Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Alternative Interpretations

People have different interpretations for things. That people interpret things differently than I do makes perfect sense; after-all people have different perspectives and information than I do. Sometimes I can see as to why other people interpret things the way they do, other times it makes no sense to me at all.

Something's are very easy to interpret differently for example:

What is your opinion about Akane's knowledge of Ryoga liking her.
1. Akane truly is clueless about Ryoga liking her.
2. She is aware that he likes her but is deliberately ignoring the fact that he likes her.
3. Some other reason.

-My opinion is that Akane is fully aware that Ryoga likes her but she does not like him (in that way) so acts like she is clueless about his liking her (that and she is a bit scared of him because of his lack of control when he tried to give her a hug).

What is your opinion on male form Ranma and Ryoga's physical strength?
1. Ryoga is physically stronger.
2. Male form Ranma is physically stronger.
3. Their physical strength is close enough to being the same that the difference is so minor as to not matter.
4. It is more complex since there exists more than one type of physical strength and Ryoga maybe stronger in one type and Ranma stronger in another (absolute strength, dynamic strength, elastic strength, explosive strength, one-repetition maximum, relative strength, specific strength, starting strength, strength deficit, strength endurance, static strength, etc.)

-I'm going with their physical strength is close enough to each others so as to not matter. It does not really bother me when people have Ryoga be stronger than male Ranma, even massively stronger, in fan fiction but it does bother me on forums, wiki's and character descriptions on websites. The reason it bothers me is because the source material is rather inconclusive as to which character is physically stronger (it is also did not really care about being all that consistent about strength and toughness though both characters are shown consistently to be physically stronger and tougher than real humans and the majority of humans in series judging by bystanders reactions and comments). Ryoga really does not have any physical feats of strength not duplicated or exceeded by Ranma (even in female form). The original set up in which Ryoga's strength is showcased also showed that Ranma was extremely strong as well (after-all female form Ranma also had no trouble lifting the umbrella, Akane, and jumping an inhuman distance carrying them). That Ryoga can not control his strength was never an indicator of him being stronger than Ranma in my opinion just a further example that Ryoga is not as skilled as Ranma (who generally can control his strength).

Now for some that make no sense to me:
I was chatting with someone last week who said that Ranma was a real bastard for picking on the weak by sneaking up on and breaking a balloon near Gosunkugi's head. They forgot entirely that Gosunkugi had been stalking Akane and secretly taking photos of the school girls (Akane only really but from Ranma's point of view he just sees a guy crouching next to a window with a camera secretly taking pictures of school girls). They then went on to say that all the stuff Gosunkugi did (stalking Ranma, trying to find out Ranma's weakness to use it against him, joining up with someone who annoyed him -Tatewaki, stalking his fiancee, etc.) was Ranma's fault for picking on Gosunkugi (when said picking on him was surprising him while he was secretly taking photos of girls). How the hell did they get that interpretation from the manga?

It annoys me when I see people claim Ranma is a bully. Ranma is not picking on them for no reason, he usually has a legitimate reason for his actions (not doing so to be mean), and the characters he does it to have done things at least as bad (and usually much worse) to Ranma. Personally I found pretty much (though not) everything Ranma did to others to be justifiable considering what the other characters were either doing (like Ryoga trying to date Akane and Akari at the same time) or because of the things that the characters did to him that were much worse.

The fanfic version of Ranma that is trusting, open, doesn't read, is sexist, doesn't use weapons, lets people push him around, is uncultured, is a braggart, doesn't apologize, and is not manipulative; is a very different interpretation for Ranma than I got reading the manga. My view is that Ranma is very manipulative, secretive, doesn't brag often, is not sexist, uses weapons often, is shown reading often, is probably the most cultured person in the manga, does apologize, and only lets people push him around when he has a reason to (the whole arc in which he got kicked out of the Tendo's house was because he would not let Happosai push him around).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Frédéric Chopin's Birthday Concert

I went to see a Frédéric Chopin's Birthday Concert, it is, or more accurately would have been, his 200th. I generally am not a concert goer; be it Rock, Country, or Classical. I will go to one if sufficiently bugged to but am unlikely to go to one without being persuaded to do so. This is mostly because I am not a very big fan of music in general (I do not download or purchase music; I don't have an mp3 player or a collection of music cds).

