Here's another post that was about to be a comment on a Reddit thread that no bugger'd read because the thread is five whole hours old.
The thread is about this picture of some Chinesedoctors (disrespectfully translated versions here and here) bowing in respect to the body of a terribly young organ donor. She donated pretty much everything, and was only eight years old.
Needless to say, the Reddit conversation immediately wandered as far and fast from the topic as it could, thanks to someone noting the similarity between the doctors' respect for the dead girl and a hunter-gatherer's respect for the animal he's just managed to kill.
(Put like that, it sounds as if it's about half an inch away from turning into 4chan dead-baby jokes. The thread isn't actually like that. Well, no non-deleted comments with a score above minus 50 seem to be, anyway.)
This comment in particular pressed one of my personal Talk Buttons, so now that I've spent a couple of hundred words explaining the background, here's my Canned Rant on the subject of carnivores who never see an animal killed:
I don't think it's bad that people don't see where their meat comes from any more, but I think everybody who eats meat should at least visit an abattoir once. Not watch a documentary, visit one, so you get the full experience - sights, sounds and definitely smells. The smell of blood cooking on the steam pipes, the smell of various useful components of animals that people aren't going to eat, the smell of the hair being burned off the hog bellies by a guy with one of the safest, and least interesting, jobs in the whole awful place...
Talk about your "life leaving the eyes..."; how about seeing a pig screaming, thrashing around, managing to get its back feet off the hook and then flapping on the concrete floor, still fettered but no longer hung, as the blood fountains out of its throat and its dog-level brain may actually realise it's now every bit as fucked as it thought it was going to be if it got shoved up that ramp with all the rest...
(Sheep and cows don't seem to have any idea what's coming, thanks partly to clever feed-ramp design. Pigs figure that shit out, though, and do NOT want to go into the building. Perhaps that problem's been cracked now with even more animal-psychology; I saw all this, including the unexpected Porcine Murder Show, on a school trip more than 25 years ago.)
I still eat ham and bacon. But only occasionally.
(I also don't know whether it was normal, back then, for slaughterhouses here in Australia to hang up very-much-conscious pigs and cut their throats, without stunning them first. The usual reason for hanging and bleeding conscious animals is to comply with kashrut and/or halal rules, but obviously there's no such thing as kosher pork, so that couldn't have been it. If an animal's stunned or brained before being bled, then this sort of drama's only ever going to happen, with or without an audience of rather alarmed Agricultural High School kids, if the stunner-guy manages to miss.)
Never mind the standard weirdness of having a machine that can go anywhere in time and space but, if your friends are being abducted, never just goes to the moment of the abduction so you can open the door and pull them in.
No, in this episode you've got the whole universe's timeline being rewritten and people fading out of existence like in Back to the Future, while other people... don't. Whole star systems are vanishing by the dozen, friends become enemies but for unexplained timey-wimey reasons stay in the same location... but the people necessary to get the plot to where it needs to be retain their previous memories, just because.
(Oh, and Clara can visit Tom Baker and help him out, but she is powerless to de-interlace him. I suppose it's fair that she seems to have been poorly green-screened in, though. I bet some effects guy really wanted to interlace her, too, but it didn't happen.)
And there are more blokes with weird faces to add to the surprisingly long list of New Who's Nattily-Dressed Scary Dudes. And there's some more gratuitous weapon-like use of the sonic screwdriver.
Three out of ten, if you are foolish enough to watch it sober.
Good casting including non-annoying kids, at least two dumb solutions to problems being shot down as such, and a much-needed villain upgrade for the Number Two Doctor Who Major Baddies. I think Matt Smith dropped the ball a bit in his Gollum-and-Smeagol number, but that was good enough too.
OK, perhaps they could have done a little more to blunt the distracting similarities between the New And Improved Cybermen and a certain other iconic sci-fi cybernetic-baddie-race, beyond "but our ones have blue lights on their heads!"
