed that pays Filipinos their passage back home on condition they never return. (Nugent, 273)

Ethiopia, the last African nation under native rule, is attacked by Italy. (Brown and Stentiford, xxvi)

The National Council of Negro Women is formed. (Brown and Stentiford, xxvi)

W.E.B. Du Bois publishes Black Reconstruction, a book that reinterpreted Reconstruction to highlight the gains that came about for negroes. (Brown and Stentiford, 251)

Segregation of CCC camps. (Brown and Stentiford, 162)

Costigan-Wagner federal anti-lynching bill defeated by Southern opposition in Congress. (Brown and Stentiford, 196)

1936

Pearson v. Murray, Maryland Supreme Court orders the University of Maryland Law School to admit negro students. (Brown and Stentiford, 112)

Opening prayer at the Democratic National Convention delivered by a negro. (Roberts and Klibanoff, 26)

Samuel Dickstein’s (Jew) House of Un-American Activities Committee becomes a permanent feature of Congress. (Gilmore, 171)

First use of “racism” in the English language (from the French term, “racisme,” in 1935). (Online Etymology Dictionary)

Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. (Brown and Stentiford, xxvi)

via American Racial History Timeline, 1900-1960

I bring up an eighty year old movie because as I take a look at events in the world and at home I see the US losing it’s moral high ground. We could debate all day as to whether or not it ever truly had it, but there was a time when United States strove to do better. A time when we as Americans could say things aren’t perfect but we’re working on it and they’re getting better. These days there are so many unwilling to accept the realities of life in this country for so many others that there will come a moment sooner rather than later when all of those negative factors amassing around the globe will force a decision upon them. Do they want to lead the world in doing what’s right or would they rather follow along that long path to damnation.

Further Reading:

African Americans – Racial reform and cold war ideology

Did the Soviet union ever take advantage of the racial tensions in cold war america? particularly with blacks in the south?

Circus (1936 film)

Why was there so much racial inequality in the USA between 1929 and 1945?

African Americans, Impact of the Great Depression on

American Racial History Timeline, 1900-1960

Race Relations in the 1930s and ’40s

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Battle Cruiser and Dreadnought: Lost Colonies 1 & 2

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Genre: Sci-Fi
Author: B.V. Larson
Year: 2015

The Lost Colonies trilogy takes place about two hundred years after Earth lost contact with its colony worlds due to a massive solar flare that destroyed the interstellar network used for faster than light travel out of the Sol system. In the intervening years unofficial monarchies have risen on earth as the rich and powerful have grown even more rich and powerful. Most policing actions on Earth are now handled by the private security forces of the major families and in space Earth’s navy has been in steady decline with an ever shrinking operating budget. On a routine patrol William Sparhawk and crew discover evidence that the lost colonies have survived and that the Earth is in grave danger.

So far this series is equal parts entertaining and frustrating. While it scratches that spaceship battle itch, there is a severe lack of depth to most other parts. The two most irritating points are probably the lack of curiosity displayed by the characters and their lack of any kind of security thinking. For example, an enemy agent attempts to assassinate a politician and the entirety of the investigation consists of going to another politician’s house and asking them if they know anything about it. They say no and you never hear about the investigation again. At other points enemy agents are found to have been operating on navy spaceships and once these enemies are exposed there is no further thought put towards them. No one investigates where they came from, how they got access, there’s no check for sabotage or other agents in hiding. It’s all, “well we got the bad guys, it’s all fine now”, my dentist is going to make bank from the amount of teeth grinding this caused me. I’m no security professional, but while reading I just couldn’t stop thinking of various measures that any right thinking individual would attempt in order to secure a possible threat. I understand that the Navy has been in steady decline since Earth lost contact with its colonies. I also understand that the rise of the unofficial royalties of Earth have left a lot of security matters in the hands of private groups. But why wouldn’t they think to take the most basic security measures against a new threat? Especially when you take into account that they have an individual on hand that specifically tells them that they need to check individuals in order to flush out the agents.

