Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Witcher Netflix series, an actual case of cultural appropriation?

"Cultural appropriation" is yet another one of those buzzwords that feminist social justice academics have come up with in order to blame white people, control western society, and gain power over people's behavior and thinking.

However, an actual genuine case could be made for the concept of "cultural appropriation": When a culture or society takes something from the culture of another country (like for example a work of art or fiction), and changes it somehow for political purposes and political activism, ie. propaganda, without respecting the source material nor where it comes from.

In general, so-called localization does not fit into this definition. In some cases localization might go too far, and even be in some ways disrespectful to the original source material and its culture, but seldom can it be considered "cultural appropriation" in the above sense, if it's not done for political propaganda purposes.

("Localization" means that the original work is translated to another language and modified in some way in order to be better understood, or fit better, into the culture of the target audience of the translation. For example the name of a food that's very local to the original country, and unknown in the target language, might be changed in a translation to a more well-known food instead, rather than use the original. Localization, especially of Japanese animation, sometimes going even to absolute extremes, removing all references to the original culture, was extremely common in the 80's and 90's, but has become less and less popular, acceptable or even needed, as public consciousness and knowledge has become more and more international.)

What Netflix is doing with their upcoming The Witcher series, however, could be considered a genuine case of cultural appropriation.

The Witcher is a book series by a Polish author, and one of the most popular modern works of literature in Poland. Netflix is creating a TV series out of it, and making "diverse" and "inclusive" casting decisions on it. One of the main characters will be cast as a black woman, and in general they are looking for "minorities" for the other roles.

Quite clearly they are doing this for political purposes, with no respect to the original work. In other words, they are culturally appropriating a Polish work of art, and changing it for their own political agenda, with complete disregard to the ideas of the original author or the Polish people.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Explaining biological sex to social justice warriors

It seems that there is no limit to the crazy ideas that the "progressive" social justice ideology won't go in order to impose their ideas onto society, to try to control the thoughts and behavior of people. Usually what originally started as a good genuinely progressive, in the good sense, idea is taken to the completely insane extreme over the years, until it becomes a complete travesty and mockery of itself.

One prominent example is that of acceptance and tolerance of gender dysphoria and transgenderism. Gender dysphoria is the psychological phenomenon where a person has a strong feeling that his or her gender does not match his or her biological sex. For example, a biological male may have the extremely strong feeling that he is not actually a man, mentally, but a woman. Sometimes these feelings are so strong that it causes these people distress, and makes it hard for them to cope with it, and to live a normal happy life. They just feel like they were born in the wrong body. Modern medical practice has advanced to the point where these people can have "corrective surgery" to change their outwards appearance to more closely match that of the opposite sex. (Whether this is a good or a bad thing is not the point of this post, so I'm not going there.)

Anyway, the original progressive idea is that these people should not be discriminated against, shunned, shamed, ostracized, abused, or in any other way treated differently from other people. They should be treated like human beings, not like freaks. Someone being different, not conforming to some norms, shouldn't be used as an excuse to abuse and discriminate against that person (especially if that person isn't hurting anybody.)

That's all well and good. We should indeed never abuse anybody because of such things. However, since the social justice ideology loves to take these types of principles and slowly take them to their absolute extreme, that's what has happened here.

You see, if you consider gender dysphoria some kind of psychological problem or defect, something abnormal, that's shameful and hurtful. It shouldn't be considered a disease or a defect! Their feelings could get hurt, and they may feel shame and become depressed! Therefore gender dysphoria should be considered completely normal. In fact, let's stop using that term "dysphoria", because it implies it's some kind of abnormal defect. Let's call it "gender fluidity". And, in fact, when we get down to it, most people are "gender fluid", they just don't know it. They have simply been inculcated by society to believe they are strictly one gender or the other. It's a social construct, nothing more! In fact, there is no definitive gender, or is anybody locked into one specific gender. Everybody is constantly changing. You are what you feel you are, and it can change by the minute, if you so feel. Most people's gender identity does not match their biological sex. Hell, when we get down to it, biological sex itself doesn't exist!

