Why “The Stanley Parable” Sucks and the Problem of Engineer Philosophy

adventure line

For a game that claims to be about free choice and determinism, The Stanley Parable sure fails on every account to engage in a meaningful philosophical dialogue. It makes me sad to see such a potentially compelling narrative medium wasted on a boring, pretentious, and unambitious storyline. The game is cute and a little funny, but that’s all it ever ends up being. It tries very hard to be deep and clever and philosophical, but the writing makes it pretty clear that the author hasn’t read a single hard book in his life. What good is “intellectual humor” written by a non-intellectual?

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Gen Urobuchi Alludes to Madoka Magica Sequel During Talk Event Held at Anime Expo 2014



madoka crying

Minipost: The MadokaSucks.com domain is now in my hands, and by the way Madoka still sucks

You can try it for yourself: http://madokasucks.com. I also revised the blog post a bit to make it more readable. I doubt that very many people will be typing “Madoka Sucks” or “MadokaSucks.com” into their browser anytime soon, but maybe I can get a laugh out of this someday.

I also took a look at the existing results for “Madoka Sucks”, and they’re okay. Most of the search results are too generous with the show and are pretty poorly written. It sure feels good to be the best.

smug benten

Ping Pong: On Heroism and the False Sense of Enlightenment

A friend of mine wrote a very interesting post about Ping Pong: the Animation. He has a good analysis, but I disagree with some of his points.

It’s true that Dragon and Smile never realized their enlightenment completely by themselves, but a large part of the anime is meant to illustrate that complete isolation and self-denial is foolish. Buddhism is famous for the idea of the Middle Way, something balanced between the extremes of pure materialism and pure asceticism. Gautama Buddha himself famously advocated against the self-starving, hermetic asceticism that characterized some South Asian philosophies.

Smile and Dragon both locked themselves up into tight corners. They did not go on a journey to the mountaintops to understand the universe. They instead chose to stay by themselves and never improve. It was not that case that Peco was “forcing” them to become enlightened; all Peco did was create the circumstances and environmental factors that would allow Smile and Dragon to become enlightened on their own.

For example, Dragon becomes enlightened when the Hero of Ping Pong shines a bright light into the dark bathroom stall. In this scene, the hero extends his arm but quickly pulls it back, forcing Dragon to grow wings on his own, NOT by holding the Hero’s hand. Similarly, Smile becomes enlightened when he jumps up to hit an impossibly high ping pong ball; although it is true that Peco was the one who caused the ball to fly that high, Smile himself was the one who shed his robotic armor to reach it.

Moreover, Buddhist themes of anti-materialism are very present in the show. Peco is in an unenlightened state when he eats too much candy and smokes too much tobacco (Buddhism vs Hedonism). Dragon is unenlightened when he focuses so much on family obligations that he loses sight of his individuality (Buddhism vs Filial Piety). Kong is unenlightened when he was so arrogant that he did not even want to help people on the Japanese high school tea (Buddhism vs Hubris). These are all material delusions that the characters overcome.

But Buddhism is not so extreme as to advocate complete anti-materialism. Smile was so removed from the pleasures of human existence that he forgot what it means to live. That’s why Smile must be awakened at the end of the show by pushing his body to such an extreme physical limit that the red blood in his veins shakes off his metal armor.

Yes, the characters did not enlighten themselves in a vacuum. But it is foolish to think that enlightenment-in-a-vacuum is even possible. If a man walks to a mountain by himself, and the sights from that mountaintop cause him to become enlightened, do we say that the mountain enlightened the man? If a woman looks at a flying bird, and her pondering about the bird causes her to become enlightened, do we say that the bird enlightened the woman? If a student meditates under a tree, and the meditation causes him to become enlightened, do we give responsibility of the enlightenment to the tree — or to the meditation? Of course not. These are only environmental things that can stimulate a path to enlightenment that still comes — ultimately — from within.

