Friday, August 31, 2012

Deus Ex Theme Post: Messy Beginnings

[This is part of a series of posts about the game Deus Ex, which, for the record, I recommend buying.]
[The series began with this post.]

I touched on this a bit in the previous post, and was going to leave it at that but a couple of things happened that made me decide to write a post on the topic.  One is that my computer is in for repairs and this computer can't play Deus Ex, another is that when I was thinking about the next post I was going to write, and thought it might get derailed in this direction.

Beginnings tend to be messy but we like having a date, so America started in 1776, July fourth if you want to be specific.  Except the stuff at Lexington and Concord happened on April 19, 1775 and the war didn't end until 1783, the Articles of Confederation kind of sort of failed so they were replaced with the US Constitution, adopted 1787, ratified 1788, and finally taking effect in 1789.  I've just given six dates that could be said to be when the US started, an argument can be made for any of them.  Beginnings are like that.

But even though beginnings are like that, and even though we know beginnings are like that, we tend to treat them as a single event and not ask, "Which one?" when someone talks about a beginning.  Deus Ex plays with that.

The two most obvious cases are the NSF and the Illuminati.

The NSF (Northwest Secessionist Forces) was founded sometime after the 2030 quake.  The goal was for several states in the Northwestern US to break away from the US.  This probably happened in 2031 or 2032, but the exact date is unknown.

The reason the exact date is unknown is that in 2042 the NSF (National Secessionist Forces) was founded in response to national gun control legislation and by changing what their first initial stood for and opening their arms to recruits from all parts of the country, the NSF became a much bigger threat.  Which is saying something given that the initial effort to put them down was considered a war.

One organization, two foundings, and two very different goals (initially for one geographic area to leave the US, then to completely get rid of the US and return to local rule throughout.)

With the Illuminati we actually get a member telling us about it as Dowd puts it:
It's true that our organization stretches back to the Order of the Assassins, or Hashishim, but not in the way you might imagine.  The order hasn't so much lasted as been continually revived. Adam Weishaupt started from scratch in Bavaria in 1776. But so did Thomas Jefferson a few years later. It's the IDEA that has lasted. The SYSTEM. Or the DESIRE, every thinking person's desire to give the world some decent organization.
 He gives one date and three foundings.  One can look up the date of the Order of Assassins (1090), Thomas Jefferson starting the American Illuminati not so much.

In that you have the idea of multiple foundings in its purest form perhaps, continual revival.  Constant change.  It's just that something stays the same.  Or perhaps, to be like Dowd, I should say, "It's just that SOMETHING stays the same."

New organizations pick up the pieces that the old ones left behind. Adam Weishaupt may have started from scratch, but at some point someone found out about the previous iterations and incorporated what they could of them, otherwise Dowd couldn't make the claim it stretched back to the Order of Assassins.

In a certain sense, MJ12, the main antagonists, are simply the next in line, though Dowd and the other surviving Illuminati would say they're perverting the idea.  But they have taken over the system, as Dowd puts it:
[...] the Illuminati laid the foundation... the multinationals, the global structures Majestic 12 depends upon.  Majestic 12 inherited a system that took millennia to develop.
Either Dowd is overstating the time it took to develop the system, or he's giving credit to people way older for than the Order of Assassins for the foundation they laid.  From 1090 to 2052 is a millennium if you round up, not multiple millennia.  Not by a long shot.  He may well be crediting older people, or he may be prone to hyperbole, or any number of things really, but this brings us to MJ12.

When did they begin?  Setting aside the foundations on which they built their power, MJ12 was founded at least twice.  Originally founded some time in the 1950s as a branch of the Illuminati it was refounded when it declared its independence and overthrew the Illuminati sometime between 2030 and 2035.

So when someone talks about MJ12, are they talking about an organization that's about 100 years old, or one closer to 20?  It can be difficult to say.

With the Triads something else is at work, the Triads trace their heritage to Triads past, which would muck things up anyway, but they also have traditions that can't really be all that traditional.

In the game, in Hong Kong, gunfire sensors are in use.  It makes it hard to wage a turf war with guns because the police will come running.  So they use swords and have woven it into the culture or their organizations even though, as one disgusted monk (they chose his temple to have a ceremony in) points out:
The grandfathers or the Triads all had Uzis.  Tradition... Bah!
Deus Ex seems to revel in the messiness of how we got here.  The Illuminati wasn't just revived once or twice, it was continually revived, the NSF had to go through two incarnations including a name change and an expansion of its goals to get to the game.

Consider UNATCO, the organization you start the game as a part of.  When was it formed?  Well we just talked about the intro where it says it was formed by executive order in response to the Statue bombing, but no.  That can't be the absolute start of UNATCO because UNATCO is secretly responsible for the bombing, as part of a successful ploy to get the US to join.  UNATCO was re-formed there just as the NSF was re-formed when it changed from Northwest to National and MJ12 was re-formed when it went from being a branch of the Illuminati to being at war with the Illuminati to overthrowing the Illuminati.

I'm not sure why there's this tendency toward messy beginnings, but given that it is called out in the game, as with the NSF's name change and the Illuminati's continual rather than continuous existence, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that when we see signs that point to a thing having multiple beginnings, that's intentional rather than inconsistency.

One possible reason for this that the game's setting was built out of 1990s conspiracy theories, and those probably tend to lead to rather convoluted histories.  I especially imagine that was the case in the '90s with the fall of the Soviet Union and the Balkanization of the Balkans.  A phrase I steal from Fred Clark:
It must have been hard to keep oneself fearfully confident of an impending one-world government while watching the Balkanization of the Balkans unfold. How do you manage to stay frightened of the coming OWG when even a unified Yugoslavia proves impossible to sustain?
Those invested in the conspiracy theories, those that the developers would look to when researching their setting, probably were getting very much into a messy beginnings state of mind: sure, it looks like things are falling further away from One World Government, but the conspiracy will just be reborn and that time it'll happen just like I told you.

That's one possibility.  Another is realism.  Note what I said about dating the start of the US, and note that I could have thrown out a lot more dates.  Then realize that the design team was working in Texas.  When did Texas start?  That's like trying to say how old France is given the stages that place went through.

Another is that they just liked it.


The messy beginnings extends beyond organizations.  When was JC created.  We know when he was born.  He was born in 2029, but the year before that the embryo that would become JC was implanted into his mother.  Said embryo was a clone of Paul Denton.  Was he created when he was born, when the embryo was implanted, when the cloned embryo was created, when the project to do these things was greenlit?

Consider this: the project that created JC had to first lead to identifying Paul as a viable subject, and before that may have even led to Paul's parents getting together with MJ12/the Illuminati* playing secret matchmaker, and the information on which this project was based dated back to the 1940s.  So when does the story of JC Denton begin, really?


The reason that I thought I might derail on to this topic on the next normal post is that JC and Paul's parents are soon to come up, and I see a similar thing going on there.  They had two sets (biological parents of Paul were murdered, then the second set adopted them.

