Friday, March 30, 2007

"Killerspiele" Update (The "Some answers aren't worth the question" Edition)

Some time ago I wrote a post about a report in a TV-magazine ("Panorama") to which I responded by writing an email to the TV-station that showed it. I've got a four-page letter as an answer now ... and I can only say it's not worth the paper it has been printed on.

First of all in essence the four pages of the standard answer is the same as in the answer they posted in their forum right after people started complaining: We didn't do anything wrong, we said exactly the truth and there's nothing to be angry about. Well, there's actually a lot to be angry about, because no matter how often they say it, they did do a lot wrong and they didn't say the truth (at least not in a way people could understand the truth).

Luckily for them I'm not in the mood to start round two of the complaining ... after all I doubt they'll ever admit that they made the report in order to cement the horrible "Killerspiele" in everybody's mind.

Maybe they will, one day, look back and see how they made even less young people watch their programs and thus cut themselves off from audience for the future ... and maybe one day pigs will fly free in the breezy summer sky.

Well, unlike my representative in the Bundestag, the TV-station actually did reply, so I should be glad. At least this shows how the supposedly 'serious' journalists really work - which brings me to a strange thing I realized during the last wave of anti-"Killerspiele" reports:

The independent TV-stations have rarely - if ever - reported about those games, usually a) kept it to the news-magazines and b) been at least half-ways fair. One station even showed a rather un-biased and positive report about the so-called "Killerspiele" and their effect on the human brain.

And the daily paper I normally loathe most - a yellow-press paper called "Bild" - has completely abstained from bashing on those games ... a rather surprising fact.

It's still rather silent about the whole topic and so I'm still waiting for the next wave to hit ... it's going to come, and soon probably - because the next election is coming up soon enough.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A new interesting blog

Thanks to the "Girl with a one-track mind" and her blog, I've found a new blog to follow: Bitchy Jones' Diary.

I found the blog of a dominant woman (dominant in sex) very interesting and - due to her style - funny to read, so I've even put up a link to it on the right side of my blog. (You might realize that some other links have disappeared because the blogs either have disappeared or not been updated for a long time.)

I like reading about women who are not easily pressed into the usual categories (as I'm not easy to press into one myself and I like knowing I've got company) and I honestly can't see the point in a woman today still pretending women have no interest in fulfilling sex themselves. We are human beings, too, and so I think we've got the right to have good sex (and satisfaction) as well.

Nevertheless I've realized that the blogs I follow (listed on the right side or not) are quite a colourful mix:

The list should show you that I have quite a strange taste in blogs ... and I'm always looking for other interesting stuff.

Even though it's not a blog (and no, apart from a nice wallpaper I got as a thank-you for putting the banner on my blog, I'm not paid for this advertisement, it comes from heart), I also tune in to the "Girl Genius" online comic every day or two (usually there's an update on Monday, Wednesday and Friday).

This, of course, is another story entirely, so stay tuned for another post about Agatha Heterodyne and her adventures...

Those were quite some posts

Phew, those were quite some posts I wrote during the last two days... And I had planned to write most of them (except for the post about the second blog I deleted yesterday and the post about temporal employment agencies) in one weekend, one week ago, mind.

I've got other stuff in mind I'll write down over the next couple of days (and still some work at my website to do), including another update on my "Killerspiele"-crusade (got an answer from the TV-station about my complaint, see last update-post).

What I hate about temporal employment agencies

... 'A lot' would put it quite short, but that's not how I usually write my posts. So read on ...

Currently I'm working for a temporal employment agency in Ettlingen (that's about 50 kilometres from my hometown) and am really waiting for the moment this job is over. It's not the job as a such I've come to hate by now (though it's boring and repetitive and very frustrating, too), it's the agency.

First of all I was only hired for the job I'm currently doing. I will not, for all I and the agency know, be employed afterwards. The agency usually doesn't have jobs in the area I live in and I don't have any motivation to travel up to 100 kilometres twice a day for a bad-paid job somewhere else. Nevertheless I get currently cheated out of my money.

That works like this: I work 40 hours a week (8 hours Monday to Friday), but only get paid for 35, the other 5 are 'stored' in case I don't get a new job from the agency right after this one ends - as I won't continue to work for them, I will take my paid days off (6 days of vacation after 3 months of work) after the end of this job (approximately another 5 weeks to go) and then stop working for them altogether and look for a new job with some other company. So what's the point in me gathering 5 hours a week (which will, after 11 weeks of work [was sick one week] be 55 hours, that means almost 7 whole workdays), if there's no way I can use them up? I mean, I get paid about 7,41 before taxes each hour, that's not much at the end of the month anyway, I could use the money of 5 hours more a week right now. Well, they'll have to pay in the end, but that's not the way it would be most practical for me.

Well, I've learned my lesson about those small agencies: next time I need to get on temporal employment, I'll go to randstad again, they're the first temporal employment agency I worked for, one of the biggest in Germany and treated me well, on the whole. And if I can help it, I'll shun those agencies on the whole from now on.

Bye Bye to Barbie's Diary

If anybody reading this blog was also following "Surely not Barbie's Diary" (my other blog), they might have realized that it has disappeared yesterday.

It has because I realized I a) can't maintain two blogs while working full-time and b) can't imagine enough diary entries for "Barbie's" blog. So it's gone - and it won't be replaced too soon.

Don't worry, though, I will continue this blog, that much is for sure.

Goodbye to my favourite magazine

For quite a while now (since the end of February) it has been official: MangaSzene, the only magazine I've read regularly, will only continue as a series of 'specials'. I'm not quite sure whether I'll really continue reading it.

The problem I see is not that the magazine will not continue the way it was before - changes are a part of life and I have learned to deal with them -, but the fact that it will be continued in a loose order. No regular rhythm as before, no knowing exactly when the next one will be out. And I'm pretty sure I won't get it from the news dealer any longer ... they won't stock the 'specials', I guess.

