Archive for March, 2013

A Case of “Meh” …

March 29, 2013

So, in an attempt to take advantage of the fact that I’m trying to get through the entire series of “Dark Shadows” and yet don’t want be only watching TV for my evenings because then I fall asleep too early, I decided to start playing “Disgaea 2”. And played it on about 2 or 3 nights. And then stopped playing it, and don’t really want to go back.

This is not because it’s a bad game. It isn’t a bad game at all. But it’s a bit of a “Meh” game. Story-wise, it’s a fairly light-hearted game about demons taking over a world, and the attempts of the last human to break them out of that. And while it’s kinda funny, it isn’t funny enough for me to just play it for the humour, but the humour takes enough away from the more serious parts of the story that I can’t take the story seriously either. So, enjoyable enough, but nothing that I really want to play and so nothing that makes me think when I’m heading home from work “Oh, I really have to play Disgaea 2 tonight to see what happens next!”.

As for the tactical combat, the same thing applies. It isn’t trivial, but isn’t all that hard, either. There are a few things to learn, but not all that many, at least at this early stage. So, it’s fun enough, but not that fun. Again, I don’t end up looking forward to playing the combat in the game, like I did for “Heroes of Might and Magic: The Quest for the Dragonbone Staff” (which I just bailed on because I realized how long it would take me to beat that game, and I don’t like it that much).

Essentially, the same problem that I had with Persona 2: everything’s just okay, but when I’m busy or tired I don’t want just okay.

So, maybe I’ll take it up again later, but now it’s time to start looking for something that’s more than merely okay.

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Need Connection …

March 15, 2013

So, the latest version of Sim City requires users to be logged on to the EA servers all the time, supposedly so that you can play it multiplayer. The launch of this has been an absolute disaster. And, in fact, is comparable to the launch of Diablo III, which also went to this model, but seemingly for more reason and the Sim City problems seem to be worse. Essentially, EA makes you log into their servers to play the game, even if you really wanted to play it single player, and at launch their servers couldn’t keep up so people who legitimately bought the game couldn’t play them. This is, of course, only a preview for what will happen when EA decides that it doesn’t want to keep the servers up anymore, likely because they’d rather you buy the next version of Sim City to make them more money.

If the gaming world goes to this model, it will likely drive me out of gaming. I do play some games that require a connection, because I play MMOs. But I accept that because of the nature of the games themselves, even if I tend to solo rather than play with people, and those games provide something that I can’t get anywhere else, even from older games. That’s not the case for a game like Sim City. Without this system, I might have picked it up out of idle curiousity at some point, like I did for Tropico and The Sims. But with this annoyance, I’m not going to, and I’m certainly not going to if it means that in a few years I might not be able to play it anymore.

Just recently, I played Star Wars: Demolition. The game was released in 2000. I also muse continually about playing Star Wars: Rebellion again, which was released in 1998. Do you really think that EA will be running any server for this version of Sim City after 15 years? And yet, I am still likely to want to play the game, if it’s good, in 15 years, just like I’d watch 15 year old movies. A system that takes that away from me in order to stop people from pirating the game is not a system I want to participate in. And just as a note to game companies: I am willing to put a decent amount of disposable income into buying and playing games. You might not want to lose that. Just sayin’.

A Zero Sum Game of Rights?

March 14, 2013

Stephanie Zvan over at Almost Diamonds has just reposted a post about viability and maternal rights, that she’s trying to use against a claim about pain and maternal rights. The underlying argument is that some people are saying that the rights of the foetus don’t start at birth, but start instead at some point before it, and they are using viability or when it can experience pain as that hallmark. Zvan doesn’t want to argue against assigning it there at this point, but wants to argue over rights themselves, mostly, it seems, by using two graphs and then assigning positions based on that. I won’t reproduce the graphs here, but let’s look at her conclusion:

It is the argument that once the fetus has rights, the pregnant person no longer does. They no longer have any say in how their body is used. They no longer have any right to say that pregnancy is not in their interests–medical, emotional, social, or financial. They have no rights at all in the matter.

That’s what a law banning third-trimester abortions does. It assigns 100% of the rights to the fetus, not 50%.

I went back and looked to see where she argues that the political position entails this, as opposed to the viaiblity argument itself which she says — rightly, in my opinion — that at that point both the mother and the foetus have rights. I can’t find an actual argument, so it looks like it’s an argument through producing a graph of your opinion, which is not a good argument. Because the key is that if the mother and the foetus have rights, then we have to figure out how to balance those rights against each other, which Zvan concedes and claims to solve:

So how do we protect the rights that a fetus does have in these situations? That’s a good question, but frankly, it’s a medical question. The fetus may be theoretically independent of the pregnant person, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually independent. It’s still inside the womb, and every means of getting it out carries risks to both parties. What risks vary greatly from pregnancy to pregnancy.

Consider also that the reason many people stop wanting to be pregnant at this point is that the fetus is less than healthy, which may translate into less than viable. Balancing rights and risks of both parties simply isn’t something that can be done in the general case. If we are truly interested in protecting everyone’s rights, this stays a private, medical matter informed by the conscience and situation of the pregnant person making the decision.