I can generally tell if the music being played is being played well (I'll notice things like wrong notes if I'm paying attention); I just am not interested in it the way that some people are. If I had been interested in the concert I would say it was very good. It was a free concert. I sat near the very front. I was given a free rose. I was in a place that is aesthetically pleasing (marble pillars, dozens of statues, stained glass windows, exquisitely carved wood work, paintings, live flowers, candelabras, etc.).

While I am not really interested in music concerts; I am glad that organizations like Opera Circle, Master Singers Inc, and City Music have some free concerts. I think culture and music should be available to anyone who is interested even if they can not afford it.

While sitting and listening to the music I started to think about how what I was experiencing would have been available to a very small class of people for most of history. Instruments are expensive, to become good at them takes years of practice (for most people), to go to a concert would have taken a lot of time (given the means of travel for most people for most of history), etc.

There are a lot of things that most people living in this time period in first world countries take for granted. Take salt, for example, it is so common that most people eat far too much of it (easy to do considering how much is put in foods), there were times in the past that it was so rare that it was used to pay soldiers and used as currency (blocks of salt called 'amole tchew' አሞሌ ጨው served as currency in Ethiopia in the 18th and 19th centuries). Sugar like salt is common place (again in damn near everything) but it too was rare in the past (in Victorian Europe poor people would purposely darken and damage their teeth to look like they had eaten a lot of sugar like the upper class did - was a time in which making art out of sugar was common amongst the upper classes). Hell food in general, there were many times throughout history in which food was difficult to obtain (if a person were to time travel from the past to our time in a first world country the thing I think would most amaze them is the amount and variety of food available).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ranma's manipulative nature

Manipulation is a form of social influence. Everyone does it to varying degrees and it, like any tool, can be used for good (such as persuading an unhealthily obese person to lose weight) or for ill (such as conning people out of their life savings). There are many different types, degrees, reasons, and ways to manipulate people.

I bring this up because I often see, in Ranma ½ fanfiction, Ranma not being very manipulative when the manga incarnation of Ranma is extremely manipulative. He is far more manipulative than any other character in the series (the anime version is less manipulative). As far as I can tell there is not even one volume in which Ranma does not at least try to manipulate someone in someway. In fanfiction, Nabiki tends to be portrayed as the most manipulative character; probably because she is (manga version) avaricious, opportunistic, unscrupulous, fairly hedonistic, and borderline sociopathic (she shows absolutely no remorse for her actions). A lot of the traits usually ascribed to Nabiki in fan fiction (such as spying on people to find out their secrets, being manipulative, setting up elaborate plans, knowing what is going on, etc.) apply a lot more to Ranma than Nabiki.

I do not view all of Ranma's machinations in a positive light. That said I do usually, though not always, see them as being justifiable. In fan fics I often see Ranma resort to violence too quickly and too frequently. That is not his standard modus operandi. Ranma will usually try to be diplomatic (talk things through) and when that fails (usually because the other person really has no inclination to talk things through) he tends to resort to things like manipulation and deception before proceeding to violence. Violence, in most situations, is his last, not first, resort.

