The end of a world

“Even if this world ends today, I will still protect you.”

November 30 marks the end of the online multiplayer game City of Heroes, which has been running since April 2004. I was actually playing it already when it was in closed beta, and was impressed. In my first review of it here, I described the game world as “a believable world, but larger than life: Beautiful and dangerous like the first weeks of love.” This may explain why I kept playing it till the end. But it is more than that: It was the goodest game I have ever played.

I don’t mean just that it was technically good, which it also was. The controls in particular was superior to any multiplayer game I have played before or since. But more importantly, there was an inherent goodness in roleplaying a hero constantly protecting people from danger, and defeating evil. (In the game, the concept “defeat” was always used. It was implied that nobody was ever killed in the epic superpowered battles. If a hero was defeated, they would immediately recover at the hospital, and it was assumed that a prison hospital would receive the villains.)

It should surprise no one that a game like this attracted a special type of players, a bit different from the ones playing elves and rangers, jedis and space traders. Comic book fans, of course, but it appealed to a particular temperament. Its players tended to be friendly, helpful, tolerant and mature in a way I never really saw in other games. (Although there was some of it, of course. Dark Age of Camelot gave me some happy memories back in the day too.) Over the years, these people have stayed with the game, to the very last. Sometimes couples were playing together, or parents and their grown children, or friends who had moved to different places but met up in this virtual world. Many new friendships were also made in the game, and it is likely that these people would have continued to play for another decade if they had a chance. But that chance disappeared.

NCSoft, a Korean company that bought the rights to the game some years ago, suddenly decided this fall to close it down. This came as a shock: The game had shaken off two newer competitors and was growing. It was running a profit, and new content was arriving at a brisk pace. Suddenly one day it was announced that the game would soon be closed, and the whole developer team was fired immediately. The reason given was that the company wanted to concentrate on its core (that is, Korean games, translated to English for the international market). I am not overly surprised. CoH is a very American game, and America has gone from being cool to embarrassing over these same years. Americans are probably not aware of this.

Be that as it may. This is not a day I want to spend talking about politics. Today I want to remember the “goodest” game I have ever played, the wonderful people I met and shared a beautiful, colorful dream with. The heart that made you thrive in such a place, will still be beating elsewhere.

People are bewildered that life must end
And time strikes them harshly.
But even if this world ends today,
I will still protect you.

(The end of the world, by Angela. YouTube. Translated by Suri-chan. )

Snoopy’s Christmas

My childhood hero. This explains so much about me, doesn’t it? ^_^

When I was still a boy on a small farm in western Norway and had not yet learned English, this song must have appeared on radio, for my brother had captured it on his tape recorder. I think this was our first tape recorder, before my second brother got his hands on one of those newfangled cassette recorders. So yeah, back in the days.

I loved the song obsessively, but I was too young to understand the lyrics except a few words here and there. My brother claimed the song said Snoopy was dead, but I defiantly refused to believe it. My hero could not die that casually. (Besides, my brother did not exactly have a sterling reputation for upholding the truth…) I assumed he was just trying to torment me, but now that I have access to the lyrics, I realize that my brother, although older than me, might not have been familiar with the idiom of having someone “dead in their sight”, meaning aiming straight at them. Still, the context should have given it away.

I played the melody of the chorus over and over on my toy xylophone, quite probably driving the rest of the family nuts. I still remember the melody now decades later, and I would not be surprised if the surviving members of my birth family remember it too, although less fondly. ^_^

We named our next dog Snoopy, with quite a bit of input from my side, I’m afraid. He wasn’t even a beagle, but he was the smartest dog I’ve met so far. How much this song contributed to that event, I am not sure. But the Norwegian translation of Peanuts has another name for the dog, so it is likely that the name came from this song or another.

Months became years, and the song was lost to me. Years became decades, and I occasionally whistled the melody to myself during happy moments, in this way keeping it alive as one generation of Peanuts fans gave birth to the next. But knowing nothing of the lyrics except “Snoopy” and “Red Baron”, I had no hope of finding it again.

