Theory Of Nothing

or Just Theory

Who’s fantastic?

This year’s World Fantasy Convention has officially announced the winners of the Life Achievement Award – Diana Wynne Jones! But she won’t be attending the award presentation at this year’s convention held at Saratoga Springs, New York, due to health reasons.

(The other winner is Betty Ballantine and she’ll be attending the award presentation.)

(Link)

I love Diana Wynne Jones.

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Thursday, 23 August 2007 Posted by | Literature, News | Leave a comment

Dolls with a mission

Russian newspapers have been reporting on some dolls that have started appearing in Russian children toy stores. The reason for the flurry of panic? These aren’t just any dolls, but gender-confused dolls. They look like your typical girl dolls with their masses of long blond hair, arched eyebrows, fluttering eyes and rosebud mouths. But when fully undressed, each of these dolls have a perfectly sculpted plastic penis, complete with testicles.

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Some russians have been perturbed enough to demand that these gender-confused dolls be banned from being sold in Russia. They have even come up with a conspiracy theory claiming that these dolls may have been specically manufactured to be sold in Russia so as to confuse Russian children’s perception of fe/male orientation from an early age.

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Any surprise then that these gender-confused dolls with a gender-corrupting mission are made in China?

(Link)

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Wednesday, 22 August 2007 Posted by | News, Pop Culture | 5 Comments

Lego man & genie

A while ago, a gigantic 2.5-metre (8-foot), smiling Lego man was rescued from the sea in the Dutch resort of Zandvoort, Amsterdam.

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(Link)

This is almost my childhood dream come true. Giant Lego man out of the sea… almost as good as a genie in a lamp. I wonder if he does wishes too.

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Wednesday, 22 August 2007 Posted by | News, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

What about China, Harry Potter?

If the publishers of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are worried about translation networks where unofficial translations of Harry Potter are posted onto website networks and then onto peer-to-peer networks that derive profit by attracting advertisers, as they claimed, when they considered suing the 16-year-old ardent Harry Potter fan who translated the book into French on his own, what would they feel about the surge of peculiar Chinese imitations?

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Here are some of the titles of the various Harry Potter counterfeits that have been circulating in China for the last few years:

Harry Potter and the Leopard-Walk- Up-to-Dragon

Harry Potter and the Chinese Porcelain Doll

Harry Potter and the Waterproof Pearl

Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Relative Prince

Harry Potter and the Big Funnel

Harry Potter and Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

Harry Potter and the Chinese Overseas Students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Harry Potter and the Showdown

(Link with hilarious excerpts from the publishers’ summaries)

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Thursday, 16 August 2007 Posted by | Literature, News, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

Belated Pottering

Since Theory Of Nothing has been rather slack in updating lately due to a run in with Microsoft Word’s official stand on footnotes (Codename: Tolerance Level 134), today’s update of belated news shall ironically and aptly be about the need for belatedness, especially in the internet world of instant updates.

Eager to share the 7th and last book of the Harry Potter series with the rest of the Francophones, a 16-year-old French boy magically translated all 759 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows within days of its July 21 release and posted it online. The French teen translator was driven by the fact the official French translation would only be released on October 26 by the publishing house, Gallimard Jeunesse, since the official Harry Potter translator, Jean-Francois Menard, only received the official English version when it was released on July 21.

Author J.K. Rowling’s lawyers say networks of other illegal Potter translators span the world, seeking to profit from the boy wizard’s global appeal. However, the French teen translator, a high school student from Aix-en-Provence in southern France, likely had less sinister intentions. “He just wanted to get the book online” and did not appear to be seeking commercial gain, Aix Prosecutor Olivier Rothe said Wednesday. According to Rother, the boy had apparently compiled the entire translation himself.