But I think that's entirely compensated-for by Cybermen that are, one, not avoidable by anybody capable of jogging, and, two, now able to "upgrade" any other sentient life.
Given the Cybermen's numerous previous extremely bad strategic decisions, they will of course now be making a beeline for the nearest repository of Kaled genetic material.
Or just somehow upgrade an actual Dalek. The result would surely be-
Instead of writing stuff here where thousands of people read it, I've been arguing with people on Reddit, in posts old enough that about seven people will read them.
I would now like to rescue some of that wasted time on my part and waste some more of yours, by asking you to check out this Reddit post about a teacher in Florida who got in trouble for bikini pictures and was going to be fired. She then basically said, "screw you guys, I can make way more money posing for photos than I can teaching anyway", which is not really a heartening outcome for that situation.
Comment there, comment here, heave a sigh and skip the whole damn thing; the choice is yours.
What I'm trying to get at is that the USA has managed to get itself into a royally messed-up position with regard to sex (and race, and religion, and government, and capitalism, and war, and numerous other things), and the USA is so damn big that you drag large amounts of the rest of the "Western" world along with you, including us here in Australia.
The kind of mess I'm talking about is the one in which logical connections between concepts and arguments fade away, to be replaced with mere associations and "common knowledge", that're given the weight of a logical connection. Or there are logical connections, but they're based on unjustified premises.
So, for instance, sex plus children equals sex with children, which we've arbitrarily decided is the worst crime that can ever happen. (No, I am not suddenly joining NAMBLA, I'm just saying that I think killing a hundred children might very well be worse than groping one of them.) Therefore when sexy photos of a teacher come to light, whether taken professionally or by a boyfriend/girlfriend or at a party or whatever, that teacher must be fired. Teachers must apparently teach kids morals (I don't remember any of them doing that for me, but perhaps it's different in the States), but sexy pictures are immoral, therefore teachers with sexy pictures are ipso facto unable to do their job and must be fired.
Countries that managed to dodge that Puritan bullet cast from solid Original Sin (Bodies are dirty! Women are evil! God spends a lot of time thinking about penises!) find this particularly hilarious today. Today, kids with the slightest particle of computer/smartphone knowledge can see all the boobies and peeners they like. So it is I think preposterous on its face to argue that teachers' Adult Activities outside school time have anything further impact on their effectiveness or otherwise as a teacher.
Back when department-store underwear catalogues were among the more treasured possessions of many schoolboys, and kids looked up anatomical terms in the encyclopedia in hopes of finding something exciting, you could make the argument that a teacher appearing in Playboy or a "naturist" magazine or whatever would have a shattering effect on their classroom authority. It'd still be because of unfounded associations between being a functioning mammal and pedagoguery, but there would at least be a massive effect.
Today, though... even if you do think bodies are dirty and teachers should be asexual, what further harm is done by adding the pink bits of a particular teacher to the vast and ever-increasing storehouse of other sexual imagery accessible to the entire class?
(And yes, "pedagogue" is a fun word to keep in your knapsack when discussing this stuff with someone whose vocabulary you suspect does not contain it. Deploying "pedagogical", or "niggardly", or "penury", or "titillate", may reduce your chance of changing their mind from slim to none, but it is good for a laugh if they take the bait. You've no-one to blame but yourself if this gets out of hand, though.)
Argue with people infected with this puritan virus, and they'll say of course the teacher should be fired, even if the kids already have daily access to hard-core goat pr0n, because that's what it says in the teacher's employment contract!
Except I was saying not that it's legally permissible to fire the teacher, but that it's wrong.
Oh, so we're still arguing? Well, teachers are meant to teach and they can't do it if the class is all a-tizzy, or a-titty if you will, with knowledge of the teacher's unclothed appearance.
Except, again, there's been no explanation of what the great qualitative difference is supposed to be between the general knowledge that people are naked under their clothes, and the specific knowledge of exactly what this person looks like under their clothes.
(Particularly true in the case of this one particular teacher, called Olivia Sprauer in real life or "Victoria V James" when getting her gear off in front of a camera; in the latter situation she always seems to be so massively airbrushed that you're not really seeing her at all.)
