Living in Wales

Ever since I my time in America ended, I’ve felt firmly attached to American culture, which is why when I settled back into the UK, I never fully integrated with British culture. Living in Wales, it was always hard to integrate with Welsh culture, so I never really bothered trying. Ever since my school days, I didn’t want much of anything to do with Welsh culture because I saw it as something everyone else was a part of.

wales

I don’t resent living in Wales, but I never really got attached to Welsh culture. Then again, back when I was a kid, all I wanted to do was create. I didn’t want anything to do with nationality, the Welsh language, national pride, and all the other political crap that I had no idea even mattered to people back then. Today, it’s largely the same situation, except now I do know about all the political crap, but I get very sick of it.

One issue that has constantly pervaded my life in Wales in the Welsh language. The local government in Wales wants to bolster the language all they can, and in Wales, learning the local language in school has been compulsory since the time I was in school. However, due to varying circumstances revolving around my autism, I never learned Welsh. Of course, when I was a kid, that didn’t bother me one bit. However, I eventually heard of cases where people who didn’t know the Welsh language had less of a chance of being employed than people who were fluent in Welsh.

I have no idea if anything about that has changed since 2012, but I still didn’t like that at all. Ever since then, I became ever more cynical about living in Wales until, after one of several depressingly introspective moments I’ve encountered in my new course, I ultimately concluded that, even in childhood, I never intended to live in Wales permanently anyway.

In conclusion, living in Wales, for me, has been quite patience-trying, due both to my longing to come back to America, and because I never identified with Welsh culture at all. I don’t really have much resentment. After all, I can’t really resent a nation with a variety of outstanding castles and landscapes that could potentially inspire an artist like myself. However, in many ways, I feel so apart from Welsh culture that it’s almost as though I’m an outsider in my own home country. To put it simply, the sooner I get back to America, the better.

Modern music isn’t worth celebrating

brits 2015

Over the years, I’ve developed a kind of passion for music, but not for contemporary pop music. In fact, everywhere I go I find that we’re celebrating music that has no meaning or artistic value. Of course, I’m fully aware that we’re all of different tastes, but I feel that music as a whole has gotten increasingly homogenized over the past decade.

What do I mean exactly? Well, I’m sure you’ve noticed that a lot of pop music sounds almost exactly same today, but you might also have noticed that a lot of music put out on the radio this year sounds almost indifferent to what you might have heard last year. I think this has to do with the fact that the music industry now has more of an influence than the musicians themselves. It’s kind of like in the 40’s and 50’s, when entertainment was largely bland and inoffensive, except what we have today is offensively bland.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that today’s music is more about image than the actual music. Today’s pop artists convey a hypersexualized body image while wearing a bright pastel colour palette, today’s rock bands look too much like hipsters for comfort, today’s electronic acts look almost indiscernible from each other, and today’s rappers look like either thugs (if male) or prostitutes (if female). It’s because record companies care mainly about how they can advertise a musician, so if their image matches the most lucrative clichés, then they’re almost guaranteed success for at least a few years.

In the old days, there was actually some variety in the music industry. In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, artists were praised for being creative, and the music industry, though they were still churning out mindless pop, embraced diversity in music. Nowadays, the music industry seems like it consists entirely of producers, and they’ve taken the creativity out of it. It doesn’t help that talent shows like The X Factor are churning out talentless hacks, nor that mainstream radio stations, such BBC Radio 1, seem to forget about whatever tracks they played a few years ago, almost as though there’s no music other than that mainstream Top 40 garbage that plays all the time.

There’s a good reason why I prefer old music, because most newer music is simply homogenized noise that just get more boring year after year, and yet somehow, the musicians who make them not only get money for it, but also get awards for perpetuating the same noise again and again, all while the media continues to pass it off as a new kind of culture. Is that worth celebrating? I don’t think so. Call me old-fashioned, but I like music that actually means something to me, and none of today’s popular music does.

Why should we care about democracy?

voting

I’ve written quite a lot about why democracy is an overrated, shambolic system that slows thing down, but with an election coming up less than three months, I think it’s time to once again offer my two cents. Today we live in a world where British democracy has consistently proven itself to be a failure. The coalition government continues to make a mockery of modern Britain, and they still expect us to support their government, along with the whole system.

It has been said that young people aren’t interested in politics. If that’s so, then I can’t really blame them. Politics is far too much of an adult subject, and yet it’s painfully immature. In my opinion, why should young people care about something that only exists to control them? While we’re here, why do we continue to cling on to a system that has shown itself to fail?

