gambitch - now available in blue
Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

White rain, black winds...

Today I shall do battle with the auld enemy.

gambitch [ 9:17 AM]

Friday, July 25, 2003

Today, I dream of being Lord of the Wings.

gambitch [ 9:57 PM]

From the game I'm currently playing:

Acupuncturist: Don't worry, I'm very skilled.
Patient: Ai-ya... OWWW!
Acupuncturist: Sorry.

Building a tumulus in honour of the King's favourite concubine turned out to be a highly profitable task. Without having to restructure my economy, I ended up from initially facing a population exodus and a starting sum of 5,000 strings of gold, to another population boom and nearly 100,000 strings. And building another three units of warriors on chariots, which together with the initial two units of infantrymen were enough to see off the nomads again.

It didn't all start easy. Lack of supplies for another seven months led to a population exodus - I had to cushion that by importing some of the supplies at a pretty steep cost. Fortunately I ran a lucrative trade in carved jade statues, silk and bronzeware. I love my silkworms!

After that, it was all a matter of building up a large enough population to staff my industries, and then making good relations with other cities to get them to give me things like tigers, pandas, salamanders and pheasants so that I could maintain a neat little zoo for the King. Yes, the right word for that is really 'menagerie', but to me it seemed like a zoo, only it was within the walls of the Imperial Palace.

Once these things were done, all there was left to do was to build the tumulus. Which isn't too hard, really - just pick the spot and put down a signboard, and then get the labourers in to dig out some dirt, carve a nice coffin, complete the ceremonial burial, and then pile mountain upon mountain of dirt while the economy's ticking and the strings of gold stream in.

It speaks well for my economy that no single industry was getting more than four factories, and most operated on only two. Yet my inventory was almost always full and I didn't know where to lay down a couple of warehouses in addition to the ones I already had. Trees were cut very fast, copper ore was harvested efficiently from the mountains (a stone's throw away from the smelters), and the traders were forthcoming with generous supplies of clay and raw jade. All with relatively limited manpower housed within the four rigid walls that defined the city.

The draw of a computer game like this one lies in putting yourself in charge of building up whole cities, economies, even civilizations. It's not one of those 'knock-'em-down' games like lots of war-based games like Starcraft (which I never got around playing, sadly), but 'build-'em-up' games have their own appeal when you are left with the job of being the constructor and solving problems for the people. Maybe I should try my hand at real-world government.

Which brings me to think briefly about computer games and gender. Rather bluntly, would a game like this be attractive for girls? Instinctively, the answer isn't an outright no, because it seems most girls don't like games that have a heavy war element. The issue isn't about bloodshed (and it seems there's a fair number of girls who like games like House of the Dead or Silent Hill) - it's about organized warfare and the concept of armies. Arcade-ish sports games like EA's FIFA series don't seem attractive either - lots of girls aren't sports fans the same way boys are, and that's just the truth.

So games like the ones I've been playing for a while now come along, games that aim to build rather than destroy. The same general management principles still come into play, but will the change in contexts and terminologies help to make these games appeal more? I've played a few other construction-driven games in the past like Railroad Tycoon (I love hearing those locomotives as they whistle down the track) and SimCity. They don't really have a war context - unless you've got a problem with bloodless wars in the stock market. But I haven't heard of girls really taking to them.

That doesn't really explain The Sims, though, unless a game like that is really attractive because of its mundaneity. But that's material for another entry.

gambitch [ 3:29 AM]

Thursday, July 24, 2003

(This is another rare post that gets a title. In a show of reverence of Yanni, this one's entitled To The One Who Knows.)

From this moment on, you are
And will always be, my superstar
Even if you shine not for me
Your glow and light I shall always see
You gave me reason to dream my dreams
And believe all is not as dark as it seems
You gave me warmth and melted the ice
And taught me the meaning of self-sacrifice
But you were sad, and wanted away
And plunged me into my darkest day
But hear me on this - wherever you are
You will always be my superstar

(The above was inspired by this piece, which I came across while reading the web at random. This person's got a massive trove of poetry, even if some of it probably isn't original. Then again, who cares if it's this person's work or not?)

