Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sol Bulletin #23

The following is excerpted from issue #23 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #23 was released twenty five days after the Crucible fired.

Asari Justicar Arrested On Earth  

The Asari justicar responsible for the deaths of dozens of UNAS citizens in an anti-alien riot was arrested today on Earth by UNAS soldiers after a tense standoff with Asari commandos that almost ended in bloodshed. The justicar is currently in Alliance custody as debate over her fate rages in the Inter-species Summit and across the Sol system.

The justicar, known only as Samara, was located when UNAS military police responded to reports of a firefight in a devastated area outside New York City. An armed gang was apparently operating out of an evacuated housing complex, running a protection scam against local refugees and selling goods on the black market. Samara engaged gang members and had killed 9 of them by the time authorities responded.

The justicar refused to surrender to authorities, leading to a tense standoff that grew worse when a team of Asari commandos violated UNAS airspace to land their ship and deploy against the UNAS. The commandos and UNAS forces were reportedly on the verge of opening fire on each other when Samara agreed to surrender to the UNAS, averting a conflict. 

Samara's behavior is difficult for non-Asari to understand. Justicars operate according to a strict code of justice which they abide absolutely and to the letter. Justicars are trained to follow their code regardless of the consequences, whether that means their own death or - as in this case - a major diplomatic incident. In this case, Samara apparently decided that, under the circumstances, a part of her code requiring temporary cooperation with local authority, traditionally only invoked by Asari law enforcement, applied to UNAS forces.

An expert on Asari justicar the Sol Bulletin spoke to emphasized that Samara's cooperation is only temporary; after the first day, her detention will be unlawful under the code, and she will fight to the death for her freedom.

With the clock ticking, an intense debate took place in the Inter-Species Summit over Samara's fate. UNAS President Lisa Ford insisted that she will not be extradited and will be tried on Earth for the murder of UNAS citizens. Matriarch Lidanya said that the UNAS was not properly equipped to hold and try Samara, and that furthermore her trial on Earth would be an intolerable insult to the Asari people. She said that the Asari must take custody of Samara and will take responsibility for her good conduct while in Sol.

Representatives for the Systems Alliance, which technically has no jurisdiction on Earth, called for patience, suggesting Samara might be turned over to them temporarily while the issue is debated further. Perhaps ironically, the Geth and Quarians, whose personnel were rescued by Samara, were the loudest voices in the Summit supporting the Alliance's compromise proposal.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Dark Knight (twitter essay)

A twitter essay:
Watching The Dark Knight last night, it struck me: this movie is really well done, but did the plot really need to be this complicated?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sol Bulletin #22

The following is excerpted from issue #22 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #22 was released twenty four days after the Crucible fired.

Sol Bulletin Exclusive: Recovered Video Shows Commander Shepard On The Citadel

Shortly after the arrest of Kasumi Goto, the rogue broadcaster who operated under the Persephone, the Sol Bulletin received an email, apparently written by Goto and programmed to send on a time-delay if she failed to check in and stop it. The email contained a video file attachment and claimed that the video in question was security footage from the Citadel that had been recovered by search-and-rescue teams and hidden by the Alliance.

Sol Bulletin reporters have spent the last several days investigating and attempting to verify this footage. We spoke to a number of video and data experts and asked them to confirm if this footage was indeed from the Citadel and whether or not it had been altered. All our experts agreed on the following basic information:

  1. The footage was marked as coming from the Citadel during the Battle of Earth.
  2. There was no reason to believe the time and place indicators had been altered.
  3. The footage had been enhanced for better audio and image quality.
  4. There was no reason to believe the audio or image content had been significantly altered.
All our experts emphasized that, in a galaxy of AI and quantum computing, no video can ever be 100% authenticated. However, none of them found anything to suggest that the footage you are about to watch has been in any way altered.

[Video not available in this archive.]

The video shows the meeting chamber of the Citadel Council. The image is grainy and slightly off-kilter. Standing on the dais reserved for Council petitioners is Commander Shepard, her face clearly visible, the N7 on her Alliance-blue armor plainly visible. She's in the middle of speaking, and seems to say (the audio is more degraded than the video) "-to end. It never ends." There's movement at the edge of the screen; a barely visible figure standing at the bottom of the dais replies, "Shepard, you've done the impossible over and over again. You saved my life... you-". 

The figure is apparently Quarian, and though a positive identification is impossible to make, the words "you saved my life" suggest that the figure might be Admiral Tali'Zorah vas Rannoch of the Migrant Fleet, who took part in Operation Hammer and whose history with Shepard is well-documented.

Admiral Zorah declined to comment for this story. So did Major Kaidan Alenko, who was with Shepard earlier in the Battle of Earth, and Garrus Vakarian, another of Shepard's known associates who has fought alongside Admiral Zorah. The Alliance responded to requests for comment by attempting to raid the Sol Bulletin offices in London, which had been preemptively relocated.

Twitter Essay: Feminine Monsters in Bioware games

Inspired by something posted by a twitter friend.

I've gotta say: I find the preponderance of horrifically feminine monsters in Bioware games - banshees, brood mothers - upsetting.