In a related note; Ranma's interpersonal skills are often viewed as being a lot worse than they are shown to be in the manga. While there are some situations in which his social skills are inadequate (mostly in situations involving romance or the possibility of romance) they are for the most part very good. He can explain things (most people do not listen or hear only what they want to hear which is not his fault -example Ranma tried to explain to Akane about the pressure points on Miss Hinako with the use of a visual aid we are shown that Akane selectively edited the conversation), he tries to be diplomatic (for example with Ryoga, Ukyo, Akane, etc.) that the other people have no inclination to talk it out is not his fault (this is something he has actively complained about for example in one volume, volume 11 by Japanese/online scan count, he tells Akane "when have you ever let me explain things before hitting me" after she said why didn't you explain it). He has no trouble socializing with people at school (hangs out with two kids). One of his faults though is he doesn't know how to socialize with girls as well as guys (probably because he spent most of his life around guys not girls, he was shown to have gone to an all boys school). For the most part he talks to girls as if they were guys for example guys would slap each other on the shoulder which is what Ranma did to Akane at least once. A couple other things which may contribute to people viewing him as having poor social skills is that he is out of touch with popular culture which is a hindrance amongst teens (he is a martial arts nerd) and he sometimes speaks without thinking about the ramifications of his words (he gets in more trouble from telling his honest opinion than he does when he lies). The fact that he is capable of manipulating people implies he has better social skills than many people assume.

Before I get further side tracked, here is a list of some, not anywhere near all, of Ranma's machinations:

1. Being a matchmaker.
- tried to set up Cologne and Happosai, did setup Ryoga and Akari, was going to teach mirror clone how to properly pick up guys, etc.

2. Fake or create an injury to garner sympathy
- multiple times, for example the time he purposely hit himself with nunchucks to garner Akanes sympathy

3. Donning a disguise and pretending to be someone else
- all the time, pretended to be Ryoga's sister, maid, fiancee, etc.

4. Blackmail
- Few actual attempts for example tried to blackmail Nabiki with what he thought was a love letter. Has searched multiple peoples rooms looking for things to use against them (for example he searched Nabiki's room multiple times). Very much implied that he would blackmail people were he to find things to blackmail them with and had a reason to do so.

5. Emotional blackmail
- Fairly frequently for example with Picolet Chardin III told him, paraphrasing, if you love me you'd tell me the secret of the technique.

6. Threats/intimidation/coercion
- Few times for example threatened the Cherry Tree spirit with an axe.

7. Enjo kōsai
- Going on dates to get stuff such as his date with Tatewaki or Shampoo.

8. Bribes
- Rarely uses this since the majority of characters do not want anything he is willing to give. Example: To get Tatewaki's love (to win the competition) she gave him many objects such as a handmade scarf, love letter, bottled water, etc. or Happosai to get him to lower his guard.

9. Teasing/Seduction
- Teases people commonly. Was attempting to seduce Akane to get rid of the Dogi.

10. Drugs
- Tried to slip Tatewaki and Densuke drugs in their food, used chloroform on Happosai, got Happosai drunk, etc.

11. Elaborate plans, some involving many people and multiple steps
- In an attempt to get Happosai to change Taro's name he came up with an elaborate plan that involved writing a play, using suggestion incense, drugging Happosai, getting multiple people to work together, etc.

12. Guilt trip
- Made people feel guilty to get them to do stuff. For example, Akane when he pretended that he destroyed the instant man spring water.

13. Ventriloquism
- To mess with Ryoga, Akane, and once he went a step further than just the voice and used an unconscious Tatewaki like a literal puppet to force him to apologize to Kodachi.

14. Pretending to be beaten or apologizing then attack when guard has been lowered
- Pretended that Ryoga beat up an innocent normal high school girl to get him to lower his guard, pretended to bow and beg to Shampoo before attacking her, etc.

15. Scare tactics
- Used rubber snakes and other supposedly scary items on the school girls.

Okay I feel I have listed enough to make my point, Ranma is extremely manipulative. That is no where near a complete list and the labels/order for them is somewhat arbitrary. The thing is they are not one time things or isolated incidents this is common behavior for him. He is always manipulating people and playing head games. It is even a major part of his fighting style; he uses distraction (like look over there), underhanded tactics, fake incapacity, duplicity, trash talk, insults, etc. all the time. He exploits character flaws and weaknesses (to list them all would take a really long time) but basically if a person has a weakness (such as an addiction to women undergarments, anger at seeing breasts, an exploitable curse, etc.) he will use it against them (provided he has a reason to). He is shown to actively seek these types of things out (like searching Nabikis room). Because of how manipulative he is (and how much the characters around him are jerks) he is constantly suspicious of other peoples behavior and motives for example Happosai's friend Lucky and Nabiki (the open and trusting Ranma seen in some fan fiction is nothing like how he is in the manga).