A lot of other readers who also post in the forum of the MangaSzene see this problem as well, but it doesn't seem as if we can change it ... and it was hard enough to get the information about what will happen. No. 36 simply did not appear when it should and the very next day - or so I think - there was a new thread in the news-section claiming that the MangaSzene would not continue as before.

So right now I have to say "Goodbye" to the good feeling every two (or three during the last two issues) months when I went to the news dealer at the train station and bought it, sheaving through the 'news'-section on the way home. "Goodbye" to the hours spent on my comfy couch with all the articles and other sections of the magazine I could browse through without having to sit at my computer or go online. And "Goodbye" to the funny comics on the last page I used to read first (or at least almost first), together with the 'famous last words'-section. "Goodbye" to MangaSzene as I've known it from issue No. 1 ... and "Hello" to the 'specials' I'll have to order over the shop - whenever I think of them. "Hello" to not knowing exactly when the next issue will be around. "Hello" to missing some issues because I'm not interested in the main topic. "Hello" to trying and find the promised articles on the MangaSzene-website.

Gods, I really feel a bit depressed right now - or in the right mood to kill someone in a very brutal way - even without a "Killerspiel" in sight.

Bouts of Nostalgia

As I've already written yesterday, I've rebuild my website and during the process experienced bouts of nostalgia when it came to my old stories. (As I've written in the post, I've put them all on my website - or at least will until it is finished, the 'Slash'-section is still missing.)

I've always liked telling stories and ever since I've had my own computer (I got the first computer at the age of 13), I've written them down. Most of my first tries do not exist any longer ... or only as print-outs (from my old matrix printer - ah, I almost miss the loud noise it made while printing one page in the time my modern laser printer needs for a complete story of 40 pages). I've even written by hand (and the blank book I used for it still has to be somewhere ... can't remember where I put it when I moved into my flat, though) before I had a computer, but it has taken until I've started at university for me to be able to write stories longer than a couple of pages (my currently longest finished story has about 120 pages, the two crime stories I've already pinned out will be about 300 pages each, when finished).

Today I'm a very modern writer - I even have my own binding machine - and I use my computer (with Microsoft Word 2003) and a black-white laser printer for bringing my stories into the world. (In addition I can use my father's colour laser printer whenever I need it - but what is the point in printing in colour when you're just writing?)

But why am I telling you all this? Well, first of all this is my blog and so I can write here whatever I like. In addition I'm telling you this to make it easier for you to understand what I felt when I went over my stories again to put them online.

As I've already pointed out various times, I'm 32 by now, so I've spent almost 20 years writing stories on a computer (not the same, of course...). Over the last weeks I've gone through very old ones - like a fantasy-story with three parts about a wizard I wrote at around 20 - and new ones alike. I didn't always like what I read, most of the old stories I would write differently if I had to write them today ... but I think all writers are like that (and other artists on the whole).

I've felt this reminiscence for the first time when I moved out of my parents flat and into the one I'm still living in, because I had to pack everything and that meant gathering the old stories I'd put into various other files in a large one. I stumbled over my first stories (including a crime story I still rather like today, a vampire story that's quite bad and a piece of Star Trek fan fiction I wrote before knowing what fan fiction is...) and got quite thoughtful about them.

This time I got hit twice as hard - there were a lot more stories to read and get thoughtful about, after all. And I started thinking about all the stories I've never finished - and about the ones I have finished and deleted at some time. And then I started thinking about the stories I've still got to finish... Bouts of nostalgia are no fun!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Slashing for fun

While I've been working on my website - see post below -, I've been rereading most of my stories (and there'll be another post about the bouts of nostalgia I experienced during the work). Over the last six or seven years I have produced quite a lot of slash-stories. But what is slash? That's what this post is about.

I first met with slash stories under another name: yaoi. Yaoi is a Japanese word for stories about male/male-relationships - in other word: gay love-stories. The female variety of yaoi is yuri (known as 'femslash' in English countries), but that's not what this post will be about. It'll be about me and slash.

When I first met with slash stories, it was through my obsession for manga - something I've already written about. The first yaoi-manga were published in Germany around 1999/2000 (the very first being "Zetsuai", later on continued by the author/artist under the name "Bronze"). I wasn't among the first to buy it, actually I bought it after the five volumes were out already ("Bronze" was more or less 'finished' last year - but the story could theoretically continue). I still like those manga, but other series (especially "Kizuna" and the three volumes of "Ludwig II.") are more to my liking graphically and from their content. One of my absolute favourites is (and always will be) "Fake".

Yaoi is closely related to the bishounen-phenomena. Bishounen are, in the real sense of the word, "pretty boys", usually slightly feminine in looks - though not necessarily in their habits or character. They come from the Japanese tradition, from sayings like "a man as pretty as a woman" and other sources. They are not necessarily nice, they even can be very evil, but they still look pretty and a bit androgynous. Among the bishounen listed on a specialized website (Bishounen Garden) are the nice ones, the normal ones, the evil ones and the dangerous ones (among them Zaphikiel from Kaori Yuki's "Angel Sanctuary" and Angelo from the online vampire-story "Black Widower" which I wouldn't have found without this site). They are all pretty, but that's usually the only common denominator.

Anyway, soon after I'd started reading those stories (the only love-stories I've found slightly interesting, I'm not normally a huge fan of those), I also started writing them. I've managed to write quite a few of them in the meantime, fuelled by my own imagination, the slash-fanfictions I've read online and other ideas I got from somewhere (see Eoin Colfer's definition of inspiration on the right side of this blog).

