Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Øverfløw #000: Vancouver Chipmusic Showcase

Vancouver was on the ground floor of the electronic future -- not merely serving as homebase to Neuromancer author William Gibson, not just ground zero for Canada's first video game successes (the Sidney Development Corporation with Evolution and B.C. - Quest for Tire), not merely possessed of the longest-lasting and most populous dial-up BBS scene in the world (to say nothing of its pivotal role, albeit an accidental one, in phreaking in the early '70s), not just coincidentally the spawning ground of Gravis, Mainframe Entertainment Inc. (of "Money for Nothing" and ReBoot fame) and Distinctive Software (later to flourish as EA Sports) ... and it's been if anything over-represented by performance, conceptual and electronic arts through such hubs as the Western Front, Video In, and the Edgewise Electrolit Centre ... so why, in the 34 years since the Commodore 64 hit the stores, has it never enjoyed much in terms of a live experimental electronic performance scene?

Nettwerk in its earliest days enjoyed the scantiest of scenes around Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly, and sure, we hosted a couple of instalments of the "New Media" demoparty in the early '90s, and okay, we got raves filling our warehouses same as everyone else did, but basically... none of it ever amounted to much of anything! A few rooms full of people danced while whacked out of their gourds, but in the end things looked pretty similar to how they looked at the beginning.

So here we are in the 21st century and finally at long last those of us not living in New York, Berlin or Tokyo are beginning to have some options presented to us for public enjoyment of music that emerges from a SID chip or comes out of a Game Boy's beige housing. My old colleague bryface has been travelling the world as opportunity allows for the past few years, witnessing, networking with and learning from chiptune events and organizations all over the place, and I guess he's reached the point where he's concluded it might be nice to be able to enjoy a show without having to get on an airplane. I don't know if there is or is not any formal relationship organizing as high up as the Northwest Chiptuning Facebook group but for a hyper-local focus we can now look to the Vancouver Chipmusic Society to dish us all up a healthy serving of square, sine, and sawtooth waves (a static channel is extra, though.) (Do you think that they are an actually-registered society in accordance with the Societies Act of BC, with rules about membership and annual general meetings? We felt crazy when we registered our accordion community, which has to be at least as niche as chiptunes, but it was an essential step on the way to being able to tap into grant funding to support our activities. They can get away without registering for two or three years as long as they keep good financial records. But I digress!)

The Vancouver Chipmusic Society's flagship event will be dropping on the 604 next Monday night, September 26th, at the Fox Cabaret, with doors at 7:30 pm and bleeps and bloops until ... late. (Its calendar says midnight. Then an hour is reserved for FidoNet traffic, right?) You can find out all about the event, Øverfløw #000: Vancouver Chipmusic Showcase, over on Facebook. The featured live performers include Norrin_Radd, meckz, Fastbom, and that bryface character, plus Melodia (who just this week released a music disk of an hour and a half of .XMs thought lost forever in 1999!) and uɴɪᴄ⊙ᴅΞ (among others) will be audible as part of the open mic portion of the evening.

If you'd like more information and find my account of things a little too insider baseball, bryface did an interview on the subject for Roundhouse Radio and you can get another take on it over there. And now, I'll turn it over to their potted press release!

LIVE CHIP MUSIC | OPEN MIC | LIVE VISUALS | RAFFLES | MORE

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

ADMISSION
$12 online va EventBrite
http://overflow000.eventbrite.com/
$15 at the door

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Introducing Vancouver's very own chiptune event series! Enjoy a night of live electronic musicians pushing the limitations of old gaming platforms' sound chips to create fresh music in a diverse range of styles - electro, pop, drum n' bass, metal, jazz, funk and everything in between. 

Experience the raw, crunchy waveforms of the NES/Famicom, Game Boy, Amiga .MODs, Commodore 64 SID tunes, and 16-bit SNES/Genesis-era samples pumping full-blast through the Fox Cabaret's pristine sound system. Prepare to have your expectations shattered repeatedly as these artists use and abuse these vintage platforms and formats in unexpected and forward-thinking ways.