Indeed, the French teen translator whose name has been withheld because he is a minor, comes across more as an ardent Harry Potter fan who just wanted to share the 7th and final book of the series with the rest of the Francophones before their fun was thwarted by English spoilers declaring the fate of Harry Potter everywhere. Other French teenagers echo his frustration with the long wait for the official translation. Ketty Do, a 17-year-old, flipping through the English version at a bookstore on the Champs-Elysees, delcared, “To wait three months to have a French version, that is too much!” Do called the teen translator “a courageous person” but added, laughing: “Still, I will wait for the official version, since this kid is only 16.” But 12-year-old Robin Gallaud, looking at video games in the bookstore, had no such reservations. “If I find the French version on the Net, I will read it,” he said.

Although the pirated translation site had since been shut down, the French teen translator still spent a night in jail and faced charges of violating intellectual property rights. It was only after worldwide sentiments appeared to be in sympathy with the boy following a maelstrom of negative publicity that the French publishing house, Gallimard Jeunesse – in consultation with JK Rowling – decided to drop charges.

In fact, many French readers already know how “Harry Potter et les reliques de la mort” – as it is titled here – ends. Le Parisien newspaper revealed it in an article it printed upside down.

So far, the remarkable Harry Potter phenomenon set off by the Harry Potter books can boast of having sold more than 325 million copies worldwide, translated into at least 64 languages and spun off into a hit movie series.

(Link, link)

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Thursday, 16 August 2007 Posted by | Literature, News, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

The Incorruptible Warrior

A free Chinese online game, The Incorruptible Warrior, was so overwhelmingly popular during its 3-days-long live-testing that its sever has been shut down for upgrading. On 25 July 2007 – its first day of live-testing – more than 300 people registered. This number multiplied with astonishing speed. At Sina.com alone, more than 100,000 downloads of the game were made. 3 days later on 28 July 2007, the server was so congested that players could no longer log in to the game. After all, the server was originally designed for only about 500 online players at any one time.

What is it about this game that is attracting so many players? In a cyberspace flooded with countless free online games, the popularity of the game is surprising and noteworthy because the technical quality of the game is certainly less than mediocre. The executable file is only 78M, the pictures are crude, the scenes are spare, the copyright is suspect with its massive amount of borrowing from other famous Chinese computer games, it has only one server and that is unstable to boot.

Maybe the widespread interest in the game has to do with its premise, which is arguably an intriguing one. The player takes the role of the hero in the game as an “honest and upright official” whose assignment is to weed out corrupt officials, along with their mistresses and children. This is achieved by using weapons, wizardry and torture to kill them. The conventional method of putting them in jail is not an option in the game.

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There are 165 characters taken from history. On the hero’s side are the famously upright officials such as Hai Rui, Lord Bao, etc. Opposing the hero are the notoriously corrupt officials such as Zhao Gao, Huo Shen, etc. The corrupt officials’ different degrees of power or corruption are indicated by the gauge levels over their heads.

When the hero kills a corrupt official, he gains experience points. For example, the hero gains 100 experience points for killing the eunuch official, Wei Zhongxian. As the hero accumulate expereince points, he increases his powers for “Combatting corruption,” “Moral character” and “Degree of being corruption free,” instead of the typical “Life,” “Strength” and “Magic” in most other games.

The hero’s ultimate goal is to reach the “Honest and Corruption-Free Paradise” where “the birds sing, the flowers give out fragrance, the people are full of love and harmony, the nation is prospering and the world is calm and peaceful.”

Here are some Netizens’ observations and questions about the game:

– The characters and scenes are crude, perhaps even cruder than games such as Celestial Sword from 10 years ago.

– The monsters are always either “son of corrupt official” or “daughter of corrupt official.”

– Even if an official is corrupt, is it necessary to kill his children?

– Why do the “mistresses of corrupt officials” walk around in bikinis? Why do they have to fight without proper clothes?

– There are options for adding values and purchasing equipment. Is this one of those “free” games that make money off the value-added services?

– A lot of the material is taken from other famous Chinese computer games such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Legend, etc. Does the fact that the government created this game mean that copyrights do not have to be respected?