Word of the moment: superstar

The mention of the word 'superstar' brings to mind a number of images, and goes well with a number of words. One of them is 'light'; when I think of a superstar, I think of wonderful flashes of bright light that dazzle and amaze, that absolutely draw my breath away when I cast my eyes on the star. It is the kind of beauty that attracts and hits home in the kind of way that makes me not really know what to say, for words fail the moment. All I can do is just quietly let out a charmed sigh and smile.

Sometimes 'superstar' also brings to mind images of pop idols performing in concert, bathed in the rich multi-coloured lights and sometimes clad in a whole variety of fanciful costumes, sort of like Hong Kong's pop singers in their heyday in the '80s and early '90s. Fans thronging and screaming as their idol sang and danced on stage, sometimes stretching their hands out in a (some say frenzied) desire to touch the person of their dreams. Yes, sometimes the scene gets a little too irrational and very much too scary, but that's just a little extreme. Mostly the images that come to mind have to do with the idol himself/herself, standing on stage and being the object of adulation as he or she strutted the stuff.

And sometimes that is how I want to see myself. I want to shine like a superstar and show everyone what I can do, and hopefully wow people and take their breath away, because I believe I can. But of course I haven't always been doing my abilities enough justice, and I want to rise above what I appear to be now, so that you can look at me and say to yourself "yes, that's what he's really made of". I want to surge forward with a quick swing of the blade, and then pause before turning to see the body of the opponent I just left behind. I want to be up there, so you can see me and have someone to cheer for and something to shoot for.

But enough digression about me; sometimes it's also about being down there and cheering someone else on, on someone else being the superstar and you cheering that person on. Sometimes it's about giving your life and devoting it to your superstar. It's a devotion and a dedication that is beyond reason and logic - some things just are.

And that devotion and dedication stays whatever happens, even if the superstar changes or evolves. Giving your all through thick and thin, because of everything and in spite of everything, learning not just to accept but also to embrace the changes, but all this while never disowning or losing faith in what it was like before. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, n'est-ce pas?

Learning to love with everything you have, learning to give your all...

Thank you, sweet child, for being my superstar...

gambitch [ 1:26 PM]

I have a new Logitech optical mouse, complete with 3-year warranty! Happy days and jubilation!

With my new kryptonite-powered technology, I will now be able to build more farms, dispatch more orders, and with enough luck maybe even part the seas!

For the moment, though, I will settle for the first two bits.

It took me three attempts before I finally managed to save the ancient city of Yin! Those bloody barbarian nomads are so tough to beat, I needed to send not one, but three units of infantry to rescue the city - and this is supposed to be one of the earlier tasks! Fortunately I persevered, and I built an economy that could just support building such an army while growing lots of rice along the banks of the Yangtze.

For those who don't know, I'm playing a computer game.

In other news, United crushed Celtic 4-0 while both British teams were on tour in America. I love Celtic - I think they're the greatest team in Scotland (no, that title does not go to Rangers, who seem to suck up all sorts of underachievers from across Europe and then make them underachieve some more), and they're United's sister club of sorts - but ask me who I'd back when the two clubs meet, and ten times out of ten it'd be the boys in red, not green.

Ruud, Giggsy and Ole had a good match, from what I was told on the telly - one goal each in the first half as Sir Alex decided to do something radical and go for the Christmas Tree formation (4-3-2-1), moving away from the tried and tested United way of 4-4-2 (sometimes also referred to as 4-2-4 because Giggsy and Becks (and Andrei Kanchelskis before him) used to push so far up they were almost playing like outside forwards). New boy David Bellion also seemed sprightly and cool on his debut, netting the fourth goal in the second half.

A great day indeed.

gambitch [ 3:29 AM]

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

My optical mouse died on me! Now I have to spend more money and get a proper Logitech.

To think I just bought this mouse together with my new beloved laptop two or three months ago.

Moral of the story: "Just buy it" really means "just buy it again later".

gambitch [ 12:47 PM]

Monday, July 21, 2003

So Ronaldinho decided to ditch United's offer and fly off to Barcelona. And half the world who has been following the Ronaldinho transfer saga must have been shell-shocked and absolutely flabbergasted. And they probably have a right to be. They will go on and on about how United seemingly didn't follow the rules and spoke straight to Ronaldinho's agent - who happens to be his brother, and about how they were being fickle and stingy and never splurged all the way just to make sure they got the man they claimed they always wanted.