The main problem I've found during this time is writing sex-scenes between men without sounding either pornographic (and to me there's a thin line between erotic and pornography) or like some sort of scientist. This is a problem I've encountered with normal stories that include sex-scenes as well, but in the German language (and, from my experience, the English language, too) there are more words useful for describing it than for describing the sex between two men - even sex between two women is easier to describe, go figure...

Some of the first stories aren't that good from my point of view right now (though "Blutsbande", the first story about that topic I wrote, is), but I'll nevertheless put them all online. Others might like them more than I do now.

"Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs" - or why a robot is not a mecha

The topic of this post is not something I will bitch about ... it's a TV-series I used to watch years ago: "Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs".

Even though I didn't know it then, I was actually watching a series belonging to one of the most-wanted topics in Japan - and of course I was watching an anime. The series contains a mecha - in Japanese animation a mecha is something not too unlike a huge robot. Unlike a robot, a mecha does not have artificial intelligence or a programmed mind, instead it is controlled by one or more persons - usually it's a team of at least three, quite often four of five.

The whole series was set in some kind of futuristic western world (somewhere in outer space) where four star sheriffs (three men and a woman) were defending right and justice with the help of a large spaceship (which had been build by the woman, April, and her father and could turn into the mecha), two cars and a robotic horse. That might sound a bit ridiculous here, but in the series it worked out quite well.

Why have I started thinking about this? Well, because the series will be out on DVD in a big, beautiful box soon enough ... and I currently toy with the thought of buying it. I'd like to have all of the episodes at my disposal - and I can live without the Japanese voices. On the other hand my DVD-collection has grown considerably during the last couple of months (something which I'm pretty glad about as the TV-program seems to get worse and worse) and I'm slowly starting to wonder where to put them all. I think my sensible side is fighting a loosing battle here ... in the end I'll probably buy it. Then I might write another post about the subject - with pictures of the mecha and the main characters, of course.

Building up my website

I've been working on my website "Night-Shade" for a couple of weeks now, adding another page every now and then. It's almost done now - at least for the moment.

I have rebuild the website various times since I first registered the domain - every time I had learned something new or gotten a new tool. But I doubt I'll rebuild the whole site again any time soon. This time I've put all my stories on it (or at least I will have before it is completely finished) and I would loathe to have done it for nothing.

Working on the page was quite easy this time, as I finally found a useful tool to do it (the Dreamweaver I've already mentioned before). It's been quite time-consuming (and I've still got to finish creating all pages for the 'Slash'-area), but on the whole it was done quite easily.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Killerspiele" Update (The "I don't trust the silence" Edition)

Currently there's not much said about "Killerspiele", but I don't trust the silence. Other things may have, for the time being, eradicated the dreaded "Killerspiele"-menace from peoples' minds, but that can't be forever.

I think after the failed attempts to completely forbid those computer games, the politicians have retreated to regroup and try a novel attempt.

Now, you might say that's a tad paranoid, but I don't think so. I know politicians and "Killerspiele" are too useful a topic to be completely forgotten. Sooner or later they will come up with it again - at least until another scapegoat comes along.

As far as the "Panorama"-article is concerned: I've still got to hear from the TV-station ... or else they'll hear from me.

I'm not going to let this slip, not as long as it only costs me a couple of minutes for emails.

A Gamer Party Update

Currently it seems as if the German Gamer Party I was trying to found is not going to see the light of day soon.

I've opened a MySpace group, but it still only has four members (including me and three people from the MangaSzene-forum). As long as there's nobody else interested in the party, we'll not move any further.

God's Game

These days the name "Ragnarok" is in the world of computer gamers associated with an MMORPG from Asia. When I started playing computer games, one of the first games I played was "Ragnarok", but it wasn't this MMORPG from Asia.

Originally the word "Ragnarok" is associated with Norse mythology. It meant nothing more or less than the Norse variety of the apocalypse. When "Ragnarok" came, the stories said, the gods would start to fight among themselves, the monsters (like Loki's son Fenrir and his daughter Jormungand) would seek their revenge and almost all gods would die. As the Norse gods were not necessarily nice, they would destroy each other during this 'final battle'.

But this 'final battle' wasn't the game, either. Real time strategy games were still a couple of years in the future then and the round-based variety was created for a rather small group of fans who probably would not have responded nicely to using such an 'unrealistic' setting.

The 'original' game of "Ragnarok" was a board game, nicely animated and combined with a nice story about Odin, father of most of the gods, seeking a solution for the "Ragnarok" problem and therefore coming to earth - or Midgard, as it was called in the mythology - and playing this board game against mortals.

I can't remember many of the rules, but I can still recall the basics: a board of 13x13 tiles, black starting on the outer sides and white starting in the middle. White defending its 'King' (the playing piece called Odin) and black trying to take the white king (while not having a king itself). Odin had to make it to one of the corners to 'escape' and thus win. To win the game, the player had to win with both colours, once defending and once 'chasing' the king - in my experience, as far as I can remember, black was easier to play.

The game - still on floppy disk - has been missing from my collection for a long time (and even if I still had it, it wouldn't run on a modern machine). Sometimes, though, especially considering the games today, I wish I still had it … or at least a rulebook, so I could build my own board and pieces and play it in the real world.

Proverbs that can be useful

Usually I'm not a huge believer in proverbs, but some of them - especially the one I'll write about here - can be quite useful.

The proverb goes (translated by me):

"God, give me the courage to change the things I can change, the tranquillity to accept the things I can't change and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other."

I first read about this special proverb on a plate somewhere, but actually where I first read it isn't really important. I'm not a religious person as a such, as you might have already gathered from other posts I've written. But the basic idea (change the things I can change, accept the things I can't change and distinguish between them) always appealed to me.

From my past experiences I can tell that a lot of people sometimes put a lot of effort in trying to change things they can't change instead of using their energy to change the things they really could change. I know I did a couple of times in my life.

