PCK v1.1

I updated the print version of the Planet Construction Kit to the revised text, edition 1.1.  (The Kindle version already has the revised text.)

The biggest changes are to divide up the over-long Culture chapter, fix the index, and add revised some pictures in the Illustration chapter.  I’ll create a PDF of the changes so readers of the old edition don’t miss out on anything.


War, sex, and speech checks on the Lonesome Road

I just finished another Fallout: New Vegas DLC, Lonesome Road.  Although not nearly as weird and cool as Old World Blues, it’s a good run, enlivened by some great voice acting.  (This comes down to one character, Ulysses; for the record the dude playing him is Roger Cross.)  Got some nice guns out of it, too (the Riot Shotgun has the highest DPS I’ve seen so far), plus an unbelievable amount of ammo.

It’s highly railroaded for Fallout; you mostly follow the single path, killing mutations and occasionally chatting with Ulysses or your robot pal ED-E.  The gorgeous devastation below is from one of the toughest bits: crossing an elevated highway that’s infested with Deathclaws.  As these can disembowel you in about two strokes, and they’re fast, it’s a challenge.

Next radiation-free exit: 148 miles

The story is compelling as you play but doesn’t make much sense in retrospect.  It gets into the history of the Courier (your character) from before the main game, but this strikes me as misguided.  The whole point of roleplaying games is that you make your own character, and your path is defined by your choices.  It’s fine to have a history (Jade Empire does this very well), but although the Courier is apparently indirectly responsible for this bit of nuclear horror, you, Obsidian, are just not going to make me feel responsible for my character’s actions when I wasn’t controlling her.

Beyond that, the theme seems to be War is bad mmmkay.  Which is not a bad message!  But I wonder if the designers realized that they communicated that message already, and far more effectively, in the level design.  The Lonesome Road area is the most pathetically mangled area we’ve seen, even worse than DC in Fallout 3.  Just walking through it makes you reflect on one of the underlying themes of the series: the fact that we had (and have) a technology that, given a few jingoistic blunders, could actually destroy our civilization and render large parts of the planet uninhabitable.  I don’t know that the actual story elements add anything to the visual impact, and they just raise questions.

Like… it turns out Ulysses has (spoilers in white) aimed a few nukes at the Mojave.  I managed to undo that, and we ended up pals, kind of.  This was welcome gamewise as he’s a hard boss monster, and the fight you get as pals (against more mutants) is much easier.  But thematically– I dunno, I usually play a kind of soft-spoken rogue who doesn’t go out of her way to make enemies, but I am not as willing to forgive atrocities as pop culture apparently thinks I should be.  I don’t trust Lando Calrissian either.

Got a nice duster out of it, though.  Made me finally give up on the leather armor I started the game with, as it’s DT 13 rather than 8, despite having no sleeves.

The right to bare arms

I dealt with Ulysses not with my mighty Riot Shotgun but with my mighty 95 speech skill.  FNV pro tip: max out Speech.  And Science.  The best outcomes of many a quest depend on these.

I have mixed feelings about this as a game mechanic.  On the one hand, choices between different approaches are great, and it should have consequences what your dump stat is.  It turns out I can’t use the fancy Rawr Claw I got because my Unarmed skill is a little short of the required figure (you need 75 and mine is 14), and I’m fine with that.

Plus, the Obsidian writers are occasionally quite clever in suggesting why just one line might persuade someone.  E.g. the Science and Repair checks have just enough techno-jargon to suggest that your character actually does have some expertise.

On the other hand, I think games have still not figured out how to make speech work as a gameplay element.  If you have a high Guns skill, you still have to aim and fire the damn gun.  If you have a high Speech skill, you just click on the dialog option that has [SPEECH] next to it.  I know voice acting is expensive, but this is not a satisfying mechanic.

Remember that persuasion minigame in Oblivion?  It was dumb and some people hated it, but at least it was an actual gameplay mechanic, one you could master or fail.  Deus Ex: Human Revolution tried something where you had to monitor someone’s alpha or beta status or something as they talked– that was a start.  Speech is not an easy problem, but we really need some better approaches.

