Spoiler talk of “To the Moon”

I have now reviewed the game twice, once just after I played it and once after some distance. Both times I tried to avoid spoilers because it’s so important to the experience not to know what’s going to happen next, but it severely hampers my ability to analyze why it’s so freaking great. So I’ll talk about it here.

I mean, yeah, I love “To the Moon”. But I really want to talk about the impact it had on me.

There is no reason TTM should have affected me as much as it did. Its themes of romantic love and the importance of memories should both be alien to me (incidentally, these are two themes common to John C. Wright and I must confess to not yet having been affected by him on the same level).

But it didn’t matter. TTM used those things as a vehicle to hit upon something universal to the human experience. Even for a young guy like me the fear that you’ll go through life knowing that you could have, should have been better, that you made mistakes that hurt not just you but the ones you love, is a very understandable one. You get Johnny’s motives. They make sense. And Kan Gao does a hell of a lot of work helping the player understand what makes him, and his relationship with River, tick, and by understanding this you empathize with Johnny.

Several moments in the game were executed so well that they hit like a sledgehammer. The reveal that Johnny had a brother, who his mother ran over? I gasped. I had bought into the game hook, line, and sinker, and it so perfectly explained so many odd things in retrospect, so many little aspects of Johnny’s character, that it felt like an organic part of the story.

And when Neil reveals Eva’s plan to remove River? Pure horror. “Everything’s Alright”, played to the backdrop of River disappearing from Johnny’s life, is an astonishingly tragic scene, and has practically gone down in legend for its emotional effectiveness.

And when River shows up again! The way Kan Gao plays it out, with Eva slowly dropping hints, a ten or so minute break to help convince you this is for real, the short freeze in the music before River walks into the room accompanied by a soft instrumental reprise of “Everything’s Alright”? Absolutely, jaw-droppingly stunning. To say nothing of the final scene!

But what’s really brilliant in retrospect is just how well Kan Gao managed to pull all its disparate elements and plot threads together. The game, for all its emotion, is not manipulative. It doesn’t ignore plot points in order to get a good cry out of you. It earns that payoff. By the end of the game Kan Gao has not only managed to explain every mystery, big and small, not only raised valid, complex philosophical questions about the importance of truth and memory, he has masterfully, retroactively made even the smallest actions and motivations of the characters make perfect sense, and without telling you straight out, trusting you to make the connections yourself.

Of course River would rather pay to finish the house and have Johnny watch over the lighthouse rather than save herself. That first meeting with Johnny is what makes their whole relationship make sense in River’s mind, what justifies their communication gap and the sacrifices they both make for each other. It’s worth her life if Johnny can one day understand that. Of course Johnny would become unhealthily obsessed with standing out from the crowd; his mother mistakes him frequently with a twin brother he can’t remember, and this would naturally have an effect on him. And that scene at the beginning that seems played for laughs, when River doesn’t appreciate that he named a song after her? Once you learn about Johnny and River’s difficulty in communicating with each other and how much Johnny craves tangible expressions of River’s love that scene retroactively becomes terribly sad.

And to do all of this while ALSO being funny, sometimes hilarious? And while introducing a high concept sci-fi plot device effortlessly at the same time? And to follow it up with a sequel that’s nearly as good?

Look, guys, you have to play this game. At least watch Cry’s Let’s Play of it. Or anybody but Pewdiepie’s really, he’s a terrible fit. It’s so, so good. And if you’re a fan of John C. Wright’s work I think you’ll find a lot of its themes familar.

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Princess Mononoke, Western

It’s not a very well-kept secret that Japanese Samurai movies tend to translate very well into westerns. Consider “Seven Samurai” and “The Magnificent Seven”, or “Yojimbo” and “A Fistful of Dollars”. Only two examples, but two more than you would think upon first blush.

“Princess Mononoke” is not a samurai movie, but it is a movie with samurai in it. And it strikes me that it would translate very well into a western…to a point.

Imagine Ashitaka as, instead of the Prince of a small tribe, a young man living with his family in a tiny, quiet western town. Their peaceful life is shattered by the arrival of savage American Indians who raid the town and attempt to kill protagonist’s family; his father is shot and wounded, but not killed. The Indians are, barely, fought off. One survives long enough to tell them that they’ve been driven out of their homelands by Irontown, a new town even further out west.