Well, so much for all of those laws and court decisions, then, that do indeed try to balance rights and risks of both parties in all the relevant situations, taking into accoung all of the relevant facts, starting from the general principles and working our way down to the specifics. Also note that in cases where rights clash, we generally don’t leave the protection of the rights of one person in the hands of the person whose rights they’re clashing with. As I’ve said before, we generally dont let someone who has a vested interest in someone dying decide if that person should live or die, at least not without a lot of oversight … far more than just a doctor talking to them about it.

The problem here is that while she concedes that at this point there would be rights to balance, she never in fact tries to suss out what the rights are or how to deal with the conflict. We deal with conflicts of rights all of the time, as I just pointed out. It’s odd that in this case she wants to throw her hands up in the air and ignore the issue … which, in fact, ends up treating the situation as if the maternal rights are all that matters.

So, what are the rights involved? Well, on the side of the foetus we clearly have the right to life. Now, the right to life is not a right to be alive, really, but more a right to not have your life taken away from you, or rather for you to not be deprived of life. So no one is obligated to provide you the means to keep you alive, but they can’t directly take your life from you or unreasonably take the means for you to preserve your life away from you. That last part involves a lot of wrangling, but let’s just go with it for now. At any rate, we can see that this is a pretty important right.

Now, the maternal rights involved here are different. The one that is most obviously involved — because it’s the name of the movement — is the right to choice, to be able to choose how to life one’s life as one sees fit. Unfortunately, it seems completely obvious that if the right to life and the right to choose clash, then the right to choose gives way. You don’t get to cite choice very often as a reason to kill someone, although you can use it as a reason to not provide resources to someone so that they can live, but as stated that doesn’t fall under the right to life. So the fallback position is to appeal to the right to bodily autonomy, and control over one’s body. This is a lot stronger position, but it also isn’t obvious that, in general, it would trump someone else’s right to life. The examples given that challenge this — like the “violinist” case — tend to fall into categories where we start talking about someone else using your resources to stay alive, which isn’t covered, but are also controversial precisely because in those cases a direct action is required to stop them from doing that, which does clash with the right to life. Depending on which way you view it, you can come to different conclusions.

Okay, so let’s look at some specific cases, then. Imagine that you are past the point of viability or whatever, and the mother goes to the doctor of a perfectly healthy foetus that isn’t causing her any undue risk — beyond the normal risks of pregnancy — and says that she wants to get an abortion because a child would be bad for her career, or she isn’t ready to raise a child, or they’re too poor to raise a child. These seem to be cases where the primary concern is choice and not integrity, and it would seem that the right to life should trump those cases. Sure, there is a negative impact on her quality of life, but you don’t get to take or ask for a direct taking of someone’s life because it impacts your quality of life.

So the next cases are the major health problems from an abnormal pregnancy. If she is quite likely to die if the abortion is not performed, then what we have is a clash over rights of life: the foetus wuld be killed if the abortion proceeds, but if you don’t allow it you would be depriving the mother of the means to preserve her own life. This is the toughest call in all of the cases, and it is easy to see why, as it relies on balancing the exact same right against itself. Then you have the cases where the foetus has a condition where it likely will not survive the pregnancy or, if it does, will have a greatly decreased quality of life. This is also controversial, but in general on these points we leave these decisions up to the parents or guardians, so then that would be a decision between both parents and the doctor. Then there are cases where there is a great risk to her health but not necessarily to her life. This is the only case where right to bodily autonomy is considered, and we should be able to see the issues here. If it is a great risk — paralyzation would be one prime example — then we would, I think, be intuitively sympathetic to allowing the abortion, but if it was something like not being able to have children again we intuitively would feel less sympathetic. So a tough case, and one that requires much more thought.

But what’s interesting here is that in only one of the cases does it seem that the right to bodily autonomy is involved. When we look at the reasons, we can see that for some of them it seems to be choice that’s in play, not bodily autonomy, or that it is the right to life that is in play, not bodily autonomy. Only in one very special case is bodily autonomy the driving force, and that’s also one that’s heavily debatable. So, then, by parsing out the specific cases and looking at the general rights they address, we seem to be able to come up with some fairly good guidelines on how to balance the rights of both parties without having to leave it up to the mother, informed by the doctor. Which is what Zvan says we can’t do. Funny, that.

Zvan treats the political argument as if it creates a zero sum game of rights, but she gives no reason for thinking that and, as we’ve seen here, treating as a case where both parties have all their rights leads to similar considerations as you’d find in the pro-life arguments. So it’s not a zero sum game at all, and so all Zvan does is distort the situation so that she can accuse her opponents of trying to take away the rights of women. As this post shows, that isn’t what’s happening when one actually works out what balancing rights should mean in the specific cases.

Movies March 6 …

March 7, 2013

So, finally, after taking a few weeks off I again wandered down the block to the video store and rented a couple of movies: “Date Night” and “Silent Hill: Revelation”.