The Daily Life of Autistic Cat

I know, I don’t have time for this: Ping Pong The Animation finished airing last season, and I need to start reviewing on animes that are about to air this week. But my fellow bloggers, who believe that Ping Pong The Animation is the best anime and claimed to be enlightened, insisted me and others to watch the show to become enlightened as well. (You can check their blogs by clicking the links at the right column of this blog homepage). We have had good amount of discussions, but I still do not think they are as enlightened as they claim. I do agree Ping Pong is a really good anime that you should all watch at least once in your lifetime, and probably the best anime in the recent years, but I feel that Ping Pong gives a false sense of enlightenment to the most people.  (The following review will…

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Zen Buddhism and Enlightenment in Ping Pong the Animation

I’ve recently been catching myself rewatching the last few episodes of “Ping Pong” over and over again. Although much of the anime is inspired by the 2002 film based on the Ping Pong manga, every frame and shot of the show is made with the complete dedication that only a genius like Masaaki Yuasa could uniquely offer. “Ping Pong” is far from a typical sports anime; it’s a complex story of emotional growth that traces itself through a group of ping pong players. It’s difficult not to scream out in internal joy when we see folks like Kazama and Smile finally becoming enlightened at the end of the show.

Ping Pong: The Animation - We're all alive, that's why we laugh, red hands in a circle reaching for the sun
Yes, enlightened. The main character Peco, despite his initial flaws — his arrogance and indulgent personality — is a hero who, in his own quest for personal enlightenment and self-improvement, touches and changes the lives of the people he meets along the way. Through his hardships and experiences, we see Peco learn from his mistakes and develop into a perfect Buddhist teacher, capable of uplifting even the most ignorant and unenlightened of people, doing so so with the sublime and simple grace of a true hero.
Ping pong : the Animation - I am the invincible hero
Ping Pong: the Animation - the Hero removes the darkness
“Ping Pong: the Animation” shares the common narrative of the Ping Pong Learner, always on his quest for enlightenment, continually interpreted and reinterpreted in the personal lives and emotional developments of the characters. Ping pong is the human activity that has brought a cast from far-flung and diverse backgrounds and dispositions together, each of whom carrying a personal definition and purpose to ping pong in his or her heart. We see this when Butterfly Jo, the Old Lady of the Dojo, and the CEO of Poseidon come back together for a brief reunion, talking among one another with the coarse, lively language of young friends; this scene is the first and only time we ever see all three of them on screen at once.
Ping Pong: the Animation - the three elders, old lady, coach koizumi/butterfly jo, and poseidon CEO when they're young and lively

Ping Pong is the Greatest “Serious Anime” Ever Made


HOLY FUCKING SHIT, i just finished this show and it was FUCKING amazing. this direction, this amazing writing, this fucking greatest of all time character development, what the fuck

why is Yuasa so fucking good at everything? jesus christ everything about this show was fucking perfect, the visual metaphors, the narrative that represents a key part of the human spirit, jesus fucking christ, and it’s a story completely removed from the dumb cliches and edgy pseudo-philosophy that dominates most media (not just in anime)

i thought Tatami Galaxy was good, but only within the framework of anime, but Ping Pong is an entire work of literature that stands completely on its own independent of it’s medium. I would honestly put this on par with Steppenwolf or Notes from Underground, it is a completely amazingly articulate work that is so brilliant and so completely non-pleb

Jesus christ if you aren’t watching this show then I feel bad for you. Nobody deserves to have tastes so bad that they completely miss out on something like this. Enjoy your edgy Madoka Magica shows or Attack on Titan or whatever and pretending that anime is worth watching, because this show is the magnum opus of all “deep anime” and it will only take a true genius to beat this show; there is no POSSIBLE way that a ZOG-controlled capitalist dog like Urobucher and his ilk will ever be able to even stand in the same sphere of creation as this fucking show, but whatever, I don’t even have to tell you this, if you don’t believe me then enjoy chewing the cud like the dumb cows you are, for I have already attained the enlightenment

What it means to be a hero – episode 3 of Ping Pong: the Animation

First of all, this episode is amazing. It’s incredibly well-written, very compelling, and it stays true to the philosophical themes established in previous episodes. I talked about the theme of heroism in episodes 1 and 2 of Ping Pong the Animation, and luckily for me, my analysis has only been further validated by episode 3.

A condensed summary of what we learned in episodes 1 and 2 is as follows: Peco and Smile represent two opposing definitions of heroism.

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Heroism in Ping Pong: the Animation, episodes 1 and 2

The hero appears!

The hero appears!

The hero appears!