A meeting is held and it’s decided that somebody needs to go down and figure out what’s going on with Irontown, and why out of nowhere they’ve decided to become aggressive and warlike. Protagonist is picked to go, along with sidekicks. When they arrive the scene is strange. Irontown is run mostly by women, and guarded with vast walls. The leader of the town reveals they have been in near constant conflict with a brutal Indian tribe, and the new leader has decided it is necessary to take the conflict out to them in order to protect their town properly. And you have the base conflict: On one hand, a new frontier town who under the leadership of a mysterious woman has decided to go from defenders to aggressors in an effort to protect their land. On the other hand, a dangerous and territorial Indian tribe who are starting to get the idea their days are numbered but aren’t all ready to go off peacefully.

That would be the base of a Mononoke-Western. The third party aggressor is an important of the story, of course. I’m imagining a gang of vigilantes masquerading as federal officers – think something like Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride against the Cowboys, a technically federal but practically lawless group who agree to work with the leader of Irontown to help out the Apaches; perhaps the leader of the Vendetta Ride group has a grudge against this particular group of Apaches themselves and wants them wiped out.

Now the really interesting thing is where stuff would change. You may well notice here that the supernatural element of the story is entirely gone; how this would change the dynamics of the characters and the decisions they make, not to mention future story decisions, is a fascinating exercise.

So we have a western based around the idea of an aggressive frontier town teaming up with a bloodthirsty vendetta group made up of outlaws and bandits as much as any real government officials to take down a tribe of violent, territorial Indians, while an outsider worried about the fallout that will hit his own small town tries to mediate the conflict.

I shall have to think on this; there may well be a novel here.

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Let’s Take it Point by Point

All right, in light of my recent posts on Vox’s gun shirts, I think it might be appropriate for me to go through this post by Vox after Dalrock’s take on it. I’m late, I know. Put it in my imaginary suggestion box if it bothers you.

A note – I am NOT here to try and refute or disagree with either Vox or Dalrock. Just figure out what Vox is trying to say.

Disclaimer: Not a married man, not currently engaged, and thus cannot comment on this in any manner outside of direct interpretation of words. Given this I’m going to try and keep what I think separate from Dalrock.

After someone expresses sympathy for MGTOW (for the non-savvy, this is “men go their own way” and refers to men who decide to opt out of the marriage market because it is such a brutal deal for men from the legal perspective), Vox replies with this:

MGTOW are low morale cowards. From the societal and civilizational perspective they are useless parasites who, by their fecklessness, are helping the barbarians win the civilization war. Sure, they’re vastly to be preferred to the feminists, foreigners, globalists, and anti-Christians who are actively waging war against Western civilization, but they are passively refusing to defend it in any way.

How are they any better than the very Western women they excoriate? They are, in fact, observably worse, as both are in it merely for themselves but at least the women may produce the next generation of Western children, even if they will surely raise them in a sub-optimal manner. Neither the feral woman nor the fearful MGTOW is capable of maintaining the civilization whose toys they enjoy.

“How are they better than the very western women they excoriate?” strikes me as a very strange question. The whole point of MGTOW is that these men believe women are so dangerous as a group that they will destroy them emotionally and financially if they opt into the marriage market. Is Vox saying it would be better to marry these women? I doubt he means that. So what exactly does he mean?

My best guess is that he means they should try to find women they don’t think are bad and take the plunge to marry them despite the risks, but if that’s what he means his “How are they better than the very western women they excoriate?” is still an odd question, because it doesn’t really address anything at all.

This is where things get – and I don’t know how else to say this – weird.

If we aren’t sympathetic to soldiers who run the moment they see the first casualties in their unit, we should not be sympathetic to men who run from women because they saw someone taken down by a toxic woman. The truth is that men often suffer the legal order they deserve, because they tolerate it. Would any Roman patrician have meekly submitted to being made an indentured servant at the whim of his wife and the word of a judge?

No. He would have killed the judge, the wife, and everyone who assisted either of them, then calmly gone home and opened his veins in the bath. That’s why Roman law permitted patriarchs to kill those under their authority who crossed them in any way – because they were going to do it anyway and the maintenance of legal order in their society relied upon acknowledging that reality.

…What?

Seriously, what? I have absolutely no clue what he is trying to say here. None. I’ve read this multiple times and still don’t get it.

So…because a Roman would have murdered several people and turned his own children into orphans…modern men should…

What?

Is he saying that collectively, over generations, men have let women take the legal control of marriage to a point that men should be ashamed?

Well…what men? Who, exactly did this that he is referring to? I mean, it obviously happened, but what is the sin of each, individual man divorced by his wife for cash money that warrants this level of shame and degradation?