Aside from a generally terrible security sense everyone seems to forget that they have a fully functional foreign star-ship and fully cooperative member of that ships former crew. Unfortunately, everyone seems to only be interested in the fact that the ship can fly. No one decides to scour the ships systems for information of anything other than how to fly her. It’s a star-ship and not one person is interested in where it’s been or what it has seen. There’s no talk of searching the data banks for information on enemy capabilities or locations or anything else. Later they make mention that the ships navigational maps got wiped but this was after the ship had been in navy hands for some time and there was still no mention of any other information the ship might contain. At least with their new crew mate they have the excuse that she won’t answer any question that isn’t asked since hers are a generally unimaginative people, but for whatever reason no one bothers to sit her down and ask her for details on anything she might know.

Overall it’s an enjoyable enough series. The action and space combat is solid and the characters that aren’t idiots are generally interesting. Try not to gnash your teeth too hard at the bumbling manners of the persons portrayed and you’ll be fine. There is a strong enough story to keep you interested throughout.

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Hollywood’s Ghost In the Shell and Personal Identity

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In no way do I intend this piece as a defense of Hollywood or its myriad disappointing practices.

Since Scarlett Johansson was announced to play the lead in the Hollywood adaptation of the Ghost in the Shell (GIS) series there has been no end to the criticism by individuals who believe that the character of Major Motoko Kusanagi should be played by a Japanese actress or at least an Asian actress. While the “whitewashing” of popular media is a serious problem I think that decrying the casting of GIS is ignoring the larger philosophical underpinnings of the series. For instance, the titular “ghost in the shell” refers to human consciousness within technological constructs. This in turn leads to greater questions seeking to define what exactly it means to be human.

Those calling for a casting change should know that in GIS, Major Kusanagi does not have a biological body. She received a full prosthetic body when she was extremely young, how young depends on the particular story you are referencing but they all have her as several years preteen when her consciousness is first transferred to a prosthetic body. She has a 100% cybernetic body, a state of being that is extremely rare in the GIS world. Ignoring for the time being that we are dealing with a fictional character, what is the nationality or ethnicity of a manufactured body? In a world where consciousness can be transferred from body to body how much of an individual’s personal identity is connected to their physical appearance? Perhaps physical identity becomes a completely separate aspect from overall being once people can simply change a body whenever they need or want to.

Nationality is the easier of the concepts to define and attach to an individual. At its core nationality is just a matter of belonging to a particular nation. No conscious effort has to be taken and so inanimate objects can have a set nationality as well as animals let alone people. If you consider prosthetic bodies purely as manufactured trade goods, then there is no philosophical conflict. Nations routinely produce trade goods and many of those are restricted products due to various intellectual property concerns. Wandering into the realm of intellectual properties (IPs) things begin to get complex. Even in our current state there is a lot of discussion regard the nature of IPs. Copyright laws are already Gordian Knots attempting to spell out who owns what in regards to IPs. Now imagine adding the extra layer of having those IPs be the residence of a separate intellect. Let’s say that a Japanese citizen is in a horrendous accident and has to have their consciousness transferred into a prosthetic body. Most people would agree that this individual is still Japanese, that’s not the real issue. Let’s say that a Japanese citizen is in a horrendous accident in France and has to have a consciousness transfer. The doctors perform the transfer with the prosthesis they have on hand and once the Japanese citizen is healthy they attempt to return to Japan. Here we have a problem. The prosthesis that the French doctors provided to the Japanese citizen are restricted trade goods. When our Japanese friend’s consciousness was transferred to this body did it then become Japanese through presence? Since the body would be an integral part of this individuals continued life, common sense should dictate that the nationality would transfer from sentience to the current body. Corporate and international laws have very little in the way of common sense so situations like this would be a matter of real consideration in a world where individuals aren’t locked to any one body.

All things considered, nationality is a fairly simple concept to sort out. Nationality is at its core just a matter of lines on a map. Ethnicity is a completely different matter and here is where I think the more important questions surface. Ethnicity means belonging to a particular social group based on a shared cultural tradition. This is how a person could, for example, be a British national but ethnic Chinese. This matters because in this world of everyday cyborgs and impermanent physicality new ethnicities are being created. Obviously a person whose had cybernetic augmentation is going to have a different life experience from someone who has not. Even within a family the differences could be extreme. Imagine how differently your day to day life might be if you had a relatively simple cybernetic augmentation like one that would let you see in the dark. On the surface it seems like a pretty innocuous thing, but really think about how many lights you have to turn on during the course of a twenty-four hour period and how much you can’t do in the dark. So would someone who could see in the dark share the same cultural experiences as someone who couldn’t? What if they had a more advanced augmentation, maybe one that let them interface with computers directly? A pure flesh and blood human would not fair as well in an office environment working with people that didn’t need to use keyboards and monitors to get things done. This would lead to an even greater cultural rift and the list goes on. People like to think of ethnicity as a static ideal but it’s actual a fluid and relative concept. Ethnicity is all about differentiation, reds and blues, us and them.

