This stuff makes me angry. Then it makes me sad. Then I read the comments and it makes me angry again.

Looking at the story with an ignorant outsider’s eye, the first second and third paragraphs seem to sit uncomfortably together. One of the jurors states that the convicted man should be put to death because the Bible tells us that’s what should happen to murderers. But the juror also says that he believes in the death penalty over life imprisonment because locking someone up is too expensive. Doesn’t that seem a little bit… I don’t know, like he’s trying to have it both ways? In my experience, doing what’s morally right is very rarely the easiest solution to a problem. Generally that’s what morals are for, aren’t they? To stop us taking the most ruthlessly expedient road? Don’t know. Obviously the writer is quoting the juror selectively, perhaps his position isn’t as suspiciously self-supporting as it seems in the story. Perhaps I’m just looking for a problem, looking to pick a fight, seeing self-deception where it isn’t there because the notion of state-sponsored murder based on a selective reading of a 2500-year old text is so utterly incomprehensible to me. It’s repugnance squared.

I appreciate that it’s monumental arrogance for a staunch atheist to try and interpret the Bible for a believer but hey, monumental arrogance is a close personal friend. So: wasn’t this “eye for an eye” stuff supposed go out when Jesus arrived with Bible 2.0? Wasn’t love, forgiveness and turning the other cheek his MO? How is it that headbanging fundamentalists go out of their way to dig up obscure parts of the Old Testament to take to their hearts but miss the really big, really important, really cool stuff that’s said over and over and over in the Gospels? Why do people fixate on, f’rinstance, what folk choose to do with their reproductive organs rather than the notion that the only way into heaven is to love your neighbour?

To put it bluntly, why is it that people who believe that the Bible is the literal truth, the literal word of God, always seem to choose the wrong literal words to believe? Yes, the Bible is the product of many writers over a long period of time and is somewhat self-contradictory in places but the overall tone and message of the New Testament is pretty consistent. So why do so many people pick out the nastiest, most close-minded, most spiteful and stupid parts of a book that in the main asserts that your first and most important duty to God is to be excellent to each other? What am I missing? Can somebody explain to me how it works, because I honestly don’t understand. Particularly given that I can barely think of a single Christian I’ve ever personally known that I wouldn’t describe as a good person. Faith is a good thing. Yes, it needs to be kept out of science classes and public health policies but it’s brought far more light and beauty into the world than stupidity and ugliness – you only need to look at the Sistine Chapel or read Paradise Lost or hear Bird In God’s Garden to realise that. I’m just having problems squaring the circle here.

The answer, of course, is that the idiots and hatemongers are a tiny albeit loud minority. But then I read a story like this which states that 80% of a sentencing jury on a murder case “introduced biblical notions into the jury discussion”, and I start to wonder if “biblical notions” is a phrase that does not mean what I’ve always thought it meant.

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Man, it’s going to be tough to get through this post while maintaining the BMStW IV paradigm of swearinesslessness. If ever a game called for a stream of joyfully employed base vernacular, it’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. Or, as it should properly have been called, Batman: (Funking – Ed) People’s (Suit – Ed) UP.

Batman is the coolest superhero. That’s not an opinion, it’s an empirical fact. Batman’s got the coolest logo. Batman’s got the coolest kit. Batman’s got the coolest alter-ego. Batman’s got the coolest base. Batman’s got the coolest power – namely the power to ROCK YOUR FACE. I love the Adam West camp-as-Christmas Some-Days-You-Just-Can’t-Get-Rid-Of-A-Bomb Batman as much as the next man. But my favourite take on the character is the dour, uncompromising, ferociously intelligent and utterly terrifying bad(bottom – Ed) from Grant Morrison’s run on JLA. The Batman who can kick the alien (donkeys – Ed) of a team of incredibly powerful superbeings who’d already defeated Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Flash. Arkham Asylum’s Batman (scripted by Paul Dini, one of the guiding forces behind the excellent Batman: The Animated Series) isn’t quite in that league (aha. Aha. Aha.) but at least he’s in the right sport.

Generally speaking, I don’t have the guts or the patience for stealth games. My character’s vulnerability and the necessity to spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for the right moment to move leads to a undesirable combination of tension, boredom and frustration. The last sneak-em-up I really enjoyed was Tenchu on the PS1, which for all its faults did a wonderful job of making me feel like a ninja in Feudal Japan, darting across the rooftops over the heads of the dull-witted foreign invaders, making the shadows into a weapon, not a shield. You snuck around to make yourself more powerful, not because you were powerless if you didn’t. You weren’t an intruder, you were a predator. Arkham Asylum’s stealth sections give the exact same sort of thrill, the anticipation of isolating some poor (hugger – Ed) followed by the brutal satisfaction of the takedown. I found myself taking my time over the last opponent or two in each room, letting them run around freaking out with their status readout indicating “Terrified” before finally swooping in to put them out of their misery.

If anything, the brawling sections are even better. Combat is simple, relying almost exclusively on two face buttons, but never gets stale over the course of the game largely thanks to absolutely exemplary animation. The fighting in Arkham Asylum reminds me of the Paul Greengrass-directed Bourne movies – strings of fluid moves which are carried out almost too quickly to be consciously registered and yet you’re somehow never confused as to what’s going on. That smoothness is combined with a convincing sense of weight and impact, and as a result the feeling of controlling a hyper-competent, hyper-trained fighting machine is both convincing and satisfying. When Batman hits you, brother you STAY (FORKING – Ed) HIT. My personal favourite move is the finisher where Bats delivers a WWE-style flying fist-drop on a fallen opponent – generally the animation shows you punching the enemy in the face, but if he’s unfortunate enough to be lying with his feet pointing away from you the blow looks for all the world like it’s landing right in his (Michael Ballacks – Ed) instead. Walking up to groups of (buzzards – Ed) and calmly and ruthlessly cleaning their (firkin – Ed) clocks never, ever got dull. Batman: Handing You Your (Derriere – Ed) Since 1939. Batman: Over One Million Customers Served. Batman: When You Absolutely, Positively Have To Deck Every (Mummykisser – Ed) In The Room, Accept No Substitute.

Deep down, I suspect that it’s not actually that great a game, that it’s too repetitive, that it’s too easy, that it’s too Grey Generic Xbox Action Game Space Marine-O-Vision, that the stealth and fighting mechanics while fun are too shallow, and that anyone who didn’t have such a strong emotional attachment to Batman as a character would find it a bit bland and annoying. That doesn’t matter, because anyone who doesn’t have a strong emotional attachment to Batman as a character can (cuddle – Ed) right off. Arkham Asylum lets you “be” Batman, in the same way that (the good bits of) Jedi Academy let you “be” Luke Skywalker. If that notion doesn’t appeal that’s your fault, not the game’s. Also, you smell. RANK: A

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