In my opinion, democracy is a failure because it does nothing to facilitate true freedom. Every time an election, all we’re doing is replacing one slithery demagogue with another, thus restarting the cycle of corruption, lies, hypocrisy, ignorance and conformity. For me, the central problem with democracy is that it’s essentially putting the future of the nation in the hands of people who don’t know enough about politics to make an informed vote, and can easily be influenced by mass media corporations with an agenda.

If you ask me, democracy is an outmoded, easily corruptible system. All it does is delay the moment where we are finally able to govern ourselves as individuals. In fact, I think democracy serves as an enabler for mankind’s dependence on authority figures, and this dependence allows mankind to forgive horrible crimes against liberty time after time. In other words, by voting, we’re holding our own progress and potential back.

Why should we care about something that has demonstrated itself to only benefit the people on top? Why should we continue what are clearly the age-old clichés of power and domination carried out with the consent of the masses? We as human beings have the potential to turn the whole system on its head. We have the power to wrest true freedom from the hands of those that deny it, but those at the top don’t want us using that potential because they’re scared of what humans are really capable of.

It will take a good long while for us to achieve self-rule as individuals, but for now, we need to demonstrate that we are capable of thinking for ourselves, and stop letting the politicians decide what’s best for us. What I’m saying is that we’re not going to progress anywhere unless we stand up for ourselves now. If we don’t, then we’re letting our lives be controlled by those who wish to continue exploiting us.

Why so-called junk food isn’t the real problem

fast food
When will people stop slandering that poor defenceless burger over there?

With childhood obesity still a concern for people with nothing better to do, it’s only natural that the moral guardians pick on what they’ve deemed as “junk food” (which they only seem to call junk because it isn’t as healthy as an apple). People are so quick to blame fast food, soft drinks and sweets alone for childhood obesity, but I think that’s just because they’re easy scapegoats.

While I admit that it would be hopelessly myopic to blame all childhood obesity on parents, I hold the belief that many parents don’t seem to like confronting the issue of childhood obesity, because when they do, it’s one of those situations that forces them to take a look at their ability as parents. Many parents don’t like to believe that they’ve failed as parents, and a lot of parents try their best. But not all parents have fine motives, and it’s the bad parents who either:

  • Allow their kids to be morbidly obese.
  • When confronted with childhood obesity, shift the responsibility of raising a healthy child onto fast food and advertising corporations, as if they’re the ones doing all the work.

When people talk about so-called junk food, it’s almost always in a negative context, and nearly all discussion seems to focus on how it’s bad for you. I’m aware of the possible health risks, and I still eat it, and I’m perfectly fine. Have any of the moral guardians who complain about unhealthy foods even tried to eat in moderation? In my opinion, if you got a heart attack from eating to many cheeseburgers it’s your own fault. The same goes if your kids gain a little too weight – it’s their own fault for eating too much junk food, not the parents or stores that supply them.

What I really hate is when people blame fast food restaurants for their own health problems. Are people so afraid of taking responsibility for their own choices that they’ll resort to cheap scapegoating? Is that really the mature way to handle your problems? I say absolutely not. I think some parents just get upset about this because they tend to rely on fast food restaurants like McDonalds to feed their kids so that they don’t have to cook. That’s not why fast food restaurants exist. They exist to satisfy their customers with (hopefully) good food at a usually affordable price with instant service. If every restaurant existed to feed an ever-growing population of children so the parents don’t have to cook, then the food would be dirt cheap, and nobody other than the people who work at the restaurants would know how to cook.

fast food
On the plus side, the fast food and catering industries would be booming.

My point is that if we continue blaming our health problems on fast food, then we’re only continuing to prove to ourselves that we can’t eat responsibly. When will people learn to take responsibility for their health. If they did, we wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place.

Before I finish, I should clear something up. Eating responsibly doesn’t mean staying away from “junk food” altogether. If you like it, you can still have it, but don’t have too much of it. Eating responsibly simply means having a balanced diet, which can include occasional fast food. The way I see it, fast food alone doesn’t kill people. We’re slowly killing ourselves by having too much of it.

As for childhood obesity, I think the real solution is to teach children to eat responsibly. I know that children normally have higher rates of metabolism, but it makes no difference if they consume more calories than they work off. If we teach kids to eat “junk food” in moderation rather than trying to deprive them of it entirely (which is ultimately a self-defeating effort because they’ll always find a way to get it), I think we’ll produce a healthier generation of children, and hopefully turn the tide of the obesity problem without sacrificing the food we love.

