Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Tolerating Intolerance Myth

Since John McCain had to ruin my last post by growing a spine, the Health Care debate is over. The Trump administration has proven itself to be a feeble and utterly useless machine that cannot accomplish any Republican goals. The battle in America isn't in Washington anymore. The battle now is in the streets. Charlottesville this weekend revealed to everybody a lot of ugly things about this country that I've been seeing for a year now. Trump is a failed joke who cannot govern. But as a symbol of the festering evil in this country? Oh, he's a brilliant success.

Donald Trump is not a Nazi. He is however, a source of inspiration to Nazis. He's deeply beloved by Nazis. He hesitates to condemn Nazis when he never hesitates to condemn his own cabinet members. Trump is a willing accomplice to these people and only maintains vague pretenses of plausible deniability. Charlottesville may not be what you thought of when Trump said he would "Make America Great Again", but this is the result. (Trump himself has no idea what MAGA means and never cared to find out.) The president might not believe he is a racist, but his actions, inactions, and statements are a clear message otherwise. There is no political calculus that explains the president's behavior. Also there definitely are no excuses.

The solution for the White Nationalists is not easy. But let's not bog ourselves down in false equivalencies here. Freedom of Speech is a great virtue in this country. However, fantasies about open discourse being the solution to everything have already failed. But while the government can't stop Nazis from speaking, that doesn't mean the rest of us are bound by those same rules. The First Amendment lets you talk. But it doesn't say you're still welcome in society after you've spoken.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

John McCain's Speech Was a Fraud

It takes a lot to make the single worst speech of 2017. It takes a special lot to make that speech just a few hours after Donald Trump's furious rant about everything under the Sun to poor innocent Boy Scouts. No, the worst speech of 2017 needs to actually in some way disappoint. Nobody expects anything from the president anymore. It should come from a voice that has earned respect, that has actual weight behind it. That way the utter hypocrisy and fraudulence of the speech can have its true weight crushed down upon you.

Senator John McCain today has made the Worst Speech of 2017. It is a final stain on a storied career of heroism and national service from a man I honestly respect*. At a key moment in American politics, boosted by the drama of a cancer diagnosis, McCain had the eyes and ears of the nation. This was his time to make his legacy. And instead of doing that, he made a cowardly, nonsensical argument full of false equivalences. His words were the literal opposite of his actions. It proved in the end that John McCain only wanted to appear to be a "Maverick". He never would actually be one.

It's so easy to complain about "partisanship" in Washington. Hell, I'll do it now: "there is too much partisanship in Washington". But I'm not in Washington. Nothing I do or say makes any difference in the end so saying it is easy. I wish that the Democrats and Republicans would stop screaming at each other and honestly try to work through a solution on healthcare. But that's an empty wish. I'm not actually doing anything. It's as empty as wishing for "world peace" or "ending racism". Sure it sounds nice. But without changing yourself and working towards those goals, it's all bullshit. Because to end partisanship takes bravery, self-reflection, and a willingness to admit one is wrong. Which are qualities John McCain said he had today, but did not.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

An Inescapable Choice: America or Trump

I've tried not to jump too fast into this Trump-Russia business.

I'll admit, I was one of those who wanted the story to be true. And it was exactly for that reason that I wouldn't believe it. Today's world is lacking in people who can question their own side. We need more second-guessers, we need more caution. Only, it turns out I've been over-cautious with this Trump-Russia story. My excuses for the president sound just like Republican talking points now. "Oh, this is all a liberal conspiracy theory." "Oh, the NSA is more evil." "Oh, he's just a stupid old man that didn't know anything." "Oh, maybe it was just a few bad apples in the campaign, but Trump himself is innocent." Let nobody accuse me of not giving the president the benefit of the doubt.

But that's finished. This week's latest revelation proved I was wrong. Donald Trump has conspired with enemies of the United States*. Say that out loud, if you will, because you need to say it. This is a real thing that needs to be said with your real lips. "Donald Trump has conspired with enemies of the United States." Of that fact, there can be no longer any doubt. The only question is how severe the crimes and whether he should remain president. Or rather, how best to solve the wound that has been inflicted upon the United States right now.