And is he saying that the solution to this is…revolution? We should rise up and collectively fight a war to take back our marriages? Is Vox willing to fight this war? If Spacebunny drops Vox and runs off with the kids, is Vox willing to start rallying men to the cause and overthrow the government?

Or does he want each individual man to take up the cause personally? So he truly believes that if Spacebunny divorces him the answer here is to orphan his children after they live with the reality that daddy killed mommy, went on a killing spree, and then offed himself in the bathtub? Hopefully he sends the kids out first so they don’t stumble onto the bodies.

If he doesn’t mean this, and I doubt he does, what does he mean? What exactly is he saying here?

I have no idea.

But the modern man values his toys more than his honor. That’s why no one, including the legal system, respects his possession of either. Men could end the entire divorce machine in 30 days if they chose, but instead, they prefer to live alone as indentured servants or in fear of becoming an indentured servant.

Men could end the divorce machine in 30 days…how? Seriously, how? How is this supposed to work?

I am not saying “wife up those sluts”, I am merely saying that living one’s life in fear of potentially wifing up a woman who may turn out to be less than entirely faithful and interested in playing the divorce lottery is not worthy of respect or emulation.

These two sections appear at first glance to be completely contradictory.

On the one hand, getting married literally puts you at risk of becoming an indentured servant, something he has contempt for.

But on the other hand, we should get married anyway or we’re Not Real Men.

The only way to resolve this potential contradiction, according to Vox, if I’m reading this right, is if you marry someone while also being willing to go on a vigilante spree and orphan your children after committing suicide.

If you are not willing to do that, you are Not A Real Man and Deserve What You Get.

A man of the West takes risks. A man of the Wests molds his wife and his children. A man of the West is willing to fight for his honor, his family, and his civilization. Success is not guaranteed. But then, when, in the entire history of Man, has it ever been guaranteed? For millennia, young men of honor have fought and died for what they believe. But for what, if anything, would an MGTOW risk breaking a fingernail?

And now the divorce mill and lack of commitment to revolution or murder-suicide is the equivalent to a fear of breaking a fingernail.

Please, tell me how else I can possibly read this post. I don’t see another way.

Ultimately Dalrock appears to be right, unfortunately. As he says:

The reality is that our current anti married father policies are merely the formal legal expression of our societal disrespect of married fathers.  The men of National Review, and now sadly Vox, are searching for a way to motivate men to marry without offering married fathers respect.  Though the details of their arguments differ, the form is the same;  married fathers deserve the contempt the system has for them.  If you disagree, your are either lazy or a coward. 

I truly hope I’m misunderstanding him here. I just don’t see how.

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It’s Not the Same Thing

Vox Day has a new shirt:

In case you weren’t sure if Vox wasn’t talking about your teenage daughter’s interactions with boys, note how he frames this shirt:

Never mind that every man with an attractive wife is well aware of the death stare she reserves for idiots who don’t respect her wedding ring or recognize her initial signal to back the fuck off.

Here are three questions to illustrate why I have no problem with this shirt but do have a problem with the other shirt:

  1. What is the main difference between your unmarried, teenage daughter and your wife? Why would you be interested in signaling the unavailability of one but not the other?
  2. What do you think the biggest difference is between men with the balls to approach a married woman and your teenage daughter’s BadBoy McBikerDrummer/Actual Good Guy Suitor?
  3. What is the biggest difference between a teenage girl talking about her daddy and a grown woman talking about her husband?

Understand the answer to those three questions and you might get why the other shirt seems awkwardly cartoonish and this shirt seems kind of cool.

Because going by Vox’s commentary he either 1) Doesn’t understand the criticism at all, or 2) Is getting actual weirdos criticizing it.

I dunno. I’m just not on the same page here.

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For the Record

With all due respect for Vox, I have to agree with Rollory here, at least in theory. Not sure he puts it very well though. Vox Day here:

Now, where do you suppose feral young women come from, families where men protect their daughters or families where men simply throw their daughters to the vagaries of sexual selection, to fend off the predators as best they can on their own? The symbolism of the t-shirt is less about winnowing the suitable young grooms, than it is about giving the daughter the strength and the permission to say “no” to the wrong ones in the full knowledge that her father will have her back.

But as it happens, the real target of the message is not men. The t-shirt is actually status-signaling on the part of the daughter, or the wife, when that version of the t-shirt is ready. It is less a warning to young men than it is bragging to other young women that she is valued, that she is loved, and that she is worthy of protection by a man who is strong enough to provide it for her.