What Nintendo should do next

nintendo

With the release of the New Nintendo 3DS model, Nintendo seems to be ever more interested in taking a big chance, and by taking a big chance, I mean doing something completely pointless that didn’t need to be done in the first place. I already outlined a few problems with the N3DS, but in this article, I intend to outline a few other problems with Nintendo itself.

Nintendo may still be a gaming giant in its own right, but it’s not as culturally relevant as it used to be, what with Sony and Microsoft firmly in competition with Nintendo, and with better quality consoles. I’ll fully admit that the Wii U has done far better recently, to the point that it has become more of a respective console than its predecessor could hope to achieve, but I feel there’s still some room for Nintendo to improve.

First, I think Nintendo is a company that’s stuck in the 1990’s. While family-friendly entertainment makes Nintendo stand out in an industry now dominated by gritty, realistic violence, but I think Nintendo has relied too heavily on a family-friendly image. I know that from a business point of view, parents being able to trust your brand is a good thing, but Nintendo has been doing that way too much this past decade, and is still too scared to appeal to an older crowd as competently as its competitors can.

Nintendo is also still under the illusion that their biggest franchises of the 80’s and 90’s can survive just on nostalgia value. Mario, Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda definitely survive on this, but at least they have vast libraries of games to back it up, and at least they all have good reasons to keep going. Their other franchises, however, haven’t received any real support from Nintendo since the 2000’s. Metroid has been stalling since the notorious failure known as Metroid: Other M came out in 2010, Star Fox has yet to have a new game in its franchise after an eight-year hiatus, and F-Zero hasn’t had any game in the franchise since 2004. If all these old franchises are somehow important to Nintendo, then they should be making games for them, rather than relying solely on established cash-grabbing franchises like Mario.

I think it’s a good thing that Nintendo isn’t forgetting its roots, but there’s one thing that I think might be sceptical about – the Amiibo figures. To me, this is an obvious attempt to break into the Skylanders toy market, which is based only around getting kids to beg their parents to shell out cash for pointless collectibles. Does anyone remember when Nintendo games didn’t need them? So far, we’ve only seem them be used in the Super Smash Bros. games, but it’s implied that they can be used in some other games. If Nintendo made the Amiibo figures in order to make the money necessary to support their classic video game franchises, then I think this might be a justified move, but it still comes across to me as a money-grubbing initiative. I think Nintendo should remember that it’s about the games, and not the peripherals.

wii fit plus
Such as the unequivocally pointless Wii Fit.

Next, I think should talk about the consoles. I already talked about the New Nintendo 3DS, and while I think it’s something of an improvement, I feel that it should have been its own standalone system. I might, however, have an idea for what Nintendo’s next handheld console should be. I noticed that the Wii U’s Game Pad looks like it could either be a tablet or a standalone handheld console. So I thought, why not make the next handheld console that way? It would be far less gimmicky than the New 3DS’ design, and given the trigger buttons and analog sticks, it would allow Nintendo’s handheld consoles to finally make the jump to handheld consoles that actually come close to the same quality as home consoles.

Finally, as for the next home console, I think Nintendo should try emulating the success of the SNES. No more gimmicks, and no more weird controller designs. What I think Nintendo should make for their next console is a straight-forward, high quality games console that will allow Nintendo to outgun its competitors and cement Nintendo as the reputable brand name it used to be, and Nintendo has hinted that they might be doing exactly that. Whatever Nintendo is doing for their next console, I think they should definitely ditch the Wii brand, given the association with less-successful consoles.

I still have plenty of faith in Nintendo, but there’s a lot of things that need to happen before they can stand mightily against its competitors. One thing I can say for sure is that we’re all getting very tired of the culture of “AAA games” that are essentially Hollywood films with occasional viewer interaction. At some point, people are going to trust Nintendo again, and it’s only a matter of time before Nintendo proves its worth in an increasingly shallow industry.

The twilight of the blue blur

sonic boom
He’s really trying, but he just can’t get it up.

Next year, it will be Sonic’s 25th anniversary, but what’s there to celebrate if there isn’t much of a future left? Of course, I’m saying this because of the abject failure of Sega’s Sonic Boom games (Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal respectively), which have been declared by fans and critics as two of the worst games in the history of the Sonic franchise.

Due to financial difficulties and a busy schedule, I haven’t been able to play either one, but all this negative press had come to my attention, so as a hardcore Sonic fan, I’m here to make sense of the situation, and offer my comment on the way Sega is handling the ageing franchise.