In a way, it was just as well. I saw the whole saga differently. If the former Paris St-Germain midfielder really wanted to come to Old Trafford, then why did he accept a cut-price offer from Barcelona at 21 million pounds when PSG was pushing United for 30 million? Why did he rave on and on about how he had dreamt of being the first Brazilian to don the red and black, and now turn around to say that Barcelona's rich history and its association with a long list of world-class players was what attracted him to the Catalan club?

So who's the fickle one now?

There were always going to be questions on whether he could really adjust at Old Trafford anyway. Sir Alex is a tough disciplinarian, and if he had a problem with Beckham's live-it-up lifestyle and couldn't stand the glamour and hype surrounding the London-born boy, what makes anyone think that Little Ron was going to be a much easier case? Ronaldinho's trademark grin reminds me of Dwight Yorke, and it's well-documented how Yorke ended up leaving the club after Sir Alex was fed up with him occupying the front pages more often than the back ones.

So it's just as well that Ronaldinho won't be the first Brazilian to play for United. That honour would perhaps better fit "the other Brazilian". Kleberson would be an astute purchase if indeed everything comes through well. He's got the resilience and the willingness to work hard, and he may in time turn out to be the long-term replacement for Keano. At 5 million pounds I would believe that will be a good investment, though Kleberson won't get that many games in his first season unless Keano picks up a nasty injury (touch wood!). Some have compared him to Dunga, who made his name as captain of the 1994 World Cup-winning Brazil team - arguably the most un-Brazilian of the team in terms of sheer style and flamboyance, but he made them tick. Who knows? Maybe Kleberson will rise to be the next Dunga.

In other news, Jon and Al are in the lead in TAR4. The clowns are really rising to the occasion now that the teams have moved into the Far East. With Reichen and Chip in close pursuit, and Millie and Chuck throwing away the lead from the previous leg and almost blowing it at the Roadblock, Jon and Al could start powering their way forward in the next few legs.

Kelly and Jon are falling fast behind, though, and much of it had to do with two bad moves. The first was sleeping too long while on transit in Singapore, and therefore not getting on the same early flight as Millie and Chuck did. The mistake was then compounded by the duo choosing the more physically demanding option at the Detour, trying to pull up a lobster trap when it would have been easier for them to just catch 15 fish. Kelly just isn't that strong, nor does she seem to know how to use what little body strength she has. As Jon put it while they eventually gave up and tried to catch the fish, "farting at fish isn't helping much".

Of course, it was fortunate for them that they didn't get eliminated, as this happens to be the first non-elimination leg. The next one will be, though, and knowing that they are quite a bit behind the other four teams (David and Jeff finished several minutes ahead of them) is going to add to the pressure. The good news for Kelly and Jon is that they still have their Fast Forward in hand. The bad news is so does nearly everyone else except Millie and Chuck.

I am increasingly fancying Jon and Al's chances of making the Final Three. Millie and Chuck look likeliest to drop next, with Kelly and Jon possibly being the final team to be squeezed off. Of course, that would leave an all-male Final Three, which is definitely going to make the women more than a little unhappy. But it has to be conceded that it is possible that the couples are going to spring a surprise on the all-male teams. Flo and Zach did it last season, when Flo was just being an absolute whiner and Zach had to pull her through the last few legs of the race with his sheer determination. Is Jon or Chuck as strong as Zach, physically as well as mentally?

And now that they are already in the Far East with five legs to go, where would they go? Another trip to Australia or New Zealand would be interesting, or maybe a trip to China or Japan. Or who knows, some island in the middle of the Pacific would be nice too. It would be quite a surprise if they decide to go to places like Peru or the Caribbean though, because while I had made quite a bit of noise about how TAR has never failed to go to Latin America before crossing the Atlantic, it somehow feels less exciting for the teams to fly back to the Andes or Jamaica and then zip back to, oh, Dallas or Detroit.

There is mention of the teams being stuck in some Malayan jungle for the coming leg though, so I'll look forward to that next week.

gambitch [ 2:31 AM]


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