I am writing this post because we have a crossed a line into dangerous territory. Every one of us when presented with evidence like this have to make a choice. Trump supporter, Trump hater, your political past does not excuse you from the decision. If you still don't believe the story, this is no longer just willful ignorance. You cannot pretend this story doesn’t exist. You are actively making a choice if you still support Donald Trump at this point.

And if you're still with Trump, you're choosing something terrible.

Monday, June 19, 2017

E3 2017 Games I Want to Talk About

I think we've all come to agree that E3 2017 was one of the weaker shows in recent memory. Nintendo apparently "won"... though I've always been rather if-y on what mechanism actually determines "winning" E3. How do the points work again? Do you gain or lose field position when you trot out a pair of nobody English comedians for your soccer game? The point is that 2017 was a lesser show. The year blew its load early with all my biggest hyped games, like "Breath of the Wild" and "Persona 5" and "Horizon Zero Dawn" and "Nier: Automata" all out by April (I'll review the other half eventually). That left E3 to be a lot of filler.

Plus there just wasn't a lot of huge news even with new consoles to talk about. The Xbox One X or "XXbone" looks pointless to me unless you have a 4K TV in which case you're already so rich you don't need games. You can just hire poor people to fight to the death for exposure for you amusement. Sony was just killing time until 2018 when their new crop of exclusives will come out. And while Nintendo killed it, they can't exactly carry the games industry all on their own. We all know what the Switch is by now, that can't be the story anymore. And strangely there was also not a ton of indie presence, which I feel was a mistake. It all added up to a slow, weaker crop of games. But ironically also a ton of games that I think have promise. In fact, too many games I could see myself playing.

So for this year's E3 reaction I'm going to try to keep this as short and sweet as I can. We're going to use some triage and get right to stuff that I'm most interested in talking about. If a game is not mentioned here it doesn't mean I don't have hype for it, it just means there isn't anything to say. Here's why a lot of stuff got skipped:

1. It's just more of what we saw in previous years. This would include "God of War 4", "Detroit", "Cuphead", and yeah, even "Kingdom Hearts III".

2. It's new but isn't doing much that's really new. So nothing on the "Shadow of the Colossus" remake, "Far Cry 5", or that "Uncharted" DLC.

3. It used the word "loot" in the marketing. There is no faster way in 2017 to make me lose interest in your game then saying "loot". I hate loot. Loot is not a reason to play a game. Loot is an annoying extra chore. You of the "Minecraft" generation are killing gaming with this loot crap.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Persona 5: Last Impressions

The king is dead.

Let's face-facts. Final Fantasy is not the lord of the JRPG anymore. Outside of the MMOs, its stock has fallen rapidly over the last eleven years. People still play these games, "Final Fantasy XV" still sold veritable shitloads to what I think are pleased consumers, but the magic is gone. I still haven't finished "Final Fantasy XV", a game I obsessed about, begged for, and suffered over for ten long years. And in fact, I never will finish it. I care so little for it I cannot even find joy in hating it. So I've done the right thing with that game. I took it down to the Velvet Room, sacrificed it for a Fusion, and used it for a nice discount on "Persona 5", the latest game in the series that has become the new JRPG King.

All hail.

Persona is certainly an odd choice to rule the genre. It's shamelessly Japanese - an unabashedly niche title that tells the audience, "you're either along for my ride or you might as well not play". People in the West are generally not clamoring to be Anime high school students. Who wants a game where you have to put away the fun demon action to go to class, study, and take a bath? "Final Fantasy XV" bent over backwards to appeal to the West with realistic graphics and action gameplay, but ended up utterly forgettable. Meanwhile "Persona 5" with its turn-based battles, Slice of Life cutscenes, and baroque weirdness, is beloved by the Western press, its fanbase, and me.

The difference largely is confidence. "Persona 5" is a refinement of a refinement, improving on "Persona 4" which improved on "Persona 3". Everything in "Persona 5" shines with a clear style from the bright colors, to the jazzy soundtrack, to the plaid texture on the hero's pants. Atlus knows what people liked about the earlier games and amped up the power. Square Enix can only chase after trends, giving up any sense of identity in a desperate attempt to stay relevant. "Final Fantasy XV" wants to please everybody and pleased nobody. "Persona 5" know it can't win over every player so instead is a bold, uncompromising game, more subversive and fascinating than any of its predecessors, with a clear vision to improve on what worked before.