Like the issue of foundings, no one ever stops and asks, "Which one?" when talking about the sets or parents.  On the one hand, there's probably a certain amount of realism to this.  Both sides probably assume the other knows which set is being talked about and it doesn't come up that often.

But I feel like the parent situation is handled less well and I can't help but wonder if the way multiple foundings were handled, which seems to have been, "We'll just throw them in and trust that the players can sort it out for themselves provided we give the occasional reminder that we do this sort of thing on purpose," played a role in the less than good handling of the parent situation.

I have not personally spoken to a developer about this, so this could be wrong, but as near as I can tell the idea of adoptive parents was added to the game later than a lot of other stuff.  There's no mention of them in the continuity bible, for example, instead it says JC ended up a ward of the state.

The only information outside of the game we have about the second set of parents is when someone wrote an email to one of the developers directly asking a question about parents and the developer responded that the person had confused the adoptive parents with the original set.

It doesn't seem to be something that was thought about long and hard, it seems more like someone said, "It would be great if we could say parent did X and Y," and someone else said, "Yeah, but parent was dead for 15 years by the time the opportunity to do either X or Y came up," and at this point someone, perhaps a third person, said, "What if they were adopted after their original parents died?"

And then everyone said, "Yeah, let's do that," and the result is a muddle where sometimes you don't know who they're talking about, and sometimes you know they're talking about one set but it really feels like this would make more sense if they were talking about the other.

And I wonder if the apparent decision to throw in two sets of parents with little explanation about which is being discussed at any given time was related to them already having built in several organizations with multiple foundings with little explanation about which is being discussed at any point in time.


Anyway, I think having messy beginnings where it's hard to pin down a single point where something started is generally a good thing in Deus Ex.  It lets you know that this is not a closed world where everything can be cleanly pigeonholed, instead you're standing in the middle of "It's more complicated than that" and you get a sense that not all loose ends can be tied up and not everything revolves around you.

I think that the similar ambiguity with the parents doesn't work as well.  It feels more like inconsistency in the game than the game faithfully creating a world where things are more complicated than you might like.


*With both on the same side at this point it can be difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins since, in fact, MJ12 is a part of the Illuminati.



Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dear Spammers

Hi.  I know you tend to breeze through without reading the post, possibly because you're a machine, but regardless of your disinterest and potential lack of sentience I'd like you to stop and read for a moment because I have something I'd like to say to help you out.

Yes, dear spammers, it's time for me to help you for a change.

I have, of late, noticed that there is an error some of you have been making that is of critical international importance, so let me take this moment to set you straight.

This is a lowercase W (pronounced "double-you", the 23 letter of the modern English alphabet):

This is a lowercase Ω (pronounced Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet):
little big O

These two things are not interchangeable.  One makes a sound reminiscent of a diagamma, the other makes a sound like an omicron but longer.

"Few" is an English word.  "Feω" is not.  You have been acting as if the two are identical and interchangeable, they are not.

w =/= ω

That is all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Metapost about future posts being posted in the future, and stuff

Yeah, so, I have this blog thing here and the last time I made a normal post was probably the call for not-more-origin stories* two Mondays ago.

I have not forgotten that there's a blog here, in fact I've been very aware of it since Fred Clark linked to me.  It's somewhat interesting to watch your stats go down as you don't post much in the way of new content and then suddenly see them shoot so far of the scale they make previous stuff look irrelevant.

It's just that:
1 August has been a bad month for me, for the most part.  Tried out a new medication and part of what I had to say afterward was that it was kind of hard to tell if it was helping because I think if a healthy person lived this month they'd be feeling like shit too.
2 Said new medication seems to have interfered with my sleep, which means that until taking steps to try to combat that earlier this week I was getting tireder and tireder every day.  Which is not helpful on a writing front.  It is helpful if one has always wanted cause to randomly lay down on the floor, but I don't know many people like that.
3 This is the month when hope kind of sort of dies.  All of my plans for the summer, which then became my plans  for shorter and shorter periods, and finally became my plans for, "Before the end of August," are about to be my failed plans.
4 My computer is not here.  I have two computers, broken in different ways, that I can use.  The other one doesn't connect to the internet.
5 I don't think this computer can play Deus Ex.
6 I have a family.  (They can be very, very aggravating.)
7 There are some things I want or need to get done that take me away from here.
8 Stuff.

So I've been wanting to write stuff, really haven't had much in the way of ability.

Today I'm going to try to get a sort of theme post written for Deus Ex, but first I need to read through things and make sure I'm not just repeating myself.  We'll see how that goes.  Thursday I'll probably be away from the computer much of the day, hopefully in a good way.  Friday I'll try to get a .hack post.

After that, who knows, there's been significant catching up that I've wanted to do on all of the following:
A World Without God
Edith and Ben
Not Even the Angels in Heaven
Skewed Slightly to the Left
Snarky Twilight
Where Antichrists Come From


The medication appears to be helping, which is good, but it'll be kind of hard to tell until I get back to sleeping right for long enough to not be out of it on account of tiredness rather than depression.


* Speaking of that, it has occurred to me that, on the team level if not the romance level, Sneakers is very much the kind of thing I'd like to see more of.  [Spoilers for Sneakers but as I point out every time I mention it, if you haven't seen it yet watch it.  Click the link, buy it, wait for it to come, watch it, then read the last sentence of the footnote.]  With the exception of a short opening for Marty, the whole movie takes place with the team already together, functioning as a team, doing impressive things, and not being killed off or broken up by the end.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Skewed Slightly to the Left - Index

It's about time Skewed Slightly to the Left had an index of it's own*, and while I want to hold off on any major revisions until I get my computer back, I figure that I can make one now and then do the work of making everything point here later.

So the idea is this, in writing this or that piece of the-opposite-of-fan fiction for Left Behind, or even in just reading Fred Clark's deconstruction of it, I've often felt like there was the potential for a good, or at least passable, story that the authors just managed to miss.  Almost any piece I write based on Left Behind involves things going off the rails to some degree or another, but it always seemed like something could stay largely on the rails and not suck.

Skewed Slightly to the Left is an attempt to tell that story.


That Sinking Feeling - Rayford thinks he knows what's going on.

Can anybody hear me? - Rayford's copilot makes contact with another plane and so the first outside news of the disappearances is shared.

After Landing - Ray, Hattie, and co-pilot Chris do what they can to help after the passengers are evacuated, unfortunately there's not much they can do to help.

The Frightened Doctor - A doctor who couldn't face the carnage outside gives medical attention to Cameron in the airport terminal so that he can at least do something to help someone in some small way.

Theories Chloe has heard - Before Rayford tells his daughter what he thinks happened, he asks to know what she thinks.  Chloe doesn't really have an answer, but she did hear a bunch of theories on her cross country trip home.

Cameron's Interview Fragments - Cameron Williams actually conducts interviews with people who believe they know what happened.

Tsion's Conversion - The world watches as an obscure religious scholar reports on the findings of a study that should have been largely ignored, all because darker forces have been working to twist the results to their own ends.

Excerpt from a secret meeting - Cameron meets with the former President of the United States of America, information and warnings are exchanged.