This special first installment of the show specifically highlights our locally-based talent - a killer lineup internationally recognized for their individual dedication to the craft of chip music and the low-bit arts. Join us in the celebration of new life given to vintage systems - this is definitely a night for tech/synthesis/gaming enthusiasts alike.

// MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26th, 2016
// DOORS OPEN 7:30pm | MUSIC STARTS 8:00pm
// $12 ONLINE/EARLY-BIRD | $15 AT THE DOOR | 19+

*** UPDATE SEPT. 8: *** The show has relocated slightly from the Fox Cabaret's Projection Room to the main stage! Huge thanks to the Fox for hooking us up with the extra space.

/// MUSIC

> NORRIN_RADD (Vancouver, BC)
> 16-bit soundscapes + Retro City Rampage OST mayhem

> MECKZ (Victoria, BC)
> insane progjazzclassical NES/famitracker mastery

> FASTBOM (Stockholm, Sweden)
> demoscene/cracktro-style Game Boy / C64 anthems

> BRYFACE (Vancouver, BC)
> eclectic + progressive Game Boy electrofunkbreaks

/// VISUALS: alterus (Victoria, BC)

Friday, 5 August 2016

Public Domain textmode art spelunking: Sports

1988 (?! Captured 1990 at the latest) ANSI art celebrating the Seoul Summer Olympics by Václav Pinkava. Nice rings! As the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio have just begun, I suppose I can put this post off no longer...

Sometime in September-ish 2015 I logged into Kirkman's SynchroNet telnet BBS The Guardian of Forever, to get an in-person sneak peek at the parallax-scrolling mermaid ANSImation Kirkman's technology had made possible and Whazzit had drawn sprites for, intended for release in the Mistigris 21st anniversary artpack. (Have I mentioned that we are currently soliciting submissions for the 22nd anniversary artpack?) Over the course of my account creation and login to this (formerly) private node -- then-intended exclusively for the use of him and his family (but now open to the public at telnet://guardian.synchro.net, complete with other ANSI experiments!) -- I was exposed to some ANSI art (on a BBS? appropriate enough!) celebrating his family’s favorite professional sports teams (say what?!) ... and I was stopped in my tracks. In the whole of my dial-up BBSing career, which admittedly was only a 6-year window in the '90s, I'd never seen such a thing. The very notion that a computer nerd could have overlap with the obsessions of a sports fan seemed anathema to me. On further reflection, both fields' bottomless potential for aspie grasp over entire spreadsheets of abstract figures and esoteric minutitae make the existence of the "sports nerd" (like "health goth", a seeming oxymoron) reconciled as ... at the least, possible in my head. All the same, it's not something I saw any representation of in my years in the computer art underground, so maybe it's possible that celebrating these interests in this dovetailed way was something particular to the public domain ANSI tradition specifically.

This hypothesis was born out by the curations from textfiles.org's PD ANSI art slush-pile, which contained... a great deal of sports-related ANSI art, specimen after specimen out of all proportion to how prominently sports figured as an interest in the underground. Angling to give equal airtime to the newer, more iconic underground ANSI art tradition, I mined the Sixteen Colours archives for updates on the topic, but found myself turning up goose eggs for obvious searches for terms such as "Wimbledon", "hat trick", "Super Bowl" and "Home run". Perhaps it may not have been that artscene kids were anti-sport so much as that the '90s saw the rise of skateboarding, mountain biking, snowboarding and alt/extreme sports? (hello, bungee jumping, wakeboarding, B.A.S.E. jumping...) (and, ahem, e-sports.) The period saw entire sports industries on their way up or down in overall popularity through the period (hello, basketball and hockey; goodbye, baseball and football) as well as the micro case also: plenty of art celebrating local teams that no longer exist, as married to a particular moment in time as ANSI art itself was! 8)

Kirkman respectfully disagrees, by which he means that his local PD BBS community demonstrated a much healthier interest in sports than mine did:

I know every BBS scene was different, but I think there were plenty of sports fans calling BBSes, especially adults. Some BBSes ran “football pick-em” or “football pool” tournaments, for example. These were either run manually though the message bases, or managed by a door game. I participated in one on Flash BBS in St. Louis for a couple years.
Case in point, here's a piece by "ANSI-Mation!" for a fantasy baseball message base:
(Kirkman also has a note about the performance of his family's favorite teams: "FWIW, both teams have been very good this century. The Spurs have played in six NBA championships since 1999 (winning five), and the Cardinals have played in four MLB World Series (winning two)." But I digress.)

