The Sixth Estate
Thursday, June 24, 2004
QUOTE OF THE DAY : Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure. - George E. Woodberry

SONG OF THE DAY : Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around

LINK OF THE DAY : Read about Max and Looq's Crazy trip, as they travel in South-East Asia.

Hear me more plainly.
I have in equal balance justly weigh'd
What wrongs our arms may do, what wrongs we suffer,
And find our griefs heavier than our offences.

Everyone has their own personal Alamo. A seemingly un-winnable fight, against insurmountable odds. Until, a few weeks ago I never thought I would overcome my, personal Alamo.

Now you're thinking, Wow, "Personal Alamo"? What could he be talking about? It must be something serious, something life changing. Most would think otherwise, but I took this battle very seriously. It raged for 15 long years, and was fought on many battlefields. At every turn, something prevented my victory. As Shakespeare best put it in Hamlet,

"How all occasions do inform against me."

What am I talking about?

The Legend of Zelda. For the Nintendo Entertainment System. That's right... A video game.


The eternal struggle first began, in 1989. With the death of my dog Gator, I was consoled with the gift of an NES. Zelda and Cobra Triangle were my first games. I was more into Cobra Triangle at the time, a gunboat the drives around blowing up giant sea dragons? Oh yes, life was good.

My dad was the one who was really into Zelda at first. But after a short lived obsession with the game, that nearly saw him beat it... He decided he should stop playing, and has to the best of my knowledge; never touched another game since.

Shortly, thereafter I started getting into the game. I had just read The Hobbit, so I named my character Bilbo and not the traditional Link. It was grade one, and at the time, Mario had been my forte. So Zelda was like a whole new dimension for my small Mario-warped mind. After probably weeks of playing on and off, I was able to surpass my Dad in terms of completion of the game, Level 8; a proud achievement for a kid in grade one.

However, Level 8 would be as far as I could get on the rickety old Nintendo at that time. At one point in the dungeon, you are locked in a room with 10 Darknuts. These armoured bastards block all frontal attacks with their shield so you have to get behind them to kill them. The only downside of this of course, was that it was nearly impossible!!! The Nintendo's framerate would drop to a snails pace with so many enemies on the screen at once. I would have been able to beat them eventually...

Of course I lost the save file. The saving system on the NES was unreliable at best, it involved pressing the power and reset button at the same time, and then praying.

Our family moved to Halifax in 1990, over the next few years I would continue my quest to retrieve the triforce, vanquish Ganon and save the titular Princess Zelda. As others graduated to Super Nintendo, I was still chilling with my NES and Zelda. I would get far, lose the save file, get far in the game again, to the last dungeon in fact and lose the save file. My progress continued like this until one weekend in 1994.

My parents won a trip to New York City. It happened to be on the same weekend as my 10th Birthday, so guess who got to come a long? That's a hell of a 10th birthday present, a weekend in NYC. We did all the touristy stuff, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, saw some Broadway shows (Blue Man Group and Guys and Dolls), visited The World Trade Center(Sad to think about in retrospect) etc. Little did I know that while I was enjoying myself in The Big Apple, my NES was crying in agony at home.

My brother, who was staying with friends while we were away had killed my NES. He left it on. With no game in the system, wide open, for 3 days. This killed the NES, it was never the same after that. The battery had been fried, which made saving games impossible. That was the last time I would play Zelda until the advent of Emulators.

Skip ahead to 2000. Six long, Zelda-less years later. I discovered the joys of emulation. Windows programs that mimic the video game consoles of yore, and let you play all your favourite games on the PC!

It was now same shit, different system. Between the computer screwing up, formats, and corrupted save files, I wasn't having any luck.

So I took my rage out on other Zelda games. And as a result I became something of a pro. Completing almost every Zelda game, except the elusive original.

Then back in May I saw something from E3, that spurred me on. Nintendo had unveiled their new Zelda game at this years expo. But I had a slight problem.

In the summer of 2003, I had played through the original, and got as close as I'd ever come to beating it. I got to Ganon, but he whooped my ass. So I quit playing for the day, and went out to my friend's going away party. I met a girl there, so Zelda was the last thing on my mind for the next little while.

During my Zelda hiatus(and bachelor hiatus), my computer fucked up. This time though, I was determined not to lose the Zelda save file. So I backed up all my data on my friends computer. There it sat, for 10 months.

Neither my friend or I had the time or the inclination to return the data to it's original owner up until that point. Spurred by visions of Zelda future, I retrieved the spirit of Zelda past, and sat down to play it one last time.