Today, I took the time to look through my “stream” in Google+, the social network for Google users. I have only a few people there who could reasonably be called friends, and who I try to keep updated on. But sometimes I have the time to read acquaintances with similar interests (many of them writers, published or otherwise). One of these semi-friends happened to post, on this particular day and time, a link to a YouTube video with the song: Snoopy’s Christmas.

I thanked her profusely, of course. I was kind of touched by this unexpected reunion between a boy and his favorite song after decades of separation. The truth is that I remember very little from my childhood, only a few glints here and there like fireflies in a dark valley. So I kind of value the remaining memories. My family may disagree, but I will happily promise not to play this song for them on a cheap xylophone ever again. ^_^

Hyouka OP 2 metaphor

Do girls think it is fun to drag boys into their human world?

Another masterpiece by Kyoto Animation is the 22-episodes animated TV series Hyouka. These guys really know quality, but that is not my sermon today. Rather, if you’re not busy with work or some such, I would like you to watch the animation to the opening song for the second half of the series. The dream of the main character sums up the whole 22 episodes pretty well, but in a purely metaphorical way. In the series, the boy starts out with the attitude to conserve his energy, emotionally even more than physically. He does not want a “rose-colored” high school life, but a colorless one. What I would call detached. His motto is: “If it is not necessary, don’t do it. If you must do it, be brief.”

Over the course of the series, he slowly changes, and it is due to his three friends in the classics club, mainly the girl we see at the end of the animation here. Watch, preferably full screen. There will be a quiz. ^_^ No, but there will be an autobiography.

Hyouka OP 2 – YouTube.

Did you watch that? Clearly the message of the clip is that even if you think people are your friends, they will just have fun with you when you don’t watch out. *_*

The message of the dream sequence however, that is what I am talking about. As he falls asleep, the boy feels that he is drowning. When he reappears, he has become something like a ghost: He is seen only in sketchy drawings and as reflections in shiny surfaces. Time passes: We see the snow of winter and then spring or summer, indicating a very long duration in which he aimlessly watches the world from outside, noticed by no one. Finally he appears in the glass of the high school club room, where his childhood friend recognizes him and the girl with the bright purple eyes reaches through the glass and pulls him back into the world of the living.

This is entirely metaphorical. The anime is not a supernatural story in the least, although I am kind of itching now to write such a story. But it is his detachment from the hectic world of humans with their wishes and wants and  desires, their plans and their goals. He watches that world pass by as if from a slightly different world, in which he has no needs for anything from the human world, only a mild curiosity from time to time as he wanders alone in a world no one else can see. And then someone notices him, and a girl reaches into the world where he was alone, and pulls him into the human world.

Been there, as extremely long-time readers will remember. Girls are mysterious creatures with uncanny powers like that. It may even feel like a good thing for a little while there. But in the end, you know you can’t really trust humans. It’s good to be back here in the phantom zone, where there is nothing I need in the human world. ^_^ I feel sometimes like it was a near miss. But probably not really.

Norwegian economy: Secret inflation

Apartment buildings are cropping up in areas where there used to be single-family homes with apple gardens. But even these are not many enough or arriving fast enough.

For most Europeans, Norway must seem like a (slightly chilly) paradise these days. While “austerity” is the new trend elsewhere, Norway has returned to its continual boom after a short break during the financial crisis, a break mainly caused by European banks refusing to give credit to our trading partners. Norway today has almost no unemployment and in fact a chronic shortage of some types of workers. Guest workers from Europe have the option to immigrate, and many are taking it. Of course, we are a high-tech country and we don’t really need loafers. Our productivity is very high, and those who can’t keep up are not going to stay employed for long. Even public sector jobs are gradually becoming like that.