Fighting Fate - With World War III fast approaching Cameron and the staff of Global Community Weekly take sides.  Specifically the side they know is destined to lose.
World War III, as seen from the GCW offices - Cameron, Verna, Alice and the others try to make sense of the news as it comes in, and disseminate it.

Cameron and Chloe during World War III - (Takes place during the previous) Cameron finds time to make a personal phone call, Chloe prepares to take on War.

WWIII At New Hope - Loretta and the others at New Hope do their best to make a difference.

Rayford meets Earl during WWIII - At a small military base outside Dallas, Rayford is reunited with an old friend.
Earl tells Ray about the plane - Earl and Ray discuss why Rayford works for Nicolae, and how what Earl has done can help with that.

Meeting a contact during WWIII - Life on the Tribulation force isn't always easy, as when a a world war complicates what should be a simple meeting in which Chloe procures some laptops.

What you do when you know where the nukes will fall - Cameron gets a call from Rayford telling him Nicolae's North American targets, and changes his plans accordingly.

? On the Plane with Nicolae - Not sure if this is canonical.  Rayford finally decides that crashing the plane is for the best.  But the best laid plans of mice and men and whatnot.
Apocrapha: Why Amanda was allowed to sit in on the meeting - Written after the above as well as "Before the Potentate's speech" below it unfortunately contradicts stuff in them.  Hence it's apocryphal status.

The Bomb Drops - Verna, Alice and Cameron arrive at New Hope, everyone tries to do work, and finally the bomb drops on the city.
After the Bomb - Cameron gets a phone call, makes a phone call, prepares to find Chloe.

? Before the Potentate's speech - Still not sure if this is canonical, but if it is: Meanwhile back on the plane, Nicolae talks to the now captive Rayford.  Twisting the emotional knife and explaining why the world will be ready to embrace him.

Getting There - Cameron heads out, Jane volunteers herself as his driver.  They go.
Stops along the way - Jane and Cameron run into emergency workers, reach the last known location of Chloe.
On and On it Goes - Verna and Loretta get control of a paper, Jane and Cameron reach an impassible section of road.
The first good news - Cameron gets a call from Verna, Rayford has time to think.
Rayford has some time to think - Follows directly from the previous
Why you will fly this plane - Nicolae explains to Rayford exactly why Ray will continue to work for him.

[unfortunately there's a gap here that includes the entire rest of World War III and then some]

A murderer on the Jordan - Cameron learns that the person taking her upriver is a murderer.

Calling for Help - Cameron can't get Tsion to safety on her own.
Getting to the Other Side - How Cameron and Tsion crossed the last remaining border on earth.
You find someone to carry you - How Cameron and Tsion made it to the getaway plane.

Homecoming - Cameron and Tsion arrive in the wreckage of Chicago, where Chloe is waiting.


* Not Even the Angels in Heaven has an index even though it only has three things.  Mind you part of that is that the plan was always for it to have a lot more than three things in the end, but still there are currently 3 and a third times as many Skewed Slightly to the Left things.

Most recently updated on 3-16-2016

A Depressing metaphor for my life

I over watered my primary plant and so water started overflowing the water catcher thing below it and raining out over my room.  This was a fairly minor problem, but a problem none the less.

I tried to solve this problem via tilting and forcing the water out the other side of the water catcher thing where I could actually direct it into the container I'd used to water the plant in the first place.  Thus removing and containing the excess water and making everything go well.

This seemed to work at first, until the water catcher thingy decided it had been screwed with enough and detached from the plant pot entirely.  Drenching me, my bed, and nearby portions of my room.  Doing more to hurt things than ignoring the problem ever could have.

I have reattached water catcher thing, I have toweled up what I could of the spill but there was enough water going in enough directions that it doubtless went in directions I could never hope to towel up.  The true scope of the damage I may not know for quite some time.

And that, it seems, is like my life.  There will be a problem, I'll try to solve it, things might seem to go well for a little while, but in the end things will end up worse than they were when I tried to solve the problem.  Repeat for a lifetime, and you've got my life story.


In other news, initial diagnostics are done on my computer.  Looks like the DVD drive and the hard drive are both borked.  Probably a good thing I sent it out before the warranty expires in a few days.  If things go average speed, I should have it back in about two weeks.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Computer problems update

So, as mentioned, the computer that I am on at the moment is my mother's old laptop.  The reason that my mother has a new laptop is that this one is both broken and past the expatriation date (no warranty.)

Now sometimes it works pretty well, as with when I made the announcement that I'd be off my normal computer, sometimes, as today, it feels like a punishment out of the depths of Tartarus.  I spent much of today engaged in the seemingly herculean effort to make it stop resizing the screen at psudorandom.  Still have the problem of the mouse which will choose a place that it likes and remain in that place regardless of what input is used upon it until, apparently at random, it will allow itself to be moved, thought not always very far.

So, yeah... that could be a problem when it comes to content production.  As could the fact that the keyboard is smaller than most of the ones I am used to so it sometimes takes several times for me to type a single word correctly.  (Or I hit the wrong letters without realizing it, see yesterday's "will bit be..."rather than "will not be..." but look quick because I intend to fix that.)

The plus side is that this is not the only broken expired computer in the area, and some of the rest might be more useful placeholder's for the broken one.  If I can dig them up, and if I am lucky.

But the truth is that I have no idea what this will mean for posting going forward, and I'm tired as all hell on top of that.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Computer problems

The warranty on my laptop is about to run out, so all of those little problems I've been ignoring I now have to remember so that they can hopefully repair things.

Which means that I won't be on my normal computer for a while.  I'll be on my mom's old computer, her old computer has the distinction of being her old computer because it is:
a) Broken
b) no longer under warranty and thus will not be fixed.

So we'll see how this works out.

Also, I note, that yesterday, was apparently the most active day here in recent memory.  While I was away from computers all day.

More info here, and at the bottom of the post here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What I want is not more origin stories

So, The Matrix was on, is on actually, don't have time to watch it at the moment but I did catch Morpheus' "No one can be told what the Matrix is," scene and followed it through to just before Neo tried his first jump.

At first, in the scene where Morpheus is talking about the Matrix without letting on what it is I was thinking of all of the other stories that could have that exact same speech in it.

The Matrix could be culture itself imposed on us by the Illuminati/the gods/aliens to keep us from ever realizing our true potential.  This speech could have fit in a movie like They Live (soon to be on Blu Ray for those who are into that sort of thing) or a story about why there's no magic/superheroes/dragon riders/whatever in the modern world.  This could be about the patriarchy.  This could be about anything.

So I was already starting to think about what other stories might have been told when I realized, not for the first time, that what I would have liked to have seen was the crew operating together as a unit.

We don't get to see that.  We've barely had a chance to meet the characters before Cypher goes betrayer and it's down to Neo-Trinity-Tank trying to save Morpheus.

We never see them on a mission, whatever their missions actually are.  (Do you know?  I don't.  They must have them, otherwise why the hovercrafts broadcasting a pirate signal.)