So yeah, we have reached for some years now that point where they are directly and unashamedly making the strong claim that biological sex does not exist. No ifs, buts or maybes, it just doesn't exist, period. How do they argue for this? Most actually don't. The few who do, present the most asinine of arguments, like for example arguing that not every person is biologically identical, therefore biological sex doesn't exist. And a few people even have a different amount of sex chromosomes than the majority. That's definitive proof that biological sex doesn't exist!

It's actually amazing that such a fundamental fact of biology as biological sex has to be explained to these ideologues. Let's try:

Every member of a sexually reproducing species, including humans, have exactly two parents. Every person has exactly two parents. Not one, not three, exactly two. This is true for every single human in existence, and that has ever existed. (There might exist your odd one-in-a-billion freak accident of nature, but such freak accidents don't invalidate this fact.)

In every single case, the two biological parents of this individual have had distinct and clear biological roles. One of those roles is what we call "female", and is the "mother" of the individual, and the other role is what we call "male", and is the "father". These two roles always exist in every single case, and are always the same. And these two roles cannot be interchanged between parents (barring your odd one-in-a-billion freak accident, which basically never happens in nature, at least for humans.) These two distinct roles provide both the genetic material that forms the offspring, as well as the mechanism by which the offspring is able to grow and be born (mostly due to the biology of the mother.)

These two biological roles are very clear and distinct, and there is no other possible combination, and there is no changing these roles for one single individual. (Medicine might one day advance to the point where it might become artificially possible, but in nature it doesn't happen for most sexually reproducing species, including humans. A few exceptional species do exist, but this doesn't apply to humans.)

So, not only does biological sex exist, moreover there are exactly two such sexes. There is no third option. An individual may be born with a birth defect (let's not beat around the bush, and call what it is) where their biology is abnormal, and they may or may not be capable of acting in the role of a parent. However, these individual defects still do not change the fact that every single person has exactly two parents, who act in two different roles in the process. It's still not possible for a person to have only one parent, or three parents, or two parents of the same role. There have to always be exactly two parents, one male, one female. Just because a few individuals may have been born with a birth defect that muddles this role for their part, or makes them incapable of acting as a biological parent, doesn't change that fact. The offspring still needs a biological male and female as parents to be possible.

Most typically, by far in the vast majority of cases, biological males tend to have certain other characteristics that make them different from biological females, both physically and psychologically. These physical characteristics are primarily caused by hormonal differences between the two sexes. Some or most psychological characteristics are also caused by these hormonal differences. Males tend to be taller, stronger, have a larger lung capacity, be more aggressive and more prone to taking risks, more stoic, have less empathy and more interest in technical things, and so on and so forth.

There can be a lot more variation in these secondary characteristics, but that's mostly besides the point when it comes to the discussion of what biological sex is, and whether it exists or not. The biological roles of the two sexes still remain the same.

Careful when purchasing hardware from China

In big part because the vast majority of electronics corporations in the west produce all their products in China, that country has become an electronics giant, not only manufacturing the vast majority of electronics products in the world, but also producing and selling their own (often, although not always, using technology copied from these western corporations.)

There are many completely legit corporations in China, which produce good and oftentimes quite high-quality legit products and innovations of their own, with no shady business nor strings attached (well, no more than any other such corporation in the world), including things like cellphones, graphics cards and all other sorts of computer hardware. Their prices and the quality of their products tend to be quite competitive.

I myself have a KFA2 GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card, which is manufactured by a company based in Hong Kong (Galaxy Microsystems Ltd), which has been manufacturing such cards for something like a decade, and it's a completely legit and quite affordable product, with good reviews.

However, China is also infamous for the sheer amount of scammers, masquerading as legit corporations, selling faked or otherwise illegitimate products. Apparently law enforcement in that country is quite lax on this front (and rumors are that in fact the Chinese government itself may be involved in many such shady businesses.)

I have advised earlier against purchasing graphics cards and USB sticks from eBay, especially if the price seems too good to be true. These Chinese fraudulent companies love to sell on eBay because it's such an easy, affordable and wide-reaching platform to sell fake products. (eBay has a consumer protection policy and mechanism in place, but the thing about these fake products is that they sometimes fool the buyer successfully enough that they don't realize having been scammed before it's too late.)