Since this is a post on how manipulative Ranma is I will now say that not only is Ranma manipulative he is actually pretty good at messing with people. Ranma's machinations usually work on their intended target (he reaches his intended objective, though he is somewhat shortsighted on occasion and neglects to plan for what happens after he reached his objective). When they do fail or backfire (usually after he reached his intended objective) it is generally for one of these reasons:

1. His morals (or sense of honor) kick in. This results in him realizing how much of a jerk he is being, starts feeling sorry for his victim(s), and begins to feel guilty for his actions.
- This is actually why people like Nabiki are able to get one over him and what prevents him from being a monster. If this didn't happen things like Happosais death would have happened (when Happosai was weakened by Ranma, Ranma felt sorry for him and did not finish Happosai off or let the fathers do so). Basically he is too sensitive to other peoples feeling, if a girl, Ryoga, or even Happosai start crying or something he will feel sorry for them and try to help them (no matter how much trouble they had caused Ranma earlier).

2. Third party interference.
Things like Akane revealing that it is really him in disguise or Soun and Genma interrupting.

3. Opponents or allies taking unexpected and unforeseeable actions.
- This is a major problem for any plan. You can make plans based on the most logical thing a person would do or based on past actions but people do not always do the most logical things and can screw up your plan no matter how well made it is. For example Happosai deciding to kill baby Taro instead of taking the much easier and more logical route and giving him another name or his allies (Mousse, Ryoga, etc.) deciding to back-stab him.

This was actually one of the very first posts I had intended to write but I kept putting it off. While I do feel that this post serves its intended purpose of pointing out that Ranma is very manipulative it still doesn't really feel complete to me. I sort of feel like listing the justifications and context for Ranma's actions (as I had stated the majority of his manipulations are, imo, justifiable based on need or the actions of others and context is important because Ranma comes off as being a much worse person when the context for his actions are left out). I was thinking about explaining how being primarily opportunistic (Nabiki) is different from being manipulative (Ranma), though there is overlap (major difference being that one waits for a situation to come about and takes advantage of it, the other will do that but also will create a situation to take advantage of if one doesn't already exist).

Some thing else I felt like putting in the post but wasn't sure where to put it (that is why it is here at the bottom) is the fact that Ranma, and the majority of the cast, are teenagers. From a biological stand point. The prefrontal cortex doesn't finish developing until around the age of 25. Teenagers rely mostly on the amygdala which is the primary seat of emotion in the brain which leads teenagers to over-focus on the emotions of the immediate situation. The prefrontal cortex which is still developing in teenagers deals with initiation, planning, sustaining attention, organizing action, inhibiting reactions, shifting from one task to another, and regulating emotion. What that basically means is that I would expect fanfiction that has an older Ranma in them to have him be even better at manipulating and tricking people. At the time of the manga Ranma is impatient and somewhat shortsighted. That is something I would expect him to grow out of. While his plans generally work up to the point he thought them up he often failed to plan for what happens after he reached his immediate objective (or that it might be better to wait a little while before implementing his plan or think them through longer). While he is extremely good at improvising (for example in the battle with Herb he improvised a change of the Hiryu Shoten Ha based on it principals and correctly anticipated Herbs actions) it would still have been advantageous for him to have contingency plans already set in place.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

For Lent this year I have decided to give up meat for the third consecutive year in a row. The decision to give up meat yet again is influenced largely by the fact that my brother and one of my sisters have become vegetarians and my other sister is a vegan. That and I don't really have all that many other things to give up. I don't gamble, smoke, drink, take drugs, or do much of anything that people generally give up. I could give up something easier than meat such as snacks or fast food but seeing as to how I do not eat snacks very often (of the junk food variety) or eat fast food often (usually eat at home and when I do eat out it generally is not fast food) that is not really a sacrifice (there are also many other reasons as to why it is good to give up meat and in general I don't eat a lot of meat - no where near the average amount for people in my country).

