Monthly Archives: July 2006

Blestyashchie!

Long-time readers may remember my translation of “A Ya Vse Letala”, the Blestyashchie song in the Russian urban fantasy movie Night Watch. You may also recall that one member of the band plays Day Watch member and witch (ved’ma) Alisa.

Well, courtesy of YouTube (not to mention the Russian edition of MTV), now you too can become fans of Blestyashchie.

Although, actually, I would rather have had you not be able to see them, because the outfits they wear don’t give them huge amounts of credibility as artistes. Still, though they try to look like older and less clothed versions of the Spice Girls, they can sing. And just listen to those songs and their clever arrangements! (Besides, it’s not like you have to watch the video. You can just listen, and ignore the jiggle factor.)

It’s also interesting that they sell glamor so hard. Meanwhile, their song lyrics tend to be as romantic as their videos aren’t, and they have several cheerful hit songs about traveling to tropical places. (Okay, you can see why that last would sell in Russia….)

Anyway, I admit to liking pop songs. But it’s sad that popular culture in so many countries, including our own, is so full of so much unwholesome stuff. So here we have perfectly nice songs, interesting video ideas that have nothing to do with said songs, and totally gratuitous stuff added in. (Except that it’s not gratuitous; the flesh is there because it moves albums.) It must be humiliating to know that you can only be a big star if you also dress and act like a skank for your immature male fans. (Albeit a glamorous and wealthy skank who travels to exotic places.)

BTW, I promise you’ll be happier if you don’t watch “Au, Au” or “Ciao Bambino”. At all. Just trust me. And “Gde Zhe Ty Gde” is one of those “slit your wrists under the New Year’s tree” songs, so some music video genius decided to add gratuitous fan service. Ptui.

“A Ya Vse Letala”. Here’s my translation of the lyrics, btw. The movie version seems about twice as fast as the album/music video version. The video demonstrates that Russian airlines lose your luggage, too!

“Apelsinovaya Pesnya” How many music groups today include white slavery kidnapping plots in their videos? Apparently, they are also Phillies fans….

Here’s my translation of the lyrics.

“Apelsinovaya Pesnya”
(The Orange Song)

Group: Blestyashchie
Translation: Maureen O’Brien

On the coins are stars
I buy tickets in the summer
To a tale where there’s all,
All that you ever wanted.

Flowers in bloom there, and the sweet, sweet nights
There, our favorite dreams for me and for you
CH:
Bananas and cocos,
(ah ah ah)
Orange tree paradise.
All you have to do is want –
They’ll give you the stars.
All you have to do is want –
Picked from the sky.

On the coins are stars
Buy tickets to a fairy tale
Where there’s painted days
And juicy colors

All you’re dreaming of’s on this dreamy island.
Who knows? Maybe you might also find him.

CH:

(la la la la la lei)

Flowers in bloom there, and the sweet, sweet nights
There, our favorite dreams for me and for you

CH:

Flowers in bloom there, and the sweet, sweet nights
There, our favorite dreams for me and for you

CH:

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Must… Resist… Urge to Flame….

There’s a normally insightful gentleman with whom I traded thoughts in someone else’s combox today. I got him to calm down and leave that combox, but here are a few things I didn’t get to say:

1. If a post is about one thing, and you drag the combox thread to be about something else — and then you post twenty or thirty times on that subject… you are not being a good little commenter.

2. If ten or twenty posts in, you get all indignant because someone has inadvertently touched upon events in your personal life — which we don’t know about, because we’re not telepaths… you are not being a logical debater. To say the least.

3.  There is a clear difference between deliberately dragging someone into harm’s way as your human shield, and inadvertently harming someone.

4. Yes, there’s a clear comparison between Qana and Seattle. That little girl who had the gun pushed into her back by Mr. Haq was in exactly the same position that the Lebanese in Qana were in re: Hezbollah. We are glad that she escaped; we are sad that folks in Qana didn’t. If anything had happened to her, it would’ve been Haq’s fault; and the fact that something happened to those Qana folk is Hezbollah’s fault.