The save was at the entrance to the 9th Dungeon. After a year of not playing a game, you'd think I'd be rusty... But no. From my years of experience, I know the map like the back of my hand, and every dungeon in minute detail. I went straight to Ganon's lair, and on my first try felled the mighty beast.

I felt like I could have died right then. It was a feeling of such accomplishment and elation. 15 years of effort, coming to fruition instantly. I had rescued the Princess, and returned peace to Hyrule. As the credits began to roll, I couldn't stop smiling. The stirring 8-bit score, brought joy to my heart. Life was good.

It was sad at the same time though, my quest had been more about the journey, and less about the arrival. Though when it finally happened, I was glad to be there.

The Legend of Zelda will always hold a special place in my heart, the game that beat me for so long was finally conquered. Or was it? Once you beat the game, you unlock a second quest. I guess I'll have to beat that now.

- Will
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
QUOTE OF THE DAY : Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been tried from time to time. - Winston Churchill

SONG OF THE DAY : K-OS - B-Boy Stance

LINK OF THE DAY : Crazy Japanese Music Video with Robot Dancing.

Upon my head they plac'd a fruitless crown,
And put a barren sceptre in my gripe.

The interesting people you can meet on ICQ, are few and far between. Usually it's a never ending cavalcade of advertising bots, or odd, lonely people. However, it's when someone from a foreign country randomly contacts you, that things can get interesting. Talking with someone who's native language is not that of your own, always proves a fun challenge.

A few days ago, a 19 year old student at the University of Hunan, in China randomly contacted me on ICQ. That's a cool feature of ICQ, if you want to talk with someone from another country, it can be done with less than 3 clicks of the mouse.

Yanding Lou is this guys name. But his English name is Allen. So we'll just call him Al.

In a country that censors the internet use of it's own citizens, I am amazed that they would be allowed to use ICQ. After talking with Al over the course of several days, I came to realize that we weren't all that different. Admittedly, we've grown up in completely different situations though.

Of course, what is the main event involving China that I would have witnessed in my short life? 1989, Tiananmen Square. Obviously, I'm curious what Al has to say about this particular event. Since he himself is a University student, about the age of many of the victims of that sad day.

So Al told me what he knew. His understanding of the incident was that one group of university students had a problem with another group, thinking they were being used by them or something, and as a result of the violence between the groups many people died. Basically he told me what the government of China has been feeding people, a completely untrue story. No mention of the fact that the PRC military slaughtered possibly thousands of non-violent, unarmed protestors.

Amazed by this, I directed Al to a TIME magazine article about what really happened. Of course, due to the Chinese authority's control of the internet, Al was unable to access the site. So I told him, what my understanding of the incident was. I then copied and pasted the entire TIME magazine article into ICQ and sent it to Al. He read it and then replied to me.

no no no
that is not the case
who tell you about that?
it is wrong!
we must regard it objectivly

I was honestly really taken aback by Al's answer. I then posed a question to him, what if he was wrong? What if his government had been untruthful to him? How could the entire Western world be wrong?

I love my country and our leaders!
they are wise enough to lead us

That sounded exactly like some youth anthem, kids are made to sing over there.
Such rhetoric, had been driven into Al's head that he wouldn't accept my version of Tiananmen Square.

In Allen's head the incident hadn't happened the way we all know it really did. I wanted to continue the discussion, but it seemed to be a touchy subject. I was only trying to do what those students tried to do back in 1989, point out to people what their qualms with the Chinese government should be. But Al was either too indoctrinated to accept what I was saying, or too scared to believe what I was telling him. Knowing the Chinese strictly control the internet, I decided not to pursue the conversation any further. I didn't want to get him into trouble.

There are so many tangents I could go off onto at this point, but I'm too tired to continue writing much longer.

I was honestly disturbed. Over here, in North America we're heavily influenced by the media and government. But over there, in China the medium is the message. The influence is crammed down your throat, and if you don't go along with it... Who knows what will happen to you. Ah those communist propagandist, they sure know how to turn a nation of 1.5 billion people into a bunch of fucking pawns.

It really just makes you question what to believe these days. One man's truth is another man's fiction. And no where else was this adage more evident to me. But which is better? The illusion of truth, or a lie?

- Will
Monday, June 14, 2004
QUOTE OF THE DAY : A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing. - George Bernard Shaw

SONG OF THE DAY : TV on the Radio - Staring at the Sun

LINK OF THE DAY : That's gotta hurt.

Set honour in one eye and death i' the other,
And I will look on both indifferently.