Oh, so we're still arguing? Well, there certainly aren't any other countries that're less hung up about this stuff! And they absolutely certainly don't have better educational outcomes than the States!
And on it goes.
(Does anybody know where I can find data on different countries' definitions of teacher misconduct? I don't read Japanese or the highly implausible languages of the alleged Belgium, so I just had to kind of say "Japan, dude", without primary-source support.)
I'm uncomfortably aware that some of what I've said in that thread sounds as if it may have something to do with Men's Rights Activists, so let me make this perfectly clear: MRA is in my opinion a few per cent perfectly legitimate (for instance, bias in divorce proceedings that gives a terrible mother a better chance of getting custody of the kids than an excellent father). But the rest of it is outrageous atavistic nonsense, surprisingly often being espoused by people who seem to think it's a goodidea to be known as "the Blackshirts".
The thing that had me commenting in that Reddit thread in the first place was my constant low-level resentment of the current popular belief in the USA, and Australia, and the UK, and umpteen other countries, that an important part of the general prohibition on anything a bit sexy being associated in any way at all with children, every man in particular is constantly quivering with the desire to interfere with kids.
So if you see a man talking to your children, your best course of action is to call the police at once.
I really like talking with kids. (Not enough to actually have any though, you understand, let's not go crazy here.) But if I'm not related to them, I have to avert my eyes if I see any approaching. I wouldn't even consider saying more than "hello", and I'd feel nervous even about that.
(In the real world, kids are much more likely to be molested by someone who is related to them, or by a friend of the family or neighbour or babysitter or suchlike, than by a stranger. And abuse by relatives is likely to be more harmful than abuse by a stranger. But we don't cotton to facts 'round here, pal.)
Again, this is one of those things where incorrect premises lead to a demented result: Child molestation is the worst crime possible, Crime Value Infinity, and child molesters do exist. So even if the chance that a given person is a child molester is one in a million (and according to the conservativepress it's apparently more like one in three), the magnitude of harm times its probability remains infinitely high, and the situation must be avoided at all costs.
If the cost in this case is glaring at a man as you lead your children away or calling the police because he's got a camera and is in a park and so are some children and holy shit better get the SWAT team for this one, and making damn sure the strange man knows you're implicitly accusing him of being a criminal that makes Pol Pot or Doctor Mengele look like pikers, then so be it. Think of the children, et cetera.
(It's like the ban on Saying Any Words Related To Terrorism in airports: No matter how small the possibility, the thing you think you're guarding against is infinitely bad, so logic calculations all go to zero or infinity and actual thinking cannot occur.)
Quite a good episode of Doctor Who, thistime. That's unsettling.
Diana Rigg making sure no piece of scenery lacks her tooth-marks and being beastly to her real-life daughter, while someone else gets to wear one of Diana's outfits from 1966. Strax pushing the rating back down to PG by continuing to not quite manage to kill anybody at all. Throwaway moments of comedy weirdness, one of which involves a street urchin. And at no point is evil thwarted by the Power of Love.
There are some minor concerns, like "how's she paying for all this?", and "shouldn't they all have just been burned to ashes?". But nothing too terrible.
Yes, there was yet another moment of strange vulnerability from the TARDIS, which is supposed to be about the most durable thing in the universe. But we were promised a safari inside the thing, which is a tremendous idea. TARDISes are infinitely large inside, giving rise to some interesting possibilities if you, for instance, park one on the bottom of the ocean and open the door. There could be anything in there, and with modern effects you can see that anything, as indeed you do in this episode in brief glimpses that don't go anywhere.
The monsters, spoiler alert, had a particularly disappointing origin story.
They are the protagonists, you see - including the Doctor! - after the protagonists were barbecued inside the TARDIS engine room and then looped back in time to menace their un-barbecued selves. The Doctor mentioned this danger of barbecuing, but forgot to mention that the burns would also make you incapable of communication and violently psychotic, even if you started out as an interdimensional wizard with immense physical and mental durability.