The reference is to this shirt, and this earlier post.

It’s always something of a minefield to try and disagree with Vox, because his thinking tends to be so out of the box that any assumptions you’re making about what he’s trying to get at are probably wrong. You need to be more careful than with most not to put words in his mouth.

Anyway, now I’m going to disagree with Vox.

Vox first tries to frame it as “Daddy is watching his little girl go off to school”:

 It may help to keep in mind that this is the original context of the phrase.

  1. Take a position on high ground somewhere in the middle with clean sight lines of the entire route.

  2. Load a round into your .50 caliber rifle.

  3. Take the lens covers off the scope.

  4. Watch as your little girl walks off to school by herself.

Except that isn’t the context Vox is using. He himself explicitly recommends that you give it to your teenage daughter:

Perfect for any daughter, particularly of the teenage variety.

If it’s about Daddy watching his daughter go to school, why recommend it to a teenager at all? Isn’t it actually BETTER if it’s a little girl wearing the shirt in that case? Or at least just as important?

The context the shirt exists in is much more obviously in the vein of songs like “Daddy’s got a Shotgun”…which is exactly where we get into problems.

Because if the context is supposed to be “I’m keeping an eye on the people my daughter dates”, the shirt is bullshit.

Nobody buying that shirt is going to shoot a kid because he keeps his daughter out until midnight instead of 10:00. Actions have consequences, and we all know this. You don’t just get away with this because you live in the boonies.

Maybe you should! Seriously. But you don’t.

This was in fact Dalrock’s original point (he is quoting someone else, whose blog seems to have unfortunately disappeared):

First, you can’t be serious. Set aside all the stuff you tell yourself and probably your wife about “traditional values and gender roles” or whatever. You cannot, in todays world seriously plan on carrying out any of these threats. You are puffing out your chest to “scare” off the “bad” boys, who know you are full of crap. It feels good, because all the women around you pat you on the head and nod approvingly. You have earned your cookie.

Scott contrasts this “traditional” bluster with his own view as a father who will one day be looking for a husband for his daughter.

When the time comes for her to start looking for a husband, she already knows we are interested in helping her find one and this makes her very happy. And when a young man comes around, he will not be met with a silly cartoon shotgun dad, but a father who wants to help them both succeed at what they are trying to do. We are not setting up an automatic adversarial relationship with him before we meet. I am aware that many young men will be at a very tenuous starting point in their career, development and so forth and I will approach the situation with that kind of sobriety.

The different approaches to suitors reflects the corresponding differences in roles and objectives.  Scott will be looking to find a husband for his daughter, while large numbers of “traditional” men are instead hoping to delay their daughter’s marriage by acting as their daughter’s surrogate husband.

And notice too how Vox frames it later: the shirt empowers women. They get to use it to feel worthy.

Because that’s what modern women are lacking: The concept that they’re worthy of male attention.

The irony here being that the whole thing in the end accomplishes the exact opposite of what it’s intended to. As Cane Caldo puts it:

And if the date in question really is a bad boy this attitude is helpful to him for a couple reasons. First of all, any girl who is entertaining a bad boy is expressing to her father that his approval is meaningless. Attempts to warn off a bad boy heighten the stakes of the game she is playing. The most likely outcome is that she will do more with the bad boy, and sooner. Second, bad boys don’t want permission. They are planning to leave after they’ve had their fun any way. A father who falsely threatens is dancing to the same song as the bad boy.

And the shirt is of course completely useless against someone who is NOT a bad boy anyway, except insofar as it might scare some people off.

Vox is, of course, correct that the shirt will be a bestseller. But I don’t think that means what he seems to think it means.

The advice Dalrock quotes seems sound to me, though obviously I speak from no area of expertise: Make it clear to your daughter that you support her finding a husband, and then when she brings home a boy she likes try to understand the difficult position they’re in themselves.

This opinion and $2.50 gets you a small coffee at Dunkin Donuts.

Addendum: Dalrock addressed the whole thing himself. TL;DR: “Vox meant well, and maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I still think I was right.”

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My Governmental Philosophy

First off, a happy Thanksgiving to you all. Second off, nothing prompted this specifically. Just happened to be on my mind.

I describe myself to people as a Tolkienite. Tolkien called himself an anarcho-monarchist; his idea was basically that the government’s job was to leave well enough alone until it absolutely had to, and the form of government that he saw had the least potential for meddling was monarchy. Think extreme subsidiarity.