That said, wages and salaries are rising for almost everyone, although of course not equally. So it may seem like a paradise. Income is rising and there is almost no inflation! Well, about that…

What with all the people moving here, there simply aren’t enough houses for everyone to live the way they want. People who would prefer to live in a large house, live in a smaller house. People who would prefer to live in a small house, live in an apartment. People who would prefer to own, are renting. Now you may say: “This is how it always is. Desire always exceeds opportunity.” True! But the thing is, housing is getting expensive at a rapid pace. And since all need to live somewhere, it is actually inflation. It is just not evenly distributed. Those who already own a home, don’t notice it except in taxes, and only moderately even then. But the moment they want to upgrade to a larger home, they will find that these are rather more expensive than they used to be. So although they are theoretically growing richer at a rapid pace, they are actually not able to upgrade as they normally would. So: Inflation, but nobody must know it.

Of course, it gets pretty obvious for us who rent. Looking for other apartments without night parties upstairs, I can’t help but notice that the prices are rising steadily, by about 15% a year. Given how large a part rent is of monthly expenses, it is a pretty hefty inflation. If your taxes were rising like that, you’d vote for a different government next time. But due to the camouflage inherent in home ownership, people are actually happy with this inflation. They forget that they don’t really have the option, to sell their home and spend the money. Sure, they can borrow more money against it for each year, if they so desire. But borrowing has never, in itself, made anyone richer. If they invest that money wisely, perhaps. Do you know anyone who does that?

If this seems vaguely familiar, it may be because I warned Americans when they were making the same mistakes we are making now. Even though Norwegians have had the opportunity to point and laugh at the stupid foreigners (both American and European), nobody wants to believe that we have a problem here. It is different with us. “It is typically Norwegian to be good.” (Actual quote by a former Norwegian Prime Minister, although opinions are divided as to whether there was a hint of irony in it. It became a popular saying, anyway.)

Moving to Norway (if you can work smart enough to be the most productive in the world with a short workday and long vacation) is still a good option, but you should not have high expectations about home ownership for the first years unless you have a job title that ends in “Executive Officer”.


“It is my fate to bear the burden of endless battle with the harbingers of darkness.” Rikka is a Very Important Person.

Japanese has a new word, since a year or two ago. (OK, perhaps it only reached the world a year or two ago.) “Chuunibyou” – Middle School Second Year Syndrome – is the dreadful condition where someone discovers their individuality and free will before they discover the difference between reality and fantasy. They may dress all in black, including nail polish and lipstick where appropriate (or even if not), and hand in self-written poetry about death instead of their regular English essay. Or they may wear colored contacts and claim to have supernatural powers. They may declare their undying love for an anime character, complete with elaborate plans for the wedding. They may join some unconventional religion and try to convert everyone around them. Usually they get over it, and look back with considerable embarrassment on their actions.

The anime Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai – falling in love despite teenage delusions – is a romantic comedy without excessive display of panties and such. The main character is a high school freshman who is going to a high school a distance from home to avoid being recognized, because he spent his middle school years claiming to be the superhero Dark Flame Master, something that embarrasses him no end. But no sooner has his normal life begun, than he meets a girl in his class who wears an eye patch and a bandage on her arm to seal the supernatural powers inside her. And she knows his secret. Hilarity ensues, but despite all the awkwardness, they eventually become very close.

The anime – loosely based on a light novel with the same name – is warmly recommended for those who want a VERY Japanese love comedy without the usual pantsu glimpsing. There is some drama, but it is nothing that should scare large children. And the crazy antics and imaginary battles are wonderfully animated.


Naturally I find it interesting in terms of my own writing as well, since I like to write Young Adult novels, which for some reason is rarely about young adults but about middle and high schoolers. My attempt this year – which still badly needs a rewrite – stars a freshman in high school who takes anime way too seriously, joins a foreign religion, and believes that he is channeling the spirit of a Go player who died over 300 years ago. While I don’t go so far as to say he is deluded, I do have a side character present an alternative and more psychological explanation.