I have no objection to Neo's origin story being told, but in truth I'm far more interested in the crew that's already originated.  If there hadn't been a betrayal, or Cypher's betrayal had failed and the rest of the crew survived, that's a story that would have interested me more.  The ensemble of the cast working together the interesting characters we had hinted at actually being allowed to be interesting characters.

Maybe instead of Neo's transformation into The One being instantaneous it could have been something he grew into over the course of the trillogy.  Climax of the first movie could have been largely the same, the realization that he is The One, but instead of that being all there was Morpheus and his ship would keep on doing its job (again, job largely unknown) throughout the the show and the crew we started with could be explored as characters.

It's the same thing I had with Twister, what interests me is the team that's already together working as a team as they are accustomed to do.

And it occurs to me that what I'm saying here might be seen as, "I would have liked it if the crew in The Matrix had been handled more like the crew in Firefly," so be it.

I like a lot of origin stories, I like the Matrix, or did the last time I really saw it, but it irks me that the stories always seem to be about coming together or falling apart or finding yourself, or whatever the fuck it is that changes, but never about being.

If there is a team at the beginning of the movie, it will not survive. (Possible exception for sequels.)  Twister may stand alone as an exception, but the team was overshadowed by the screwed up love story.  Speaking of which:
If there is a couple at the beginning of the movie, they will break up.

If they form a team in the movie, them getting the whole working together thing down will be the end of the movie.
If people fall in love, them finally getting together will be the end of the movie.

This is The Matrix:
At the start of the movie there is a team, it is doomed, naturally.
Neo joins team with doubts and insecurities plus romantic tension with Trinity.
Neo trains.
Team from the start of the movie is destroyed.
The survivors form a new team and complete their first mission together, the end.
Concurrently: Neo becomes a hero, the end.
Concurrently: Neo and Trinity become a couple, the end.
It's all about becoming, not being.  Becoming a former team, becoming a new team, becoming a hero, becoming a couple.

What about this?
At the start of the movie there is a team (which, if memory serves, had a couple on it already)
Neo joins team with doubts and insecurities plus romantic tension with Trinity.
Neo trains.
The team does an important job, which is also Neo's first.  In the course of which we get to see the team actually being a team and the original couple actually being a couple.
Concurrently Neo can still become a hero and he and Trinity can still get together.
Initial team and couple intact, work left to be done and a future left to face, the end.
I'm not saying that the Matrix should have been rewritten, this isn't a "how I would do it" post.  That's just the example that I bumped into this morning.

What I am saying is that I'd like more stories of being, rather than becoming.  Becoming stories end right were the being would start to happen, and it tends to leave me feeling like the part I really wanted got left out.  I'm much more interested in when the people who have finally got their shit together face whatever it is they face, than I am in them getting their shit together in the first place.

If you're going to get together, as a couple, as a team, as a whatever, then my position is do it already so I can see some of that before the movie ends because that's the part that interests me.

Origin stories are interesting, but it's like having the entire biography be about the birth, or the company history end with, "And then the company was founded."  It's like the story of America ending in 1783 because with the ending of the Revolutionary War the country was finally started.  I've been single my entire life, but I doubt that most couples consider the story of their relationship to have ended with, "And then we started dating."

These are the places the stories begin, but they're almost always where the movie ends.  I want more middle in my movies.  The tendency to focus exclusively on the beginningest of the beginning or the endingest of the end (usually of the previous story, to set the groundwork for the beginningest of the beginning of this one) really irks.

Give me some fracking middle on occasion.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Advice given to depressed people

I considered titling this, "Advice for depressed people," and then realized what a mistake it would be.  This isn't about the advice depressed people, people like me, should be given.  This is about the advice that is given.  And as one might expect it will focus mostly on myself because I'm the depressed person I know best.

Apart from things like, "You should probably seek medical help," or maybe in certain circumstances, "Perhaps you should consider another doctor," there's not a lot of stuff a non-medical professional is going to be able to offer as advice that stands a legitimate chance of helping someone with depression on the depression front.

There's all kinds of other advice that might be helpful like, "If you hold the hammer further back you'll get more force," or, "Never bet your life on someone else remembering to use their blinker," or something like that.  There's all sorts of generally applicable advice in the world that has nothing to do with depression.

But lately I've been feeling bombarded with advice about how to get over depression, and while the frequency might have spiked this is not a new phenomenon.  That kind of advice, basically universally, sucks.  It's bad advice.  It's often frustrating advice.  It can be advice that makes one feel isolated, misunderstood, or trivialized.

Much of it comes from, I think, a misunderstanding.  It stems from the word depression.  English is a very word rich language, but we still have piles of words with multiple meanings and depression is one of them.  If you are a healthy person, and you feel depressed, it is a mistake to assume that's the same as what a depressed person feels.  The word is the same, but the word also means hole/dent in the ground and hopefully we can all agree that's not what you mean when you say, "When I feel depressed."

I think that's where most of the bad advice comes from, people think, "When I feel depressed I try X and it brings me back," and they think that'll work for the friend or family member with depression.  But if it would, if it really were that simple, it wouldn't be depression.  Treating the actual medical condition of depression as if it's simply ordinary feeling down and can be solved just as easily minimizes and trivializes what is a life wreaking condition.

My life is not a shambles because I'm feeling down.  Other people with depression who keep it together better than I do (who I both envy and admire) are not going around feeling shittier than they ought to, or on the verge of tears or breakdown more often than they ought to, because they're simply feeling somewhat down the same way that healthy people do.

It's not the same, and it can't be treated the same way.  Imagine, hypothetical healthy reader, if every time you felt down you were suddenly put on medication to cure your depression.  Imagine how viscerally wrong that state of affairs would be.  The reaction would be disproportionate and inappropriate, and quite possibly damaging.  It's the same way when you try to treat depression, the condition, as if it's the same a healthy person feeling depressed.

This does not mean that you shouldn't try to help.  It doesn't mean you should never offer advice on how you cheer yourself up.  But it does mean that you should never treat that advice as a cure.  It means you shouldn't act like you've found the cure to depressed person's problems because you've got this thing you do, or you just read a book that helps you with your down times, or whatever.  Because you don't.

You might have a short term solution, and that's nice.  Short term improvement is a good thing.  But unless you've discovered the alien mood normalization crystals that can be activated by the light of a full moon to reset someone's out of whack brain chemistry, you haven't stumbled on the cure.  Leave it to the doctors and don't belittle the depressed person's suffering by acting like it's easy to solve.

What not to do:
"I've been thinking about this depression thing you have, and when I feel depressed I get out of it by watching a movie.  You should watch a movie.  Then you won't be depressed."

What you might try doing:
"I don't know about you, but watching movies cheers me up, wanna watch a movie with me?"

Or something like that.


So, a couple of definite no-nos

One is, if a depressed person is reacting to something going wrong, as I was this morning, starting in with immediate criticism that they were doing the whole reacting thing wrong is not a good idea at all.  Now you're piling insult on the existing problem, and if you're doing it in such a way to imply that responding to bad-thing right would fix the depression you're also victim blaming.  You're telling depressed person that being depressed is their own damn fault because of their own fuckups.