I am not an anarcho-MONARCHIST, but I am a believer in extreme subsidiarity. My governmental philosophy can be described as “let the lowest level of authority handle things until a higher level of authority has to intervene”. Whether the monarchy is the absolute best form  of government for this philosophy I am too uninformed to say, but I can imagine most forms of government can be structured this way if properly constructed; were I British I’d probably be a monarchist.

So that’s that. It’s simplistic, but the details will all stem from that base.

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So I Just Solved Death Note

Superversive SF and Castalia House are probably tired of me blathering on about Death Note, so I’ll throw out my theory here. This will make sense only to people who know the story, but whatever.

I know how L could have won. Even with Light’s plan to use Rem, I know how L still could have won the game.

It goes like this:

L suspects the 13 day rule is fake, right?

Instead of testing it in front of Light and the task force, L should come in and tell everyone – Light included – that he has picked out two death row inmates to test the 13 day rule on the Death Note using a torn out page. The first prisoner will kill the second prisoner, and when he dies they will know in 13 days whether the rule is fake or not.

Now Light’s plan is forcibly delayed 13 days. Killing L will no longer accomplish anything for Misa, so naturally Rem won’t do it, since it will result in her own death.

L shows the whole thing on a live feed. The first inmate kills the second inmate, who dies on the feed within forty seconds. Now the game has started.

Imagine you are Light. There are two possibilities here. First, the first inmate was using a real piece of the Death Note and the second inmate really dies. This means that if the first inmate survives longer than 13 days Misa is put under direct suspicion again and Light himself is almost certainly screwed eventually. So the obvious answer here is to kill the inmate on day 13, solving the problem.

…Except that’s not the only problem. Remember, Light is watching this through a video feed. That first Death Note page can easily be a fake, and the second inmate could easily have faked his death. It is a heart attack after all. How would you know?

If this is the case, if the first inmate dies after 13 days this basically conclusively proves Light is Kira, because no other suspect could possibly even know who the first inmate was. If the first inmate dies, Light convicts himself. He’s in trouble. Thus the brilliance of the plan: If Light does nothing, but he’s wrong, he’s screwed. If Light kills him, but he’s wrong, he’s screwed. This all essentially relies on Light guessing directly.

What do you do if you’re Light? The answer here is that you of course need to figure out if the second Death Note inmate is actually dead. The only way to prove that is to find the original ripped out fragment of the Death Note and confirm inmate 2’s name is on it. Let’s say L hid it, but you find it, and see the inmate’s name, and independently confirm that’s his real name. Thus you’re saved – inmate 2 is dead. How do you find it?

No clue. Light has 13 days, there’s room to work. And before you say “But that’s just stupid, why would L let it be found?” just wait…

Okay. It’s the 13th day. Light knows inmate 2 is actually dead, and thus the correct answer is to kill inmate 1. He does this. So that’s that, right? Rule proven true, now Light can go ahead with his plan to use Rem to kill L. All he has to do is frame L as Misa’s greatest threat. Simple enough.

…Except L reveals a surprise: Light is wrong. Inmate 1 DID have a fake Death Note…and thus his death reveals Light as Kira. L wins!

But how?

The answer is simple: There is a third inmate.

Let’s use three terms here: The Bait, The Dummy, and Kira. The Bait is used to force Light to make a decision; he uses a fake Death Note, and on a live feed. The Dummy is misdirection. He is dead whatever happens; the important point here is that Light believes the dummy is the key to the whole thing, when in fact his death is irrelevant to Light’s response either way.

Kira is inmate number 3. At the same time as The Bait uses his fake piece of the Death Note Kira uses a real piece of the Death Note to kill the dummy, and the poor Dummy is dead either way.

Since Kira is a complete secret, there is no way for Light to stop the 13 day rule from being tested regardless. L is at worst going to put Misa and indirectly Light back under serious suspicion, and he may well have enough to arrest Misa again. But that’s not why the plan is brilliant.

What if L lets Light figure out that The Dummy really was killed? How? I dunno exactly. I mean it’s 13 days of time, give me a chance to work out a plan. But it sounds plausible.

This is why The Bait works – learning that the death of The Dummy is for real convinces Light that his only play is to kill The Bait.

And that signs his death warrant, because that means that the only person who can possibly be Kira is Light. And now L has proof. Light is toast…and incidentally L survives.

Ta da.

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