Back in the wasteland, I went egg hunting for an arena operator named Red Lucy.  The DLCs are stupefyingly generous with XP, as I seem to be kind of overpowered.  I had some trouble with the Deathclaws but not nearly as much as back on that highway– my shiny new missile launcher made short work of them.   (As my companion Veronica likes melee, it made short work of her too, but she recovers and they don’t.)

Red Lucy gives you plenty of caps for the eggs of various monsters, but she also offers an interesting reward: herself.

Girl just likes eggs

I appreciate the fact that Obsidian isn’t as prudish about sex as Bethesda.  There are a few occasions where sex is actually a way of handling a quest– most notably, in dealing with Benny, the guy who shot you.  (On the other hand, fading to black for the sex scenes is awfully stupid in a game that offers a perk that increases gore.  At least a PG-rated cutscene as in Mass Effect 1 would be nice.)

That said, even FNV shies far short of considering how sex would work in a post-apocalyptic world.  They make a point of making the Legion sexist among its other sins, but even the nastiest raiders are co-ed, which is strange when Fallout America’s culture is so retro overall.

It seems unrealistic that there’s never any sense of sexual threat.  I can see why they avoid it– Arkham City was criticized because the criminals make nasty remarks about Catwoman.  Fallout and Borderlands both replace the very realistic threat of rape with the pretty absurd one of cannibalism.  FNV doesn’t just have raiders charging at you in combat threatening to eat you; it has a whole quest devoted to it.

Edgy post-apocalyptic stuff, huh?   A reversion to barbarity is convincing; cannibalism isn’t.  Actual gangsters, warlords, and barbarian hordes are not cannibals.  Historically, in fact, tribes of warriors only rarely were able to make a living by sociopathy.  The Central Asian nomads who terrorized both Europe and China, spent most of their time herding animals.  The Vikings, in between raids on the coast, were farmers.

The Fallout games are set two centuries after the war.  Right after the war, maybe there were large numbers of sociopaths– but they would quickly die out, either killing each other or starving.  Full-time raiders are predators, and predators can only survive as a small fraction of the population.

I’ve got another DLC to try, and then maybe I’ll do something about Hoover Dam.  The Whelk has the best defense I’ve yet read of FNV:

[T]hat’s something you rarely see, the rebuilding part,  where the most horrible thing ever has happened, and now it’s over and we’re trying to have a civilization and the beauty of New Vegas is that it poses the question, so what kind of civilization deserves to exist?

And that is a great question!  The problem is, the game doesn’t offer very intelligent answers.  The Legion’s savagery has nothing going for it at all.  The various mad scientists are not real answers (which is pretty much the same problem I have with Asimov’s later Foundation books).  That leaves only two actual answers: more or less a reconstituted USA, the NCR, or leaving New Vegas as an independent city-state.  That’s an OK choice, but it doesn’t much plumb The Whelk’s question.  It’s not like I get to write New Vegas’s constitution.

The Fleischer Superman

The early 1940s Superman cartoons from Dave Fleischer are kind of legendary among animation fans, and now they’re all online.  Here’s the first one:

It’s really well animated, especially the action sequences such as the mad scientist’s lair getting destroyed.  This is why I find modern action cartoons unwatchable– the cheap animation ruins them, makes them seem cheap and static.

Lois was apparently based on journalist Nellie Bly, but where Nellie was able to literally circumnavigate the globe by herself, Lois can’t so much as get a sentence out before the mad scientist abducts her.  But she has a ringside seat for Superman’s escapades, so I guess it’s a modus operandi that worked for her.

The electric death ray seems to give Superman a pretty good fight; it’s amusing that he resorts to  punching it into submission.  (It seems like it would have been a little more efficient to take the few seconds it would have required to fly alongside it to its source rather than rely on blocking it.)