5. If you take a hostage, and your hostage accidentally gets killed (say, by security or the police) while you’re committing a crime, you get charged with murder. That’s the way it works, in American law.

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Sisters with Suds

Milblogger Sieg provides a look at what German religious drink to beat the heat.

The crowning touch is the demure glasses in which it is served.

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Oban Star Racers

Yet another Jetix cartoon show that’s better than the main networks’ fare. This one is a French and Japanese co-production, with agreeably weird results.

Molly is a hot young girl pilot, who through a strange chain of events has ended up fronting Earth’s team in the legendary Race of Oban. Molly has a lot to prove.

The tyrannical, paranoid, workaholic, and deeply worried team leader is Don Wei, once a racer himself. He’s so obsessed with winning the race — and the mysterious prize which he’s been told by the government that Earth must win — that he doesn’t even recognize that “Molly” is really his own daughter, Eva Wei. Granted, he hasn’t seen Eva since his wife died and he put Eva in boarding school, but still! Naturally, Molly sees no reason to fill him in on this, since she’s pretty torqued about it.

This week, Molly and her alien friend, Prince Aikka, were pitted against each other. Since Earth had already lost one race and so had his planet, both were ordered to take out each other’s ride early in the race. (Molly and most racers have ships, but Prince Aikka rides a living steed.) They privately agreed not to fire upon each other, but rather to win the race by speed and skill alone. Unfortunately, Don Wei did not agree, and Molly’s jealous teenage boy gunner, Jordan, was eager to take out the prince. Now Earth’s lost two races, Molly’s in trouble, Prince Aikka thinks Earthlings have no honor, and Jordan’s getting no love from anybody. And that was just episode 8!

In short, much more likeable and deep than this genre of show has any business being.

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Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

This is a pretty good article on the questions we should be asking:

When should girls get vaccinated? (And are they going to have to get vaccinated more than once?, I ask.) If the girls have to be vaccinated as young as is said, how can they be informed of what it’s about without passing along information that’s inappropriate to their age? (And you know how inaccurate and scaremongering the school grapevine tends to be….)

Why isn’t anybody talking about men’s cancer risk and need for vaccination? When should boys get vaccinated, huh?

How can we vaccinate boys and girls against the mischance of venereal disease without telling kids, “You’re getting this shot because you’re too stupid and impulsive to be chaste, so just give up and have sex with anything that indicates interest”?

There ain’t nothing simple in this world, and public health issues tend to have huge pitfalls behind the simplest acts.

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Standing Athwart the Bridge of Characterization, Yelling “WTF?”

I find this a very painful post. I do not like to notice friends of mine saying things which are unfair and not particularly logical. I also prefer to reply in comment boxes. However, I still do not have or intend to have a Livejournal account, and this particular comment was made in a Livejournal which does not permit non-Liveljournal folks’ comments. (For very good and sufficient reasons, btw.)

Second, for those who do not read much fanfic, “slash” refers to a genre in which (primarily) pre-existing media fiction characters such as, say, Kirk and Spock, are written as experiencing same sex attraction with each other, or to be actually engaging in a relationship with each other. Sometimes such characters are portrayed as being “really” homosexual, sometimes as being bisexual. Often the genre, and its writers, engage in deconstructive readings of the TV shows involved, interpreting ostensibly “straight” behavior as being instead evidence of homosexuality or bisexuality. Although more slash writers are homosexual than there used to be, it still seems to be a genre overwhelmingly written by heterosexual women, from the same principle as heterosexual males watching films about Hot Lesbian Action.

But, onward.

It so happens that Ataniell93, a person I know in real life, said this on her Livejournal:

If your objection to slash is that it ‘turns straight characters gay’? And you mean all the time, not just in specific instances? Yes, Virginia, that is homophobic. Whether or not you intend it to be, it is.”

Let us examine this statement, searching and replacing its more controversial elements to reveal the essential statement itself.

Slash apparently existed before Star Trek, but Star Trek‘s where it got famous. Most people who like the show, and indeed, the creator of the show, like it in large part for the heartwarming portrayal of friendship and family among all the military characters on the starship, and particularly among the three male main characters.