So by now I have started to take this proverb seriously, even though I sometimes find it hard to follow this advice.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A new Online-Comic

While I've been browsing various sites - including the "DorkTower"-Website - I've found a link to an online-comic I'll surely follow from now on: Girl Genius (and yes, that's why there's a big "Girl Genius" banner on the right side of my blog now, complete with a link, just click on it if you want to read it for yourself - if you like Steampunk, action and horror stories, it'll be worth it).

What do I like most about online-comics?

I can't truly say it, I've been reading "DorkTower", "The Misadventures of Hello Cthulhu" and various others - including my quick look at the web-comics by Tikwa ("Die kleine Gruftschlampe" and "Ziggy SpaceRat") every now and then.

But what I basically like most about them, I think, is that they are good. You can put everything on a website - even my stories, though I'll not try to rate them, as I've written them and am not neutral therefore - and not everything necessarily has to be good. But the web-comics I read are very good - and if I didn't live in Germany and had an easier way to buy them in print, I'd do it. I need some good, new comics anyway...

(And I'm still hoping for a German Edition of the third volume of "Knights of the Diner Table - Bundle of Trouble".)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I've not forgotten about "Size 0"

Even though I've not touched the subject for quite a while now, I've not forgotten my crusade against "Size 0". (But give me a break, I've got a big crusade running against "Killerspiele" currently and there's just one person wielding the blade every time. But the "Killerspiele"-crusade has come to a stand-still for the time being, so I've got time for a quick duel on this front.)

So what can I say against "Size 0" I've never mentioned before? Nothing, probably, but that's not a problem for me - I believe in recycling.

I still think that the idea of a grown-up woman fitting into anything "Size 0" is lunatic. I won't say that a woman can't be slim, but there's a huge difference between "being slim" and "being a size 0".

And I really wonder about the other women ... why do they try to fit into it? Just because some almost wasted away celebrities fit into it? What's it to me whether or not Victoria Beckham fits into a "Size 0"-dress? Why should it worry me whether or not she's lost another pound? It's her life she's gambling with, not mine. And, even though I risk to sound quite cruel and heart-less, I won't really mind it if she dies.

I've stopped buying this "a woman can never be too thin or too rich" a long time ago - yes, not even the part of the "too rich", I want to be well off, to have enough money to live off, but I don't need riches to feel good. But a lot of women look at the covers of magazines - where most photos have been through a long 'correction'-process anyway - and want to look like the models.

And even though the producers of those magazines and other fashion-related stuff claim that their models are okay and live a normal life, I can't believe them - I can't even listen to them without laughing out aloud. Maybe one of one thousand girls in the business can keep such a slim figure without an extreme diet, but the other 999 can't - and they risk their life to live this dream.

And what do the TV-stations do? They add to this with casting-shows to find the new German super-model. I would like to zap myself about 10 years into the future, just for a couple of hours, and research where the winners of this show are by then - or how thin the models look.

I guess I can't say it too often: There's no reason for any woman in this world to submit to the tyranny of "Size 0". Be who you are and do what you like - that's all you need to be happy.

I'm still out here

... even though currently I'm not writing as much as I have before.

For one thing I've got a lot to do at the moment (work, learning to be a web-master, rebuilding my website, founding a new party), in addition I don't find that many things to write about at the moment. Nevertheless be assured that I will continue to write this blog.

I won't go into details about my work, as the job of a telemarketer is nothing of interest to anybody lucky enough to not work in it.

My studies to become a web-master work out quite well, I've got good marks up till now and I'll put in my last homework for this quarter this week (today or tomorrow). In addition my father has started to browse through my old leaflets, so they will even be useful to two people instead of just one.

My website "Night-Shade" grows slowly (I have to put in all my finished and unfinished stories, that takes some time, believe me), but surely. Afterwards I will start building up "Geschichtenschmiede", but I will finish "Night-Shade" first, otherwise I'd split up my energy too much. (CSS is cool, though, I've by now build an external .css-file, so I don't have to do the basic formatting [background-colour, text-colour, margins etc.] over and over again. And where did I learn that? In my web-master-lessons!)

As far as the new party is going ... it's going extremely slow. I've got a group at MySpace right now, but it's not growing currently. We'll need some more networking for it, I think. Maybe I should advertise it more strongly...

So expect more from me, even today.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Something final about Simon

... even though it's not 'final' final - Simon is still alive.

Now that I've finished "Simon the Sorcerer 4", I decided to write another post about it. It turns out that I was quite far already when I wrote the last post about it.

In the end the game was typically "Simon" again - even though the demons did not get him as they wanted (he accused them of doping and managed to get away with it). And I think his mother will be happy - as he sent the other Simon back who likes to clean up and keep everything in order.

Looking back on the whole game, I must admit that it was the first good adventure I've seen in a while. I had some fun with the second part of "Tony Tough" not too long ago, but the puzzles weren't up to the good old standard defined by LucasArts and Sierra in the 90's. The puzzles in "Simon the Sorcerer 4" aren't perfect either - but what is perfect in this world? -, but they are quite logical and thus good.

The intro-sequence isn't very good - it's ugly and it's rather pointless. But once Simon has reached the magical world and wears his red wizard-outfit again (he's got a violet coat and hat in the first game, but from part 2 onwards he's always been wearing red), the fun really starts. There's strange characters (both old and new), there's a surrounding filled with life (even the first game had fluttering butterflies, little rabbits and squirrels moving about) and there's a lot to use and put into the inventory.

The puzzles, as I've pointed out before, are quite logical. By thinking about them and looking at what's in the inventory and surrounding the 'problem', it's always possible to find as solution. And if the solution is wrong, so what? It's still funny to hear the comments.

I will play the game again, to enjoy the process now that I know the end - I often do that. And maybe I'll play it some more afterwards. Not right now, but maybe in a couple of weeks - once I've finished redesigning my website "Night-Shade".