Also amusing: Clark Kent muses “This is a job for Superman” right there in the office, just before disappearing into a closet to change.  Also, doesn’t it bother his editor that he’s assigned a story along with Lois, and apparently does nothing on it?  (Or maybe he writes all those “Identity of Superman still unknown” side articles that accompany the main story?)

Alison Bechdel’s mother

I sat down to read the first chapter or two of Alison Bechdel’s new book Are You My Mother?, and ended up reading the whole thing.  It’s great stuff.

If you read her book about her father, Fun Home, the basic method is the same.  It’s more of a profusely illustrated text than a normal graphic novel– it has a running narration, which occasionally goes off in a different direction than the pictures.  And it weaves in ruminations on a set of heavy books– Virginia Woolf, Freud, Alice Miller, Adrienne Rich, and above all Donald Winnicott, who happens to have written a lot about the mother-infant bond, and particularly the type Alison feels she had.

But it works way better than Fun Home, for several reasons.  The storytelling is better– more assured, more playful.  The books aren’t examined so drily, but actually shed light on the relationships.  She was highly confessional in the first book, but even when talking about her own problems or neuroses her tone was professorial.  But this book seems alive and human.

In a sense the personal pain comes through more sharply precisely because her relationship with her mother is less dramatic, more normal.  Plus her mother is still there, is reading the book over our shoulders so to speak, and though this causes Alison a little extra angst, it makes the book more of a duet.  The ultimate problem with Fun Home, I think, was that it only had one real character, Alison herself.  Her father was oberved intently but entirely from the outside.

Are You My Mother? is mostly about the mother-daughter relationship.  Winnicott talks about “good enough” mothers, and without explicitly saying so Alison makes it pretty clear hers wasn’t.  There was something lacking there, and it takes years of therapy, and multiple readings of those psychoanalytic books, to figure out what.  In fact the book is about the therapy process as much as it is about mothers.  And she’s quite honest about the fact that writing this very book is another form of therapy; she is literally constructing a narrative to explain her own life to herself, to get a handle on it.

Does that sound self-indulgent?  Her mother suggests as much; she thinks the best art has no ‘I’ in it.  Alison counters that you can use the specific to get at general truths, and her book is the proof.  Some of our most intimate feelings (and neuroses) are tied up in our relationships with our parents, and we can learn a lot by seeing how someone else works them out.

After writing all this, I checked some reviews, and I’m surprised to find that many people had the opposite reaction– they liked Fun Home better.  Mostly this seems to be because her father was a strange gargoyle of a man, and we always like to read about families that are weirder than ours.

There are complaints that there’s too much psychoanalysis talk here.  It’s true that the quotations from Winnicott and others don’t affect us as they obviously affected Alison.  But as I said, they provide her with a narrative, a model, and that narrative-building process is a big part of healing emotional trauma.  Again, I think it all works better than (say) the discussions of Proust did in the first book.



Old World Blues

Finally got to a high enough level to play this DLC for Fallout New Vegas.  And it was worth it!  I like it better than the main game.

Rather than the usual post-apocalyptic wasteland, the Big MT that you explore here is a wasteland of SCIENCE.  It was a think tank before the war, and the leading scientists basically kept at their posts as the war destroyed civilization– going slowly mad, but continuing their experiments– and feuds.  Along the way they take out their brains and put them in mobile robotic contraptions.

WARNING: beyond these fields lies SCIENCE. DANGEROUS science

Mad scientists are generally irresistible, and the add-on has a goofy comic tone, with some really good voice acting.  All the scientists are distinctive, and have exploitable quirks– plus you can talk with them quite a long time.  Plus, naturally, you can get new weapons, a talking stealth suit, and fight nasty new enemies.

Edit: That stealth suit is sweet for, well, stealh.  But I had to drop it pronto.  It injects stimpaks for you– and before I knew it, my carefully hoarded pile of 80 stimpaks was cut in half.  I’d rather manage that myself, suit.

It’s likely to do a number on your ammo. You can scrounge more, but it’s hard to find enough to fill everything with bullets.  On the other hand you’ll get a load of Energy Cells, and a new gun to use them, so put some skill points in Energy Weapons.