Then, early on, some fans of the show (primarily female ones) begin writing fanfic which explains almost all of the male main characters’ behavior as indicating not friendship, but romantic or even destructive same sex attraction and passion. This fanfic was from the beginning meant to be “subversive” and didactic in certain ways, as well as just being fun and sexually titillating. (In fact, I seem to recall reading some early slash fans who said that writing about homosexuality and bisexuality was inherently feminist, because it subverted people’s ideas about what sexuality was and should be.)

Gee, I wonder why anyone would be distressed by fiction meant to subvert and replace the central meaning of the show with another meaning.

(Btw, Ataniell93 does point out in her post that she feels Kirk/Spock fic is extremely unlikely on a characterization basis.)

Now, it is true that in real life, people are mysterious. They grow, they change, they do incredibly odd things, and they often turn out to have secret thoughts totally different from those they openly share. Certainly my life has been full of such surprises from other people (especially since I’m one of the least people-observant folks of ALL TIME), and I suppose that on occasion, I have surprised others in the same way. I also know some of the real life people whom Ataniell93 cites.
But in general, the idea of fiction is to represent people in a way more coherent than real life. We are allowed to see people’s motives, hear their secret thoughts, and watch all the important things which happen to them — instead of having almost all these things take place in a black box or away from our observation, as they do in real life. In media fiction, the writers spend years of time drawing the characters in a certain way, to lead viewers to certain conclusions.

Gee. I wonder why people might dislike slash fiction — or indeed, any other sufficiently subversive interpretation of a show or comic or book.

In particular cases, subversion is a good tool to show where artists mess up, or why their entire worldview is subtly creepy. But when subversion becomes an entire genre, it is not being used as a tool. It is the hammer that makes every problem — indeed, everything in the writing universe — look like a nail.

Generally speaking, it seems to me that we live in a society that doesn’t need subversion of some monolithic belief system by art. Rather, art should be aiming at reconciling and healing the many scrambled, fractured, and self-conflicting belief systems of our society, trying to make us some kind of sane and healthy modus vivendi. (Obviously, individuals will differ on the details or even broad outlines of what the new system or systems should be. But I think few will disagree that our present situation has a lot of problems.)

Slash fiction as a genre does not seem to be particularly interested in healing or calming anything. Instead, it contends that anything that you or your friends settle today — even their or your sexual orientation — may change tomorrow, or next year. There will never be anybody with whom you can behave in a non-sexual way. Your sexuality will always be the most important thing about you, in fact, and yet, you will never know what it will do next (or perhaps more importantly, how the smallest acts will be interpreted by others).

So frankly, I don’t like slash fiction because I already lived through a situation like that. I called it “the wretched part of junior high which didn’t involve getting beaten up”, and then I called it “the annoying bits of college”. Since slash’s content also doesn’t titillate me or give me warm romantic fuzzies, there is absolutely no way I ever could get into slash.

(For the record, I also dislike, abhor, or just try to avoid the following genres and subgenres: hurt/comfort, purposeless hospitalfic, character torture, noncon, PWP, characters crying huge rivers, characters killing themselves for absolutely no reason, characters giving other characters overly pricey gifts, characters turning out to be serial killers, teenage girls appearing in Middle Earth, Mary Sues, and characters getting killed for no reason in a non-Joe Bob sense. I am sure that a brief visit to fanfiction.net would produce several subgenres I’ve forgotten.)

Subversion, though amusing on occasion, is for the most part annoying and adolescent. I would rather read fic where the characters act like grownups, who dealt with all this stuff long ago. (And the sooner our society likewise gets over itself and makes some enduring decisions about life, the happier I’ll be.)
Clearly, none of this reflects on the place of homosexual or bisexual characters in fanfic, or in fiction itself. That is art drawing from life, rather than a purposefully subversive reading extended to become an entire genre. To rewrite characters who onscreen are portrayed clearly as having relationships with those of the same sex, or who are supposed to be bisexual, as being “really” heterosexual people who are hiding their true orientations — that would be equally distasteful.

And if I rewrote The West Wing, and proved that every character was either really a conservative Republican or fighting against the irresistable urge to become one, and made most of them attend evangelical megachurches and pray the Sinner’s Prayer — well, I don’t think I’d have any right to claim that anyone who didn’t like it was a theiadexiophobe.