The main attraction back in 1990 (and hm, actually, appearing somewhat stable today) was FOOTBALL, American-style. (I know, despite the Olympic hook I opened with, athletics and track & field events are basically totally unrepresented otherwise. Bait and switch! These are all pro league sports here today.) We'll start with some local appeal from the Seattle Seahawks. (Pixel Pompeii is based out of Vancouver, Canada; I could find no BC Lions ANSI art 8)

It is what it is! Or, in this case, what it was -- in 1996 the Houston Oilers (threw me for a loop, too! Dwelling apart from the land of sports, I forgot how teams name themselves after local industries... industries which are, of course, not exclusive to their area, Edmonton!) transitioned right out of their digs to become the Tennessee Titans! This one is credited to a mysterious JC about whom we hope to learn more later.
The date of creation of this one can be much more narrowly estimated, as the San Antonio Raiders only existed as a team from 1991 to 1992!
JC returns with a celebration of the Green Bay Packers. (Hm, and what's the story behind that name? Oh huh, more interesting than I might have thought!)
Here we have a little ANSI for a team with a most iconic name (courtesy of their legendary cheerleaders, none of whom included Debbie) the Dallas Cowboys. This one is also by JC, and I feel we have a big reveal coming up...
Tah-dah! Here is A JC, Joseph "Joey" Crum, who may or may not be responsible for all of these. (Maybe football ANSIs weren't actually all that popular, it was just one devoted weirdo slaving away at skewing the historical record?) Anyhow, he weighs in with another piece celebrating the Dallas Cowboys.
And who might the Cowboys pair off again? Why, nothing would be more metaphorically appropriate (if somewhat distasteful in our pre-postcolonial era) than a bout between the Cowboys and the Redskins!
And JC delivers us up more political incorrectness (well, it's not like he was the one who named the team!) with this piece for the Kansas City Chiefs. (And why is it, anyway, that if they aren't proud of the local industry a reference to subjugated local indigenous people is the Plan B for sport team names?)
And here, another ANSI by JC celebrating the San Francisco 49ers (whose inspiration I just had to research -- apparently named after fortune-seekers in the 1849 gold rush!)
Here's a piece promoting the New York Giants (whose membership, you may recall, included at one time defensive lineman Rosey Grier -- whose hobbies included the ANSI-alike needlepoint! My textmode art history is rigorous!)
The New York Giants are back, faced off against the Buffalo Bills (their logo is a buffalo, not a bill... missed opportunity!) - Mike Fuller used these TheDraw fonts to celebrate their conflict, and he wanted you to know it.
And a somewhat more impressive face-off, by Joey Crum, between the Giants and the Bills... which I guess also provides us with a time context for the previous piece -- Super Bowl XXV, 1991.
This piece isn't about any specific Super Bowl, but more the Super Bowl generally. Perhaps the aspiration was that it could see re-use annually. Sports: we acknowledge that they're too big for us to ignore, though we can't bother to mask our disinterest in them.
And a bonus, one completely modern specimen from classic teletext master Horsenburger:
And that's a wrap for Football, which the digital underground really couldn't give a fig about. Now on to America's passtime -- BASEBALL! We open this gallery with a logo celebrating the Atlanta Braves (really? Apparently the "Caucasians" jersey has been on the market for nine years now, but it's only just begun recently picking up steam... it's about time!) drawn by a name we've seen before in the PD ANSI sphere, George Ramos. (Whether Jr. or Sr. remains unclear!)
"Ben" shared with us this rendition of the Pittsburgh Pirates' logo, which disappointed me that it wasn't celebrating Sid Meier's nautical video game.
