Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marriage Making News Again

This time, the state of New York is trying to pass a bill to legalize same-sex marriages.

I may have mentioned this before, but I think they’re approaching this issue in the wrong way.

For starters, the definition of marriage isn’t as universal as social conservatives would like you to think, which raises problems beyond just same-sex marriage. For instance, if we make the one-man/one-woman marriage the legal standard, what happens to immigrants from countries where plural marriage is legal? A man with two wives and six children (all done very legally in his country of origin) immigrates to the United States (also legally): is he still married to both of his wives? There are even religious sub-cultures in the US that aren’t opposed to plural marriage: at least in private; they may publicly disavow it because of the majority opinion.

There are also issues of free speech and freedom of religion to consider. If a same-sex couple goes to a church, synagogue, temple, or other religious institution and takes the appropriate vows, there’s nothing that the government can do to stop them from calling their relationship a “marriage,” no matter how many common legal privileges it chooses to deny them. The Constitution won’t allow the government to keep the church from performing the ceremony, and it also protects their right to describe the relationship as they choose.

So I think the government should get out of the “marriage” business entirely: they really have no interest in anything but “civil unions,” and I think there are valid reasons to limit those to simple contracts between just two people: the tax code, for instance, would get even messier if a union could consist of any number of husbands and wives.

So the solution is simple. The government should stop trying to define “marriage” and just define what rights and responsibilities are attached to a “civil union” contract, without restricting who can enter such a contract beyond “two consenting adults.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Another D&D Session: Night Raid

This session marks the introduction of new party member Reya (sp?), a rather wild huntress who spotted the party making camp and decided that approaching them and seeking to join them might be safer than sleeping alone in a kobold-infested part of the forest. Although she hoped to approach the camp quietly and get a sense of the sort of people there before introducing herself, she prematurely announced her presence by stepping on a dry branch, creating a loud snap that no one missed. However, as she presented no threat and the party druid’s animal companion, Cazhmere, liked her, she was accepted with little difficulty.

Her concerns about kobolds were soon proven valid when a band of kobolds attacked the camp in the middle of the night. The attack came during Lainis the druid’s watch. She heard the initial rustling and woke Cazhmere, sending the wolf to see what was out there. This resulted in a loud yelp from Cazhmere as the approaching kobolds started shooting crossbow bolts into the camp.

The twanging and yelping woke Lucy, Nerogon, and Machaon. Lainis sent Cazhmere to attack one of the kobolds, but a giant weasel accompanying them intercepted the wolf, bit, and refused to let go. Nerogon cast light on a tree near the attackers, illuminating them. Lucy rushed forward to attack the weasel, but missed it. Lainis whacked it with her staff, and Cazhmere bit back in retaliation. Machaon woke Sylvia. One of the kobolds cast a spell (which Nerogon recognized as shield), and the others continued to shower the party with crossbow bolts, injuring Lainis and Lucy.

Sylvia started an inspirational song, while Machaon woke Reya. Nerogon healed some of the wounds Cazhmere had sustained. Lainis whacked the weasel again, while Lucy inflicted grievous harm on a kobold, and Reya rushed to join in the fighting. Sylvia’s song was interrupted by a magic missile from the kobold sorcerer. Cazhmere’s life or death struggle with the weasel continued. The rain of crossbow bolts slowed as more kobolds became involved in close combats.

Cazhmere took ability damage from blood loss as the weasel maintained its death grip, but the wolf finally ended the struggle by ripping out the weasel's throat. Lainis cast shillelagh on her staff to improve its smiting mojo. Nerogon, Lucy, and Reya engaged kobolds with varying degrees of success. Lainis was jabbed by a kobold as she rushed to engage the sorcerer, and Machaon healed Sylvia’s wounds.

The tide of battle had clearly shifted, and kobolds began to fall beneath the blows of the party. Lucy flanked a kobold and impaled it, Cazhmere tore up another, Nerogon smashed one down, and Lainis broke through the sorcerer’s shield spell to crack his skull. A moment later, it was all over but the looting.

I expect this to mark something of a turning point for the campaign, as Reya’s player brings a great deal of gaming experience to the group.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Creationist Absurdity

I can't decide if this is serious or a joke.

Surely even creationists notice that they have to pee a few times a day.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

X-Men: First Class

I'm not going to try to spoil this for anyone, but I'm not going to make much effort to avoid spoilers, either, so read at your own risk.

Overall Impression: Worth seeing. It definitely beats X-Men III: The Last Stand, but I don't think it beats X-Men or X2: X-Men United.

It's hard to have an opinion on how this ended, but to go into that now would be jumping the gun a bit. For starters, let me say that this is another origin story. It goes back as far as the 1940's, where we see some formative events in the lives of Professor X, Mystique, and Magneto. The scenes around Magneto mirror and then expand upon what we learned about him in the first X-Men movie.

Let me take a moment here to note that whoever wrote the screenplay for X-Men: First Class has a serious crush on Magneto.

I'm a little disappointed with the character choices for the villains in this movie. The Hellfire Club is a pretty well established villain group in X-Men comics (from my 80's and 90's based recollections), and I don't think that this movie has done it justice. Yes, Shaw is a decent Big Bad, but I don't think he resembles his comics incarnation very much in either powers or motivation. Emma Frost is practically a Big Bad in her own right, so she shouldn't be playing second fiddle so much, and what's with the "turning to diamond" thing? (Update: Apparently that's an additional power she picked up in the comics sometime after I stopped reading regularly.) The henchmen seem to be clones of Nightcrawler and Storm, and I have no idea where the idea for the dragonfly lady originated.

Unsurprisingly, the "first class" X-Men line-up doesn't much resemble the original Marvel comics line-up. They seem to be trying to have a movie continuity that's separate from comics continuity, so the absence of Ice Man is understandable, but about the only X-Man recognizable from early comics is Banshee, and I'm not sure how they plan to resolve the little issue of Havoc and Cyclops being twin brothers (in the comics) when they've apparently made Havoc a generation older in the movies (Correction: They're apparently not twins; Cyclops is older.).

So, not much attempt at direct continuity with the comics. Fair enough.

Was it necessary to make Professor X a naive ignoramous? To the point of being an arrogant ass? By the end, it's kind of hard to sympathize with him or his ideology. He wants mutants to be able to integrate peacefully with the rest of humanity, but his own research (for his PhD dissertation) claims that such a peace is impossible. And the human governments of the movie bear out his research by being paranoid ass-hats who try to kill the people who just saved their butts.

So we're left pretty completely sympathizing with Magneto's position: kill the humans before they kill the mutants. Would it have been that hard to have at least a few human voices on the mutant side at the end?

Kind of a broken message, if you ask me.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Mermaid Hoax

This video seems to be going a little bit viral on YouTube.

The narrator says he doesn't care whether you believe his claim that it's a mermaid or not. Good, because I don't. I think it's a hoax.

I'm convinced it's not a mermaid, because a mermaid is not something that fits into the evolutionary tree anywhere. Branches of that tree don't merge back together with branches from another limb, so a species that's half fish (or even half porpoise) and half primate just doesn't happen. My guess is that we've got footage of someone swimming in a costume tail composited with generic underwater footage, but I'll leave the details of how it was done to people with more expertise in video effects.

I invite all the creationists out there to go to the Great Barrier Reef to try to collect more evidence, though, as the discovery of a mermaid would be a big win for them, since evolution couldn't explain it.

Update: Does anything from the following movie clip look familiar?