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Doctor is in

I know, even in Germany the TV-series "Dr. House" is not really 'new'.

I 'discovered' the series by accident, just zapping through and stopping when I saw a man who was both a doctor and very cynical. As I'm not really buying the story of doctors being perfect, I like Dr. House.

And, if I'm not completely mistaken, the actor, Hugh Laurie, actually once played the prince regent in "Black Adder the Third", a part of one of my favourite comedy series (even though outside the public in Great Britain and the viewers of Arte in France and Germany probably hardly anybody knows the series ... a shame).

Very recently - this Saturday - I bought the first season on DVD. I've managed to finish most of it during the weekend ... and will finish the rest this week.

Siegfried - Our Hero

As I've already pointed out in my last post, we Germans have a certain way of dealing with culture - and that includes our famous stories. One of the main stories connected with the 'German soul' is that of the Nibelungen. And after rereading the main story in a magazine, I really wonder why.

Hero of the Nibelungen is - for the first half - Siegfried. If you're not familiar with him, imagine him as some kind of German Hercules ... like Kevin Sorbo in blond, say (even though he could be dark-haired as well). Siegfried is a king himself and he's a true hero: handsome, strong, righteous and always ready to help his friends (the last point will be his downfall).

In the beginning Siegfried goes up against the dragon Fafnir, a dangerous creature who has collected a large hoard of gold ... what will later become first the Nibelungen-treasure and then the Rheingold. Siegfried naturally kills the dragon and basks in his blood to become invulnerable - but one little area between his shoulder-blades, covered by a lime leaf, remains untouched and thus can still be harmed.

Now, Siegfried has a good friend called Gunter who's a king himself. Gunter isn't as strong and heroic as Siegfried and that's a problem - not for his kingdom, but for himself, because he wants to marry a very special woman. Brunhild is this woman, the queen of Iceland, a strong and very self-assured person. She wants to marry only the man who can beat her at various contests. Gunter can't do it - and he knows it. So he calls in Siegfried who a) can do it and b) wants to marry Gunter's sister Kriemhild. Siegfried accompanies him to Iceland, is presented to Brunhild as a vassal and then uses his invisibility cap (another nice part of the Nibelungen-treasure) to win the contests for Gunter.

But in the wedding night Brunhild realizes rather quickly that her husband isn't as strong or brave as he seemed to be, so he spends it tied up and hung on a nail while she is sleeping in the bed - alone (Brunhild is exceptionally strong for a woman, in some versions that comes from her being a former Valkyrie). So Gunter calls for his brother-in-law's (Siegfried has by then married Kriemhild) help again and Siegfried, hidden beneath his invisibility cap again, wrestles Brunhild down so his friend finally gets his wedding night. During this he takes some trinkets from her which he gives to his own wife. After loosing her virginity, Brunhild also looses her strength and courage, becoming an average woman. But she also get's suspicious.

So Brunhild manages to invite her sister-in-law and extracts two facts from her: first of all Siegfried isn't Gunter's vassal and second he was - Kriemhild thinks - the one to take her virginity (people are not sure about that, since Gunter asked Siegfried not to do it and Siegfried is a good guy on the whole). Brunhild might not be a powerful warrior any longer, but she wants her revenge ... and she gets it by telling Gunter about the fact that he - as she thinks - was not the first man in her life. Now Gunter wants revenge too, but he doesn't want to take it himself - especially as he swore friendship to Siegfried and the man is strong and nearly invulnerable. Enter Hagen, one of Gunter's vassals (this time for real). Hagen goes to Xanten - that's where King Siegfried lives - and manages to gain Kriemhild's confidence (as he's from her brother's court). Unknowingly Kriemhild helps him to find Siegfried's weakness - and then Hagen takes a spear and kills Siegfried - End of Part 1.

Now it's Kriemhild's time. She wants revenge for her husband's death - but how can she get it. The fact that one of her brother's men killed Siegfried means that she can't ask Gunter for revenge. In addition Gunter offered her to hide the Nibelungen-treasure for a while (before she realized what happened) and so she is more or less out of cash, too. Kriemhild returns home and mourns over her husband's loss, while Gunter and Hagen hide the treasure in the Rhine. She goes on mourning him for 13 years until another man comes along: Etzel, King of the Huns. Etzel wants to marry Kriemhild and Gunter would appreciate a connection to this power in the east. Kriemhild agrees and leaves her family again, this time to marry another man. With him she has a son ... and starts to plot her revenge.

A couple of years later she invites her brother and his men over - and there the killing starts. Kriemhild does not manage to extract the location of the treasure from either Gunter or Hagen, but she gets her revenge on both. On the other side she is slain by one of her brother's men and so is her child. In the end Etzel and a few of his men survive, but none of the Nibelungen does.

Now, the whole story is not too unusual, as far as myths go. We have the good guys, the bad guys, some murders, some monsters and a lot of gold. So why do the Germans think Siegfried is their hero? He's a good guy, he's strong and helpful - so exactly what everyone wants a hero to be -, but on the other hand he's not above tricking some people (like Brunhild who gets tricked twice). He also gets killed in the middle of the story (the tragedy starts afterwards and because of this).

So, if we take Siegfried as the typical German, then we all are nice people who love to kill dangerous animals and bask in their blood, we're physically strong but not exactly bright, we like to help and we're not above tricking people to help our friends. To me that doesn't sound like the picture the rest of the world has of us. So maybe that's the reason? Who knows...

What is culture?

One of the things about Germany I find rather hard to understand - even thought I've grown up here - is my countrymen's view of 'culture'. So I've wondered what 'culture' really means.

To most countries there's pop-culture and a little bit of high culture (pop-culture being popular movies, songs, books etc. and high culture being the 'classics' of all those and other areas). To Germans there's high culture, nothing for a long time and then 'Kitsch' and 'Schund' (which together qualify as pop-culture), nothing else. We've got a lot of talented writers here, for example, but they are not appreciated (most of them, at least), because they don't write books considered to be high culture.