The actual reason for the monsters is of course "because we always have to have a monster lurching after the protagonists, since this has become a show largely about running away from monsters. Even if the monster just wishes to be reunited with its lady love, it will choose to express this desire by acting like a stereotypical bogey-man, rather than standing in the open waving cheerfully".
You'd still think the Doctor could have devoted a few words of dialogue to the "you will become a mindless killing machine" part of the symptoms of staying too long in the engine room. Perhaps a small Health and Safety warning poster would be in order.
I was hoping the monsters would be some kind of beastie that's developed within the TARDIS's infinite volume of infinite wonders. Perhaps they evolved all the way from bacteria (or a cat) in the time between two bongs of the Cloister Bell. C'mon people, this is Doctor Who, you can do that if you want.
But that was asking too much. Good people become bad when they become ugly, people are terrified of other people one moment and lovey-dovey when the scary person decides to enfold them in his arms, an interdimensional wizard spends time tricking scrap merchants into helping him search an infinite maze for someone the scrap merchants don't give a damn about... and there's always a dude in a rubber suit running after them all.
BioShock Infinite wasn't bad, you understand. But I didn't find it particularly compelling, either. I often kept playing only because the last save checkpoint was seven minutes ago (try to quit and the game will tell you when it last saved, if you didn't notice the little autosave thing in the top right corner), and I didn't want to replay that section.
And now that it's over, I don't want to replay any of it at all. You can change the gameplay considerably by specialising in one or another kind of magic ("Vigors") or gun, and the "gear" you find through the game (things like a hat that somehow lights enemies on fire when you hit them, or pants that make your shield recharge faster) is partially randomised too.
But I'm done with it. It just didn't grab me.
Which is not to say, again, that there's anything wrong with this 800-pound gorilla of the gaming world, which cost as much to make as a Hollywood blockbuster. There are a lot of places where BioShock Infinite could have gone wrong, but it almost never did.
Checkpointed saves, for instance, shouldn't be necessary even in console games today (I played the PC version). But BioShock Infinite checkpoints frequently enough that it should only be a problem if you can only manage your gaming in ten-minute instalments.
(The game also works fine with alt-tab, by the way. Well, it did on my computer, at least. So as long as you don't have to actually turn off the computer or something, you can just pause it and get on with other stuff until the boss goes away.)
BioShock Infinite also starts with a console-standard narrow field of view which feels poky on the PC, and I don't think there's an in-game console to change stuff like that. But there is a field-of-view slider right there in the options! You can't take it quite as far as I'd like, but it was good enough.
And you know when you see some giant terrifying thing or ultimate super-overlord in a shooter game, and think, "that bugger's going to be a frustrating boss battle at the end, isn't he?"
Well, in BioShock Infinite, not to spoil too much, but no. There are boss-ish battles and one enemy that acts as a quite classic multi-battle boss, but not many of them, and you're always pretty free to move and hide and just bull through with brute firepower if necessary. At no point do you have to shoot the tentacles, then shoot the missile launchers, then shoot the eyes, then shoot the brain, IN THAT ORDER.
Oh, and you're in Columbia, a city in the sky, but there's no fear-of-heights at all. You sure can jump off any number of edges into miles and miles of vertical fresh air, but you then just instantly teleport back to where you were, with a distinctive noise that may help clue you in to the fact that almost nothing in Columbia is as it seems.
The bizarre glowing steampunk Gilded-Age-With-Extra-Racism Founding-Fathers-worshipping universe-hopping setting of Columbia is almost all brightly lit and cheerfully coloured, and realised very well indeed. I'd put this game up there with Just Cause 2 for prettiness. But because BioShock Infinite has to run on 2006-technology consoles as well as on the PC, the engine actually isn't terribly demanding. At almost-top graphics settings, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti in my rather antiquated Core i7 PC gave me perfectly playable frame rates at full 2560 by 1600 resolution. The price for that is a lot of bits of game that don't look great close up, but I'll take two-dimensional flowers and wheels with corners over having to play in Duplo Chunkyvision Mode any day.