If a monster in a Bioware game is supposed to make you go "Oh god how awful!" it probably has exaggerated female sexual characteristics.

Granted, there are scary masculine things like Brutes or Abominations, but then they don't have huge dicks, do they?

I didn't love the brood mothers in DA for this reason, but it was easy to say, "well, it's one example." And then Banshees came along.

Masculine Bioware monsters are scary because alien or dangerous, while female monsters are scary because female.

Rant over, had to get it off my chest.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sol Bulletin #21

The following is excerpted from issue #21 of the Sol Bulletin, an ad hoc news sheet distributed electronically among survivors of the Battle of Earth in the chaotic period following the firing of the Crucible. Issue #21 was released twenty three days after the Crucible fired.

Asari Biotic Attacks Human Rioters, Kills Over 40
Tension between humans and aliens on Earth exploded today as a crowd suddenly turned against a Geth/Quarian relief team in the city of Los Angeles. A team of Geth and Quarian engineers were working together to repair a damaged ground vehicle overpass, and a large crowd formed. What sparked the initial violence is unclear, but eyewitnesses report that a segment of the crowd suddenly rushed the team of Quarian marines providing security.

The Quarians discharged electrical weapons, which they had been issued by the Quarian fleet to use as non-lethal ordinance. However, these weapons, while relatively safe when used on suited Quarians, proved unexpectedly dangerous against unarmored humans. Thy halted initial the charge, but seriously injured several people and provoked the rest of the crowd, which advanced on the marines and started throwing stones and rubble. Disorder spread out from the worksite as well, as rioters began looting the damaged businesses and homes in the area.

Aircraft from the UNAS military scrambled to evacuate the engineers. Their arrival on the scene triggered another charge from the crowd; eyewitnesses say people in the crowd thought the aircraft were Quarian gunships. The Quarians discharged their electrical weapons again, but this time the crowd closed with them and started fighting hand-to-hand.

At this point events took an unexpected turn. Reportedly, an Asari biotic appeared on the scene and came to the aid of the Quarian marines. She biotically pulled several rioters out of the melee with the marines and sent several shockwaves into the crowd, allowing the marines to retreat to the evac ships. However, the Asari did not retreat; instead, she continued to advance into the crowd, creating shockwaves and setting off several biotic explosions. When rioters started to flee, she fired on them with an assault rifle.

Authorities are reporting 44 dead humans at the scene, all killed with either biotics or rifle fire. Two more humans died in hospital, both from electrical burns from the Quarians' weapons. Meanwhile, the Quarian marines sustained several serious injuries. Two were killed using improvised weapons before the marines were able to retreat.

Admiral Tali'Zorah, who represents the Migrant Fleet on the Inter-species Summit, deplored the violence and expressed her deep regret for "the terrible loss of life on what was supposed to be a mission of peace." However, Admiral Han'Gerrel took the unprecedented step of issuing his own statement, saying that "these thugs deserved what they got, and anyone who harms a Quarian anywhere in Sol will get the same." President Lisa Ford of the UNAS protested Gerrel's remarks, calling the Asari biotic "bad as a Reaper," and refusing to "apologize for the actions of UNAS citizens against aliens who show such a callous regard for human life."

Matriarch Lidanya of the Asari Fleet issued a brief statement in response to queries about the Asari biotic. "The Asari in question was a justicar acting in accordance with her religious beliefs. We will take responsibility for making sure that this tragic incident is not repeated."

Asari justicars are a small religious order with law enforcement powers inside Asari space. They enjoy a remarkable degree of authority and independence within their usual jurisdictions. Matriarch Lidanya made no comment on the justicar's current whereabouts or how exactly she came to Earth.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Twitter Essay on Avatar: the Last Airbender

Sorry, not a Sol Bulletin! I find something about tweets - literally the format of 140-character messages - oddly soothing, and sometimes I fire off an impromptu little essay about whatever's on my mind in 5-10 tweets. It's probably not the best way to use twitter, but I like it. Anyway, they tend to disappear in twitter, so I thought I might try capturing them here from time to time. Here's one now!

Since one of the appeals is that this format combats my native loquaciousness, I'm going to resist the urge to edit at all, even where something is unclear or could be explored further in a blog format.

One thing that's great about A:tLA is that the characters' nation has a profound influence on then. But this is rarely said explictly.

Aang's silliness comes straight out of being an Air Nomad. Katara's passion and Sokka's sense of duty are Water Tribe attributes.

Ditto Zuko's penchant for decisive action, rash mistakes and all. Ditto Toph's stubborn persistence.

But you just meet them as people. Sure, Katara's from the Water Tribe but nobody ever goes "Oh, those bleeding heart Water Tribe types."

You meet them as people, and then when you learn more about the history and culture of their nation, the pieces fall into place.

It makes the four elements seem like an underlying truth of the world, rather than a template applied to a cast by a trope-savvy creator.

Here endeth the lesson.

Yeah, and isn't Katara just great? She's super-great. But I have to admit Sokka is my favorite.