Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Three Discussions

#1: The Pokewalker

The good folks over at the Pokemon company put out a reiteration of their second-generation games a few months ago. Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver (renamed HeartGold and SoulSilver) lets gamers like me, who may not have played Pokemon at all since the originals came out, go back to the Johto region and relive the familiar fun. Although I swear, if Entei doesn't stay in that Pokeball the next time I try to capture him, I am taking out the cartridge and throwing it into a wall.

Like most video game updates, this one brings with it tweaks to the original system, new areas, updated graphics, and many other twists and turns to differentiate this new iteration from the source material. What is far more noteworthy than anything they did within the game, however, is what they give you when you buy it. The Pokewalker; a small, Pokeball-colored (half white, half red) pedometer which you can hook onto your belt loop.

The Pokewalker allows you to transfer one Pokemon from your game into the pedometer, where you can then take a walk with it. Doing so earns experience for the Pokemon, and also confers upon you rewards that you would not be able to find easily within the game itself, if at all. You can receive these rewards in exchange for "watts," the virtual currency of the Pokewalker. Every 20 steps you take earns a watt, and enough watts will unlock new courses where you can go after even greater prizes. The most expensive of these currently costs 200,000 watts - the equivalent of 4,000,000 steps. Keep in mind that the average person walks 3,000-5,000 steps a day. Ever since I got the Pokewalker, on my days off I try to take between 10,000 and 20,000.

The Pokewalker makes you want to exercise - it encourages you and rewards you for putting down the actual game and going outside or getting on a treadmill. And while some people have come up with ways to cheat the system, the real victory here is that the video game industry, or at least Pokemon Inc., is making a real attempt. In a nation suffering an outbreak of obesity and overwhelmed with sedentary lifestyles, they have made a tool that helps fight this trend, even if only in a small way. This is not a game made for the purpose of physical activity, like the WiiFit titles, it is an add-on to a game that would otherwise have children sitting still for hours instead finding excuses to get outside and run around.

That, in my opinion, is a step - or twenty - in the right direction.

#2: The State of the State of Israel

Now, I didn't attend synagogue services as often as I should have growing up, but I know a few things about Jewish history. I understand things were pretty rough in the times up until now. The existence of Israel is the only major victory Jews have had as a people since the Old Testament (or as Jews call it, the Testament). It is a story positively rife with oppression, enslavement, hatred, bigotry, and occasionally genocide.

So when I read the news and see Israel pursuing exactly that kind of agenda against Palestine, it makes me a little uncomfortable, to say the least.

Of course, there's nothing here really that separates Israel from many other of the world's powerful nations. Russia built its foundation off of oppression ethnic minorities, and when that wasn't enough, its own people. Great Britain only let India become its own country after World War II weakened them too much to say otherwise. The United States, lest we forget, is one Native American slaughter after another edited from our history books. Israel is not doing anything that is altogether out of character for a nation - morals aside - just not one that chooses to call itself the Jewish nation.

It's definitely a larger conversation than what I intend to write here, but the government of Israel is completely out of character for the beliefs of the religion they represent. As the state of Israel, an independent nation for a people called Israelis, they're doing what they feel is necessary to protect themselves. As the Jewish State, they're doing more to spread anti-Semitism around the globe than any other group active today. So should Israel reform its domestic and foreign policy to stay more in-line with Jewish ideals, or should it simply drop the pretense of being the Jewish state? There's already a separation of Church and State within Israel, why not extend that distinction to the national stage?

#3: I Don't Wanna Grow Up

Toys 'R Us is still a place I visit occasionally, just to walk through it. It would probably lose the appeal if I were a more frequent visitor, but if I keep these nostalgic journeys down to once or twice a year, then there's still rush when you walk through the sliding doors and enter a gigantic (though it appeared much bigger when I was younger for some reason . . .) toy store.

But on my last trip, walking through the aisles, I noticed something.

One side of the aisle had Action Figures, the other side had Dolls. Past that, the next row had Sports on one side, and Dress Up on the other. Above these aisles, bright red signs featuring boys playing next to the Action Figure and Sports, soft pink signs with smiling girls above Dolls and Dress Up.

Alright, I get it. There's a target audience there. Their educational toys, stuffed animals, and other things like that are not so obviously gender-organized. Still, should that kind of thing really be so blatant? I don't even know if I think it's wrong, necessarily, just odd in this day and age for a company to so clearly state "these toys are for boys, these toys are for girls." My shock is less from that they do it and more that they haven't been sued by someone for it. Maybe the kind of people who would typically blow their gasket over the distinction being made get the same feeling I do when entering Toys 'R Us, and of COURSE it makes sense that girls would want the dolls and not boys. D'uh!

Or maybe they just don't have kids.

AND FINALLY - you have probably noticed the lack of activity here at These Gentlemen lately. The problem, it seems, with organizing a group of people all roughly around the same age and station in life is that the large transitional periods which happen in life all happen to these people at the same time. When dealing with law schools, internships, full-time jobs, travel schedules, etc., etc., trying to find suitable material to fit the These Gentlemen standards - and time to write it - can be difficult to say the least.

Regardless, so long as there exist topics in this world with the need for a gentlemanly perspective on them, These Gentlemen shall continue to exist. Plans are already being made for the Gentlemen to come back later this summer, bigger and more ambitious in our goals than ever. We promise, if you stick around, we will too, and you won't be disappointed at the outcome. Until then, I bid adieu.

Keep it classy.