There's also no map in the game, just a navigation key that draws a green arrow in the direction of your current quest target. Many sections of the game are quite enormous, so again this had me worrying about something that a lot of games get wrong: Not telling the player where the hell they're supposed to go next. The Overlordgames, to pick one example among many, had this problem in spades; I spent ages trundling around levels in those games trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. Nothing short of YouTube cheat videos helped. (The Overlord games had some extremely frustrating bosses, too.)
But, again, BioShock Infinite dodged the bullet. I only had a navigation failure once in the whole game.
(The navigation key managed to draw an arrow up onto one side of one of the whizzy "Sky-Line" transportation thingies, and the arrow then did a U-turn and pointed the other way on the same Sky-Line. So I just Googled it. Ah, the Market District. Frustration concluded.)
There are also a few side-quests where you find a secret code, and have to find a book to decode it, these two items probably being a long way apart. There's no navigation help for these things, so you'll probably get to enjoy some good old Classic-RPG Where The Hell Was It gameplay. Or you'll go on to a new area and discover you can't go back any more. But the side quests are entirely optional, and don't offer any huge game-beating bonuses - just "elixirs" to boost one of your three stats a bit, and another piece of magical clothing, and another interesting audio log.
Boy, BioShock Infinite is grand. Not necessarily particularly comprehensible, but grand, all right. And I like incomprehensible; as I've written before, I much prefer coming out of a movie or game or whatever saying "what the fuck was that all about?", than having everything spoon-fed to me in mainstream Hollywood style. I don't think BioShock Infinite really is especially inventive, story-wise, but it's like The Fifth Element or The Avengers or that Doctor Who episode where all history happened at once; sumptuous popcorn entertainment best not thought about in any great depth.
BioShock Infinite has no Super-Famous Actors cluttering up the place with strangely lousy voice acting. And no frustrating Do It Again, Stupid gameplay (as in earlier BioShocks, death is only really a minor inconvenience; you come back with not quite all of your health and a little bit less money, and all living enemies get a small health boost, but that's it). And it has difficulty settings you can change whenever you like. And it has quite slick and responsive keyboard-and-mouse controls (many recent console ports play better with a controller). And there's plenty of pleasing filigree on the basic mechanics. And a companion who never needs to be baby-sat. And the story may be... blurry... but it's every bit as grand as the graphics.
(The confusingness is probably unavoidable given that there are multiple universes and even a certain amount of time-travel... ish... ness... involved, which I don't think is a spoiler, given some central features of the setting and stuff you're told before you even kill anyone. I found one of the central end-of-game revelations, though, to be extremely hard to digest. It felt to me like a plot twist that perhaps made sense early in the development of the story, but the final story ended up being very different. Or maybe it was thrown in toward the end of development. Either way, and again not to spoil, I think there are basic but-just-look-and-listen-to-them-for-pity's-sake problems with it. You'll probably know which bit I mean when you get to it. If you don't detect it, congratulations on being less annoyed by the game than I was!)
Is BioShock Infinite worth buying at full price? If you loved the previous BioShocks, probably yes.
For me, though, regrettably no.
Perhaps you'll just adore the setting, in the same way I adore the settings of Fallout 3 and Saints Row: The Third and don't care about their nonsensical stories. There's only about twelve hours of gameplay in BioShock Infinite, though, so no matter how awesome you think it is, you'll pretty much have to get a lot less gameplay per dollar from it than a big open-world game gives you.
(EDIT: Actually, I don't really love the setting of SR3, which is just Interchangeable Simulated City To Commit Mayhem Within #726. What I like is the game's craziness, and the integration of that craziness with the overall feel of the city. Contrast this with Grand Theft Auto's bizarre attempt to graft conversations in which killing one person is treated as important, to gameplay in which you ran down 53 people on the way to have that conversation. Also, the first time you get in a helicopter in a Saints Row game, you will actually be able to fly it.)