In the GIS future the augmented humans are an ethnicity unto themselves and within that group there are even more divisions. Ghost in the Shell is all about attempting to define what is human. Is humanity a matter of appearance? Perhaps being human comes down to one’s actions instead. How about belief, is believing that you are human enough to make it so? When it comes to Hollywood’s new Ghost in the Shell movie, the question isn’t why is a Caucasian actress playing the role of Major Kusanagi. The real questions are, is Major Kusanagi Japanese? Is she human? That is where the spirit of Ghost in the Shell shines.

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Dagashi Kashi: A Study in Taste and Charm

Dagashi Kashi
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Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, Romance
Year: 2016
Most Notable Feature: Candy everywhere

Dagashi Kashi is a genuinely sweet-hearted anime. Normally I’m more into the mecha and supernatural anime, but every now and then I need a break from the space operas and gore. Dagashi Kashi falls into that realm of lighthearted anime that doesn’t trip into ridiculousness and yet manages a surprising depth without being too self-conscious.

On its surface Dagashi Kashi seems like one long commercial for the Japanese candy industry especially considering that “dagashi kashi” roughly translates as “cheap sweets shop” each episode has a specific candy/snack theme. The story starts out with the unexpected arrival of the sophisticated Hotaru Shidare at the small town Shikada Dagashi candy shop where she meets Kokonotsu Shikada the son, and aspiring manga artist, of owner Yo Shikada. It turns out that Hotaru is the daughter of one the country’s largest candy producing conglomerates and has come to town to scout Yo Shikada for her family’s business. Apparently he’s known to have legendary candy knowledge which makes him a very desirable hire. The only problem is that Yo refuses to leave his shop until Kokonotsu agrees to take it over the family business. Conflict. Kokonotsu wants to be a professional manga artist so Hotaru begins her quest to try and convince him to take over the shop by educating him on the finer points of Japanese candy. Obviously this leads to the aforementioned candy advertisements as Hotaru, Kokonotsu(coconuts), and his two best friends the siblings To and Saya Endou wind up in situations featuring candy/snack products.

Do not let the candy shilling put you off Dagashi Kashi. A lot of people didn’t particularly like this anime and I think that’s because they didn’t understand the subtlety of it. They probably took a look at the generously proportioned Hotaru and thought this was going to be something completely different. Jokes on them because there is an actual story here. Dagashi Kashi takes place during the summer and does follow a coming of age line complete with a love story. Unlike the nonsense that tends to wind up in your typical harem animes or the ones where you have basically predatory females stalking the male protagonist, this anime lets the love affair develop in a more natural manner. You see Hotaru is not the love interest for Kokonotsu. Hotaru acts as a catalyst opening the door to possibility for Saya as she starts to see her childhood friend as more than just a friend. This makes sense and it feels natural. To set Hotaru up as the love interest would mean forcing the story into a nonsensical mess.

Hotaru’s self-proclaimed purpose for coming to town is to make sure Yo Shikada agrees to work for her family’s company. Her entire demeanor shouts that she is all about candy. Somehow her look is at odds with all of that though. There is a simple answer for this; we are seeing Hotaru through Kokonotsu’s eyes. A mysterious girl drops into this small town as a representative of a large company. To small town Kokonotsu she is the most sophisticated individual he has ever encountered outside of the television and manga the two genre which color his perception of Hotaru. By all accounts Hotaru is the same age as Kokonotsu and his friends but she seems disproportionately mature. She is new and exotic, a peculiarity in the small world they have all grown up in and something for them to measure themselves against. Hotaru is the mysterious stranger who shows the small town folk their deepest hearts before riding off into the sunset.

Dagashi Kashi is a charmingly made slice of life anime. It is the type of feel good story you watch while remembering when you used to get summers off and that one girl you were always too much of a chicken to talk to. The candy shilling can be distracting but even that is done in a quality and amusing manner. Give Dagashi Kashi a chance, we need more anime like it.