Monday, 23 March 2009

The Pope's not the brightest bloke

The Catholic Church is often accused of being out of date and distance from the real world and the Pope’s comment earlier this week that contraception is ‘not the answer to AIDS’ does lend rather a lot of credibility to this accusation. As someone who dislikes religion, particularly organised religion, particularly the Catholic Church, you could hardly expect me not to use this to slate Catholic now could you?

In the Pope’s defence (I never thought I’d write those words) he has a point; contraception is not 100% effective and can lead to complacency, even, heaven forbid, promiscuity, however it think it is safe to say that they form part of the solution to the spread of HIV rather than part of the problem. In place of contraception the Pope and indeed the Catholic Church promotes abstinence, which is fair enough; as a solution to Sexually Transmitted Infections not having sex would be pretty effective, but it seems rather harsh on people to ban them from sex with anyone in case they catch something when there is a perfectly reasonable method of protection available. Of course you would not expect the Pope to know anything about that, given that he is so pious that he has forgone sex in order to be able to drive a funky car (the Pope Mobile). I’m sure that there are other benefits, like a really nice house and plenty of choir boys to molest, but I guess the car is the major advantage. There may even be something about an afterlife as well, but I’m not entirely up to speed on my theology these days.

Sorry, I got a little distracted there, where were we? Oh yes. Sex. The reason the Catholic Church in all its majesty has decided that contraception is a bad idea is that it prevents any possibility of conception, as if we need any more children in a world which is already incredibly overpopulated and very poor in many areas (like the one that the Pope was in when he made the comment). The reason, incidentally, for this stand point was that St Thomas Aquinas decided that going at it like rabbits and making as many offspring as you possible could in your life time was inherently virtuous and we should do it as much as possible, which makes abstinence a bit of a no go. Ok I’m slightly misrepresenting catholic doctrine there, there are other things which we should do such as try to survive which mean that abstinence is probably ok, but frankly who cares?

The fact that the Catholic Church clings to these outdated ideas in the face of an ever changing and complicated world in which seems to be embracing postmodern relativism is admirable, but ultimately they are barking up the wrong tree. Banning the use of contraception in countries where HIV is widespread and medical care is poor is simply absurd. Morality should be based on principles, but they have to be the correct ones and a principle which condemns millions to die needlessly of a wasting disease is not moral. Not that the Pope, sitting in the Vatican, riding around in his pope mobile blessing random passers by, is going to recognise that because he is so distant from the real world that he might as well be cryogenically frozen and left to sit on his seat in the Vatican for all eternity.

Not that the Catholic Church needs its pope to make absurd and insensitive decisions; its bishops can do that just as well. For example in Brazil this month a doctor was excommunicated for aborting a nine year old rape victim. I don’t think I need to examine the Catholic arguments against abortion for you to appreciate just how absurd this is. Obviously when Jesus went on about compassion and mercy the Catholic Church weren’t listening very hard, or maybe they heard something we missed, maybe Jesus said that in the case of a women being raped, no mercy should be shown. Somehow I doubt it.

So, in conclusion, the Catholic Church is an insensitive, outdated institution which is in needs of some serious introspection before it can become in any way useful to society. Shame that it provides moral authority for more people worldwide than any other institution, religious or otherwise isn’t it?

N.B. This will be the last entry for a while as I’m off to Dubai on Thursday for a couple of days before flying on to Japan for just under 2 weeks. Pictures when I return.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Must try harder

No blog this week because I'm tired and lazy. Deal with it. Here's an amusing video instead.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Empire Total War and some other stuff

Last week I reviewed the demo for Empire Total War and now that the full game is out I guess I’d better review it. I didn’t think I’d have time to play it enough to be able to do it justice by this weekend, but I think I have played enough to form an opinion. I wrote last week about the battles in the game because that’s all there was in the demo, so I wont go back over what I’ve already said, instead I’ll talk about the campaign game, which doesn’t feature in the demo.

For the first time in a Total War game there is a story element as part of the campaign game; The Road to Independence (or RtI for short) follows the colonisation of America and the American War of Independence. This is far more structured than the ‘Grand Campaign’ which is a lot like the other Total War games. While bursting at the seams with Patriotism, RtI works very well structurally and is a good introduction to Total War, however I was under the impression that it was meant to be a tutorial and if I was new to the Total War franchise I think I would have great difficultly working out what’s going on. The story itself is just a rehashing of the American foundation myth, ignoring the fate of the Native Americans and making the British look like a bunch of wankers. Amusingly all the Americans have thick north American accents even though the founding father would not have had an accent very dissimilar from and English accent. Despite it’s shortcoming it’s a pretty decent introduction to the game and is a nice change from the usual campaign.

There are a few changed from previous games, some of which are quite nice, some of which are necessary but slightly annoying, and some are just annoying. The main change is the fact that the game has now pretty much gone global; the campaign map now stretches across the world rather than just including the Europe and the Middle East. Thy have dealt with this really well, introducing different theatres of war which are separate from each other. It certainly adds a new dimension to the game, making control of the seas very important to transport ships and soldiers between different theatres of war.

Some other changes to the game, such as moving some building out of the cities and the introduction of a technology tree and the ability to research new things makes the game feel a lot more like the Civilisation games. To be honest I’m not a great fan of Civ; trying to go from the start of civilisation all the way into the future is just trying to pack too much into one game so it feels rushed. But they’ve really brought in the good bits from that game and left a lot of the crap behind. These new aspects stolen from Civ add more complexity to the game and taking the emphasis away from the warfare element slightly (although that still plays a major role)

There are a few really annoying changes however; the interface has changed massively, in some cases this makes it more intuitive, but for the most part it just makes the game harder to get the information you need. The great thing about the other games is that it was really easy to get the information you want quickly. Another annoying thing is that lots of very trivial parts of the map are not covered by the Fog of War for some inexplicable reason so you have to sit and watch what Northern Europeans killing each other between turns. You also have to watch your own troops ponderously wonder around the campaign map rather than just assuming that we all know how people walk and letting them just get there. These factors mean that there is rather too much waiting around between being able to do stuff.

To be honest this is just nitpicking; the gameplay is still fantastic and provides hours of fun. It has its flaws, but overall it’s a very good game and well worth getting.

Moving away from Video games now I was really disappointed earlier this week when they announced that the final headliner for the Download Festival was Faith no More. I literally have never heard of that band and given that their major selling point is that they influenced Limp Bizkit (who are also set to play the festival, *sarcastic celebrations*). Linkin Park and Korn (who again are playing the festival); I wonder why they had a countdown to the announcement in the Download website. I was expecting a really big band like Guns and Roses or Metallica, instead they hype up some 90’s crap. The line-up for the festival as a whole is pretty disappointing; Marilyn Manson and the Prodigy real fail to get me excited. The combination of Def Leppard and Whitesnake is pretty impressive, but other than that it’s all rather disappointing.

Staying with music and on a slightly betting note I recently discovered a band called Amity in Fame, an unsigned Austrian acoustic rock band, they’re pretty good and you should all check them out here.