Even if you are not a Christian or a religious person it is good to occasionally at least attempt to give up a vice or get rid of a bad habit (a lot of people make New Years resolutions which is similar), even if it is only for a short time (to prove to yourself, if no one else, that you can -though it is better to not start up a bad habit or vice once you have given it up). It need not be a vice or something you consider a bad habit though; giving up something that consumes a lot of your time for a little while can be beneficial as well. If you spend four hours a day watching television or surfing the internet giving that up for awhile may open up new interests or increase communication with friends and family as you try to fill the time.

Besides giving something up for Lent it is customary to pray more often. I do not consider myself to be a very religious person and do not spend very much time praying at all. You don't really have to believe in God to benefit from prayer. Prayer is in many ways similar to meditation and has many of the same tangible advantages (reduces stress, opens blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, etc.). So if you are religious try praying more during Lent (and try combining it with breathing exercises of meditation), if you are not religious try meditating occasionally. Oh and by prayer I do not mean asking God for things like to win the lottery; God is not a genie.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras and Animal Crossing City Folk

Mardi Gras is not a big event for me. The only thing I do to celebrate this day is eat a few Paczki. I have told myself that I want to go to a Mardi Gras event some time, just to experience it, but whenever Fat Tuesday comes around I never do. There are several events in the local area, none of which are free, there is even a jazz club, a pizza place, and a restaurant named Mardi Gras. Part of the reason I don't, besides cost, is because the events all are things I do not do. I don't drink alcohol, dance, listen to jazz music, and am not really very fond of Cajun food. While there are at least two places that has Mardi Gras events (New Orleans food, Jazz music, etc.) on a nearly weekly basis I haven't gone to them either.

What I did do was play Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Nintendo Wii. I got a Wii for Christmas the year before last and Animal Crossing last Christmas. I don't play the Wii very often, partly because my favorite game type is role playing (not a huge selection of RPG's on this system) and partly because I haven't been playing video games all that often in general lately. For those who may read this and not know, Animal Crossing is a life simulator set in a small town populated by weird talking animals with very strange wildlife and fossils (the fish, bugs, fossils of dinosaurs; live in completely different parts of the world in real life). I have not been playing the game regularly, instead I've been playing about once a week for an hour or two at a time. The game celebrates various holidays, including Carnival (yet another name for Fat Tuesday). To celebrate a peacock named Pavé shows up and wants various colored candy. To obtain the candy the townsfolk play various games like Rock Paper Scissors with candy as the prize if you win. The game would probably be more fun if I played in the day time but I tend to play it during the middle of the night (around 2:00 A.M.) after all the shops have closed. I've caught a lot of fish though.

I've played the Gamecube version and this version and am unsure which version I like more. It is basically the same game with a few differences. I would have liked them to have added even more stuff. I found it easier to obtain objects in the Gamecube version and the characters in the Gamecube version would ask you to do stuff more frequently (this version they keep asking for stuff I don't have and can't get like a green desk or something, in the other version they tended to make me run from character to character more frequently). This version does have the city, less sea bass, and somewhat better graphics though which is a plus. The thing that I liked the most about the Gamecube version as opposed the the Wii version was that you could play some old NES games in the game (they even gave you one when you first started playing), they appear to have gotten rid of this since you can now buy the games via the Wii's wifi connection (not really helpful since I don't see a point in paying for those games since I can get the originals cheaper used at some stores and am on dial up internet).