Also, for this DLC and for the game as a whole, you can hardly have too much Speech and Science.  A number of quests require a speech level of 75, and one way of getting through the final confrontation requires science 100.  That’s kind of absurd; on the other hand I advanced something like half a dozen levels inside Big MT, so I could actually max out science.

The stealth suit has good DT has an auto-stimpak feature, which turns out to suck– it ate up half my supply before I stopped it and switched back to leather armor.  On the other hand, I like all my new guns– especially the sonic emitter, which also has the great advantages that a) it uses ammo really effectively, and b) after an upgrade (fixing the jukebox), you can get a new one in 100% condition at any time.

Anyway, it’s just $5 on Steam, so what are you waiting for?  Do you hate SCIENCE?

Cartograms 2012

I’ve plugged Mark Newman’s maps before.  But here’s his 2012 page, filled with beautiful and informative election maps.  He’s improved the algorithm so states retain their shape better.  For presidential elections, we should be using this map (with state area tied to electoral vote) rather than the geographical one.  Our eyes can’t adjust for population density; on this map it’s immediately evident who won, and it’s not so distorted as to be ugly or hard to read.

I also like this very pretty map of counties, colored by percentage of Dem/Rep presidential votes.  In this case I like the geographical map better.  The cartogram version is more informative, in that it shows that the country is really mostly purple with blue areas– the all-red counties are very few.  But it’s much harder to read.

Galactic ad networks

Playing Mass Effect 2, I thought it was unrealistic and kind of tacky that whenever Cmdr. Shepherd passes a news outlet, it’s giving news that relates to her own activities in Mass Effect 1.  It seemed like cheap pandering to the player.

But after seeing a number of websites where Amazon is trying to sell my own book to me, I realized that it’s actually a very realistic and clever prediction.  It’s galactic-scale personal marketing.  The news is geared to Shepherd because she’s passing the news outlet.  (Perhaps all consumer have little chips that broadcast their IDs; if not, cameras probably pick them out a block away.)

(Seen this way… boy oh boy must that be annoying for everyone in the galaxy.  Maybe that’s what drove the Illusive Man to genocidal fury.)

A couple more election thoughts

Got to get these down so I can go work on conlangs.

First, some wonder and congratulations over the election victory for same-sex marriage in four states.  This is a really big thing that deserves to be more than a footnote in the story of the GOP’s demographic decline.

Back when Andrew Sullivan and others started championing same-sex marriage and military service in the early ’90s, it seemed both quixotic and not radical enough.  But Sullivan’s instinct turned out to be spot on.  These certainly shouldn’t be the only things LGBT people should focus on, but they’re good things to push, because they’re about love and respect.  And they don’t trigger the zero-sum thinking that some other issues do.

Besides, there’s something mysterious and fascinating about a successful campaign to change public opinion.  I don’t think anyone knows what makes these work or not work.  Why did the movement to reduce smoking work, but not (so far) the one for healthy eating?  Why has there been a turnaround in LGBT acceptance, when opinion on economic issues has moved rightward?

(I know some of the reasons that have been offered.  Some of them are probably even true as far as they go– e.g., people definitely accept gays and lesbians more once they know some personally.  Yet that can’t be all of it… after all men all know some women personally, but there’s still enormous resistance to feminism.)

The other bit: I mentioned yesterday that Republicans, if they want to be competitive in national elections, need to make a couple of changes:

  • Pick policies that aren’t just geared toward old, white, straight Christian males.
  • Stop alienating everyone else.

Which is true!  But I wanted to point out that it’s not as easy as it sounds.  People like Akin, Mourdock, and Santorum weren’t making gaffes and their words weren’t being distorted.  It’s not like the “you didn’t build that” statement that the Romney campaign seized upon and twisted.  These people really believe that stuff.

