Periscope Depth

and you can't find nothing at all if there was nothing there all along

And on the third day, they went to the media blow, only to find the stone rolled aside:

The Limits of Power: A book-length op-ed. Heavy on assertions, backed up by telling but sparse anecdotes, Bacevich’s new book on American imperialism likely won’t convince anyone who wasn’t one foot in the bag already. But for those of us who were, it’s a stirring call: an indictment of the view that American military presence is capable of bringing peace and democracy in “small wars.” Bacevich does a good job of separating Democratic rhetoric from the historical record. The wars that Bush started were hardly a break with American tradition: Presidents have been intervening in regional conflicts, starting wars on spurious pretenses, and expropriating foreign resources for domestic use since the late 40s. Hell, if you include the Louisiana Purchase, it’s been happening for centuries.

(I know that little blurb’s going to rile up readers on both the Left and Right, but I’m not really interested in debating it. If you want to defend American exceptionalism, take it up with Bacevich, not me)

Crank: I watched this on Sunday in anticipation of Crank 2: High Voltage this weekend. It’s vacant and dumb, but it’s well-paced. I’ve said this several times before, but Jason Statham can hold an action flick together with his tired, unshaven Everyman nature. He works best when he isn’t given zany one-liners – just a weary look and a bruised resiliency.

Despite its shallow appearance, Crank has a lot going on beneath the surface. Expect me to write more on that subject on Overthinking It later this week. We already touched on the Easter symbolism in Sunday’s Overthinking It podcast, which you should definitely listen to.

Xenos: In contrast to the decrying of fascism in Bacevich’s The Limits of Power, I read Dan Abnett’s breezy glorification of Sci-Fascism, Xenos, at about the same time. Abnett’s novels take place in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, known for its tabletop strategy games and online multiplayer RTSs. Xenos follows Gregor Eisenhorn, a gun-toting Inquisitor in the Church of the God-Emperor of Mankind. He jaunts from planet to planet with a retinue of psychics and gunfighters, hunting down twisted worshippers of the Chaos Gods.

Xenos is fun, mindless pulp. The body counts are high – over twelve thousand people die in the first three chapters (most of them all in one blow) – and every other chapter ends with someone kicking in a door with a gun in his hand. Abnett tosses around sci-fictionisms like “ceramsteel” and “data-slates” with abandon. A diverting guilty pleasure.

Mass Effect: Beat it this past Saturday. Rebooting after the first 5 hours and tinkering with some of the auto-target settings cured what ailed the game – I enjoyed it much more throughout. I’d still rather read a novel set there then play a game, but I’ll buy the sequel (eventually). My advice to the first timers:

  • Order of planets: Lissa, then Feros, then Noveria, then Vermire. Trust me.

  • Give everyone without the Fitness trait or the Soldier trait an armor upgrade that regenerates their health. You’ll save medi-gel, and mental effort, if you don’t have to worry about healing the other guys between combats.

  • Get comfy with the squad orders on the D-pad. If an enemy digs in, use the Up button to send your other two guys forward, laying down covering fire. If enemies are strafing your weaker engineers or biotics, use the Down button to tell them to dig in, then charge ahead with grenades and autofire.

  • Do as many side-quests as you can before visiting the first plot point planet (see order above). Also, visit as many other planets in the Galaxy as you can. Mineral deposits and random scavenging leads to boatloads of cash, and cash is only useful in the early game.