I remember when Sega announced the concept last year. Back then, nobody knew how it would turn out, but I was adamant that it would turn out well. If the gaming press is to be believed, then it looks as though my hopes were misplaced. Aside from the new character designs being hard to get used to, chief among the complaints for both games included lacklustre gameplay, a poorly written story, and bad dialogue, but the general consensus is that the Wii U version is far worse, with broken controls, camera issues, and numerous reported glitches. In other words, Sega fucked up…again.

In fact, I think this is sounds an awful lot like what happened to Sonic ’06; a game that was supposed to bring new life to the Sonic franchise, but instead cause it to teeter on the brink of oblivion. I worry that this is exactly what’s happening as a result of the Sonic Boom games, but this time it’s even worse, because this is the result of two disasters, and not just one. From what I can tell, these were games that Sega clearly rushed for the holiday season in order to coincide with their new TV show and line of kid’s toys. It’s almost the same flaw as Sonic ’06, except this time, Sega was clearly afraid of how they thought these games would be received by fans. In a way, they botched the games through their own lack of confidence.

In my opinion, a big problem with the franchise is that, after Sonic ’06, there have been too many poorly conceived new directions for game series. I can tell that this may have been the biggest gamble so far, and it failed miserably, all because it’s highly apparent that all the effort went into the marketing, the art design, and the TV show. After this, I think Sega is going to take fewer risks, with the new iOS title Sonic Runners looking like a by-the-numbers, retro-style Sonic platformer, just to make up for what is widely recognised as an abject failure. In a sense, these games may have crippled the franchise in a way that even Sonic ’06 couldn’t accomplish (at least that game made strong sales from the Sonic name).

sonic 06
If THAT game sounds better, than something is deeply wrong.

All in all, I’d say that Sonic’s lost it this time. There’s an old saying that I think perfectly fits the Sonic franchise. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. What I’m about to say violates every once of my childhood love of the Sonic franchise, but it must be said. Should we in the gaming community really trust a franchise that, if I’m very honest, will never get its mojo back and keep it? Sega already screwed it up twice, and unless it takes a third major screw-up for them to get the message, I think it’s very obvious that there’s very little hope left for the franchise.

I might still get the 3DS version, if mainly because I still have some faith in the franchise left. The Wii U version, on the other hand, might be a poor investment on my part. For many Sonic fans, however, I think the message is clear. The Sonic franchise is in its twilight years, and its hard to imagine one of the most enduring video game characters of all time calling it a career, but I think that’s exactly what should happen, because it’s clear that the longer Sega tries to keep Sonic alive and relevant, the further apart the newer incarnation of Sonic will be to its original audience.

After 24 years, I think the Sonic franchise has gone far enough. We’ll always remember the classic games, but the newer games will never eclipse them, and maybe it’s time for Sonic Team to stop trying.

Undettered by fear

Tomorrow, The Interview will be seeing nationwide theatrical release in the United Kingdom, after it was previously cancelled in all regions. Apparently, it found its way onto file-sharing websites, and widespread digital release meant that a wider audience could see a movie that, until recently, was effectively banned from screening. Eventually, Sony decided to screen the film in other countries, including the UK (though we won’t get it in the form of a digital release).

the interview
It may not get there fast, but it’ll get there in end.

Of course, let’s not forget the whole point. We’re talking about a film that we’re probably lucky even gets screened at all. In a time where we were so quick to kowtow to threats of intimidation, many theatre chains refused to show the film, and thus, Sony was pressured to cancel it. The fact that we now actually can see it being screened is proof that creative expression cannot be threatened by any form of intimidation from foreign powers.

I could debate the quality of the film, but due to schedule conflicts, I probably won’t see it yet. Besides, whether or not it’s of good or bad quality, all films should be granted the same rights, and by releasing the film here in the UK, I think Sony has essentially lived up to that, and have done their part in protecting creative expression in film.

I have a feeling that it won’t just stop there. Soon enough, we’ll probably see other artists facing intimidation by foreign terrorists (which has already happened twice in the past six months alone), and they’ll probably face up to the challenge of preserving their art, with an eagerly watching world behind them. Should that happen, I hope that future artists of any kind will continue preserving freedom of creative expression in a world that seemed to be ignoring it in an overlong waltz of post-9/11 paranoia.

Unless I actually go and see The Interview, this will be the last time I even mention it on this site.

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