Kirkman has contemporarily generated a couple of logos for his local St. Louis Cardinals, and he wants to be up front about his tool-assisted technique: They are not "pure" scene ANSI. I cropped and converted the logos to GIFs with a particular palette, then used ansirez to convert them to ANSI. I did a bunch of cleanup on the logos, then drew my own text/lettering.
Me, I think they delivered great results (measured up against the Public Domain competition here), courtesy of the human touch regulating the output, and really any way of getting your ANSI on to your BBS in 2016 should be celebrated.
OK, so baseball was a bit of a dud. But here's a sport that was up-and-coming in the '90s: BASKETBALL! We open with a little ANSI celebration of the Detroit Pistons:
Next, another one by Kirkman, cheering on the San Antonio Spurs:
Ron Czarnik sets up an unfavorable comparison between Public Domain ANSI art and that of the underground (I can't help but suspect the bands of colour indicate an area where something was initially drawn with flashing colours -- perhaps a bouncing ball being dribbled?):
Straddling the worlds of all that was possible in textmode art in the early '90s, Jed of ACiD here closed the book on basketball-themed ANSI with this piece celebrating the vessel for Michael Jordan's contemporary b-ball greatness, the Chicago Bulls:
This is not to say that there were never again ANSIs drawn involving the sport of basketball -- this alien (?) basketball player is from the 6th Blender competition, which includes a good deal more spontaneous computer art on the subject of aliens and basketballs.
OK, I guess the basketball fans were spending more hours sitting courtside watching games than doodling tributes on their PCs. Next up we take a look at the world's most popular sport: SOCCER! Here's a goalie in net from a Black Maiden infofile:
And here, from a different infofile from the same Black Maiden pach -- a soccer pitch:
(To compare and contrast -- the same scene, rendered as a ZZT level:)
From the other Maiden, the Brazilian one, Minotaur celebrates his Flamengo (FC) "football" club:
And also from Brazil, Enzo here is depicted in an iCE artpack memberlist as a footballer:
OK, so soccer didn't take us very far. Well, here we are in the last of the major international team sports: HOCKEY. We'll begin with a PD piece celebrating the Calgary Flames:
For contrast, here's Robin Vossenaar's tribute to the San Jose Sharks:
And a final nod from the Public Domain, an anonymous ode to the Stanley Cup prowess of the Toronto Maple Leafs:
Next up, Mindcrime of Blade cheers on the New Jersey Devils:
Maytag Man here uses ASCII art to boost the team which once were the Quebec Nordiques, moved in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche. It's over 20 years later and Quebec still doesn't have an NHL franchise, just beat out for one by Las Vegas. Go figure.
OK, hockey is such a relatively unpopular textmode art subject that sometimes it is actually drawn by accident!
Then there are other occasions where hockey players are drawn on purpose, but perhaps shouldn't have been.
And then, as if to put the lie to the notion that sports subjects are perhaps better off left undrawn-in-ANSI, we close with this recent masterwork by Blocktronics artist Whazzit (who more historically has found subjects from realms such as Dungeons & Dragons -- I can only speculate that in high school he could have been found beating himself up between classes), sketching in the small-scale -- like PD artists did, only awesomely. If we'd seen stuff like this 20 years ago, maybe all the ANSI artists would have been drawing hockey players instead of Spawn. You see, he can celebrate all the playoff teams... but he never forgets to root for his traditional home team:
Public Domain artists might have had more well-rounded athletic interests in such niche sports as bowling and boxing; I could find no artscene parallels:
And that's it, the final buzzer sounds, no overtime! Check back again soon to see what other interesting tidbits I'm able to pull out of the forgotten storage of ancient computers and their modern counterparts. Good game!

