Fallout – Strategic Nuclear Moose

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“And God said: Let them have beer!”

One of the least important locations on the “Fallout: New Vegas” map, Brewer’s Beer Bootlegging is the official title of a small shack located northeast of McCarran airport, due east of the Sunset Sarsaparilla corporate office. The Mojave Wasteland is a forbidding place, but no amount of nuclear holocaust will keep a good brewer down! The shack appears to be abandoned, but the interior leads to an underground bootlegging operation that has been recently used.

Complete with fermenters, crates, and consumable beer, the crowning touch is the painted shipping pallet in the corner. The white paint reads: Strategic Nuclear Moose – let them drink beer. This is a reference to real-life Scottosh brewing company BrewDog. Their attention-grabbing achievement is known as “Tactical Nuclear Penguin,” boasting a whopping 32% alcohol content.

Previously branded irresponsible for an 18.2% beer called “Tokyo,” the gentlemen behind the operation decided to thumb their nose at critics first with a low-alcohol beer called “Nanny State” before eventually unleashing “Tactical Nuclear Penguin.”

A warning on the label states: “This is an extremely strong beer; it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whiskey, a Frank Zappa album, or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.”

I would stab a guess that somebody on staff at Bethesda Game Studio is a fan.

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So What’s With The Iran Nuclear Thing?

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Primer: We all have that friend who appears to thrive on delivering bad news. There’s a good chance we might be that person. People love giving bad news. Negative information empowers the messenger. Giving bad news makes us feel important. The only reason why is because people listen. The information impacts people and exploits the recipient’s sense of decency to not respond ambivalently. This is what the news media has become. It tells us on a daily basis that violent crime is up, that terrorist threat levels are rising, that common household items will kill us. Bad news always grabs more attention.

A parade of talk radio personalities and editorialists know this. Once we’ve gotten used to seeing more and more negativity around us, we actually begin to actively seek it out. The more awful it is, the more we want it. This is why a myriad of misinformation has surrounded the arms deal with Iran. The truth is that world is not a vortex of despair, and the nuclear agreement with Iran has been, at least up to this point, successful.

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Saturday afternoon the Associated Press reported that Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, is welcoming the implementation of the nuclear agreement reached with Iran in 2015. Iran has met all of the commitments outlined in the deal. According to his statement, Saturday’s achievement shows that “dialogue and patient diplomacy are the best ways to address worries about weapons proliferation.”

The optimistic view would be that Iran will continue to respect it’s commitments and that this agreement will remain unmolested. The hope is that cooperative dialogue will continue between Iran, the United States, and the five other world powers who negotiated the fifteen-year agreement. There is enhanced possibility for security and stability in a region that has been unstable, unpredictable, and antagonistic towards the west for decades.

Saturday afternoon, President Barak Obama signed an order to lift economic sanctions on Iran. This was done only after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certified that Iran had met its obligations to curb its nuclear program. While this deal concretely deprives Iran of pathways to develop a nuclear arsenal, critics have been loud and steadfast in insisting that this agreement will have the opposite effect.

The administration’s case has been to open dialogue and delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In this, the administration has been successful. After decades of contention and lack of communication between governments, the United States is engaged in active, productive dialogue with the Republic of Iran. As President Obama expressed in his address Saturday, “A strong, confident America should advance our national security by engaging directly with the government of Iran.”

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There are material benefits, as well. Two thirds of Iran’s centrifuges have been removed. More than 98% of Iran’s nuclear stockpile has been shipped outside of it’s borders; it now holds less material needed to manufacture a single nuclear bomb. After decades of expansion, Iran’s material progress towards developing a nuclear arsenal hasn’t just been stopped, it has been reversed.

The most legitimate criticism cites the time-frame of the nuclear agreement; constraints on Tehran’s nuclear program will terminate after fifteen years. With the lifting of sanctions, it is expected that Iran’s economy will expand dramatically. Over $100 Billion dollars in assets that have been frozen overseas will be released back to Iran as a result of President Obama’s executive order. New oil, trade, and financial opportunities will empower Iran significantly over the next fifteen years, and there are fears that Iran will be in a better position to quickly and efficiently develop a nuclear arsenal once the deal expires. By that time, it is also possible that Iran’s economy would be strong enough to withstand reimposed sanctions and that it’s nuclear installations would be better  protected; it is expected that Iran will increase its air defense systems with the help of Russia.

The clock is ticking. But the time-frame is concrete, comprehensible, and provides opportunities for world governments to develop strategies should diplomacy fail. Before the nuclear agreement, the global community had “it’s only a matter of time.” The anxiety generated by the unpredictable nature of Iran’s nuclear program buttressed the resolve of war hawks, and served to reinforce the idea that armed conflict would be the only solution. Nobody knows what Iran will look like in fifteen years, who it’s leaders may be, and what our relationship to their government will be like. In the interim, the United States will be in a better position to negotiate deals with Iran for the future, even after the nuclear deal expires, and maintain peaceful relations.

Misinformation has circulated that Iran will be allowed to select it’s own inspectors, allowing ample opportunity for corruption. These reports surfaced in August of 2015 and were refuted within hours by the IAEA. This did not stop radio hosts and media pundits from repeating this misinformation. This did not prevent a contingent of our political leadership from repeating this misinformation.

There are claims that the agreement protects Iran from punishment for future violations. The truth is that no aspect of the agreement prevents the United States from re-implementing sanctions should inspectors discover that Iran has violated the agreement.