But what exactly is a classic for us? Goethe and Schiller are mentioned quite often when it comes to that question and it surely is true that we usually base our definition not on the contents but on the creators. Everything written by Goethe or Schiller is considered a 'classic', but not something from a less renown contemporary writer. It doesn't matter whether a book - or even a series of books - is considered a best-seller (like the Winnetou-books by Karl May). If it's not considered highly cultural, it's not a 'classic' and thus pop-culture.

Penny-dreadfuls have been considered 'out of date' in most western countries, but they still more or less thrive in Germany, on the other side. So why do we, who consider ourselves so set on high culture, still buy those booklets printed on cheap paper and usually written during one or two weeks by hard-working and mostly underpaid writers who will never be considered to create art? I think it's because we like 'Kitsch' and 'Schund', but don't want to admit it.

We buy our dreadful stories for about an Euro (the time when they've cost a penny is long past) and claim it's just to "have something to read during a trip on the train" or "have something to do while waiting for something". Those explanations are just excuses, so we can buy those stories about dreadful monsters, cowboys, detectives, doctors and so on and read them without having to admit we like it.

Or take, just as another example, those cheap paperback romance novels. They're usually quite pointless - at least to me, they usually bore me - and not really high culture, but enter any bookstore and browse through the shelves and you'll find lots of them, closely followed by crime stories and other popular genres. They are best-sellers, even though they don't appear on the lists.

So what is culture? It seems that culture is everything artful people produce, not matter how other people see in it.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Female Sexuality = Danger?

Considering the fact that today a lot of forms of sex - including most fetish varieties - are something people can discuss quite openly, there's one strange thing. There's one form of sex, though, that is rarely - if ever - discussed openly: female sexuality - or rather the female lust.

I started to think about this after reading a few articles on "The F-Word". I've rarely discussed my sexuality with anyone anyway ... it's not something I talk about often. But the way I see it, a woman should not be judged by how often or with how many different men (or women) she has sex. Or, of course, we judge men by how often and with how many different women (or men) they have sex ... the same way we judge women today. A man who has many sexual encounters with many different partners is a stud ... a hero ... someone others want to be like. A woman who has many sexual encounters with many different partners is loose ... a whore ... someone you shouldn't be like. Why is this still the case in modern society.

I think, the main reason for this is that having a lot of casual sex implies liking it ... and women still are not suppose to enjoy their sexuality.

In the past - especially since the rise of Christianity - women were supposed to bear children and thus ensure the future of mankind. But they were not supposed to like it. Take, for example, the sexual position the church has long held to be the only right one for married couples (and unmarried people are not supposed to have sex anyway...): the missionary position. It is, biologically speaking, one of those positions in which women are least likely to orgasm. The whole position makes sure the penetration and the whole act do not really arouse the woman much. The man can have his fun, father a child, get it off - to say it in modern terms -, but the woman is just supposed to lie there with her legs spread and take it, as if she were an inanimate object.

And Christians aren't the only people who are supposed not to enjoy sex ... especially if they are female. All three religions stemming from Judaism (Christianity and Islam are, in a way, just varieties with more things in common than most people think) basically see women as something lower than men. Think about the Original Sin: Eve is supposed to have committed it first and has then made Adam do it too (though I still think he's just as guilty, he wasn't forced to commit it at knife-point, was he?). Sex is part of having the Knowledge (after having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge). So they know right from wrong - and male from female. With seeing that difference, they are also able to use it to their pleasure (though why Adam and Eve were 'equipped' with genitals when they were not supposed to produce offspring is another thing I've never understood). Eve is, in the very beginning, cursed with having to bear the fruit of the sins of carnal pleasure and give birth to it in pain - so for women sex and the possible result (pregnancy) is actually a punishment. She really shouldn't get any joy out of it.

Maybe that's what's still behind the different views on male and female sexuality. Adam was - if you remember it - only cursed with having to work hard, he's allowed to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh after he has worked hard.

Masturbation was for a long time something the church frowned on as well - even for men -, but by now it's perfectly normal for men of a certain age (between about 15 and 30, the most fertile time of a man's life) to talk to their friends about how they got it off this morning in the shower - or wherever. Women don't do talk about it ... but that doesn't mean they're not doing it. There are - as I learned on another website today - various ways to masturbate for a women ... and some of them even work without hands, fingers or sex toys. (If you're a woman and from a Christian country, did you know that already?)

I can still recall the scandal Nena Hagen (a German singer) created when, in a talk show during the early 80s, demonstrating (with her pants still on, mind!) the right position of the hand for a woman to surely get it off during sex with a man (meaning stimulating her clitoris when a man is not able or willing to do it). And while "I am a woman and masturbating" would probably be a good topic for a talk show these days, "How can a woman best get it off" is not even a topic for a late show. Women are not supposed to know how to pleasure themselves ... let alone talk about it.

But how about the danger?

When I started writing a horror story, I decided to make a female werewolf my main character. I thought this would a) be quite a novel concept (there are some female werewolves in movies, but rarely some in books) and b) fit well with the whole idea I had in mind for the story - and it still does.

Strangely in horror movies only female monsters are allowed a sexuality. I watched "Ginger Snaps" a couple of weeks ago - a story in which the attack of a strange 'animal' changes a female outcast at high school slowly into a werewolf ... making her very sensual and sexually aggressive during the process. Ginger has to die in the end - naturally, sexually active women mostly have to. The only sexually active women in vampire movies usually are the vampire's brides, too - which, of course, get staked in the end.

Female sexuality, those movies tell us, is dangerous. Women who are sexually active are monsters ... and women who get sexually active get killed in the end. It's a warning both to men and to women.