Let’s start with “Date Night”. I had seen the ads for this movie a long time ago, and thought that it might be an interesting movie to watch when it came out on DVD. I’ve found Tina Fey entertaining in the past — although that was mostly from “Mean Girls”, watched when I had a free movie on VOD from signing up for cable — and while I didn’t find Steve Carrell all that entertaining in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” — or, in fact, the movie itself all that entertaining — he seemed mostly harmless to me, and so it seemed like it might be a good bet. And then, of course, I completely and totally forgot all about it … until yesterday.

Now, as seems to be the norm for me these days, I didn’t find the movie all that funny. Sure, it was aimed as being one of those “normal couple falls into madcap adventures” sorts of comedies, but for the most part the madcap adventures were pretty much the norm. Other movies, it seemed to me, had done similar things about as well. The most madcap of the madcap adventures was the car chase scene … and it was fairly standard, or at least it seemed that way to me. About the funniest part of the movie was a conversation between James Franco and Mila Kunis who played a rather shady couple who were arguing in the standard stereotypical old married couple fashion subbing in the shady terms, which was rather neat. But humour-wise, it really wasn’t that funny, at least to me.

That conversation I just mentioned, though, is one of the reasons I really enjoyed the movie, because to me the best part of the movie is the development of the Fosters, the everyday, average married couple going through a normal routine — that includes a regular date night — who start to wonder if, as the movie says, that they’re just really good roommates, and how things change as they go through this madcap adventure, finally ending with them realizing that, yes, they really do want each other. And the movie does a really good job at presenting them fairly even-handedly, with both of them having their faults and having their strengths. For the most part, we can easily see that these are two really nice people who treat each other well and care about each other, and that their complaints about each other are both somewhat valid and yet also not really serious. For example, it would have been easy to portray the husband as being the typical “avoid work and let the wife do it” type of husband, except that he really does show that he tries to help and she stops him because it’s easier for her, which he brings up when she talks about him not doing things, and she has to accept it. If there’s any inequity in this at all, it’s that he’s really so much nicer than she is: he goes to a book club full of women because she wants him to, and he actually reads the entire book when she doesn’t. He does it because it’s important to her. There’s no real scene like that for her in the movie, as far as I can tell, nothing that she does just because it’s important to him. Maybe the writers thought that if they didn’t make him so exceptionally nice — if a bit bumbling — that you’d get people thinking that maybe she is better off without him, and that would ruin the entire movie.

At the end of it all, you are supposed to feel that these people are a nice and evenly matched couple, and happy that they are together and stay together, and don’t really break apart throughout the entire movie. And, in my view, it succeeded, making it an entertaining watch.

Turning to “Silent Hill: Revelation”, I rented this movie because I have many of the games — although I haven’t finished one yet — and watched the first movie and liked it. “Revelation” would probably be better named “Silent Hill: Exposition”, because unlike other horror movies or even most survival horror games the creepy and somewhat gory horror and monster scenes are basically in there to satisfy your need for scares before moving you along to the next piece of plot exposition. The scenes are always short and always come after a bit of exposition telling you more about Silent Hill and what has happened. Most horror movies and games use exposition to explain just enough to you to get you to the next scary scene, and so have short scenes of exposition that lead you to a new monster, but that’s entirely reversed here. The monster scenes in general don’t even have a lot to do with the exposition you had, and so really do seem like “We probably should put some horror and gore in here just to keep the idea, you know, that this is a horror movie”. Which hurts it a bit, I think, because from what I’ve played and read, Silent Hill works better as psychological horror than as a gore fest, and while the gore isn’t all that heavy, there’s enough to distract from the psychological aspects, which aren’t played up much.

That being said, I think it really does try to capture and express the lore far better than the first movie did, which it can do because it does so much exposition. It’s at least roughly based on Silent Hill 3 — skipping over Silent Hill 2, but not in a way that invalidates it — and provides a bridge between what happened in Silent Hill to get us to this point. It also lays out a lot more of the lore, and also introduces the idea of there being multiple Silent Hills, and so allowing for it to include Silent Hill 2, The Room, and Shattered Memories at some point. It even makes a link to Homecoming right at the end, which even I smiled at despite only knowing about that game from a commentary by Shamus Young. Lorewise, it’s interesting, and personally I prefer the exposition to the monster fighting. And the final battle is, to me, brilliant in concept if a bit shaky in execution. For someone versed in the Silent Hill mythos, I think this should be a much more satisfying movie than Silent Hill, and in that way I like it better. So, also a very entertaining movie.

I can’t say that I’ll buy either of these movies, but I certainly enjoyed watching them, and stayed awake through all of them, which is rare for me.

Baloney (Er, busy) again …

March 6, 2013

At the moment, work is fairly insane, and that leaves me a bit tired, so as you might have noticed I haven’t been posting much. I hope to get some posts out this month (although that will be sporadic), and return to something like a normal schedule in April.

That being said, I’ve been getting a lot of hits on my old Sophisticated Theology posts, and don’t really know why. I guess someone linked to one in a comment somewhere or something.