A consensus of polls reflects that an overwhelming majority of American citizens support this deal, despite the near fifty-fifty divide we see on capital hill. When messages are tirelessly repeated on the airwaves, it does not make them any more factual. The call to arms from Netanyahu, Huckabee, Cruz, Kristol, et al, does not represent the attitude of the majority of Americans. These politicians, it would be important to note, were on the wrong side of history leading up to the conflict with Iraq, and there is no reason to believe that their aggressive posturing towards Iran is any more legitimate.

It is surprising that individuals often don’t take the advice they routinely give their children: use your words. Every opportunity should be made to exhaust dialogue and diplomacy with foreign governments before we commit our armed forces to lethal combat. No conflict has ever been as easy as our leadership has tried to pursued us it will be. The costs are always higher. The collateral damage is always greater. The lives lost are always much, much more.

Fallout – Howard Hughes And Mr. House

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The House always wins.

A goodly number of “Fallout” fans play through “New Vegas” without ever noticing the incredibly striking parallels between the Vegas Strip’s monolithic figure – the reclusive pragmatist Robert Edwin House – and the real-world filmmaker and aviation magnate Howard Hughes. Looking at the image above, it’d be a stretch to call it a coincidence. Mr. House’s biography draws heavily on the life and career of Hughes in a wonderful homage to mid-century America.

Let’s take a look at a brief breakdown of their respective biographies.

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Robert House: Born to a wealthy tool magnate. He was orphaned at an early age and was cheated out of his inheritance. Despite this setback, he attended the Commonwealth Institute of Technology (inspired by MIT) and founded RobCo Industries, a robot manufacturing empire that plays a significant role throughout the “Fallout” series. His technical genius and prolific business skills made him a leading figure in aerospace engineering, Vegas Casinos & entertainment, and even reacquired the H&H Tool Company from his half-brother.

Mr. House survives the nuclear apocalypse in a cryogenic chamber of his own design. After two hundred years of preservation, however, he cannot risk leaving his isolation chamber; exposure to outside contaminants would prove deadly. He rules the whole of the New Vegas Strip remotely, using an army of security robots (securitrons) and has brokered treaties with regional tribes, who he has employed to repair and re-open The Strip.

In his corporate portrait (pictured above) we see Mr. House standing in front of one of his greatest robotic achievements, Liberty Prime, a building-sized robot designed to assist American troops in fighting the communist Chinese. Liberty Prime, known to anybody who has played “Fallout 3”, is central to the game’s plot. This portrait is a fun hint at the development and history of Liberty Prime that we don’t see until the follow-up game, “Fallout: New Vegas.”

Howard Hughes: Born to a successful inventor and businessman who founded the Hughes Tool Company in 1909. He demonstrated high aptitude in science and technology at a very young age. In particular, he become interested in engineering, building Houston’s first “wireless” radio transmitter at age 11. He used spare parts from a steam engine to make a motorized bicycle, took his first flying lesson at 14, and attended math & aeronautical engineering courses at Cal-Tech.

Both of Howard Hughes’ parents died when he was a teenager – his mother from complications of an ectopic pregnancy and his father from a heart attack. Hughes took his inheritance and became a Hollywood tycoon in the 1920s before forming the Hughes Aircraft Company. He broke several world air speed records, acquired and expanded Trans World Airlines, and revolutionized commercial air travel.

In later life, he began to evince symptoms of mental illness, including obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is remembered for eccentric behavior, impulsive spending, and an unhealthy obsession with germs. In November of 1966, Hughes traveled to Las Vegas and moved into the Desert Inn. He refused to leave the hotel and decided to purchase it in order to avoid conflict with the owners; he made the ninth-floor penthouse his personal residence. He subsequently purchased The Castaways, New Frontier, The Landmark Hotel and Casino, and The Sands.

He would be isolated for weeks at a time, handled common items with tissues to avoid contamination, and become obsessed with underground nuclear testing at he Nevada Test Site. He severely disapproved of nuclear testing, fearing exposure to radiation. Hughes is reported to have died on April 5, 1976, although no definitive record exists. He had suffered from severe malnutrition, likely the result of his obsession with microbes and infection, and a later autopsy stated kidney failure as the cause of death.

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Wealthy parents, tool companies, aerospace engineering, eccentricity, isolation, and fear of contamination. The script writers at Bethesda Game Studios paid strict attention to detail, straight down to the Howard Hughes initials for the game’s H&H Tool Company. Beyond that, Mr. House has a security robot named Jane; we later discover that Mr. House has an unusual attachment to the automaton. This computer companion is likely a reference to Jane Russell, a starlet who was under contract to Howard Hughes for a brief period of time and was also one of his lovers.

Mr. House also has a peculiar hobby collecting snow-globes. There is a good chance that this is a reference to the snow-globe in the opening scene of Orson Wells’ classic film “Citizen Kane.” While not one of Hughes’ films, it is considered an undeniable classic contemporaneous with Hughes’ own cinematic achievements. Additionally, “Citizen Kane” took it’s inspiration from another business tycoon: William Randolf Hearst.

Certainly, much more could be scribbled down about these two – and believe me, I am deeply fascinated with William Randolf Hearst – but these are the major points. It is this level of creativity, appreciation of history, and flat-out whimsy that makes these games so phenomenally fun, and the franchise so unprecedentedly successful. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for other interesting tidbits during my next play-through.

Cheers.