Recall the primaries, which revealed a lot about the composition of the Republican coalition.  Roughly you’ve got the religious right (who liked Santorum and Gingrich), the libertarians (Paul), and the plutocrats (Romney).   There’s a lot of overlap (Paul Ryan is both economically libertarian, and ferociously anti-abortion), but these factions are distinct enough that they couldn’t agree on a single leader.

So what does it mean for the Republicans to dial back the crazy?  I’ve said a lot against the libertarians, so I’ll immediately say that they’re not the problem here.  Romney didn’t get in trouble because of how far he bent to please the Ron Paul supporters.  Quite the opposite– they were sidelined at the convention; the party is quite capable of ignoring them (except when they provide philosophical cover for plutocracy).

It basically means pushing back against the religious right.  They’re the constituency for anti-women and anti-gay rhetoric, at the least.  And the thing is, it’s almost impossible to push back against this faction.  They have the numbers and energy the party needs, plus they’ll cheerfully organize a primary challenge against anyone they consider too moderate, even at the cost of losing the seat to the Dems.

Even this picture probably overstates the daylight between the religious right and the establishment.  The best illustration of this may be Karl Rove’s temper tantrum on Fox News over the network’s analysts calling Ohio for Obama.  Rove isn’t a Tea Partier; he’s the callous, cynical insider.  But he’s part of the whole Republican culture of denial: it’s just not acceptable to state things that don’t favor the GOP message, even if they’re true, even if the whole world will see it in two hours.  With that mindset, it’s going to be impossible in the short term to make any adjustments to soften the Republican message.

The thing is, this impossiblity doesn’t make the demographic cliff go away.  In thirty years, there will probably be a successful conservative party whose issues are much more in line with the ideas of David Frum and/or Ron Paul.  Maybe all it’ll take is the current generation of radicals to die off.  But I wonder if something more dramatic will be needed, like the replacement of the Republicans with a new party.  That might be the only way to counter the organizational advantage of the religious right.

Post-mortem for the white GOP

Big sigh of relief.  The right’s big gamble has failed.

Their big advantage

In several simple ways this election was the GOP’s to lose.  They went in with some important advantages:

  • They’d already won big in 2010.  They were enthusiastic and well organized and could draw on apocalyptic levels of misdirected rage.
  • They’d prevented an economic recovery.  Unemployment is still high, people are pinched, and that’s terrible for an incumbent.
  • The Democrats had 22 Senate seats to defend, the Republicans just 11.  It should have been possible to take control of both Congress and Presidency.
  • Obamacare is still new, so it triggers people’s resistance to change.  Unaccountably, most of it doesn’t take effect till 2014, so most people aren’t receiving any benefit yet, which makes it easy to be against it.

Their mediocre candidate

They then proceeded to throw these advantages away.  Part of it was, of course, the fault of Mitt Romney.  It’s hard to see how anyone could look at the past couple of years and be impressed by Romney’s integrity, likeability, or commitment to either base or moderate values.  His views blow with the wind, he’s an out-of-touch vulture capitalist, and he was unable to come up with any positive reason to vote for him.  He couldn’t offer a single sensible reason why the economy would perform better under his watch, and he simply refused to provide a tax plan that added up.

On the other hand, he certainly was the best in the primary field, and his very spinelessness was appealing to moderates, who could convince themeselves, improbably, that if he won he’d peel off the Joker mask to reveal the liberal Massachusetts governor.

The demographic cliff

But the real problem was that the GOP bet everything on identity politics.  They have become the party of old, white, straight, Christian males.  Look at some of Obama’s victory margins from last night:

  • Blacks: 93-6
  • Latinos: 71-27
  • Asians: 73-26
  • Women: 55-44
  • Under-30’s: 60-37
  • 30-44 age group: 52-45

Those are blowout numbers, and they’re getting worse for the Republicans every election.  The nonwhite population is increasing, and the old Romney voters are dying off, replaced by overwhelmingly Democratic voters.  The conservative nightmare that it’s always 1979 has little appeal for people who weren’t even born then.