Interestingly, the financial sponsor of the game is the Communist Party Disciplinary Committee of the Haishu district in Ningbo city, China.

(Link)

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Thursday, 2 August 2007 Posted by | Game, Internet, News, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

Your Fantasy Comes To Life

Men who cannot handle too much reality and prefer to seek their ideal women in the world of anime can now play out their fantasy with the Anigao Girls, newly started up in Akihabara, Japan. “Anigao” means “anime face,” so it’s no surprise that Anigao Girls is a business offering photography sessions with its staff of real girls wearing anime-style masks and costumes.

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For about SGD128 or USD85, you can take photos of an Anigao Girl for one hour. The session is 1-to-1 and you get to choose what costume you want your Anigao Girl to wear. Each extra costume you want your Anigao Girl to wear will cost you about another SGD$12.80 or USD$8.50. If you bring your own costume for your Anigao Girl to wear, then it’s about an extra SGD20 or USD13. A bikini-clad Anigao Girl will be more expensive at about an extra SGD32 or USD21.

(Link with more photos and video)

Is visual consumption enough when it comes to anime, or do the rules change with anime comes to life? If so, do the Anigao Girls provide other services in addition to photography sessions so as to allow for the realistic consummation of fantasy?

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Saturday, 28 July 2007 Posted by | News, Pop Culture | 1 Comment

Beat the Spanish

If you really haven’t started reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, then you’re far behind the Spanish. Some of Harry Potter’s fans have not only read, but even translated and posted online a Spanish version of the book. It can be downloaded as a PDF or read online in blog format.

(Link)

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Saturday, 28 July 2007 Posted by | Literature, News, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

Still haven’t read Harry Potter?

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Don’t you want to be saved… like the rest of us?

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Saturday, 28 July 2007 Posted by | Comic, Literature, News, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

Pottering on the internet

Now that I’ve read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I finally dare to allow myself to read the purported spoiler news surrounding it before its official release. But in order not to spoil your fun, I shall keep it all to myself and simply highlight how some of these spoilers germinate via technology. So read ahead, there are no spoilers.

One of the most widely circulated purported spoilers was a series of photographs of the book leaked onto the internet before the book’s worldwide release date. Every page of the book had been meticulously photographed, all the way from page 1 to page 759. They were then made downloadable from various file-sharing networks such as Pirate Bay, and in various formats, such as the easily accessible PDF, as well as formats for Palm and of course, iPod, etc.

A few days later, computer experts pointed out that the identity of the person behind the leak could be easily revealed from the camera he was using. The camera he was using could be just as easily traced from the digital DNA of the photographs taken by the camera. This digital DNA of vital information, or “metadata,” is known as Exchangeable Image File Format (Exif) data and cannot be switched off. While some software can be used to strip or edit the information, you cannot edit every field.

Unsurprisingly, it has already been traced that the particular camera used to photograph the book is one of the original Canon Rebel cameras, probably a 350D. Because the model is three years old, the camera would likely have been serviced at least once since it was purchased, in which case the owner’s name would be known. Vic Solomon, a product intelligence officer at Canon’s UK head office said, “In theory, we can find out which country the camera was sold in and in turn the warranty and service centre records in that country could be checked. It would take a lot of work, but there’s a good chance they could find him or her.” As it is, it can already be safely concluded that the camera was likely sold in either America or Canada, because the Rebel 350 was not distributed in any other country.

Bloomsbury, the UK publisher of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, said that its lawyers are investigating all potential leaks of material from the book and would take legal action wherever necessary. Meanwhile, JK Rowling, the book’s author, was “staggered [that] some American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children, who wanted to reach Harry’s final destination by themselves, in their own time.”

If nothing else, the pre-release furore surrounding Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has emphasized the snowballing problem of copyright with the increasing use of technology and especially the internet.

(Link)

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Thursday, 26 July 2007 Posted by | Internet, Literature, News, Pop Culture, Technology | Leave a comment