Sunday, June 30, 2013

Between a Rock and a Racist Place

With the George Zimmerman murder trial kicking into high gear, discussion of racism and racist elements in American culture is at a high level.

Now, there are racist people, and there are people who aren't racist. Of course. This goes for people from all walks of life; liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans. You'll find racists and non-racists in each group.

The problem I have is as follows: certain racist people think that they can be as racist as they want, and when they get called out for being racist, they come back acting the victim, claiming their accuser is "playing the race card". This reminds me very much of bullies in high school. They will bully you relentlessly, and the moment you try to talk or fight back, they run to the teacher and say "topspin1617 is being a bully to me!"

I've been spending some time reading through comments and analysis of testimony from the Zimmerman case, and it greatly saddens me. There are clearly people who are extremely racist who have taken a great interest in seeing Zimmerman acquitted. To be clear, I'm not talking about every Zimmerman supporter; I realize that there are many people who think Zimmerman is just not guilty based on the evidence, regardless of the fact that Trayvon Martin was black. That's perfectly fine; I may not share the opinion that Zimmerman is innocent, but I respect the fact that others may have a different viewpoint from my own.

Read the comment section on any article about the case on, for example, Yahoo! (yes, yes, I know I call Yahoo! out a lot) and you'll see what I'm talking about. Here's a link to one such article, this one specifically about the testimony from Rachel Jeantel. Browse through the comments and you'll find no shortage of people calling her "ghetto" among other insults, not that whether or not she is "ghetto" has any relevance to the trial. This is bad enough, but what annoys me even more are the comments made against people who call out these racist remarks. Apparently, it's okay to make racist remarks, but calling out a person who makes such a remark is unacceptable. It means you're being racist against whites. It means you want Zimmerman convicted simply because Martin was black.

This is the mentality that is driving a wedge right down the center of American culture. To many of us, it is not okay to be racist. To many others, however, it is not okay to call out someone else for overtly being racist. This is a divide that seems to have no easy solution, as the two positions are in such combative opposition to each other that even bringing the topic up lights the proverbial powder keg.

It saddens me that this is what America is today. I look at the Zimmerman trial and see a man on trial for gunning down an unarmed teenager walking to his father's house from the store. I won't pretend to know exactly what happened that tragic night, but in my opinion the evidence supports that Zimmerman was guilty of provoking the confrontation that led to the end of Martin's life, making him guilty of at least manslaughter. This does not make me racist against whites (even though Zimmerman isn't even really white), nor does it make me biased in favor of blacks. You may disagree with me on the evidence of the case, and think that Trayvon was the one that started the fight; again, this does not make you racist. This trial is extremely racially charged, but people need to realize that it is possible to have an opinion on the case without being racially biased one way or the other. Once people realize this, I think it may finally be possible to have a civil conversation about the trial, and maybe other matters facing our country as well.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Super Smash Bros: The Waiting Game

So, I'm a big gamer.

I'll play a little bit of everything, but Nintendo is by far my favorite video game company. It seems that being a Nintendo fan has some sort of stigma attached to it in the video game community; I don't think I'll ever fully understand that. For me, Nintendo has, by far, the most iconic characters and series in all of gaming: Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Star Fox, Fire Emblem, Metroid, and more.

Sure, Nintendo doesn't own every iconic series ever made; there's Metal Gear, Call of Duty, Halo, and many more series that Nintendo does not own, and some of which have never even appeared on a Nintendo console. In my opinion, however, it is the unique and colorful characters that make Nintendo what it is. Sure, Nintendo is constantly trying new things, like introducing the thumb-controlled analog stick on the Nintendo 64, the motion controls of the Wii, and more recently the Wii U GamePad tablet controller. These innovations are always interesting, sometimes brilliant, and sometimes annoying. But it is the games themselves, the legendary series, that set Nintendo apart from its competitors.

This is the reason the Super Smash Bros. series is so insanely popular. What's better than a bunch of games featuring some of the best characters in gaming? Why, throwing all of those characters into one game, of course! Nowhere else can you find out if Mario can beat Link while dodging lightning jolts from Pikachu and lasers shot by Fox McCloud. The games are just fun, pure and simple.

Recently, Nintendo has announced the fourth iteration in the Super Smash Bros. series to be released on Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS in 2014. Obviously, speculation about features of the upcoming game is running rampant across internet, from the character roster to stages to music to the physics engine. Everyone has their own opinion on which characters they want in the game, and which characters they think are likely. Everyone including me.