Bonus: we opened with the 1988 Olympiad, let's end with the 1980 one, by Dman of Blocktronics!, via a quick stop through 1996:

(And can I resist throwing in this piece Nitnatsnoc drew for a "lost" Blender, likely the only reference to the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics in the entire artscene? No, no I cannot.)

Friday, 29 July 2016

Chinese ANSI art from the 604 -- the missing link between the artscene and Big 5?

What does that even say? I have no idea!

Something struck me while I was putting together yesterday's (well, it was yesterday -- writing these things takes a little time 8) massive gallery of "Big 5" Unicode art of video game characters from China, by which I mean... Taiwan. There was a feeling I got, poring over the sum of the artwork, the inscrutable characters folded into it, and the blade of grass I had to hold on to, Latinized filenames. That feeling was: this was not the first time I've been made to feel exactly this way -- baffled and bewildered -- while poring over textmode art, a domain that I thought I had well in hand.

If you turn the clock way back to the very moment of my induction into the digital underground, you find me circa 1994 in area code 604, a land at the crossroads -- in Caucasian-colonized North America, but with easier access to Pacific Rim countries than to the heartland of my own country; also, chronologically situated between Vancouver's debutante ball to the world, Expo '86, and the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China.

What this meant was that the ethnic makeup of Vancouver was in transition; still a painfully white town with a nonetheless historic Chinatown that anti-Asiatic riots and the head tax had failed to erase earlier in the century, alarmist local media made it feel like virtually every other house (at least, those without covenants not to sell to Chinese) was being torn down in order to put up a square-footage-maximising, feng shui-optimised "monster house" (larger, to accommodate multigenerational families from Hong Kong who would include a second master bedroom for revered grandparents... the monsters!) I don't know if most area codes saw a substantial influx of Chinese immigration in the '90s -- it wouldn't surprise me if San Francisco, Seattle and New York also saw it, but it most definitely would surprise me if Kansas, Chicago and Orlando did. (As for Hawaii, the most Asian state? Probably I ought to go take a look at some early TeklordZ artpacks. Oh? Huh. How inconvenient: I see this piece as a pinnacle of classic ANSI art -- but do I only embrace it thus after ts had established that it wasn't his default mode?) All I can report is that it definitely was in effect in Vancouver, and we kind of got the impression that it was happening here moreso than anywhere else. So I don't know if what I'm describing was a wholly localized phenomenon or something felt to varying degrees in other areas. I figured that these kinds of subjects were being drawn everywhere at this time, while my recent research suggests that everyone else was drawing ANSIs of Public Enemy and Eddie the Head. Had I realised I was in such an extraordinary Petri dish at the time, I surely would have paid closer attention to the specifics.

In elementary school I had Chinese friends -- the only two such boys in my class, Alan and Albert, rare cohorts at an exceedingly white school in an exceedingly white neighbourhood. They won me over on the basis of their drawing giant robots (racist trope warning: with the seemingly genetic ease and effortlessness we'd come to expect from East Asians) all over their schoolwork, which suggested that we might share some common interests -- a suggestion confirmed when Albert invited me to his house where we snacked on fried rice and played Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari on his imported Famicom. (This is to say that I was acclimatized to Chinese culture to the extent that I had favorite dishes at weekly dim sum, but duck feet were not among them.) But then I switched streams into a bilingual program (French! How can we make the student body just a little whiter?) at a different school and, after a few years of playing D&D with my 100% white nerd bros, found my way online. Not into the bleeding-edge beating heart of things, mind you, but to such local Public Domain BBSes as would accept calls from my borrowed 1200 baud modem circa 1992.

As we've seen in regards to their musical tastes (and as we will see in regards to their enthusiasm for professional sports!) the Public Domain scene basically just held up a mirror to the dominant culture, which was painfully white and blandly seasoned with artifacts of mainstream baby boomer culture like Garfield, Gilligan's Island and Archie Comics. With very few exceptions (such as a seeming obsession with Cindy Crawford swimsuit .GIFs and the dictates of FidoNet Zone Coordinators) the online culture was entirely an echo of what had come before in the wider world -- it had no culture of its own. (Of course, the underground begged to differ.)