No, I’d be sure they didn’t like my changes to, or my subversive reading of, The West Wing. And if I continued this experiment with every show on the air, and attracted a lot of people to write similar works, I guarantee I’d attract a lot of unfavorable attention even from evangelical Republican Christians.

Gee, I wonder why.

But my West Wing analogy is quite apt, I think. In extreme cases, slashfic is the CleanFlicks of fandom. It gets rid of all those yucky scenes of heterosexual behavior and inserts something more appealing to decent homophilic fans.

(I point particularly to the disturbingly unfriendly treatment of Scully by some X-Files slashers — particularly odd if they truly believed she was solely Mulder’s friend. The hatred of other women, as women, occasionally displayed in such stories written by women, is truly amazing to behold. The fact that Scully-hatred became a minor fad was really more than disturbing.)

Finally, if 90% or more of human beings are heterosexual, and no information has been provided to the contrary, it is indeed logical to assume that 90% of characters will be heterosexual. (Although given writers’ affection for portraying the outliers, it would be wise to assume more like 75% or less heterosexuality of characters.) If absolutely no information has been provided, however, it is certainly fair for fanfic writers and viewers to interpret a character however they like, until otherwise informed. This being fandom, we can be sure that people will continue to interpret a character however they like, despite and even because of information provided which they dislike. But if people complain about such interpretation (and they will), I think it is distinctly unfair to claim homophobic behavior. We get exactly the same kinds of complaints about other fannish upsets of opinion.

Say someone writes a moving fanfic series about how Character X is in love with Character Y. The fact that Characters X and Y have never been in the same scene together does not prevent this, of course; rather, it leaves the field open for speculation. Later that season, Character X is shown to be in love with Character Z. The fanfic author sighs, and perhaps plots the tragic tale of how Characters X and Y broke up. The mature fan slots the series of stories into the “alternate universe” box. But the fan who’s taking all this a bit too seriously gets upset. The upset fan may come to hate Character Z for bursting that happy fanfic bubble, but such a fan was generally not intrinsically zedophobic. (Though it’s true that if Character Z happens to be black, the upset fan may reveal previously hidden racism. However, if Character Z happens to have red hair and the upset fan insists on railing against “that redheaded b*tch”, said fan probably doesn’t have deepseated prejudices against those with red hair.)

That about covers my general objections to Ataniell93’s statement. Alas that I am not better at argument, nor more concise. I am sorry that I don’t have more specific or contemporary examples in my argument, but I have to be feeling pretty bored or pretty fond of a specific author to read anything slash.

We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

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Like Stealing Candy from a Bobby

In Sussex, Cops arrest colleagues over lolly theft.

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A Mini Christian SF Convention? Coooool.

Via Rod Bennett’s Tremendous Trifles, a con report of sorts. Only the con is in a large tent at a very large Christian campout and festival, and is unashamedly about worship as well as wonder.

It’s called the Imaginarium, and it’s got seminars and B-movies and art movies and prayer services and dances and Christianity galore. And that’s just its small part of something called the Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois.

Truly, this sounds like it’s right up my alley. Too bad it’s so far away.

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Fun with Conventions

This weekend, it seems that we not only have the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in town; we have the American Motor Owners International Convention as well. And next weekend, Pulpcon (mmmm, the smell of old pulp paper).

See, this is why it would be fun to have press credentials.

The ironic thing is that people like the Pulpcon guys — book dealers, small press reprint people, collectors, writers, artists — do a lot to help preserve Western civilization, if only in a thousand small, pulpy, everyday ways. But you’ll never see them on the news, jetting about and telling people what to do. They just do it themselves, without much in the way of remuneration or appreciation, except from each other. I bet the AMO folks are similar.

And I’d rather have dinner with one of them — even the Scientology guy who comes to collect L. Ron Hubbard — than with Al Sharpton.

(Unless Al Sharpton has a collection of old Charles Saunders sword and sorcery stories at home, and comes over to the convention center to pick up the new paperback reprint of Imaro by Night Shade Books.)