I don't generally read fan fiction based on video games but I did read a very good Animal Crossing fan fic called Lets Play: The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing. The fan fic is a different interpretation than what most people would think of playing the game. It is not a happy story at all, it is in fact very dark. I occasionally like reading dark, depressing, overly serious stories. I also have a tendency to notice the darkness in stories meant to be lighthearted or frivolous. In the actual game I've noticed somethings I consider dark. One thing is a gyroid runs the auction house; I've been contemplating, though haven't actually done, putting up gyroids for auction so that guy would be a slaver. Another thing is that the Happy Room Academy guy can enter the house anytime he wants and even says he has thousands of keys.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Year of the Tiger and Valentines Day

This year Valentines day and Chinese New Year happened to fall on the same day. Of the two holidays, Chinese New Year is the one I care about more. Valentines day is mostly a day for couples if you are single it doesn't have nearly as much importance (except for depressing a lot of people that are single).

I generally do something like go to a Chinese restaurant or event on Chinese New Year. This year is the year of the tiger, I contemplated getting some tiger lilies to celebrate it but didn't see any (the stores only had valentines type flowers like roses and tulips). While I mostly write about Japanese culture on this blog I have interest in other cultures such as Chinese as well. This year I went to the local Asian area and watched some performances.

The first performance, and the one that draws the largest crowd, was the lion dance. The lion dance is exactly what it sounds like: performers mimicking a lion's movements while in a lion costume. The lion did a dance, pretended to take a nap, licked itself clean, and then stopped at various stores (the place I went to was a Chinese mini-mall) to "chai ching" (picking the greens). The business had put up "Ang Pow" (red envelope) filled with money to a head of lettuce and oranges and hang it high above the front of their doors. The lion, followed by a much smaller lion with children inside it approached the oranges first, tasted them, then spit them out into the crowd. After it tried the oranges and found them distasteful it walked around near the crowd and ate red envelopes that the people in the crowd put in (the troop had a table set up before hand with empty envelopes for this purpose) and would occasionally spit up hard candies into the crowd which children would run around to get. After the lion finished its round of the crowd it noticed the that their was lettuce hanging from the ceiling. The lion then jumped onto some chairs so as to reach the lettuce, examined it curiously, made like it was going to eat the lettuce, changed its mind, then grabbed it quickly. Like the oranges it did not like the taste of lettuce and spit out the lettuce leaves but not the money. The lion dance is supposed to bring good luck and fortune to the people and businesses and the dancers receive the money as reward. I've seen this group of people do the lion dance many times now and it is always enjoyable (just a couple pieces of trivia: Japan does lion dances as well called Shishimai and some kung fu places practice doing lion dances).

After the lion dance, a different group (all children who are learning to dance) did various traditional Chinese dances. They were not as good as the group doing the lion dance (the lion dance group was professionals who get a lot more practice) but were still pretty good (though it was obvious that the place they generally practiced at was larger than the area they had to perform in). I would have liked to get the names of the dances but there was too much noise and I was unable to hear them. One of them was a fan dance, another was one in which they appeared to be picking rice, another was an umbrella dance, another one had the children dressed in military uniform with a lot of saluting, and one dance was clearly based on the tale of the Monkey King (there were a couple other dances as well).

Following the children dancing was a Taiko performance. Taiko means big drum in Japanese. The group performed several drumming pieces (if I remember correctly two of the pieces they played were called fireworks and thunder storm). Japanese drumming is pretty cool, you can feel the vibrations through your feet. The group performing it was Icho Daiko. They also offer classes on how to play the drums and a workshop in which you make your own drum. If I had the money for it I would do that because it is really cool. To match the rhythm in one of the pieces they were singing 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 in Japanese which does sound like a song.

Next was a group playing traditional Chinese musical instruments. They were pretty good and they had a child prodigy of 6 years old playing a Zither of some type (possibly a Guqin). I did not stay for this very long though because I had some other stuff to do. There were a few more performances such as a kung fu demonstration and another lion dance but I did not stay for them. I then looked at some of the booths set up, got a couple Chinese American newspapers (really not that interesting except a couple articles about orphans in India), my name written in Chinese calligraphy, and then went to an Asian bakery I frequent fairly often. I plan on going to another free performance in the area in May (they will have a dragon dance which I've never actually seen live) and a performance held at the main branch library (I've gone to this a few times before and it is pretty entertaining last time they had some Chinese Yo-yo performances as well as dances and food).