Of course eBay is not the only place where they sell their products. There are myriads of online services out there that act as kind of intermediaries between consumers and a big bunch of sellers, and their standards of quality may vary a lot. Sometimes the scammers will even sell directly, rather than through such services.

Cellphones are one product that I have not mentioned before, and which you should also be careful about. If some obscure-brand Android smartphone seems too cheap, it might be worth considering whether it's genuine or some type of scam. Doing a bit of online research is always warranted. Although that might not always help, if the product is so new that nobody has had time to test and review it.

Sometimes such smartphones may be relatively "legit" in that they work mostly as advertised, and may even serve all the functions a smartphone should. However, there have been cases where such a no-brand Android phone has turned out to be a scam in another way: It may come pre-installed with all kinds of malware, adware, backdoors and so on, and/or it may start surreptitiously downloading and installing such software. The scammers may use this for all kinds of illegitimate purposes, such as stealing your information, using your bandwidth at your cost, or using your phone for other shady activities. There have been documented cases.

It may sometimes be tempting to purchase a cheap product. However, you have to consider that you may be scammed (you don't get what you thought you were promised) or taken advantage of (such as getting bundled malware). Always do a bit of research, and be wary of products that seem to be from unknown or no-name companies, especially if the product is being sold online via services with unknown or questionable reputation. (If the product is being sold on reputable stores, there's a good chance it's legit.) Always search for online reviews (and more than one; never settle for the first one you find.)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The worst possible game to get spoilers: Undertale

(This blog post contains zero spoilers of the game Undertale, so even if you are one of the extremely few people who haven't yet played the game but plan to, and don't want spoilers, it's safe to read this.)

I'm one of the small minority of people who absolutely and categorically hate, detest, abhor and despise spoilers of any kind, of any work of fiction I'm planning on seeing, reading or playing. The more I anticipate such a work, the less spoilers I want to see. No trailers, no promotional material, no reviews, no synopses. Nothing. (At most I might want to read 100% spoiler-free reviews, but that's it. Even those are quite hard to find given that the standard form of reviewing a work of art is to say something about what it contains.) I'm only ok with minor content spoilers with works of fiction I'm indifferent about (but which might pick my interest if reviews are positive.)

I'm, in a manner of speaking, the exact opposite of the other extreme, which is the people who will watch every single trailer, read every single review, and with video games sometimes even go so far as to actually look for extensive game footage (such as let's play videos), before deciding on a purchase. These completely strange people seem to want to spoil themselves as much as possible about the content of the work of fiction before getting it. I have sometimes heard the argument "I want to know if I will like it before I buy it" which, if you think enough about it, becomes more and more asinine the more you think about it.

Thanks to this attitude of mine, I got to play the video game Undertale pretty much 99.99% unspoiled. I had seen like a couple of screenshots in the Steam page, and that's it. (These screenshot were so non-spoiling that one might just as well say I was 100% unspoiled about the game.)

And man I'm glad I did! If there has ever been a video game that suffers greatly from spoilers, it's this one. This is a game that you just have to play with no advance knowledge of any sort. This especially so if you have played old-school JRPG games in the past. If you have, then you are the absolutely perfect target audience for this game.

And the thing is, for some reason this is the sort of game that just makes people want to spoil it. Not as in making them mean and wanting to ruin the fun for other people, but most people who have played the game simply cannot let others discover it on their own and play it naturally. They feel the irresistible urge to tell others how they should play it. And that's exactly what people should not do with this game, because it just ruins it. (It might not completely destroy all the fun, but it significantly diminishes what the game is supposed to be like.)

And, of course, there are also those who just want or like to spoil the content, and the surprises, and everything, either out of eagerness and enthusiasm, or because they are jerkasses.

The saddest example I have seen was a YouTube content creator and let's-player who wanted to make a let's play series about this game. She ended the series after just two videos, at the beginning parts of the game, because of all the spoilers in the comment section, and people fighting over how she should play the game, and why she's doing it "wrong" (even though there is no such thing). Her own audience destroyed the experience via spoilers, both well-meant, and mean-spirited, and she just stopped playing after just a couple of hours or so. (Or, at the very least, she stopped making the videos about it.)