Nintendo made a huge splash at E3 by announcing 9 returning characters (who were hardly a surprise) and three characters new to the series: Villager (from Animal Crossing), Wii Fit Trainer (it doesn't need to be said which game she's from), and Mega Man. All three of these characters were shocking in their own way. An Animal Crossing stage already appeared in Brawl without going along with a playable character, so many thought this meant Animal Crossing would never have a playable character. The developer of the series, Masahiro Sakurai, also once stated that Animal Crossing was a very peaceful game and its characters weren't suited to fighting. The inclusion of Wii Fit Trainer was absolutely insane (yet somehow perfect); it's fitting that her initials are an anagram of WTF. Finally, Mega Man, as with any third-party character, could hardly be expected. Brawl broke precedent by including two third-party characters (Sonic and Snake), but the standard for any non-Nintendo character getting into the series is still incredibly high. This is, after all, a Nintendo fighter. It must be said, however, that Mega Man's history with Nintendo makes him more deserving of a spot in the Smash Bros. series than any other third-party character (Sonic and Snake included).

Anyway, out of excitement waiting for the game (and some boredom on my part), I decided to make my own roster prediction. My roster contains 45 characters (not counting transformations); since Brawl had 35 (by the same standard), I think this is a reasonable number. Every character on my roster is either returning from a previous installment in the series, is already a confirmed newcomer, or else has (in my opinion) a very real shot of being playable in the upcoming game. My roster was made with part prediction, part logic, and, yes, part personal desire. Without further adieu, here it is:

(Note: The Z.S. Samus near the bottom left is supposed to represent Wii Fit Trainer; the program I used didn't have an icon for her and I was too lazy to make one.)

The red borders are supposed to represent that a character is unlockable rather than being a starting character, though that's not really the point.

I've cut 3 characters from Brawl: Toon Link, Ike, and Lucario. Toon Link, while fun, is hardly necessary, and was the easiest character to cut to make room for another (I mean come on... he's still Link). Lucario was replaced with Mewtwo, even though Lucario is actually my favorite character in Brawl. I felt that Mewtwo, together with some mechanic of transforming into Awakened Mewtwo, could satisfy those who were upset that he was cut from Melee and represent the newest generation of Pokemon at the same time. Finally, Ike was cut to make room for Chrom. Chrom is the main character of the newest (and very popular) entry in the Fire Emblem series. However, that is not to say that Chrom should be an Ike clone; in fact, I envision Shulk and his Monado taking over most of Ike's A-button moveset, while having new specials (admittedly, none of Ike's B-moves, other than maybe side-B, were very impressive anyway).

Other than the roster itself, my main desire is for Ganondorf to receive an entirely new moveset. Ganondorf has been a ripoff of Captain Falcon for way too long, and a character of his stature deserves better (not to mention that nothing in his current moveset represents anything he does in the entire Zelda series). I don't actually want him to use his sword; even though he uses it in some of his more recent appearances, I think Smash has enough sword users, and that Ganondorf is capable of a lot without a sword. He has projectiles, shockwave slams, and the ability to produce phantoms (Ocarina of Time) and ride a horse (Twilight Princess; hey, if Wario can pull a motorcycle out of nowhere, why not a horse? Though the ability to attack the horse like Wario's motorcycle may not be a good thing...). Ganondorf is the only character who I can't stand to be a semi-clone; Falco, Wolf, Luigi, etc. are understandable, though more separation wouldn't be a bad thing. Ganondorf, however, is intolerable.

What do you think of the roster? Like it? Hate it? Uncontrollably angry that I removed a few characters? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Red Line

Ever since this war in Syria has escalated, the right has been ridiculing President Obama for sitting back and doing nothing. They have called him weak for allowing Assad to slaughter his own people without stepping in and doing something. They said, how could the greatest nation in the world stand idly by and allow this atrocity to continue?

Obama said that the use of chemical weapons was a red line. It may have taken a while (maybe they wanted to confirm without a shadow of a doubt that it actually happened after the whole Iraq WMD debacle, maybe there were second thoughts, I don't know), but it seems that Obama is now prepared to offer some sort of support to the rebels. And what is the response to this decision?

"Biggest F'ing mistake by the Admin so far. I don't want American blood, sweat, or tears, spent on anything to do with either side in this civil war. Let the EU handle it if they must, but keep us the hell out of it."

"we need to take our own country back.
this is NOT what the American people want."

"Do they remotely care about the American people want?!! We need to stay out of this! This is a sectarian, civil war. There are atrocities on both sides. Neither side is our friend. If the Syrian people want this war to end, they simply have to stop shooting at each other. This isn't our concern!"

"The US decides to arm terrorists once again?"

"More of our boy's [sic] being sent to a place we don't belong to fight a fight that's not our own."

(Quotes taken from the comment section of this Yahoo! article.)

I'm pretty sure that these comments mostly come from the same side of the isle condemning Obama for ignoring Syria.

I understand that Obama has made mistakes, I am more than willing to admit that. No one is perfect. But how can someone possibly succeed when EVERY option is apparently wrong?