The first episode of Ping Pong deals with the consequences of naive idealism. The episode is probably best summarized with a quotation from Coach: “No man so good, yet another may be as good as he.” The episode is almost entirely centered around Peco as he transitions from being the all-star hero of the show to being exposed as an (apparently) talentless hack. Some contrasts in the narrative are exremely important to note:

1. When Peco dominates the rich boy from out of town, Peco is depicted as a charming hero. The rich boy is shown as ignorant and arrogant, clearly deserving of punishment. When Peco slaps the harshness of reality in the face of the rich boy without even breaking a sweat, he cries out “What were my ten years for?!” — an almost cartoonishly funny exclamation. As the audience, we have almost no sympathy for the rich boy.

2. However, when Peco is himself the victim of Wen’ge’s incredible Ping Pong skills, the narrative takes on a drastically different tone. We see Peco try to assess the situation, trying to calculate Wen’ge’s movements, and even though he loses the first few points, we are under the impression that Peco is just testing the waters; sure, he may lose a few, but the information he’s obtaining will let him triumph over Wen’ge, just as the hero always does, right?

i want to be no 1


But no — when Peco attempts to serve a heroic “4,000 year ping pong special”, the ball slips out from underneath the paddle, hitting the wall behind him. It is at this point that both Peco — and we, the audience — realize that the game is utterly out of Peco’s control. No longer can Peco use “science” or “analysis” as a justification for losing points, as we now realize that the game was always in Wen’ge’s clutches to begin with. Wen’ge makes a statement that shocks us to the core: “Your backhand is weak! And your forehand! And your legs! And your reactions! Nothing about you is good enough!” — a statement which completely contrasts with the rosy perception of Peco we had at the beginning, as told by one of the ping pong captains: “Hoshino’s a strong player. He’s goot at footwork, backhand, blocks, everything.”

When Wen’ge skunks Peco, Peco performs a dramatic dive from the top of the screen to the bottom, obviously symbolic of the completely humiliating loss of his heroic status. Peco does not even realize that this is the same fate that he was callously delivering to overconfident rich boys all along. But even so we are led to have sympathy for Peco, because we had rested all of our hopes on his shoulders. Wen’ge is depicted as distinctly unheroic; cocky, cold, and cruel, and not nearly as charming as Peco, and the juxaposition of these two personalities is clearly intentional. With the loss of Peco’s hero-status, our naive expectations of Ping Pong heroism have been completely — and permanently — annihiliated. Ultimately, we learn that the charismatic, gets-what-he-wants hero doesn’t really exist.

The idea of heroism reappears in episode two, but with an interesting twist. When our faithful ping pong coach finally pushes Smile to his farthest limits, Smile finds himself pondering an old childhood memory. Sitting inside a closed locker, Smile waits for a hero to come rescue him, only to hear:

“The hero isn’t coming.”

A robotic arm extends itself to Smile, offering within its hands an alternate solution to a no-show hero. In a cruel and uncaring world, Smile must actualize the results of heroism by himself, and he needs to take action in life, not simply wait unendingly for a hero that will never come.

Smile then presents us with an alternate definition of hero: not a likeable, charismatic personality, but a person capable of superhuman feats — someone who is unquestionably beyond human limitation. Smile imagines himself as a calculating robot, and in so doing, he channels an unbelievable strength and defeats the coach.

Ironically, Smile remembers a quote from his old self: “I want to be just like you, Peco.” Prior to his awakening, Smile had always compared himself to the ideal of classical heroism. But now, Smile realizes that the stoic, logical, and almost cruel “robot” within him is an equally valid definition of hero that opposes classical ideas in almost every sense. Smile therefore transforms himself from an anti-hero, a completely unsympathetic and abnormal character with few redeeming qualities, to a real hero.

(To be updated with the release of episode 3)

Randall Munroe teaches us what we all already knew


One thing that immediately struck me about the latest xkcd comic is how mind-numbingly funny it is. In an online world that is increasingly lacking in genuinely funny and original content, I applaud Randall Munroe for making the effort to craft such a cleverly written and highly innovative comic strip. The flow and meter of the stick figure’s words are so vivid and musical, and Randall marks the beginning of this intellectual and comedic adventure with such highly articulate words as: “The right to free speech means the government can’t arrest you for what you say.” Incredible! It’s a wonder that the Founding Fathers even thought it necessary to dedicate entire paragraphs to the concept of freedom of speech when our good friend Randall can do the job for them in only one short sentence.