At best you'll end up with depressed person justifiably pissed off at you.  At worst you'll throw them into a spiral of doubt, guilt, and shame.

Don't do that.

For that matter, don't do that to non-depressed people.  Everyone has their own way of dealing with adversity and, unless it's hurting someone, who are you to say that someone else's is worse than your own?  Discussions of the best way to respond to things for emotional well being may be worth having, but the moment of wrongness is not a good time.

Second thing:

Don't be self serving.

Say you want depressed person to do X, don't you dare - Don't you Dare - try to use their depression to leverage them into doing it for you.

If you want depressed person to do X then you saying, "[Friend] is really worried about your depression and I've been trying to think about what could be done, and I think what you really need is a project to give you purpose so I was thinking that if you were to do X that might help because you'd be able to feel like you accomplished something and..." is you being an asshole.

If you want a favor, if you want something done, if you could use the help, then state it as a favor, something you want done, or help.  By all means point out that you think this is something that might make depressed person feel somewhat better if you so believe it, but don't act like you're trying to help them when you're trying to get them to help you.

You may be able to do both at once, they may be helped as they help you, but manipulating them into helping you by using their medical condition as leverage is not the way to go about doing it.


I want to close on a piece of advice given to me probably ten years or more ago.  It's not good advice in the way that treating, "When I'm feeling down I X," as the ultimate solution is never good advice when responding to the condition of depression, it's got the same mistaking a short term fix for a solution problem that characterizes the kind of advice I was talking about before the first break.

I think it sticks in my mind because it was so unexpected.

I was a teenage boy in highschool, I was talking to a teenage girl about my age.  We met at summer camp (she went to the girls' camp associated with the boys' camp I went to.)  As I recall we met when we both avoided socializing by sitting under the same tree.  Anyway, we kept in touch via text message when camp was over, and at this particular time I was trying to explain what I felt like being depressed (this might have been before I was officially diagnosed for all I know) I don't know how well I described it.  I don't remember that end of things.

I just remember that after hearing everything she had a simple response, "You should masturbate more."

At some point there was a followup where she pointed out that it worked for her.  The exact details are not important.

I don't know whether this was the first thing that popped into her head, or the result of detailed thought ("He doesn't have a lot of friends, he doesn't get out much, most of his time is spent alone at the house, what do I do to cheer up when alone at the house?") but it seems to have been forever imprinted in my memory.

I have difficulty getting events in order, but that may have been my introduction to the truth that women can be every bit as much sexual beings as men.  I'd heard teenage boys talk about that topic all the time by that point, but that may have been my first introduction to the fact that teenage girls had similar practices.

More on topic, I think it's probably a good example of a sincere attempt to help that is none the less bad advice.  She tried to think of something that can make her feel good and alive and not-depressed, found such a thing, and shared it as a solution to a friend's problem.

Except it's not really a solution.  Would that it were that simple.

She was a teenager trying to help a long-distance friend through something that ten years, multiple medications, multiple psychologists, and multiple psychiatrists later has not been solved.  She had some pretty good excuses for why she might think her solution would work, I don't see excuses anywhere near as good for the people who give me what amounts to the same advice today: "You suffer from depression.  X helps me, a mentally healthy person, stop being down, therefore if you do it it will solve your depression."

Metapost - A question to those who use feeds

I noticed recently that my ads had gone white, looked into it, realized I'd failed to do some of the paperwork, and verficiation and whatnot, did that stuff, and am now again a godless capitalist who is in it for the money.  Why today alone I have earned, in theory, one penny.  (US penny.)

Clearly I am rolling in money, and like any soul selling capitalist I naturally want more.  What was it that Eddie Izzard said the American dream was? "[T]o be born in the gutter and have nothing. Then to rise up and have all the money in the world, and stick it in your ears and go PLBTLBTLBLTLBTLBLT!"  Sounds about right.

So, clearly, more money is what is called for here.

More seriously, Google thinks I should use ads with feeds because they're Google and that's the sort of thing Google would think.  If non-feed ads are any indication I get paid just by having a certain amount of people look at them (almost no one clicks my ads*, and having seen the ads myself I don't blame them) and pennies theoretically add up.

So maybe it would be a good idea to have ads in feeds.  But I don't want to alienate anybody so if someone who reads this is going to hate me forever if I click "Yeah, sure, ads for feeds," then I'd rather not do it.

So, people who use feeds, what are your thoughts?


And since I'm talking about money, turns out the donate button does indeed work, I've actually known that for a couple of weeks now, but now that it's been used twice I figured some kind of mention might be in order.  So thank you.  Thank you both.


* 37,815 page views, 14 clicks.

Skewed Slightly to the Left - Meeting a contact during the War

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 3)]

An alarm on Chloe's smartphone went off, she looked at it quickly and swore.  Jason, her assistant, asked, "Problem?"
"World War III picked a bad day to start is all."
"Tell me about it, today was supposed to be my first date."
"Is she ok?"
"He made it to one of the other shelters, yes."
"Sorry.  I didn't-"
"I just get sick of... of..."
"I know.  I can't tell you how I know without breaking three promises and the seal of the confessional, but please believe I have some form of understanding.  Just, you know, don't ask."
"Isn't the confessional Catholic?"
"Yes, don't ask why I was in a Catholic church either."
"Is there anything I can ask you?"
"Yes," Chloe, having spent the conversation trying to remember where the meet her alarm was supposed to remind her of was located, finally did.  "But not right now.  You're in charge.  I'll be back as soon as I can."
"I'm in charge?" Jason's voice revealed a hint of panic amid his shock.
Chloe took him by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes.  "You'll do fine.  There's additional medicine hidden in with the canned goods, and if it comes to that there's guns and ammunition under the false floor.  Remember the false floor?"  Jason nodded.  "But it shouldn't come to that.  And you'll do fine.  I trust you."
Roads were clogged with abandoned vehicles, not to mention debris, and if the wrong people saw Chloe sprinting through them she knew she'd be shot without question.  The assumption would be that no innocent person would be out in these conditions.  Regardless of whether or not that was true, Chloe definitely wasn't innocent.
'Sorry, I was just rushing off to meet my black market contact because when I set up this meeting I'd never anticipated I'd be sending my contact into a warzone,' probably wasn't going to help.  But if the contact had shown, and was waiting for her, she had to meet.  She couldn't leave someone waiting in the middle of this.
When she got there she was nearly spent, and could only nod when the contact asked if she was Chloe.
"I'm Donny," he said.
When Chloe was able to speak she said, "I need to catch my breath."  Then added, "Let's talk."  She needed to sit around anyway.
"Ok, I've got a truckload of laptops here, top of the line taken right out of GC inventory."  At the sound of nearby gunfire he added, "You have noticed the war, right."
"Yeah," Chloe said, her breathing still labored.  "But I need a minute before I can get moving again."  After a pause she added, "Thanks for waiting, by the way."
"No problem," Donny said, clearly nervous.
"How'd you get them?" Chloe asked, as much to take his mind of things as for information.
"How'd you get the laptops?"
"We faked a failure in the quality control testing, and had the entire line ordered destroyed.  Top of the line products, for free, with no one looking for them because they're not reported stolen.  No one was expecting them, so no one misses them."  Donny was in full salesman mode, his fear evaporating, "and these are top of the line.  No system is immune to damage, no encryption unbreakable, no communications untraceable, but these come as close as close can be because these were made for Nicolae, his top aides, and their top aides.
"These aren't things that you could steal from any Best Buy, these are designed for the movers and shakers.  Your secrets will be as safe as safe can be, your files as secure as secure can be, your communications as close to unbreakable and untraceable as can be.
"Nicolae himself is going to be using the exact same equipment, but his won't be ready for two weeks."
Chloe had her breath back, at least as much as she could afford, and said, "We'll take them.  We just need a place to stow the truck until the streets are clear."
And with that Donny was back into nervous mode, "If we live through this."
"Need a place to hide?" Chloe asked.
"Uh, yeah."
"I've got a bomb shelter."
"I... I can't offer you a discount."
"I'm not asking for one.  Deal closed, it's been a pleasure doing business with you.  I have a bomb shelter and you're invited."
For a moment Donny didn't know what to say, then he said, "Thanks."
Chloe looked around, "I'm just trying to figure out where to put the truck with the goods for safekeeping while we're in the shelter."
Eventually, with the truck in an underground garage and Chloe led Donny on a sprint back to her shelter.  The truth was that New Hope was closer, but there were security procedures to follow, and she promised Jason she'd come back.