You probably will enjoy a second playthrough at the very least, though. There are piles and piles of things that are suddenly loaded with new meaning in a second playthrough, now that you know all the great revelations of the end of the story about how everybody in the game is actually a robot built by Nazi moon vampires. That just doesn't tempt me quite enough.
(The more I read about the game now that I've finished it, the more I also want to replay it just to make less of a hash of it. "Wait, I wouldn't have had to fight all those unreasonably tough dudes with cudgels in that place that had almost no health and ammo if I'd just sneaked around their creepy boss-dudes instead of shooting at them? I thought it was only one boss-dude and eventually he'd stop teleporting away so I could kill him! Dang it.")
I don't really find myself disappointed, since I wasn't one of the people waiting impatiently for the year BioShock Infinite slipped from its original release date. (There's a joke about that in the game, too, along with quite a lot of other adroitly-placed jokes that break up the horror and seriousness nicely.) Actually, the biggest disappointment I had was that there were only a few Olde Tyme Remakes of modern pop songs in the soundtrack.
And I shouldn't complain.
This is a game that lets you sic clouds of highly carnivorous ravens on your enemies while shooting at them with a man-portable crank-operated Gatling gun, after all. What else do you want?
It's a ninety-ton Highlander, the heaviest jump-capable 'Mech in the game, and it's also the only model of Highlander in the game thus far. Every previous Hero 'Mech has been a variant of some other chassis already in the game, but regular Highlanders won't arrive until the 16th of this month. So if you want a Highlander early, you have to buy the Heavy Metal. Numerous people have; last night I saw at least one in almost every game that, you know, started, after the patch gave the servers some personality defects.
(I recommend you minimise your exposure to the comments in that thread, because the MechWarrior Online forums are trying very hard to win the MOBA Trophy for people complaining about problems with a game which they plainly hate but for some reason continue to play. If you absolutely must stare at a MWO forum car-crash, I recommend this one, where a guy complains about the game forcing him to play against people of similar skill so he can't just keep easily murdering newbies. According to him, this is is SOCIALIST, capitals his.)
And yes, the Heavy Metal is PIIIIIIINK, because it's a copy of the signature 'Mech of one Rhonda Snord from the fluff. You won't have to suffer through the pink forever if you buy it, though, because repainting hero 'Mechs is promised to be possible Real Soon Now. (I think they'll keep their paint patterns, but you'll be able to change the colours.)
True to Rhonda's version, the Heavy Metal has speakers on the outside, but all they do is play a snippet of guitar music...
...whenever you kill someone.
(There are only two snippets, one rockabilly-ish and one more on the Wyld-Stallyns-ish side.)
The chief problem with the Heavy Metal is its price. Hero 'Mechs can only be bought for "Mech Credits", and you can only get Mech Credits by paying real money. The Heavy Metal costs 6750 MC, more than any other 'Mech in the game. That adds up to about $US25, depending on how good a deal you got whn you bought your MC.
The only Hero 'Mech I've ever bought was a Yen-Lo-WAAAAAAANG when they were half-price. The Wang's not really very useful; Hero 'Mechs usually aren't the best version of a given chassis, to at least slightly reduce the clamour of forum complaints about pay-to-win. But the Heavy Metal gives you quite a powerful platform for the money.
Here, for instance, is a Heavy Metal with lots of close-to-medium-range punch, retaining four of its maximum five jump jets and with lots of heat sinks for its three Large Lasers. It becomes almost harmless if the laser arm is shot off, but apart from that it has no major weaknesses.
Here's a gauss build, with a bigger engine but no jump jets. Here's a sniper that isn't too horrifyingly slow. And here's an ArtemisLRM monster, with three medium lasers as backup. All of these should let you listen to that guitar music more often than you probably really want to.
I won't be buying a Heavy Metal unless a bunch of donaters order me to. But its alarming price does give you an interesting imaginary Internet robot to play with.