In contrast, my next story features a girl who everyone thinks is delusional or just trying to sound important, but who really spends every night in a magic world. The story is told by her cousin once removed, who comes to live with her and her mother (his real cousin) because there is no high school anywhere near the island where he grew up. The boy thinks the girl is crazy, especially when she starts reading from an invisible book. But then he starts dreaming about the same magic world…


One interpretation of the Jewish creation myth in Genesis is that humanity as a whole suffers from a kind of chuunibyou, having woken up to self-awareness at a point where we were still not ready for it. This seems to be the view favored by sci-fi writer and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, in his book about Perelandra (a mythical planet Venus where a new Adam and Eve are created in a tropical paradise.) In that book, the first humans reject the primordial temptation and grow up to their full human potential, which seems to be a kind of demigod. So in this view, the current humanity is in a kind of arrested development, stuck in a youthful delusion that we seem unable to shake off.

But now we’re getting pretty far afield for one entry. More another day. Or perhaps not. Every day is a special day at the Chaos Node.

Heartwarming underwear

“Is it that hard for you to understand how important panties are?” I am pretty sure most regular viewers of Japanese anime of the romantic comedy type are very well aware of how important panties are, but evidently some autistic artists are not. We are not actually shown that part though, thank goodness and the Japanese television code.

And now for something entirely different from my previous entry! That’s why it is a Chaos Node. (It is not a death and destruction node though.) If it were an Order Node, I would write the same kind of stuff every time. Perhaps I should have one of those too. But now: Friendship and panties, the Japanese way.

Last night I watched 6 episodes of a romantic comedy animation, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (probably meaning “The pet girl of Cherry Hall”.) It is about a reasonably normal young man, studying at an art academy and living in a cheap dorm called Sakurasou (Cherry tree apartment house, unless my anime-level Japanese fails me.) The other residents are the most eccentric of the students, but they pale in comparison to the new girl who moves in: A high-functioning autistic, who is already a famous painter but has trouble deciding what clothes to put on (if any) each morning, not to mention challenging tasks like shopping food. With the main character being the most normal one around, the teacher tasks him with keeping the new girl dressed and fed and getting her to school each day. After all, he has taken care of several cats, so he is obviously reliable.

As can be expected, various embarrassing situations ensue with alarming frequency. Outsiders tend to misunderstand the situation, especially a girl in his class who has a pretty obvious crush on him, but thinks he is in an intimate relationship with Autistic Girl. And as often the case with this genre in Japan, there is a lot of underwear going around and generally semi-sexual situations.

Despite the recurring sexual content, there is as usual in this type of series no actual fornication, although one would think the thought would cross the minds of various characters from time to time, and probably not a few viewers.

The most interesting part, however, is how friendly and heartwarming the whole story is. Watching it reminded me of why I tend to greatly enjoy Japanese erotic comedies. They portray human folly without malice. Everyone is treated with a certain measure of respect, despite the embarrassments they suffer. The characters are genuinely likable and tend to find traits to admire in each other, even those who don’t necessarily get along well. I think this inherent respect for other people (or at least countrymen) is an integral part of Japanese culture.

Or perhaps, as I say about my NaNovel this year, it is “the Japan that only exists in our heads.” The Holy Land of a new era, eh?

This is indeed the kind of atmosphere I wish I could convey in my own fiction: The lighthearted but sincere friendship, youthful excitement and freshness, the heartwarming fun. Just without the panties. Wait, that did not sound quite right. Just without having to actually show the panties. Unfortunately, I can’t hold a candle to this story yet.

Things I have learned

It is around 50 years since I learned to talk. It took most of that time to learn to shut up.

It is easier to write wisely than to talk wisely, and very hard to talk wisely until you have learned to not talk. Often it is wiser to continue not talking.

Reading strengthens the mind, and writing makes it clearer.

Good books are like friends, and even mediocre books are like comrades. But there are some books that will hurt you, just as there are people.

Before you speak with conviction about what you have not experienced yourself, make sure to have read many books about it, not one or two or five.