And despite the 604's growing Chinese population, this demographic was virtually invisible online. Among 2200 BBSes listed, there is one entry tossing them a bone --

604-736-2694 VANCOUVER, CANADA Chinese Connection, The Chinese Connection (1993-1995) Yen-Zon Chai
-- and of permutations of the ten most common Chinese surnames we find about 15 separate appearances among the roster of PD SysOps there. However slim a minority group they may have been here at that time, they certainly amounted to more than the fraction of one percent represented here ... and as anyone who spent any time in local computer shops could have testified, it wouldn't have been surprising to see their demographic segment over-represented. But not in the Public Domain BBS sphere.

Basically, it seemed that there was no Chinese Public Domain, and what I always figured (hypothesized or, who knows, imagined out of thin air?) was that their community of hardened teenage nerds, already organized for mutual support in a wider culture in which they were still outsiders (here, brother, you're tired of watching crappy Schwarzenegger action movies and want to know where to find some good old Jackie Chan VHS dubs in the PAL standard? Maybe you'd like to look at some of Victoria Harbour's most beautiful swimsuit models to help you think about the kinds of girls you grew up with?) (I was quite a bit less flattering about that latter case in an early Kithe interview), took an express route to a Chinese piracy underground (long a glorious Hong Kong tradition.) (Even if not entirely a figment of my imagination, this theory is expressly incorrect; you can ask me some time about Bernard Wu and The Synthesizers, area code 604's least hip music tracking group, who briefly surfaced in promotion of their venture to, as best as I can tell, sell MIDI arrangements of cantopop tunes for karaoke machines... which seems about the most PD undertaking imaginable. Hey, don't laugh -- unlike what we were doing it had an immediate commercial application!) The only one who knew the score was local science fiction writer William "Neuromancer" Gibson, who handily foreshadowed both cyberspace and the importance East Asia would play in it.

Once the path forward was revealed, it was hard work getting me up to speed with the culture of the digital underground -- why is Renegade a more elite BBS software than Telegard, which letters should I replace with numbers, which vowels get capitalized, and who are all these Image Comics characters? But once I was able to pass a New User Verification quiz on an elites BBS, I kind of figured that I now knew everything I needed to know about maneuvering through this strange subculture. OK, that's Maxx, that's Grifter, that's... who's that?

Which is fine, the computer underground didn't exist exclusively to cater to my comfort zone. I was happy to do what I could to get up to speed, but not having been raised with a certain multi-cultural literacy, I couldn't shake the irritating feeling that even here, where I'd earned admission, there were still some aspects I just didn't understand and was never going to be shown the significance of. (Guess what, kid? You're enjoying the experience of being alive. You're never going to come anywhere close to understanding most of it!) It would be more to my credit if I'd even been able to appreciate the distinction between when I was looking at something Chinese and when I was looking at something Japanese, but at that point I suspect that Hong Kong was our main shared Commonwealth vector through which they were both transmitted over here.
All of my examples in this piece date from early areacode-604 artpacks of NWA and iMPERiAL, not just because those were the milieus where I got my start and where I saw these perturbing artefacts in context, but because... I haven't noted the phenomenon turning up anywhere else, which feeds my pet theory that this was something unique to area code 604 -- and to be fair, probably more the Richmond end of it than the North Vancouver end.
Simply not recognizing the subjects of the pictures was one thing (there just weren't many otaku around North America at that point, when people were still saying "Japanimation" instead of "Anime"), but the alienation hit home with a double whammy when you'd see logos being rendered in hanzi, as if to say: if you can't read this, we didn't want you here anyway. I appreciate that Darkforce did include translated subtitles, but the courtesy is only on the level of an afterthought. This piece simply isn't for the benefit of people like me! (Which, fair enough: ANSI art simply isn't for most people overall, either. As I age and encounter incomprehensible youth slang and trends, it's both a little disappointing and a little refreshing to be out of the loop, dismissed as irrelevant, but at age 15 I wasn't ready to be irrelevant yet 8)
Even the Anglicised translation couldn't help me here -- getting up to speed would require me to be conversant with manga: comics that weren't available for sale at my local shops (and may not have been available translated into a language I understood, period!) It's curious how many of these sterling examples of the unusual phenomenon I describe come from the desk of Darkforce, an artist I had a very complicated relationship with. (In a nutshell: both emerging from iMPERiAL, I ended up running the inclusive Mistigris and he ended up running the exclusive Integrity, which enjoyed great success with a roster largely formed of local ANSI artists who had been plucked, seemingly sadistically, from our ranks into a new echelon where we could not follow.) I wonder if it's possible that due to our estrangement subsequent to these explicitly Chinese pieces, long after he'd gone whole-hog mainstream in his artistic themes, I haven't been Othering him all these years, exotifying him as an Orientalized, Fu Manchu nemesis mastermind, and none of what I'm examining here is that unusual or interesting -- and that actually here I'm just writing hundreds of words saying "I'm a fucking racist" over and over again. But I don't think that explains all of it!