[Skewed Slightly to the Left Index]

Skewed Slightly to the Left - Earl tells Ray about the plane

[Originally posted at Slacktivist.]
[Follows from here.]

Earl took Rayford to the employees lunchroom, the third tier of cafeterias, below the one currently being enjoyed by the dignitaries and reserved for special guests, something that Nicolae had had installed on every base and airstrip on the off chance he might stop in.  Also less worthy than the one reserved for actual military, a force kept in line in part by being reminded that they were being treated better than the underclasses that existed to serve them.
The employees lunch room was for people who were meant to have no illusions.  They were servants.  They were fed because otherwise they would collapse, and there was no effort to make them comfortable.  The sooner they consumed their calories and got back to work the better.
It was a stark contrast to what Rayford had become accustomed to.  A reminder that he, like so many other Global Community employees, was being pandered to in hopes he wouldn't notice how the rest of the world had suffered in the last 18 months of theoretical peace.  Wage slavery was just the beginning, he knew.
Earl looked around, checked that they were alone, and made himself a sandwich.
"Right now this base is sending out gibberish in every frequency," Earl began, "which will play Mary Hobb with everything electronic within range.  Including the microwave, by the way.  The good news is that it means we can talk here safely.  The usual bugs are just as disabled as everything else."
"So what did you want to talk about?"
"You know Nicolae is evil."
"You work for him."
Rayford looked at his feet, "Yes."
"How's that been working out for you?"
"Like Shit."  Rayford had nearly shouted.  "He gets my services and I get nothing useful out of him."
"But you wanted to be close to him?" Earl asked.
"If I thought cut the head of the snake would work in this situation I'd have crashed that fucking plane ages ago."
"Spy." Earl said, beginning to smile.
"Yes!" Rayford shouted.  Then caught himself and spoke more quietly, "But it hasn't been working.  He doesn't let things slip.  No even the slightest hints."
"I was hoping you'd say that," Earl said.  "You are going to love your new plane."
"I don't care about the plane."
"You'll care about this one."  Before Ray could ask why Earl said, "Like this facility Nicolae has ordered bugs in every room."
"And that helps me how?"
"Unlike this facility, I built it.  You'd have to take apart the electronics piece by piece to find out, but the supposed master control for the bugs is nothing of the sort.  The real master is in the cockpit.  It's hidden two passwords and three arbitrary sequences of switches deep, but if you're in the pilot's chair and you know how to use it, you can hear everything from every room."
"That would mean...." Rayford never finished the thought, it would mean so many things.  Not least amoung them that taking this job might not have been the greatest mistake of his life.
"Now let me explain how it all works before they stop jamming, because if the bugs come back online we'll both be shot in the head."

[Skewed Slightly to the Left Index]

Thursday, August 16, 2012

One in One Billion Two Hundred Fifteen Million Five Hundred Thousand

Those are the odds of winning the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes.  Probably equivalent to getting struck by lightning while being attacked by a shark as a coconut falls on your head or something like that.

I enter said sweepstakes whenever a popup appears or they send me an email.  I do it not because I expect to win --I expect to lose every time they have a drawing be it "Special Early Look" or, "We've strung this one out long enough, somebody has to win this time."-- no, I do it mostly because of all the things that could possibly solve my problems, one in 1.2155 billion odds honestly seems like the best odds I'm likely to get.

Well, I'd get better odds from buying a lottery ticket, but for that I'd need money.  Entering the PCH sweepstakes only wastes my time.

I have a list of things to do, some of which might earn me some marginal income, others of which might slightly improve my life.  I've had more or less the same list all summer, and the winter before that, and so on backward.  Every day seems to bring a lack of progress.  Same stuff left to do, less time to do it in.

As I mentioned somewhere or other, I've cashed out basically all of my savings to pay living expenses, I'm not sure when that runs out, it may already have done so in which case I'm living on leniency that will not last forever.  Things will fall apart, I just don't know when.

I'm getting psychiatric help, which has yet to do much helping but these things can take time, which is contingent on me being a student.  So come September I need to be back at school.  That doesn't bother me, without school I'd hardly ever leave the house.  Even if my performance these last few years has sucked, I've at least had a nearly perfect attendance record, and that's an accomplishment of a sort.  Paying for school, that bothers me.

I'll probably have to borrow money; I'm already living on borrowed money.

Which means my problems will just get deeper.

My family is variously a source of hindrance, annoyance, and rage, with only a few bright spots shining through.

Any plan I do have is quickly derailed.

And, basically, since the lead up to my birthday, I haven't been able to get my brain in gear.  Remember how I said I was going to try to write three short stories involving ghosts?  Notice how those don't exist?

The lack of progress on those kind of resembles the lack of progress on everything else.

Which makes the one in more than a billion odds seem like the best odds I'm likely to get.  Since everything else seems to work all of once in never.

Monday, August 13, 2012

So my brain isn't exactly working at the moment

Remind me why I do this, because at the moment everything seems kind of pointless.

Part of this is because I haven't been able to make myself do more than a couple of bits of writing lately, and when I try to do more nothing comes.  But part of it is certainly that right now everything seems pointless.

Anyone remember what the point was?  What difference anything I do make?

Edith and Ben - Alex and the Truck, telling Charlize Edith is coming on the Seattle trip

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, but for appropriate Twilight context it really takes place in the space between the end of Chapter 5 and the start of Chapter 6.]