Nintendo's asinine paid online service for the Switch

I have commented in an earlier post how console manufacturers have become greedier and greedier with their online services.

During the 7th generation of consoles (Xbox 360, PS3) it was only Microsoft who was greedy: On the Xbox 360, playing online multiplayer games, as well as the vast majority of apps that connect to the internet were locked behind a subscription paywall. (This included all third-party online service apps, such as Netflix and YouTube, and even the system's own web browser, which was completely asinine, given that the browser did not need anything from any Microsoft server.) Meanwhile the PS3 had no paid online subscription of any kind: All online services, online multiplayer games, video rentals and streaming, web browsers and so on and so forth... everything was usable at no extra cost.

With the 8th generation of consoles (Xbox One, PS4) things changed. Microsoft loosened the restrictions slightly and actually started to offer some online services at no extra cost, sometimes even at their own expense (such as offering a cloud backup service for game save data), while Sony went the greedy route and copied Microsoft in putting online gaming behind a subscription paywall. (They did not go all the way to the deep end like Microsoft did with the Xbox 360, though, in that third-party applications, such as Netflix and YouTube, or the system's web browser, do not require Sony's online subscription to work. Only online gaming does.)

As an incentive for the paid PlayStation online subscription, you do get 3 or 4 complimentary games every month (which are usable as long as you have a subscription). Most usually there is an actual triple-A title among them, sometimes two. Some of these games are actually ones that I don't mind playing.

Anyway, with the current generation of consoles, Nintendo has decided to join the bandwagon, and is now putting online gaming behind a paywall for their Switch console. And they are advertising this "feature" as if it were the greatest thing ever.

Which makes little sense given that up until this point (the Switch has been out for about a year and a half) online gaming has been free of charge. What I mean with this is that what makes little sense is the advertising: It makes it sound like online play is a new feature introduced with this scheme. It conveniently leaves out the part where so far you could actually play online games, at no extra cost. That's stopping now. This is borderline misleading advertising. And quite directly a slap in their customers' collective faces.

The paid service offers some other things as well. One of them is automatic backupping of your game save data into an online cloud system.

The Xbox One offers this service at no extra cost. In the PS4 this service is behind the online subscription paywall. However, the PS4 does support backing up your save files to an external USB storage device, so there's at least that. The Nintendo Switch has so far not offered any kind of backup system for your save files.

Therefore the Switch is the only current-gen console where you cannot backup your save files in any way without paying a subscription. And what's worse, while the PS4 keeps your backups in the cloud for up to 6 months after your subscription ends, if you don't renew, apparently Nintendo intends to remove your data immediately in that situation (according to their own FAQ.)

It only makes things worse that the Nintendo Switch isn't really a console that would offer many online services. Unlike the other two desktop consoles, there is no web browser, nor are there any online streaming services, free or paid (such as YouTube, Twitch, Netflix, and so on.)

Hey, but like with the PS4, you do get complimentary games with your online subscription, yay! Except that these aren't current games, indie, triple-A or otherwise. These are NES games running on an emulator. Yeah, NES games.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Masquerading as the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller?

I saw an ad for what looked like the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, for the surprisingly cheap price of 39€ (which is significantly cheaper than its usual price of about 70€.)

The name of the product on the online shop was "Wireless Pro Controller for Nintendo Switch", and the controller itself looked like this:

Cool, that's a quite cheap price for the Pro Controller...

Except... wait... Is that actually what the Pro controller looks like? Feels like there's something odd about it. Let's check what the actual official Nintendo Switch Pro controller looks like:

When comparing the two, quite clear differences immediately pop out. Most prominently the "home" button at the top of that first controller is completely different from the one in the official controller. There also seems to be one button missing, and the "plus" and "minus" buttons are shaped and positioned completely differently. The ABXY buttons have a different material to them. And actually the shape of the controller is different (looking a lot more like an Xbox One controller.) And, of course, there is no "Nintendo Switch" logo.

That is not, in fact, the actual official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller by Nintendo. It's a third-party controller, completely unrelated to Nintendo. However, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for the real thing, if you didn't do the direct comparison. And especially since the thing is named quite confusingly "Wireless Pro Controller for Nintendo Switch".