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The Sightseeing Side of CERN

This gentleman has some neat posts on his blog:

Visiting CERN

Big Physics Needs Big Trucks

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As the Bog Turns

Today, the National Museum of Ireland issued a clarification stating that the Psalm 83 they mentioned in their press release was in fact Psalm 83/84. However, in the audio interview with NPR given by one of the museum guys, he specifically said that parts of both Psalms 82/83 and 83/84 were visible. (Though NPR’s attached article says it’s only Psalm 83/84.)

So… we’re back to Paleography: The Home Game — or in this case, palebography!

UPDATE: Apparently the words in the middle of the 3rd line are supposed to be “valle lacrimarum”. That would make the start of the next line “dator ibunt”. Man, this is a rough game to play at home.

(BTW: Why does NPR, which is funded by the public and the government, make its programming only available to those with the latest versions of Real Player or Windows Media Player? Why don’t they use any open standards, which would be more compatible with their publicly funded mission? Instead, they are purely shilling for corporations. Even the BBC isn’t that shameless; the Beeb works upon occasion to make their stuff backwards-compatible. So much for NPR caring for the poor, especially those who can’t afford new processors and computers to carry new operating systems.)

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Paleography: The Home Game!

Continuing our story about the Bog Psalter below, it seems that NPR is also on this story, and I’m glad to say they’ve got another enlargeable photo. If you look carefully at the far left corner at the bottom, you’ll see that part of another page is lying there. You can read a “quia” or “quis” on it, if you look at it upside down. The fact that part of a page has torn or peeled away like that shows how delicate the vellum is.

However, NPR also has reported on its website that the book was found open, not to Psalm 82/83 (the Philistines et al want to wipe out Israel’s very name), but rather to Psalm 83/84 (how lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord). Ooh, dilemma!

Personally, I’m seeing nothin’ like Psalm 83/84, especially since there’s a big lack of Deus/Dei/Dominus action. But hey, I’m open to folks with better eyes than mine.

Here’s a site to help you learn to read this stuff: Medieval Writing. Do a few exercises, get your eyes accustomed, and then come back.

Now, here’s the Latin Vulgate for Psalm 83/84. Compare it against the NPR and Washington Post enlarged photos, and then against Psalm 82/83 in the first bog psalter post below. We present, you decide.

in finem pro torcularibus filiis Core psalmus

quam dilecta tabernacula tua Domine virtutum

concupiscit et defecit anima mea in atria Domini cor meum et caro mea exultavit in Deum vivum

etenim passer invenit sibi; domum et turtur nidum sibi ubi ponat pullos suos altaria tua Domine virtutum rex meus et Deus meus

beati qui habitant in domo tua in saecula saeculorum laudabunt te diapsalma

beatus vir cui est auxilium abs te ascensiones in corde suo disposuit

in valle lacrimarum in loco quem posuit

etenim benedictiones dabit legis dator ibunt de virtute in virtutem videbitur Deus deorum in Sion

Domine Deus virtutum exaudi orationem meam auribus percipe Deus Iacob diapsalma

protector noster aspice Deus et respice in faciem christi tui

quia melior est dies una in atriis tuis super milia elegi abiectus esse in domo Dei mei magis quam habitare in tabernaculis peccatorum

quia misericordiam et veritatem diligit; Deus gratiam et gloriam dabit Dominus

non privabit bonis eos qui ambulant in innocentia Domine virtutum beatus vir qui sperat in te

Btw, a lot of medieval people learned to read and learned Latin using a psalter. I guess it beats Caesar conquering Gaul.

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The Saving Power of Bog

This horrible and pathetic bilingual pun is brought to you by the amazing discovery of a psalter, circa AD 800, in a bog in Ireland. The spooky bit is that it was found open to Psalm 82/83. (Click to get an enlarged picture of the page from the Washington Post link above.) Thus the comparison to the Dead Sea Scrolls, as apparently the Book of Isaiah’s words about Israel being restored were found in 1946-1947, when Israel’s restoration was being challenged.