Edith dropped me off at my house, which happened with me wanting to say something more, I don't know what, to her, and I got the same impression from her.
I ended up standing at my window, looking out at the rain, trying to figure out what I had wanted to say. Nothing really came. I just wished the ride had been longer. I felt more alive when I was around Edith. Colors seemed brighter, jokes seemed funnier, memories that came to me were more likely to be good than bad. I didn't feel like the world was passing me by, I felt like I was right there in it.
I liked listening to her talk. I liked what she chose to talk about. I liked the way she talked to me, she seemed more of an adult than most others our age, but unlike actual adults she treated me as an equal.
And just happy, bright feelings. Like the sun on my face after a month with none, but none of the threat of a burn.
But it didn't leave me with any idea of what I might have wanted to say to her. Just, something.
As I stared out the window, watching the rain fall, I sort of lost my grounding. I lost all track of time, I lost track of everything. I just ended up doing nothing. Until a loud familiar sound broke me out of that state.
My truck was unmistakable, reliable, lovable, as loud as an aircraft engine. I headed downstairs so I could greet the driver.
It was Edith's brother, a shorter boy with wild hair, there was a distant look in his eyes as if his mind were in some other time or place. Still, he greeted me warmly, "I'm Alex," he said, in a friendly tone, getting out of the truck and extending his hand.
"Ben," I said, shaking his hand. Which was freezing, "Do you want to come inside to warm up?"
Alex smiled and said, "No, I'm actually fine. I've just got a very low normal body temperature. Whole family does actually." There was a pause, "It's why we were adopted. Part of the same condition that makes us all," Alex mimed being a zombie. "I've got no complaints. It gets me a lot of excused absences from school."
"Is that why you never eat school lunch?"
"It is. But I didn't want to talk to you about that. I wanted to tell you about something completely different."
"I thought you wanted to drop off the truck."
"Well, that too. But what I wanted to tell you is that some members of my family are slow to adapt to change. Glacial even. If it seems like they're giving you the cold shoulder it's really nothing personal. It's just who they are. They'll adapt."
"What about you?"
His eyes became even more distant, as if he were focusing on something just beyond the horizon. I've tried to make my eyes do that in the past and it hurt. "I see a bright future for you with us, if you want it." Then his eyes pulled into focus and for the first time he seemed fully present, "But that doesn't matter. In the here and now you make Edith happy."
"I do?" And I broadcast my own insecurities far and wide in just two quiet, somewhat surprised, words.
"You do, and that's enough for me. So I just wanted to say that as long as you keep that up, I'm happy to have you involved in my family." He started to walk away.
"Do you want a ride home?" I asked. Having a conversation in the drizzle was making me cold.
"No, I like the rain."
"You sure?"
He turned back to face me, "I'm sure, see you later." He waved, and then returned to walking away.
By the time Charlize got home I was warm and dry. After she unloaded and hung up her gun I told her, "So, good news bad news."
"Good news first," she said.
"You don't have to worry about me going to Seattle alone."
"Why not?"
"Edith is coming with me."
"Like a date?" she sounded almost hopeful.
"I don't think so. More like a mechanic." There was a pause. "She fixed the truck and says she wouldn't forgive herself if broke down on me. Since this'll be the longest trip it's taken since she fixed it..."
"You should find out if it's a date."
"There's nothing wrong with dating your mechanic. Anyway, if one of you thinks it's a date and the other doesn't then there'll be all kinds of awkwardness, and I know how you feel about awkwardness."
"You mean like this conversation?"
She sighed, closed her eyes, and then said, "I am happy to hear that you won't be going alone," and I knew she meant it, "I'm just saying... you know what I'm saying. I won't draw it out any more."
And then there was silence.
"Oh, what about bad news?" It's a good thing she remembered, because I had forgotten.
"I... I uh..." I looked at my feet, "I had a flashback today."
Charlize had no idea what I was talking about, "As in..."
"Post traumatic stress. The smell of blood sent me back to the accident and... and..." I couldn't talk.
Charlize came over and gave me a hug. We're not usually a hugging family, but it helped. "And I had to leave school early," I finished. Charlize told me that it was ok, and rubbed my back a bit. Not sure how long the hug went on for. Also didn't realize I was crying until after the fact.

[Edith and Ben Index]

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Left Behind gets the Terminator Treatment

[Originally posted at Slacktivist, (page 2)]
[In response to someone talking about how characters from other stories would react to entering Left Behind.]

[Well, I've been thinking for a long time about how the main characters would respond to getting the Terminator treatment.]
"I'm from the future, I'm here to rescue you."
"From what?"
"In 24 hours the Antichrist will take over the earth."
"Yeah, we know.  So what?"
"At first things will seem fine, but the truth is that he'll be cementing his seven year-"
"We know."
"Eighteen months from now is Judgement Day*, a quarter of the earth's human population will be killed."
"We Know."
"By the end all who don't bow to the new regime will be decapitated."
"Then why the fuck didn't you do anything about it?"
"It's all part of the plan."
"Fuck it.  I'm from the future, I'm here to rescue people other than you."  *Walks away, probably after stealing their clothes* *mutters under breath* "Assholes."
*Terminator terminology, not PMD terminology.

[Left Behind Index]

Skewed Slightly to the Left: Rayford meets Earl during WWIII

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 2).]
When Rayford shook his hand, Earl pulled him into a hug.  It wasn't a usual greeting for Rayford, in fact it may have been the first time he'd been involved in such a greeting, but Rayford did his best to appear natural in responding to it.

With the two of them close together, Earl whispered as quietly as he could while still having Rayford hear him, "Your boss is evil."
Rayford responded, equally quietly, "I know," and felt defeat seep into his admission.  18 months he'd been trying to spy on Nicolae, and now that the world was falling apart around him he'd never been so sure that the whole thing had been useless.  In that time, had he gathered a single useful bit of intelligence?  Not as far as he could tell.
Earl said, "We should talk," and then ended the handshake-hug.
As they pulled apart Rayford said, at his usual volume, "I was so worried when I heard about New York, how'd you get out in time?"
"I'll tell you over lunch, and brief you on the new plane too." He started to walk away from the dignitaries, then turned back to Rayford, "This way."  Rayford followed.

[Skewed Slightly to the Left Index]

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Deus Ex: Intro

[This is part of a series of posts about the game Deus Ex, which, for the record, I recommend buying.]
[The series began with this post.]

Once you've chosen a face, a real name, and a skillset for your character, the game can begin.  It begins with an intro set six months before the game.  For those who might wonder about such things, the intro is entirely skippable.

The camera starts at a spinning globe which is suspended in mid air beneath a giant black stone sculpture of a hand.

It pans down to Bob Page and Walton Simons having a discussion while a woman (Maggie Chow, yes I spoil everything) walks away from the camera.

Bob Page: Your appointment to FEMA should be finalized within the week.  I've already discussed the matter with the Senator. 

Deus Ex is built on a foundation of 1990s conspiracy theories.  The UN is a front organization for evil conspiracies who want to take over the world, our own government has been corrupted, and FEMA is in the business of preparing to take innocent people off to concentration camps.  Interestingly these conspiracy theories persist regardless of who is in office.  The people who believe them seem to want to believe them.