In back rooms and outlying blogs there’s going to be a murmured debate: how can the GOP win back some of these voters?  It’s not rocket science, guys; do these two things:

  • Pick policies that aren’t just geared toward old, white, straight Christian males.
  • Stop alienating everyone else.

If you want to see how the alienation works, read this essay by Rany Jazayerli on how the GOP threw away the Muslim vote.  In 2000, 70% of American Muslims voted for Bush; in 2004 it was 4%.  Seriously, how does a party commit suicide this way?  They may be only 2.6 million, but a few million more votes would have been useful to Mitt, and as Jazayerli explains, they were far from a natural constituency for the Democrats.

Or, you know, there’s women, they’re half the electorate, stop attacking them.  Hopefully the defeat of “legitimate rape” Akin and “will of God” Mourdock will beat some sense into the party.  Missouri and Indiana voted solidly for Romney; they should have been gimmes for the GOP, and part of a GOP takeover of the Senate.  But they threw away these seats to please the crazies (who would have voted for them anyway).

Or, you know, stop picking on gays and lesbians.  Back in the ’90s Republicans decided to make a big appeal to homophobia, passing the Defense of Marriage Act, kicking gays and lesbians out of the military, and pushing ballot measures against same-sex marriage in state after state.  It made horrible, cynical sense at the time: demonize and punish a minority in order to get the bullies’ and bigots’ votes on other issues.  It doesn’t look like a cunning strategy today; it’s another path to cultural and electoral defeat.

Last exit for Galt Gulch

What a difference a decade makes.  It was depressing to be a Democrat in 2002; Republicans had control of all three branches of government and were crowing about the “permanent Republican majority”.  And Democrats seemed too nice to fight back, avoiding all the tools of obstruction Congressional Republicans deployed against Clinton and then Obama.

But where it took fifty years to make the nation tired of the New Deal, it took five to make it tired of Bushism.

Most conservatives today live in a bubble– they only talk to Republicans, they only watch Fox News, they were sure on Monday that Romney would win in a landslide.  Still, a tempting explanation of their strategy over the last few years is that they were desperate precisely because they know about the demographic cliff.  They saw this election as their last chance to create a Randite Utopia where the rich pay little in taxes, the New Deal safety net is dismantled, and the poor and middle class are properly humbled.

Romney actually came pretty close.  But it didn’t work, and in 2016 it’s going to be even harder, and in 2020 harder yet, and…

How do they recover?

Ultimately, the only sane option for the Republicans is to follow my advice above.  Note that I don’t say that they have to be liberals.  They can keep their preference for small government and plutocracy!  But some of the issues of the 2012 campaign– the war on women, anti-gay hysteria, Latino-bashing, voter suppression, unrelenting Randism– have got to go.  You pick which.  Hell, take baby steps: backing immigration reform, for instance, would probably peel off a good number of Hispanic voters.

There’s a problem with getting more moderate, though: the moderates have all been kicked out of the party.  The GOP has been busy electing Congressmen who think that cooperating with John Boehner is a crime.  They don’t have any ideological room to maneuver.  (Which, by the way, is why the centrist hope that a President Romney would have turned out to govern as a moderate was misguided.)

There’s a sane conservativism out there; if you want it, people like David Frum and Russ Douthat will describe it for you.  But there’s no obvious path from here to there.  Frum and Douthat are outliers, despised by the base.  The only sane primary candidate, Jon Huntsman, quit early and I doubt he’s getting any apologetic phone calls today.

The usual corrective for an out-of-touch political party is a decade of losses.  It did wonders for the Democrats after Reagan (and for Labour after Thatcher).  This process should have started for the Republicans starting in 2006– only it was arrested by the fluke victory of 2010.  The electorate in a midterm election skews old and conservative, and there was the terrible economy to rile them up.  So rather than experiencing a salutary loss, the party was rewarded for its craziness.