The controller itself is most probably not any sort of scam or fraud. It probably works just fine, and seemingly even has gyros and rumble motors, like the real thing. It does not have an Amiibo scanner, though.

So on that front I wouldn't consider it a scam. However, I would consider it at least a borderline scam that it's named so confusingly, very potentially making people think it's the actual Pro Controller by Nintendo.

It makes me even more suspicious that online shops selling this product seldom specify which company manufactured it. There doesn't even exist an official manufacturer's web page for this controller. It appears to be sold directly via online shops, without any sort of official webpage from the manufacturer. Some online shops don't even have a company name for it. In the ones that do, it actually varies from shop to shop (I have found names like "Insten", "EEEKit" and "eastvita", all different names, yet clearly the exact same controller).

Reviews (both on those online shops as well as elsewhere) don't indicate it being a scam, but I still can't help but get suspicious when a product has no clear manufacturer name, no official website, and a deliberately confusing name.

I wonder how many people have purchased it believing it to be the actual Pro Controller by Nintendo, only to find out that it doesn't scan their Amiibos.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The real reason for blackwashing established fictional characters

It has become more and more common nowadays for producers of works of fiction to take an existing work (usually not by originally made by them) and make a new version of it, usually some kind of remake, or a medium adaptation (such as making a film version of a book, or a theater play from a movie), and engaging in "blackwashing". This is the act of replacing a character who was white in the original work with a character who is usually black, sometimes something else.

The more well-established, famous and beloved that character was in the old works, the more public outrage the change will usually cause (with only few exceptions), especially when the change is done clearly for sociopolitical reasons, and to virtue-signal. The resulting drama usually follows the same pattern: The change is made, clearly for political reasons, the long-time fans of the original work will complain, and the new authors, social justice warriors as well as the same bunch of leftist media pundits will accuse them of racism, and ignore the legitimate reasons for the complaints. (They also completely ignore the fact that the same fans would complain if the change were made in the reverse, ie. if a well-established beloved black character were to be changed to white in a new installment, especially if the change were made for some kind of real-life political reasons.)

But why is this becoming more and more common? Why are they doing it?

They talk about "representation" and "inclusion". Black people, they say, aren't "represented" enough in media, and we need more of them, for some reason.

However, that's not the actual core reason why they are doing it. They may claim it is, and they might even superficially believe that's the reason, but at its core its not the actual real reason.

The actual reason why they do it is because they want to take away things from white people and anything perceived as "white culture". They may well fully believe in their "representation" thing, but ultimately what they want is to remove "representation" in works of fiction from white people. They want to take something that they think white people have, and take it away from them. In a sense, they equate "representation" in media as some kind of societal power, and they want to remove it from white people, by replacing famous white personalities and characters with somebody non-white.

That's the reason why you never, ever, ever see these same people demanding that works of fiction that have little to no white people in them (eg. many TV series and movies made in East Asia and Africa, for instance) ought to have more "representation" and "inclusivity" on that front. They only want to take this "power" that "representation" has (at least in their view) away from white people, they never want to give it to them.

If they truly believed that media should be "inclusive" and all people should be equally "represented", they would go both ways. But they don't.

Edit: After re-reading the above, I notice that it might give the false impression that I'm trying to say something like "they are trying to steal something from us, white people; they are trying to destroy our white culture", as if I were some kind of white supremacist or something.

This is not my intent at all. I did not write this blog post in that sense. I'm referring to how social justice ideologues perceive the situation. It's from their perspective and point of view. They are the ones who divide people into monolithic groups, and perceive "white people" as some kind of such monolithic group (socially, culturally, politically and, in some cases, even genetically), clearly distinct from other groups. They also perceive this "white people" group as the enemy. They are the ones who, at some level, have the mentality that "white people" are the despicable group from which all privileges and power, in any form, must be removed, even if it's just by taking away their "representation" in works of fiction.

(And on that same note: The main problem is not really that a "white character" is replaced with a "black character". The problem is why that's done, not really the mere act of doing it. It's the motivation behind it, the mentality, that's the main issue.)