I leave it to someone else to figure out the psychology behind that, though I think Fred Clark may have a good start on it.  The important part here is that FEMA is bad.  It is one national state of emergency away from ending democracy and making us all into slaves.  Or something like that.  The conspiracy theory is still around today.

Anyway, back to the conversation Page just told Simons he'd soon be running this liberty crushing disaster relief agency, and he knows this because he's discussed the matter with the senator.

Walton Simons: I take it he was agreeable? 
Bob Page: He didn't really have a choice. 
Walton Simons: Has he been infected? 
Bob Page:  Oh, yes, most certainly. When I mentioned that we could put him on the priority list for the Ambrosia vaccine, he was so willing it was almost pathetic. 

And now you know that there's a plague, a plague to which Bob Page controls the vaccine.  You also know that Page seems to take a twisted joy in the power this gives over him.  Certainly blackmailing the senator was a means to an end, but it doesn't seem to be something he had any qualms about doing.  Bob Page isn't an ends justify the means villain because for him the means would appear to be fun.

Walton Simons: This plague -- the rioting is intensifying to the point where we may not be able to contain it.
Bob Page: Why contain it? Let it spill over into the schools and churches, let the bodies pile up in the streets. In the end, they'll beg  us to save them. 

A couple of things.  One is that they made the plague, and it might not be the only plague they made.  It's entirely possible that "this plague" is said in order to distinguish it from all those other plagues they've unleashed.

Second, Walton Simons is a hands on villain, Bob Page is an administrator.  Those are two rather different kinds of evil and as a result you'll never really get a chance to Bob's evil shine in the game itself, but in this intro you can see that while evil deeds done with his own hands might be lacking, he's definitely evil.

As Page is speaking the camera shows the dying and the dead in an overcrowded clinic.

Walton Simons: I've received reports of armed attacks on shipments. There's not enough vaccine to go around, and the underclasses are starting to get desperate. 
Bob Page: Of course they're desperate. They  can smell their death, and the  sound they'll make rattling their cage will serve as a warning to  the rest.
Walton Simons: Mmm. I hope you're not underestimating the problem. The others may not go as quietly as you think -- intelligence indicates they're behind the problems in Paris. 

Bob Page: A bunch of pretentious old men playing at running the world.  But the world left them behind long ago. We are the future. 

One of the things that we have to constantly be aware of is constraints, Simons can't say that they control the vaccine and the plague and if they wanted there would be enough vaccine to go around because the first time player isn't supposed to know that yet.

On one level all of this is just to serve as an exposition dump before you start playing.  Any inconsistencies in it can be dismissed as part of the constraints placed on such a dump.

On the other hand, I don't think it makes sense to dismiss it outright which means that when Walton Simons brings up things like the containability of the riots and the availability of the vaccine, we should probably take them as real concerns.  If it were up to him perhaps he'd have more vaccine around and use that to try to leverage the situation into one in which the rioting was containable.

But he doesn't argue the point, he moves on.  The others, he speaks of, are what remain of the Illuminati.  And while he speaks we see a french resistance group in a gunfight against MJ12 troops.  MJ12 being the group with which Page and Simons are associated.

Walton Simons: We have other problems. 
Bob Page: UNATCO? 

This is just weird in hindsight, unless Bob and Walton have been doing some serious work on their own without telling each other and this meeting is where they get together and Walton crituqe's Bob's handling of the vaccine situation while Bob goes, "What the hell was up with that UNATCO thing?"

The reason being that the UN is their puppet and UNATCO, a part of the UN, one of their tools.  Page shouldn't be thinking of UNATCO as a problem unless a lot of MJ12 work was done without notifying him.

I'll get to that in a moment.

Walton Simons: Formed by executive order after the terrorist strike on the Statue. I have someone in place, though. I'm more concerned about Savage -- he's relocated to Vandenberg. 

I'm going to skip over the question of, "In what world does Bob not know this," of course and move straight into foundations.

Almost nothing in Deus Ex was formed just once.  Note, for example, that it takes place in the US, France, and Hong Kong.  When were those places founded?  As someone from the US, I couldn't give you just one date.  Well, I could, but I'd be able to argue the case for other dates as well.

UNATCO was reformed by executive order.  The US finally joined UNATCO which it hadn't done before, a new charter was written, and a new headquarters was donated: Liberty Island.  In the shadow of the terrorist attack that brought down parts of the Statue.

It will turn out that UNATCO was responsible for the attack on the Statue, using it to become more than it once was, now rechartered and backed by US dollars.

That Page is unaware of this either implies taking a lot of narrative convince to get the exposition in, or a giant amount of autonomy on Simon's part.  (He would have had to carry out a terrorist attack and manipulate the political response all without Bob noticing.)

While UNATCO is being discussed the camera shows what is probably the ceremony at which UNATCO was rechartered.

Bob Page: Our biochem corpus is far in advance of theirs, as is our electronic sentience. And their...ethical inflexibility has allowed us to make progress in areas they refuse to consider. 

Ethical inflexibility is how you know Savage and his people, whoever they may be, are a hell of a lot more likely to be good guys than the people currently having a chat.  While this is said we see one of MJ12's secret labs.  And our first greasel.

After this the camera will return to Page and Simons.

Walton Simons: The augmentation project? 
Bob Page: Among other things -- but I must admit that I've been somewhat disappointed in the performance of the primary unit.
Walton Simons: The secondary unit should be online soon. It's currently undergoing preparation and will be operational within six months. My people will continue to report on its progress. If necessary, the primary will be terminated. 

The primary unit is JC's brother Paul.  He's the first human being to accept nano augmentation without rejection.  The secondary unit is JC himself, the clone of Paul grown in the same womb.  You start the game by listening to two of the movers and the shakers of the world discussing killing your brother because, hey, they'll still have you.

The camera cuts to a lab deep within Area 51 where a clone is being grown, unlike JC it's being grown to adulthood inside a tank.

Bob Page: We've had to endure much, you and I, but soon there will be order again, a new age. Aquinas spoke of the mythical City on the Hill. Soon that city will be a reality, and we will be crowned its kings. 

A lot of people assume that Bob Page and Walton Simons both planned to backstab each other in the end.  I don't.  I think Page is sincere here.  His plan for world domination includes being co-king, not absolute monarch.  I never get the sense that either Page or Simons doesn't trust the other.  I think they are genuine friends.

I think that friendship might even be necessary to them.  They have both done horrible unforgivable things, betrayal was just the start, if they didn't have something good in their lives to ground them I'm not convinced that they could function as well as they did.  It's hard to be all evil, all the time, I think the friendship between Bob Page and Walton Simons is their not-evil time.

Second thing.  As near as I can tell Aquinas did not speak of a City on a Hill.  All kinds of other people did, not the least of which being Jesus, but I can't locate Aquinas doing it.  The best I can do is find a commentary on the gospels by Aquinas which includes the phrase because it's in the Gospel being commented on.  I seriously have no idea what the Hell Page is talking about here.

Anyway, the camera goes black.

Bob Page: Or better than kings. Gods.

And that's the end of the intro.