Being intelligent is like inheriting money: It is nothing to be proud of, it is easy to waste, and you end up being held responsible for more.

Intelligence is not enough for wisdom. I am wiser than some who are more intelligent than me, and more foolish than some who are less intelligent.

No amount of running will take you to the goal if you start in the wrong direction and never turn. The same goes for thinking, no matter how smart you are.

Thinking for yourself is highly overrated. By the time you discover the wheel, those who listened carefully have been to the moon and back. First stand on the shoulders of giants, then reach for the stars.

When we are children, we cannot choose who to learn from. As we grow older and seek to learn deeper truth, the right teacher becomes very important. A good rule is to know them by their fruits.

Being highly skilled is often less useful than being able to cooperate with others. Even if you are strong, there are things you cannot lift but which three or four can lift together.

Won NaNoWriMo!

Every day, every passing day, for hours and hours I wrote about other people playing Go. And other vaguely Japanese-inspired things. 

This morning, I had 50800 words of continuous fiction written in November! So that was a total NaNoWriMo win. In all fairness, I had taken the month off. And also, there was no new awesome computer game this fall. (It may be said with some grain of truth that I lost to Skyrim last year. I am ashamed of this now.)

More surprising, I felt the urge to write a couple thousand more words after I had “won”, even though I have no plans to publish my novel. Maybe I will put it up on the Net, I have not decided yet. But basically, it has begun to become interesting again toward the end. I am only writing the things that interest me now. I was thinking of dragging out the angst about losing his girlfriend a bit more, but seriously he was never that into her in the first place. Playing Go was more interesting. Not that this book is autobiographical or anything. I think it is hard to imagine for the ordinary reader how non-autobiographical it is. ^_^

My arm hurts almost like in the old days, and I have dictated a few paragraphs; that is all my throat can take, given how rarely I speak these years. It has been raining a lot this month and this has kept me from exercising as normal, even though my pulse has gone back down to normal levels (for me, not for ordinary humans). According to my doctor, an hour of exercise each day is necessary to keep my arm from growing stiff and sore when I write a lot, and it seems he was right.

But today, there is no pressure. I have already won. ^_^

I hate people like me

There are those who surpassed despair and still failed to reach their goal! You’ll find lots of them on the NaNoWriMo forums, particularly in the forum called “NaNoWriMo ate my soul”. And people like me are not making them feel any better. Not sure what to do about that, given that I have been there myself. Many times. Years in a row sometimes.

Still talking about the National Novel Writing Month. I hate it when there are overachievers who finish in a week, or ten days, or two weeks, while ordinary people struggle to get to 50 000 in 30 days. These speed writers make the rest of us look bad. This year, I am well on my way to hating myself. 42717 words as of day 10.

I would have felt better about it if the story was coherent and without boring parts. But hey, at least there are vague traces of the vague plot I had when I started. I thought for sure it gave up the ghost after the first week or so, but there is a ghost of sorts in it now, so that is good, I guess.

Still NaNoWriMo

I have been writing quite a bit. Not just the fiction, but some entries too. I just don’t upload them. I think they may be too good for me. I have to take care. When the Christian Bible says that “Not many of you become teachers, since we know that we shall receive that much more severe judgment”, I don’t think it only refers to the afterlife or our judgment day. That too, probably. But I have seen things during my lifetime that makes me believe Boris Mouravieff is right when he says, those who talk about the spiritual Truth will wake the General Law, will draw it’s attention, and it will begin to react against them. Kind of like naming the Dark One in the Wheel of Time books or in the Lord of the Rings. There are forces whose attention you don’t want to attract when you are a newbie.

The novel kind of lost the plot too, halfway through. I am still writing though. At the current pace I should finish around the middle of the month. Unless I give up, which would be a reasonable thing to do without my plot. I am reading back issues of Happy Science Monthly to find inspiration. Trying to imagine how the teachings of Happy Science must look to a high school freshman with little more than average intelligence and no religious or spiritual experience or upbringing.