Their other problem is that they don’t have a clear leader who can take them either leftward or rightward.  There’s no leader of the stature of Ronald Reagan who could make a reasonable deal with the opposition and sell it to the base.  Romney goes back to being a rich guy with no official position, and he’ll be roundly blamed by the faithful anyway.  The figures with centrist appeal, like Chris Christie, Michael Bloomberg, or Colin Powell, disqualified themselves by endorsing or praising Obama.  And on the crazy side, the non-Romneys mostly showed themselves as comically incompetent even at unifying the base.

Ryan will probably emerge from the election unscathed or even buffed, but the strategy of attacking the president from the House is also not looking so good right now.  It didn’t work for Gingrich in the 1990s and it didn’t work for Boehner and Ryan after 2010.

The next few months 

After the election news dies down, the news cycle is going to be dominated by scare stories about the Fiscal Cliffs of Insanity.  Don’t let them get you too excited.  What the cliff means: the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year.  Plus, doing one of those stupid things legislators do in order to motivate themselves to do a real budget deal, Congress agreed to a set of draconian cuts in spending.  The cuts were to both social and defense spending, in order to motivate both sides.  It failed: no real deal happened, so the stupid cuts go into effect in 2013.

So the fiscal cliff means taxes rise and spending is cut.  If you’re worried about the deficit, that’s precisely what’s needed for fiscal balance.  Some disaster!

The problem, of course, is that the deficit hawks are idiots.  An austerity program is precisely what we don’t need right now.  The economy is still underperforming, and austerity would probably trigger a new recession.

Obama sure doesn’t want a recession, and I have to doubt that the Republicans really want one either.  They know now that they’re stuck with Obama for four more years.  Maybe it would help them in 2014… but they already have the House, so what would be the point?  So there’s ample motivation to do the right thing, which is not to fall off the cliff.  Just extend current policies, at least for a couple of years.

Rather than just doing the right thing, I’m sure the GOP will make it a nailbiter.  But the roles are reversed this time: Obama doesn’t have to ask nicely for a tax increase on the rich– he’ll get it on December 31 without doing a thing.  He can play chicken this time.  So my prediction is that we’ll get a short-term deal, probably sometime in the new year.

(A long-term deal would be too much of a stretch.  The GOP rejected Simpson-Bowles; the only possible way to convince themselves to make a deal is to make it short-term, in hopes that President Ryan can undo it in 2017.  Besides, long-term deals are illusory: Congress has no way of dictating the budget ten or twenty years ahead.  Remember, we actually got our fiscal house in order under Clinton, and it just took Bush four years to destroy that work entirely.)


I created a video playlist on YouTube– let’s see if I can embed it.  Here’s a link in case you want to watch it there instead.

These are all videos where I liked both the music and the video. About half of them are from jwz’s mixtapes.  Sorry for the ads, that’s  Google’s fault.  I’ve plugged a few of these before.

Some miscellaneous comments…

  • Megan Washington has her own video for Clementine, but I prefer this one by Keith Loutit.  Tilt-shift baffles me: it shouldn’t work but it does.  If you look at an actual miniature, you don’t get that out-of-focus effect.  Plus, this one actually tells a story!
  • The Limousines’ The Future is brilliant, and (very) darkly comic.  Plus it features a cameo by the zombie-fighting kids.
  • There’s dozens more Usavich shorts by now.  They’re addictive.  The rabbits’ names are Pūchin and Kirenenko.
  • A lot of Gorillaz videos are pretty interesting, though the music doesn’t always fit as well as here.
  • OK, the Saints Row 3 cap (it’s not mine) hardly counts as a video.  But it does showcase the really charming duet of What I Got as well asRebecca Sanabria’s mixture of cute and awesome.
  • Janelle Monae can sure rock a tuxedo.  Or probably anything else she wants to. Daphne Shum (from Rat Vs Possum, in the silver leotard) is also cute as a button.  More cute than a button, really– what a lousy idiom that is.
  • All of Cyriak’s videos are jaw-droppingly creative and surreal.
  • If only OKGo’s music was as inventive as their videos I would have included one.
  • It kind of bugs me that the video for Girls Like You has nothing to do with the lyrics.  And yet it’s a great video.