What should be done? That's pretty much up to society. But one thing is for sure: women need to overcome the fear to talk about their own sexuality. Female sexuality is only dangerous for those who try to suppress it.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Case Closed?

"Case Closed" is the American title of an anime-series from Japan, known there (and in Germany) as "Detective Conan".

(Grown-up Shinichi above.)

Even though the main character - Shinichi Kudo - gets transformed into a six-year-old during the first two episodes, the stories are not necessarily for kids only. It's a crime series and so there's a crime - quite often a murder - in every episode. They are not 'nice' murders either - in the first episode a man is decapitated by a rather ingenious device while riding a roller coaster, for example. And despite the fact that the really gruesome stuff is rarely shown, it's still interesting.

('Shrunken' Conan below.)

In addition - and that's what I like most about the series - the whole episode is always created in a way to allow the audience to try and solve the crime as well ... the clues are shown - very unlike some other series.

(Ran and Kogoro Mori above.)

Shinichi is 'shrunken' by two mysterious 'Men in Black' (not Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) and then moves in with his friend Ran and her father, a rather unsuccessful private investigator to find a trace of them. Unfortunately - as the originally 16-year-old now looks like a boy of six - he's forced to go back to primary school where he meets new three new friends.

(Conan's new friends below.)

His only help comes from his former neighbour (Shinichi's parents, a former actress and a writer of crime-stories, live abroad), a scientists who develops various gimmicks for him, like a bow-tie that allows him to imitate various voices, sneakers that allow him to kick a foot-ball (or other object) strong enough to bring an adversary down and a tracker that can be placed on any surface and can be followed with a little transparent monitor build into Conan's fake glasses. Those glasses, together with a little microphone also allow him to listen into conversations.

(Conan's neighbour below.)

The creator of the series, Gosho Aoyama, has chosen the names of most of his main characters carefully. "Conan Edogawa" is a combination of the two crime-story authors Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) and Rampo Edogawa (a very famous Japanese writer). Kogoro Mori has the same first name as Rampo Edogawa's detective Kogoro Akechi. The police inspector called into most cases is named Inspector Megure, a name which sounds a lot like "Maigret", George Simenon's famous inspector. Finally Conan's neighbour, the professor, is named Agasa, which sounds almost like "Agatha", the first name of Agatha Christie.

The series is still running - both as a manga and as an anime - and Conan still is a little boy, but by now a lot of different characters have appeared, among them a rival school-boy detective, a girl 'shrunken' by the same poison (she used to work for the 'Men in Black') and a mysterious thief - who actually comes from another manga the inventor of Conan has created: Kaito Kid ('kaito' is the Japanese word for 'thief').

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why have men such a problem with working women?

Maybe the right question would have been "why have men in Germany such a problem with working women?", but that's not important here.

The demand of one politician (female) to create more kindergarten spaces for little babies (six months to three years) was met by a bishop (male, of course) calling for women to remember their god-given place as 'birthing machines'. I've heard a lot of shit (sorry, I'm not cursing like this normally, but in this case there's no other word I'd use) from religious people over the years, especially from the Roman Catholic Church, but this one really made my blood boil. I'd thought nobody (except for a Japanese politician who, as a pure coincidence, has called women 'birthing machines' as well not too long ago) would say something like this these days, especially in Europe.

The essence of the whole discussion we've had ever since is this: some say women should stay at home and take care of their children (because nature intended them to, of course, you won't get far with the 'god'-argument in Germany), others say women can go to work after a few weeks, if they want to, because all that counts is that someone cares for the child. I personally think the latter is right, but as I don't plan to have any children of my own, I don't really mind.

What I surely mind is the way women are always discriminated against in such discussions. Either the women who stay at home are too lazy to really work or the women going to work are bad mothers. There's no way to really do it right, it seems. If a woman decides to have children and stay at home, she's lazy, because other mothers manage to have children and work full-time. If a woman decides to have children and work, she's a bad mother, because she can't care for her children 24/7. If a woman decides not to have any children, she's not supporting the German people, because there won't be enough children around to take care of the old people in twenty or so years. There's just no way out of this.

After World War II, when most men in Germany were either dead or still prisoners of war, the women were working full time, building new houses, taking care of the children and doing all the work men were supposed to do. Then the men came back and slowly the ratio between men and women evened itself out again.

Suddenly politicians expected women to just go back to being housewives and raise children, leaving their jobs to the men. A lot of women did, but not all of them.

Then the feminists started to fight for women's rights, bringing us the gift of women's liberation. Suddenly women were back at workplaces, going for careers instead of just a good marriage, forcing men to change their own lives.

Now, it seems, we're back to the 'traditional' virtues of womanhood. The girls don't want to be feminists, because somewhere along the way this has become a dirty word (but one I, for instance, would not mind being called). They want to be pretty, get a good boyfriend, marry a man with enough money for a good life and maybe even have a child or two. In essence - apart from the clothes - they just want to be like their grandmothers or great-grandmothers.

But why do men have such a problem with women working full-time, even with a child? It's not as if they were supposed to take care of the children, that's what the kindergarten is supposed to be for. And given the fact that most high-paid jobs are taken by men anyway, they won't really have to share. Today a lot of women need to work even after they've gotten a child, simply because otherwise the family would be in the red numbers every month. And with a lot more men than ever before just leaving their girlfriends when a child is coming or already there, a lot of women just don't have another choice, anyway, because they're the only ones to take care of the family.

I think men just see how hard women can work - because they have to work harder than men to get to the same places - and know that sooner or later they'll lose against us.

Maybe it's time for a new party

Do you know that situation? You have started to think about something and suddenly loads of stuff happen that seem to be related to the issue you've been thinking about. That's what happens to me with the whole "new political party"-stuff I've been thinking about.

