I find myself wondering if Kofi Annan (and the Pope) do their automatic hopes for peace in any conflict because they have no understanding of politics and the way things work, or because that's what's expected of their roles in modern times. I suspect the latter -- from what I understand, both of them are incredibly bright. It's still disappointing to see them fulfill that perception of their roles -- I would hope that the world stage doesn't need automatic tears at the destruction from conflict.. but maybe they do? I suspect that having a real conversation with either of them on world politics would reveal much more depth than is shown in their public face.
I recognise that over the last few years, I've come to adopt a "clash of civilisations" understanding of world politics, starting many years back with forming a metaphysics of values and studying conflict from that perspective, then somewhat more recently studying Pim Fortuyn, Kemal Ataturk, and other historical figures, and bringing into that studies of theocracy. For large-scale politics, it forms a major part of my perspective. Previously I understood things primarily by attempting to extend a system of justice up to the scale of states, while now I primarily judge things at that level through analysing the civilisations involved and the public good. These lead me to rather different conclusions in some cases than I previously made, especially in my analyses of the middle east. One peril I think I've avoided is the tendency to, when there's only a few actors, identify exclusively with one and investing too much with them. With every person or nation I see as great at a given time, there is always room for improvement and there is always the possibility of mistakes. To some degree though, I'm willing to forgive things of those operating in the sphere of guiding civilisation for much that outside that sphere would be immoral -- never deception (which I see as being a universal wrong), but assassinations and the like (Kemal Ataturk comes closest to someone who well-defines the kinds of actions I would accept when it is for the greater good), provided the ends are not selfish and success is achieved. In these cases, the ends can justify many means that are with other ends unthinkable.
I am enjoying the new album by Muse: "Black Holes and Revelations". I heard it yesterday at a bookstore and immediately recognised the group. Hurrah. It's great when public places turn off the elevator music and play something that some people might concievably not like.
For some lighter content.. 10 mostly 32-bit-and-after-era video games that I think are among the best ever made:
- Final Fantasy 3/6 (american/japanese numbering) - A best-of-breed traditional RPG, with a deep, nonlinear plot, exceptional music, and a perfected traditional game engine.
- Chrono Trigger - A RPG by Squaresoft, unnumbered but in the Final Fantasy series. It is a partial reworking of the genre that gets rid of grids and square-like motion, kind of like a Zelda 3 for proper RPGs. It has a very flexible but still deep plot, great music, and nice graphics. Replay value is very high
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance - Somewhere between a RPG and a board game. Very innovative, deeply entertaining.
- Legend of Zelda 3 - Marries gameplay concepts from Willow (for the NES) and the original Zelda to produce a great game engine. It also introduces puzzles into the gameplay that have come to be definitive for the Zelda genre.
- Smash Brothers Melee - A perfect party game. The controls arn't too complex, there are characters to appeal to everyone, and a number of the situations reached in the game can be absurd and comical. The music's pretty good too.
- Sonic 2 - A fast-paced platformer that's playable by two players. Great music, high fun factor
- Pokemon series for Gameboy - An interesting twist on role playing games. The games have a lot of depth too
- Populus - A realtime world simulator where you're a god and need to take care of your people and guide them to victory against the other civilisations/gods. Was released on many different platforms, many of which had their own distinctive coolness. I only wish there had been a way to play this against friends and that the last games in the series hadn't been so poor
- Super Mario 4 (World) - A huge game that represented the highest refinement of the classic mario (2d) engine. Applied a lot of creativity to that end, which is probably why another massive game of this sort wasn't done. Had a number of fun easter eggs too.
- Worms - Another many-platformed game, this took the basic game idea of the venerable Scorched Earth (an old DOS game), made movement slightly more common, added a sense of humour that filled every corner of the game (Worms with hats wielding bazookas!) and (usually) put each play in charge of several of these worms, the game somewhat self-balancing by allocating turns by player rather than by worm. This was great as a party game and still a lot of fun in single-player mode. My favourite version was for the N64.