The summer is chugging away, as time seems to do. June 14th already, Christmas seemed like yesterday, and all in between a blur.

So I was watching Star Trek The Next Generation the other day. Geeky? Yes. Sue me I grew up watching it. The episode I saw is by far one of the best acted episodes of any TV show ever. For those unfamiliar with the show, Patrick Stewart plays Captain Picard in this second Trek series, considered by many to be the best out of the... 5... Wow talk about kicking a dead horse. Onto the episode.

Picard's answer after being tortured and forced to look at Cardassian porn.

I think it was called Chain of Command. In this particular episode Picard, Worf and Dr. Crusher are sent on a covert mission to a secret Cardassian base. For those of you who don't know Cardassians are one of the many alien races featured on the show. Anyways, someone tips off the Cardassians about this little covert op, and Picard ends up getting captured.

He awakes in the spartan office of a Cardassian officer, played by fellow Brit actor David Warner. The officer begins interrogating Picard, standard military questions. Strengths and weaknesses of Federation forces along the Cardassian border etc.

Of course Picard, being a senior officer will not answer any of the questions. Sick of Picard's steadfastness, he has the Captain stripped naked and chained to a bracket hanging from the ceiling, leaving him there overnight. The next day the officer takes a different approach. Hanging behind the officer's desk are four spot lights. The officer turns them on so that they are shining directly in Picard's face. He then asks Picard how many lights he sees.

"I see four lights." Picard responds.

"No, there are five" The officer calmly states. "Are you quite sure?"

Picard knows what he sees. "There are four lights."

The officer then makes Picard aware of an incision on his chest. As it turns out, while Picard was unconscious the Cardassians had him implanted with a device that allows the officer to send excruciating pain through Picard's body at the touch of a button. The officer then demonstrates the devices effect sending the Captain into horrific pain.

"That was the lowest possible setting." says the officer. "How many lights do you see?"

Picard is resolute, despite the intense pain he will incur because of his answer.

"There are four lights."

Displeased, the officer sighs. "I don't understand how you can be so mistaken."

He then sends another more intense jolt of pain searing through the Captains body.
The torture continues like this for many days, Picard in spite of his captor, will not say that there are five lights. He continues to say what his eyes tell him, there are four lights.

The officer knows that if he can get Picard to say that he sees five lights, he will have broken him. Thusly, he'll be able to get any information he needs out of the Captain.

After more than a week of this torture, Picard is a wreck of a man. Dazed and weakened as he is, he's still resisting the torture.

One morning the officer comes into the room and informs Picard of some recent events. An invasion of Cardassian forces has been a success, and that Picard's ship, Enterprise; is burning in space. He is also informed that no one knows that he is being held captive and it will be assumed that he was killed with his crew on the Enterprise. None of this is true of course, and is part of the interrogation. Finally, the officer offers Picard an ultimatum. Say nothing, and continue to be tortured for years to come, or live comfortably. Free to pursue his interests and live out his life on Cardassia, all he has to do is say that he sees four lights.

In actuality, the Federation has secured Picard's release and guards are coming to get him as the officer and him speak.

Faced with this ultimatum, Picard is unsure what to believe. Unable to distinguish what is real, and what is not. Or how many lights he sees. He is about to say there are five lights as the guards enter. They inform him that he's to be taken back to the Enterprise. As he's about to be led away he turns to the officer one more time and yells, "THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!!!" shaking and unsteady as he leaves the room.

The officer did break Picard's will. He almost took his offer. It was only the last minute revelation of the truth, that he would be set free that allowed him to tell the truth. So horrible was the torture that he endured that he actually thought there were five lights and not four.

After watching this episode I thought to myself, what would I do in that situation?
Would I crumble immediately? Or endure days of torture? Or in the end would I betray my country and my very mind, and take the easy way out? Or just keep saying what I knew to be true, that there were four lights, and die.

Makes you think about how your mind can be influenced, even in subtle ways to believe certain untruths. Whether through ignorance or coercion, our minds are biased into believing what they think is true, but may not actually be true.

All I know is that I would try to be strong, in a situation like that there is nothing else anyone can do.

Aside from the interesting questions this finely written and executed episode raises, it's just damn good television. This was the only episode that had a 'viewer discretion advised' warning before it, because the torture scenes were so intense.

Highly recommend watching it if you catch it on TV. Most of the episode is just the Officer and Picard in the office, it could be anything if it wasn't an episode of Star Trek. You don't have to be a Trek Geek to appreciate fine acting and writing.

Vado itum Deus, amicus.

- Will


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