Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Hiroshima Peace Park

There are a lot of places to see on a trip to Japan, but one location no one should miss is the Peace Memorial Park in downtown Hiroshima.  A beautiful garden speckled with impressive monuments to the victims the Hiroshima bombing, the park is a quiet refuge in the middle of a bustling city.

Memorable sights in the park include the Memorial Cenotaph, a stone box bearing the inscription "Rest in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated."  The Cenotaph contains the names of every victim of the atomic bomb, and each year any who died due to effects of the bomb is added in a solemn ceremony.  Visitors are encouraged to offer a prayer in front of the cenotaph.

Another monument that leaves a lasting impression is the A-Bomb Dome, one of three stone structures left partially standing by the blast and the only pre-bomb building not demolished in the reconstruction of the city.  What was once an architecturally-beautiful government building is now a silent ruin, with even the rubble left as it was to remind the world of the violence of the atomic bomb.  Visitors can walk all the way around the building and reflect on the twisted metal and shattered stone of this haunting monument.

Perhaps the most important part of the Peace Park not to miss is the Peace Memorial Museum.  The museum describes to visitors (in both English and Japanese) the events leading up to bombing, the brutality of the blast itself, the horror of the aftermath, and the continued threat of the terrors of nuclear war.  Here one can learn the complex politics in both Japan and the United States which lead to the bomb, which are offered in full detail without commentary by way of either apology or condemnation.  Artifacts of the bombing that can be viewed including a watch stopped by the blast, 
forever recording the precise time of the first nuclear attack in history.  Visitors can take the time to listen to first-hand accounts recorded by bomb survivors and learn what they can do to help prevent the use of nuclear weapons in the future.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a somber place, but well-worth a visit.  Ultimately, in visiting the park, one can take the opportunity to experience significant world history while joining in the park's message of hope and peace.  Visitors should schedule some time for quiet reflection at the end of their visit.  I can guarantee they will not regret taking the opportunity to visit this unique memorial.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Classic Game Review: Fallout

Sometimes, you just want to play an RPG where you can explore to your heart's content.  A game where you can occasionally stop and smell (or be eaten by?) the roses.

The 1997 release Fallout is set in a post-apocalyptic world filled with mutant critters, rough survivalist humans, and a rare sci-fi plot in a genre saturated with D&D-style fantasy narration.  You, one of the inhabitants of an underground vault, must venture into the radiation-baked wastes to find equipment necessary to save your fellow vault-dwellers.

From the first moment, when you design your character, the game is engaging.  Should you focus on sniping skills, so later on you can expect to put a bullet in a man's eye at 100 yards?  Should you be able to count on talking your way out of sticky spots?  Should you rely on  good trade to finance your adventure, or perhaps focus on an aptitude for the ol' "five-finger discount?"

The decisions don't end there, though.  From the first moment you stumble upon your first peaceful little village in the wastes, it is your choice whether to help them with their woes, coldly pass on by, or maybe even massacre the inhabitants for a giggle.  You can choose to be evil or angelic, but your reputation will start to precede you sooner or later, and your encounters will be strongly affected.

Fallout's graphics are characterized by a third-person, isometric sprite-based view (think original Starcraft or Diablo).  Despite this somewhat dated format, the visual appeal of the game is one of its greatest strengths.  The post-nuclear world of the wastes is beautiful, if brown.  Exploring the world of Fallout is one of the greatest pleasures of playing, second only to the first time you obtain a plasma rifle and roast some cocky bandits.

The gameplay of Fallout is intuitive and relatively smooth, if a bit old-fashioned.  The dialog is realistic and even thought-provoking, the puzzles are tricky but not impossible.  The combat is turn-based, and actually involves a lot of thought and strategy, but it takes a while.

All-in-all, Fallout is a fantastic game that can still captivate and delight the modern gamer looking for an old-school rpg experience.  The best part?  Fallout is available for download at, DRM-free for only $5.99, and it's been adapted to work with modern operating systems without a hitch or trouble with backward-compatibility settings.  They offer the sequel as well.  A real bargain for instant access to heavily-irradiated fun!

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This blog will serve as a portfolio of sample articles and editorials written by Dave.