Alright, I give up. Sarcasm really isn’t my thing, especially when I’m going to have to spend so much of my time unravelling this giant honking piece of shit. Honestly, it makes me wonder what kind of person who writes such good what-if columns and had some of the greatest early webcomic strips of all time can be so completely delusional now. Let’s get started.

This comic is just fundamentally contentless at its most basic level and performs absolutely no actual social work: the kinds of people who invoke freedom of speech as an actual defending argument are either 1) such literal plebeians that they wouldn’t be moved by a condescending and unapologetically preachy webcomic or 2) were never even trying to argue with you in the first place and just wanted you to fuck off because you were being annoying. There is no person in the world who would look at this comic and actually learn anything from it. Munroe’s comic is pretty much equivalent to going to a Wal-Mart and trying to teach the customers what free speech means: it’s so obviously pointless, undeniably useless, and completely masturbatory.

And even if this comic actually did answer some sort of real social problem, it’s stupidly blunt, completely unfunny, and not original in the slightest. There is a concept called “satire” that Munroe could have used to convey the lesson that he wanted us to learn, but I guess it was just beyond his capabilities. Instead, he decides to talk to us as if we’re all braindead children, and he makes it incredibly clear that this comic’s sole reason for existing is because poor Mr. Munroe had his little baby feelings hurt after losing an argument against someone.

I mean, really. Look at it! It’s just terrible. The majority of the comic is literally just a stick figure talking to you at various angles and poorly-done zoom in shots in order to add just enough “variety” that your eyeballs wouldn’t instantly implode upon seeing them. For the last panel, he even just draws a literal picture of a door because he thinks that will compensate for his complete lack of any meaningful illustration in the majority of the panels. I would figure that most reasonable artists would try to make up for the lack of illustration with some particularly poetic English constructions, but I guess Munroe decided that the 300,000 people watching him really love to hear his visceral and almost nonsensical musings expressed with both the vocabulary and wit of a 10-year-old schoolchild.

The worst part about this comic is that everybody agrees with it. It’s such blatant preaching to the choir, such an unimpeded pandering to some sort of Reddit self-superiority circlejerk of which I’m 100% certain exists. Munroe could have easily leveraged his audience to address an actual intellectual issue in public discourse, such as, for example, our tendency of overvaluing individual rights in a pluralist society to the detriment of moral development, or perhaps why “absolute freedom of speech” is impossible, or just ANYTHING INTERESTING, really! Not the shitty and completely boring habits of uneducated literal plebeians who don’t know the meaning of free speech.

I’d like to ask just one question before signing off: Why is it that engineers always insist on getting so heavily involved in public moral discourse when they really have no idea what they’re talking about? I’m an engineer too, but at least I acknowledge my limitations. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a philosophy major try to relay an armchair theory about the construction of bridges, or an English major try to demonstrate a faulty mathematical proof. But who knows? Munroe has always seemed to think that our society is becoming the chest-beating jock-dominated world of Idiocracy, but I think that the far more insidious problem is the growing group of middle class STEM-majoring pseudo-intellectuals who arrogantly think that they completely understand ethics, public policy, and morality. Fun fact: you need to actually take an ethics class before you can claim to understand it.

Madoka is a terrible philosophical trainwreck, with spoilers

Madoka sucks.

I know what you’re thinking. Man, come on, Madoka came out what — ten years ago? And during those ten years it’s been completely uncontested as the greatest anime of all time. I’ve loved this show and made it part of my LIFE. I own the Madoka figurines. I buy the Madoka posters. I wear the Madoka t-shirts. If you cut me open and looked into the bloody guts spilling out of me they would spell out the words M A D O K A MAGICA. Uh, in Japanese, of course. In all of my years I haven’t seen a single good objection to Madoka Magica — not even one! — so why is your random blog post going to be different?

madoka t shirt

Okay, guy, you might have a point. But hear me out: Madoka Magica is entertaining, sure, but it’s philosophically incoherent. It’s like eating spaghetti with ketchup instead of tomato sauce. It’s like adding vinegar to your morning breakfast cereal. There are so many bits and pieces of the show that would probably stand reasonably well as independent stories, but when combined, they become an inconsistent mismash of incompatible and mutually exclusive moral messages. Spoilers follow, but I’m assuming that if you’re at this point in the reading that you’ve either seen the show already or aren’t concerned if I spoil it for you.

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