Now presumably I could just ASK DF about all this, what it was about, what were his experiences with racism in Canada and online in the 604, and was it a bold assertion of pushing back... but I haven't been in touch with him since Friendster. I am looking forward to picking the brains of a few Chinese BBS locals I am still in touch with for a follow-up, because I'm sure that there is a story to be told here... only it isn't really my story to tell.

Around this period, mid-1994, probably the single most celebrated ANSI artist in the 604 scene was a fellow who went by the nickname of "Asian Knight". I was always captured by the anonymising potential of cyberspace, whereby teens could present themselves as mature and be taken for adults (my beard furthered this illusion at a late-night Happy Fetus Records get-together, adding a decade to my apparent age 8), women could present themselves as men and thus avoid being subject to the vilest abuse imaginable, and any racial difference could also be easily obscured. So why, I always wondered, would someone make the choice to play up the difference? Maybe I just suffered from an inferiority complex and never understood why anyone would trumpet or celebrate any aspect of their self... but was this really so different from my explicit "hurrah for underdogs and outsiders" posturing in Mistigris' branding?

Even in Mist, rooted in Vancouver as we are, we did end up with some of this material in our packs. It wasn't prime artscene material, but we kind of got the feeling that it wasn't measuring itself by artscene standards. Either way, though the contributions were welcomed, the artists were never full peers -- not quite operating on the same wavelength, rarely if ever coming out to meets or being active in the discussion boards, and for most of them I never even knew their real names, making them impossible to look up again this far down the road. These are by Kurama / Kingyo! of Mistigris.
And one more. Go, Kingyo! A reader wondered out loud whether there might have been Chinese artscene denizens who learned English through BBS / artscene jargon (much as Mobygames' international contributor community is filled with non-native English speakers who picked it up through endless rounds of Zork, Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island) and I suspect that we may be seeing a hint of that in Kingyo's header banter here. (Of course, anyone arriving from Hong Kong in the '90s would have had some prior exposure to and experience with English through its colonial government.)
(As a coda, Young -- a contemporary from Quebec -- was drawing anime and manga-inspired pieces contemporary to these, and far from being rubbed the wrong way by them, I ate them up like candy. Damning! Could I only appreciate the popular visual culture of Asia when moderated through European sensibilities? Or was Young just better at it? 8)
In conclusion... we have learned nothing. The headline is a lie: there is almost assuredly no link between the ANSI artscene of the early '90s and the Big5 art in Taiwan that emerged later (well, PTT, the biggest and oldest, launched in 1995, so maybe it was more contemporary), even though both could occasionally be put to Chinese subjects. I must conclude that any similarities are merely the result of parallel evolution, both artforms emerging for similar reasons -- a desire to be visually expressive in a low-bandwidth textmode environment.

Edited to add: one reader has already commented extensively on the contemporary Japanese presence on the US West Coast and the difficulties inherent in rendering kanji on computers. Over here!