September 2013

Obama has put the ball in Congress’s court, and I kind of hope that the proposition fails, and he abides by the result.  There’s always a big ballyhoo about how Congress doesn’t declare war any more, and the truth is that it doesn’t because it doesn’t want the responsibility.  If things go south in Syria– whether we intervene or not– let Congress share the blame.

The Arab Spring was a rare unexpected thing in the world– a popular multi-country uprising against dictatorship in a region which seemed, for various tawdry reasons, immune to the global democratizing trend.  It’s pretty amazing that Syrians were bold enough not just to demonstrate but to fight, and I have zero sympathy for Assad.  And there’s no question that he’s created immense misery waging war against his own people.

The question, though, is whether US intervention would do good.  It sure seems like we ought to be able to stop the bad guys, but  look at our experience in the region– Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia.  All pretty much just multiplied the suffering, failed to solve internal conflicts, and led Americans to wash their hands of the thing without making any permanent improvements.  Even if our intentions are good, we are just not good at this.

You can point to Kuwait, Serbia, and Libya as partial successes– kind of.  They were limited in scope, at least.  But I really hope that Obama isn’t looking at his own intervention in Libya as a model.  Syria has three times the population, it’s far more divided and complicated, the rebels already include some serious bad guys, and the goals are far from clear.  Plus it’s far different when we were more or less invited to help by the neighbors, vs. going it alone.  Anyway, Libya is actually still pretty out of control, and the post-Assad situation is likely to be even messier.

I read an interview with McCain today, showing he hasn’t lost his ability to expound contradictory policies.  He thinks Obama has been too weak– but he vows to impeach him if he sends troops to Syria.  Um, you can’t throw your weight around while also demanding not to get hurt.  McCain’s declarations are a formula for large-scale failure.

On a humanitarian level, it’s painful to watch Assad going to war on his people.  But there’s two things to keep in mind.  One, bombing a country is not exactly a humanitarian intervention– on the contrary, it’s going to kill thousands of people and invite retribution.  And two, the nice thing about not intervening is that it’s not us causing the problem.

I guess there is some chance that a bombing campaign will make Assad want to negotiate, or will impel some underlings to depose him.  But the chances seem low, and at this point it seems far too late to put the battle-genie back in the bottle.  There’s likely to be a low- or high-level civil war going on in Syria for several years, and very little interest in any sort of negotiated solution.


I love the character of Catwoman, and by that I mostly mean the one in Arkham City.  She kicks just as much ass as Batman while being way cooler.

Since playing it I’ve been reading Catwoman TPBs when the library has them in, and in general I’ve been unimpressed.  The low point, I think, was giving her a baby, and then having Wacky Superhero Things happen around the two of them.  The attempted mixture of realism and wackiness just didn’t work.

I read some of the latest Catwoman, and it’s not bad, but I think they made her a little too kee-razy.

But I think I’ve finally found a good Catwoman book: Trail of the Catwoman, which actually has three interrelated stories from 2002-3.  The first story is by Darwyn Cooke, and he has an appealing, very brushy line:


He write a heist story, which is precisely (I think) what you should do with Catwoman.  It’s what she does, what she’s good at, and it’s fun to see her at her most cool and competent.  And I think Cooke does a good job recognizing her sexiness while letting her rise above it.  It’s a tool she uses (though at the same time she can actually care for people, something that doesn’t come naturally to Bats).

The heist itself is ill-advised (stealing from the Mob) and has quite a few holes in it.  (Hint to plotters in movies and comics: you and your scheme are only as secure as the guy you’ve left alone.)  Still, stories only happen when things go wrong, and it’s told well.

The other two stories are more noir, which also fits Catwoman.  Noir started as an attempt to restore realism to detective fiction, but it’s mainly stayed in the ’30s and ’40s at heart, thus becoming a form of fantasy itself.  The stories deal with Mafiosi and rotten cops, and I think they have precisely zero to say about criminality and policing, but that’s OK– the Mafiosi and cops behave as they’re supposed to in noir, and again, an actual police procedural or Mob expose doesn’t really have a place for a femme fatale cat burglar, but noir does.

I was curious about the Unity game engine, so I downloaded the free version, opened it up, and was all WUT.

But thanks to this awesome tutorial on making a game in half an hour, I made a game in half an hour. Well, probably more like an hour.

Watch out for that rock!  Sunday driver!

Watch out for that rock! Sunday driver!

It’s basically the “Hello world” of games, but the little car does move around.

Just a break from formatting my book. 🙂


I hate this thing:



It’s a Zorn, a boss in episode 3 of Remember Me, and it’s one of my least favorite things in video games: a boss you can’t defeat just by what you’ve learned so far. You basically have to find a walkthrough. For reference, here’s what you do.

1. Try to dodge the crates it throws.  I have not figured this out for certain as Dodge (space) doesn’t always work.  But if you’re moving, you may avoid damage.

2. You need a little distance, so if the Zorn is nearby and gets the big red ! over his head, hit space and then run away.  Repeat as necessary.

3. Use the Junk Bolt Spammer– left-shift plus RMB.  You need to turn his health bar gray; it may take two shots.

4. Do nothing till he jumps at you; dodge (space).  He will get his arm trapped in the ground.  IMMEDIATELY spam him– left-shift while mashing LMB.  If you don’t get in enough shots he’ll regenerate his arm and you’re back to step 3.  If you do, he loses his arm.

5. Now he’ll sometimes do earthquake attacks.  Supposedly you can dodge, but I didn’t figure out how.  If you’ve dodged his other attacks, you’ll survive.  But anyway, do steps 3-4 again to take out his other arm.

6. More earthquake attacks, but after he unleashes an orange one, there’s a few seconds while he’s stunned and you can finish him off with Junk Bolt Spammer.

7. Now you get a Quicktime Event (stop that, developers).  Hit RMB, then LMB, then RMB when prompted.  If you don’t, you’re back at step 5.

Also, don’t die, because you have to start over from the beginning.  Even in Easy mode.  Bastards.

You may get one chance to use the Stun superpower (Q).  I tried this a lot on many unsuccessful runs, but not on the one that worked.  If you follow the above guide you don’t need it.

Yeesh.  I guess Arkham City has similar fights, where everything you’ve learned is useless except the one toy the developer wants you to use– e.g. the final fight with Clayface.  But I could forgive that because it’s the greatest game ever.

  • Edit: After thinking about it more: the reason I give Arkham City more slack is really that it has optional combat maps.  You can’t perfect its particular combat system without playing them, a lot.   (Also, fuck quicktime events.  It’s game designer laziness: rather than figure out an actual skill for the player to use, they fall back on showing you a cutscene with annoying failure modes built in.)

This fight, and a nasty one with invisible enemies, plus the fact that there are never alternative routes anywhere, has lessened my original enamorment.

Something I didn’t mention before, though: the beautiful set design and conworlding.  It’s kind of your standard near-future dystopia, with dizzying levels of inequality, disturbing new technologies, and plenty of side material to explore.  There’s an interesting bit where Nilan’s ally, Edge, uses the intel she gathered to unleash a flood in the rich quarter of Neo-Paris, and Nilan expresses some actual shock over this as well as the subsequent police crackdown.  Not that you can find an alternative ally or anything, but it’s a rare game that vocalizes some doubt over the character’s own actions, at least before the inevitable reversal.

  • Edit: Finally got to the next memory edit scene.  Mind-blowing in several senses.  They surely weren’t hard to program, so why didn’t they do lots more of these?

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