You can spot some of the capital A’s from the passage, even if you’re as bad at reading early medieval handwriting as I am. After staring at it for a bit, it looks like the middle of the third line is “-eni Gebal Ammon“. (Though I’m sure I’m missing all the squiggly ‘et’ signs and such.) The beginning of the fourth line looks like “-toribus“, presumably with a “Tyri” somewhere in the shiny glob.

Here’s the Latin version of the psalm for your spotting convenience:

Deus ne taceas ne sileas et non quiescas Deus

quia ecce inimici tui tumultuati sunt et qui oderunt te levaverunt caput

contra populum tuum nequiter tractaverunt et inierunt consilium adversum arcanum tuum

dixerunt venite et conteramus eos de gente et non sit memoria nominis Israhel ultra

quoniam tractaverunt pariter contra te foedus pepigerunt

tabernacula Idumeae et Ismahelitarum Moab et Aggareni

Gebal et Ammon et Amalech Palestina cum habitatoribus Tyri

sed et Assur venit cum eis facti sunt brachium filiorum Loth semper

fac illis sicut Madian et Sisarae sicut Iabin in torrente Cison

contriti sunt in Aendor fuerunt quasi sterquilinium terrae

pone duces eorum sicut Oreb et Zeb et Zebee et Salmana omnes principes eorum

qui dixerunt possideamus nobis pulchritudinem Dei

Deus meus pone eos ut rotam quasi stipulam ante faciem venti

quomodo ignis conburit silvam et sicut flamma devorat montes

sic persequere eos in tempestate tua et in turbine tuo conturba eos

imple facies eorum ignominia et quaerent nomen tuum Domine

confundantur et conturbentur usque in saeculum et erubescant et pereant

et sciant quia nomen tuum est Dominus solus tu Excelsus super omnem terram

In other news, the Guardian is reporting that it was open to Psalm 89. Truly, their typos continue to be legendary.

This is not, of course, the oldest copy of the Psalms known in Ireland. That would be the Cathach (“Battler”) of St. Columba (AD 600 or thereabouts), over the possession of which the Battle of Cul Dremhne was waged, and the future St. Columba was exiled from Ireland, never to see it again (though once to return, and thereby hinges a story). But it does not contain a full copy of the Book of Psalms.

I wonder what they’ll name this mss. Saltair na Bog? The Boggler? God’s Broad Hint?

UPDATE: Girl with Flat Hat recalls that some wax tablets, c. AD 700, with a student writing exercise from the Psalms on them, were found in a bog c. 1920. (Wax tablets were the common scratchpad of the Roman world, and continued to be produced down through the Middle Ages. Easy to make, easy to melt the wax for reuse, very cheap, and you could write on ‘em with any old pointy stick.)

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Make Your Own ‘Visual Novel’!

‘Visual novel’ is the Japanese term for an interactive adventure based on choices and talking, and perhaps a few puzzles, rather than on shooting or other gameplay. Most Westerners only know them as the system used by “dating sims”. (Yes, just what it sounds like.) But actually, any kind of storyline can be used.

Or rather, storylines. The idea is to provide a whole little world for the viewpoint character to explore. The character’s choices and interactions with other characters should matter (and affect how other characters react to him), but no single choice should kill him off (as that’s no fun). Sorta like Choose Your Own Adventure books if they had provided real choice.
Anyway, the visual novel industry in Japan is rather puzzled that Americans don’t play visual novels. After all, the text-based adventure computer games (and the Choose Your Own Adventure novels) had a very long run, and this is just a more advanced (and illustrated) form of text adventure. So….

In a rather quixotic yet savvy move, Japanese industry types have made available a free “engine” for constructing your own visual novels. (This means that you don’t have to know how to program; the engine does all that stuff for you. You just have to write up all the storylines, which is work enough.) There’s also some free sample visual novels to download and play, along with tutorials on how the engine constructed those games. They promise in the future to provide some pictures and sound effects for those who can’t draw. Finally, they have a forum which allows folks to upload their homebrewed visual novels, so that they can be downloaded by others.

So… why not try your hand at a few storylines? It looks fun!

(Well, I can’t, since I don’t have a recent enough operating system, but you can!)

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