Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Keeping the Important Questions in Mind

The recent allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, and the argument regarding whether what a "17 year old, presumably very drunk kid" might have done (e.g., sexually assault a fellow student) should have a bearing on his Supreme Court nomination, raise many questions that are important to think about. But some of these questions are more important than others.

Here's an example of an important question:
(1) Should a person who committed a sexual assault as a teenager, and who faced the appropriate legal consequences and has otherwise accepted responsibility for their act, be completely barred from all social and economic opportunities and permanently stripped of their basic participatory rights as citizens (e.g., to vote) for the rest of their life?
Here's an example of a much less important question:
(2) Should a person who committed a sexual assault as a teenager, who has faced no tangible consequences whatsoever at any point in their life and who never acknowledged responsibility, not be given a seat on the single highest judicial body in the country?
And here's an example of a question so utterly unimportant that it's baffling it'd even be asked:
(3) Should we spend any time puzzling through question #2 if we haven't, as a society and in our structure of criminal law and economic practice, unequivocally answered "no" to question #1?
Answer key: (1) No (2) Yes (3) No

Monday, September 17, 2018

Marvel's Spider-Man! Initial Thoughts

I've been playing Marvel's Spider-Man for the past few days, and it is blast. Some quick thoughts:

  • While the web-swinging dynamic remains a little opaque to me -- I rely on button-mashing more than I'd like, and precise landings on small platforms is a skill I've yet to master -- swinging around New York is still an exhilarating experience.
  • It also helps that it is New York. Not "Gotham", not "Bew Bork". Spider-Man as a character really is tied to a sense of place (for good reason -- as one wag put it, if Spider-Man lived in, say, Greensboro, he'd be restricted to fighting crime in a 3-block radius downtown) and the game is perhaps the best representation of a real-life city that I've ever experienced.
  • The combat system, which emphasizes getting and staying in the air, represents an actually fresh take on the fun but somewhat-worn Arkham/Assassin's Creed/Shadow of Mordor beat-em-up model. Still kind of button-mashy, but I feel like I've gotten the hang of it and am dying a lot less frequently than I did in the early going.
  • The game mostly looks beautiful -- occasionally I saw some rough textures on some cut-scene characters (Mr. Li, to be precise), but overall it is very sharp.
  • J. Jonah Jameson is now a right-wing talk radio host, which is a good spin on his character. One of the most interesting parts of his portrayal is that his (expressed) beef with Spider-Man is basically that his presence as a Superhero is directly responsible for criminals escalating into supervillain-ery. Why do I find that interesting? Because it's, more or less, the posture the Christian Bale-era Batman films took towards that character, to much critical admiration.
  • While there is plenty of similarities to the Arkham games, the tone is so different (understandably, Spider-Man and Batman are very different characters). In particular, this game has a brightness and cheeriness to it that Arkham could never have sustained. Ironic, given that Bruce Wayne is a billionaire and Peter Parker is teetering on the edge of homelessness (and Peter can see your dead parents, Bruce, and raise you a dead uncle, so don't even try to play that card).
Anyway, the game is a ton of fun, and I highly recommend it.