I started thinking about this after a very vicious report in a magazine. I thought that maybe politicians would stop saying such stupid things if there were a party out there supporting gamers. I also thought that maybe TV-stations would try to make their reports more balanced with such a group around. During a discussion about computer games and politics in my favourite forum at MangasZene, I mentioned this idea of mine. Suddenly a couple of people there - most of them well over 18 and 'normal' people ... as far as I can tell - told me they wanted to become members once the party was created. I've actually started taking the first little steps towards it (trying to find out how many people would support such a party).

Today, while I was talking a little break from work, I met a woman who is working in the same building, but not with the same company I work with currently. We talked a little bit about politics (yes, there's actually people in Germany talking about politics with other people they've only met once before) and she remarked how much politicians had changed since she had been young - and she's not that old. She pointed out that she could not trust politicians any longer, as she had done when she'd been young. She said they were corrupted - and from my point of view she's right.

This got me thinking about the political parties in Germany. I won't go into detail about the right wing, because basically they are just the political arm of the neo-Nazis in Germany. Apart from them we have the CDU/CSU, the SPD, the FDP, the Greens and the PDS/Linke.

The CDU/CSU is the conservative party. They stand for the 'classical' virtues like family and religion. Basically they usually are supported by older citizens who think the same way (and a few younger ones, too, there's always conservatives around). What they support - apart from everything concerning their virtues - is the corporations.

The SPD traditionally was the sworn enemy of the CDU, supporting the workers and thus being more set on modernizing. "Workers" in this case usually means the blue collar workers, this is what the German term "Arbeiter" stands for. White collar workers are usually called "Angestellte" in Germany. While the CDU supported the wants of the capitalists, the SPD supported the needs and wants of the workers in their companies. But this, it seems, was a long time ago, because these days the SPD usually supports the capitalists as well.

The FDP has become a very small party by now, but originally the called themselves "liberals" with pride and usually found their support among the middle class and the intellectuals. Today they usually side with whoever wants to have them (usually with the CDU, their traditional partner) and are no longer of any importance.

The Greens were the first to unbalance the political system in Germany. They are set on ecological issues and have, especially during the 80s and early 90s while most young people were interested in this, found quite a large group to support them. By now they've surpassed the FDP and established themselves as third power in the parliament.

Finally, after the end of the GDR, the PDS came into the fold, bringing with them their voters from the past. They've sided with the "Linke", a party that sees itself even on the left of the PDS in the spectrum and was founded a couple of years ago by a few remnants from the 'original' SPD.

My problem with all of the parties mentioned above is this: none of them actually fights for the issues of the average voter. They are set on either serving the companies (CDU/CSU, FDP and SPD), their very limited issues (Greens) or are insignificant, because they can't really decide on a course (PDS/Linke).

So who am I to vote for? Hardly the CDU/CSU, as I can't stand their views on family and especially the place of the woman in it, not the SPD any more, because they are no longer really supporting the workers and serving the bosses instead, not really the Greens, because nature isn't my main issue, and surely no the PDS/Linke - and I won't even vote a Nazi-party if it's the only one left on the ballots.

I think a lot of people think just like me - and that's because a lot of them don't even go to the ballots any longer. If the only choice you have is the one about two evils, there's no real point in voting, from my point of view.

A lot of people these days don't trust politicians any longer - not just my nameless acquaintance from my current workplace. A lot of scandals have made the politicians untrustworthy, that's the sad truth. During the last couple of decades the lobbyists have managed to 'buy' their way into politics. These days the decisions don't seem to be based on 'what the voter wants' any longer, but rather on 'what the lobbyists paid for'. This is why I stated that in the party I would like to create anybody taking money from a lobbyist group would face immediate exclusion. Politicians are supposed to work for the voters - and they don't have the money to pay for the right decisions.

I also have gotten the impression that especially the politicians in the Bundestag have long ago lost the little contact they - mostly from high-paid jobs anyway - had with the real life of the average person in Germany. They've got no idea why "Hartz IV" is a hard hit for most people who don't become unemployed for long, because they want to. They've got no idea why a lot of people would be happy with a minimum wage that would at least leave them with enough money to survive. No wonder - they never faced that problem, even before becoming politicians. They have studied and - mostly being men - have always had a well-paid or even high-paid job since then. And that's were the forum I mentioned would come in, telling us what people really think about.

Maybe it really is time for a new party - I'm just not sure whether I'm the right person to found it ... I don't really see myself as a political active citizen.

Something new about Simon

Before I start bitching again, I want to write a few more words about the new "Simon the Sorcerer"-game. I've come quite far now - though I can't say how far, as I do not know what is still to come. Nevertheless I've seen quite a bit of it now.

I was very happy to find out that the mistakes they made in part 3 have been removed from part 4. The story is interesting with many twists and turns, there are a lot of surprises and the characters are strange - just as they should be in a "Simon the Sorcerer"-game. The puzzles are logical and there's quite some help in Simon's journal.

I can't say much about the voices, because I usually play with the sound turned off - which makes quite a lot of people wonder, because it's what makes modern games so 'multimedia'. From what I've read online at the website of my favourite computer games magazine, the voices aren't always perfect. There's a lot of talk, which the testers of the game didn't like either - but I do ... and if I don't like how long it lasts, I can just click it through (no sound, remember, I just have to read it through).

There's something missing, though - the original "Simon"-spirit, I should say. The first two games were made by Adventuresoft, who invented Simon and the magical world. They are quite ugly by modern standards - no wonder, considering how old they are -, but the content (that's the story and the puzzles) was better.

Nevertheless I like the game - and today there's not too many good adventures around, anyway. I like seeing Simon again (he's about 16 or 17 in part 4). I like seeing what has become of characters I've come to know and like (like Alix, the Swampling or the two demons Gerald and Max). Of course the world looks much better now - but that's to be expected, considering the modern computer hardware.