Archive for August, 2010

On Generation and Corruption (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 307-308)

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

The regrettably, and laughably bad (but entertaining) movie Dracula 2000 gave us two new ideas for vampire movies: the first, according to one of the producers, is that all vampire movies need a little girl on girl action. Which is funny because the movie will subsequently break that rule. The second is how an atheist vampire reacts to the display of the cross. In this case Omar Epps just slaps it away, and I always thought that the presentation was about the faith of the presenter not the nature of the beast.

Wes Craven, whose name is attached to the movie as…i don’t know what his role was, probably producer, gave us an interesting twist on the origin of Dracula and then subsequently all Vampires. In this film, he his not Vlad Tepes/Dracul, originally he is Judas Iscariot the one whom betrayed Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his guilt at turning over his mentor to the authorities he hung himself, but the vindictive Old Testament God wasn’t done yet and cursed him as the sun set to be a vampire. It may not be kosher, but it’s real story and a new one as well.

So we wonder how Meyer will handle this one. Up until now the story really has been resting on the shoulders of an annoying protagonist, possible the most unlikable one since Holden Caulfield.* No Meyer has got some spinning to do, for once it can’t just be about date night between human and vampire or angsty whining and self loathing. Now Meyer has to do something creative and that is describe the origin of these blood sucking creatures.

First off let’s establish that there are other vampires, “The others–the majority of our kind who are quite content with out lot–they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see just because we’ve been…dealt a certain hand…doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to rise above-.”

What I want to point out is the odd phrasing that Edward makes, “dealt a certain hand.” He’s taking the stoic demeanor, which normally is what I have desired in this character. This time it doesn’t make any sense. That phrase usually refers to fate. As in, I’ve been dealt the hand of dashing good looks and now I have to deal with it. However this places the blame in the wrong spot. All of the vampires in Meyer’s world…or any world that possesses vampires, fate didn’t deal anyone that hand. Another vampire did it, unless you put stock in strict predetermination. The Stoic outlook is slightly misplaced here.

So where did it all start?” It’s a good point that Bella oddly makes. Her question hearkens over to one of Aquinas’ Cosmological proofs of God’s existence: the Prime Mover Argument. If Carlisle made Edward, someone had to make Carlisle, etc. It’s a normal chain of causation argument. Whereas Clive Barker gave us one definite point of origin for his vampire, now is the time for Meyer to do so.

Or, if you believe that all this world could have just happened on its own, which is hard for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the same force that created the delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale, could create both our kinds together?”

First off, let’s deal with the obvious anti-big bang theory slip in. This is a betrayal of the Mormon religion of the author. I’m actually impressed with the subtlety she put into it. She has Edward say it dismissively and then move right on to the supernatural explanation. Yet there is something nefarious about what she is doing. It’s important to note that she is having Edward make the comment and then he points out, “which is hard for me to accept myself.” In other words, Dreamy McVampire, can’t believe in the theory so why should the millions of girls that are reading this story and being told that he is admirable won’t either. Religion can literally poison anything,** even an already bad character.

The real issue is that Meyer completely ignores the origin story’s consequences. Most vampires, according to her are human blood drinkers. Only a small minority are like the Cullens, protecting humanity and not preying on them. This means that the creative force behind everything created a parasite like the vampire that has in its nature to drink the blood of the other sentient beings. Truly this force cannot be considered the epitome of good.***

Edward’s analogy also fails as well. Sure the killer whale and the seal both exist, and of course the orca eats the seal. The difference is that in order to propagate its own species the Free Willy doesn’t turn the seal into one of its own. Even viruses don’t do this. What kind of force does Edward think is responsible? Because the entire world of ethics has just been flipped on its head.
*That’s not hyperbole either, I’m not sure which narrator I like the least.

**It’s funny to me that this book is so endorsed by the Mormon religion and so condemned by the fundamentalist right wing who have called for its ban in many school districts.

***Not to get into a religious argument here so I’ll offer this disclaimer: I’m not talking about any religion’s prime deity, only the deity in Meyer’s fictional world.



August 30, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s nothing that takes the fun out of doing anything like knowing that you have to do it. For instance sitting in a chair, notebook and pen beside me, some rather lengthy discourse from a philosopher in hand is something that I enjoy doing. Now, that orientation is over and tomorrow I will have to be doing this for the next couple of years it somehow seems less fun. I want to do it less than I did on Thursday.

My schedule is going to be a bit odd this semester, luckily it is compressed into four classes on two days. The nice thing about Grad school is that normally you only have to go to each class once a week, but that does have it’s drawbacks too. Monday, being the first day of class I saunter in at 11:00am and finish around 6pm. Because the only classes that I could get for the day have a three hour break in between them. The original plan was to go from 11-3, but for some reason they scheduled a legal philosophy class with a professor that was on leave, these things happen I suppose.

On Wednesday I have classes from 3pm-7pm, which is two classes back to back with no break in between. When I say “no break” I don’t mean that figuratively like how most classes go from 3:00-4:50, no this class at three ends at five. The next class begins at five. For one singular instant I will be attending two classes at once. The nice secretaries have assured me that this was a mistake and that there is a ten minute break. The overlap was purely a scheduling typo.

The problem for myself and everyone else who was using the scheduling system is that the typo was fed into the machine. The machine does not see how it is possible for one person to be inhabiting two classes at the same time. It will not allow one person to schedule classes back to back because its program can’t resolve the conflict. I have to have this straightened out by the nice secretaries as well. Any problems and i just bring the negotiator (Gwen) to get what I need.

Speaking of the terror from below, Gwen gets to spend more time with the grandparents as they have generously decided to pick her up from school and entertain her for the several hours that I am going to be occupied. Strangely enough I think she is looking forward to it, although I may miss having the little monster around more than she is going to miss having me around.

As I said earlier this semester is going to be rough. Yet what I need to remember is that i have already done this, these classes aren’t at a higher level than what I took in Toledo and finishing the class work during the next two years is equivalent to having a master’s. My advantage now is that I am much more serious about the work and literally can get a do over in some classes I didn’t pass so well (Advanced Logic). Should be a fun couple of years, hopefully this will go over much better than the last go around.

Categories: personal update

Location Anxiety

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ll be taking a course in a week or so, that has in its description “introduction to Philosophy of Geography.” I am perplexed enough to be curious and since this is a sub-subject (if that’s a word) of a class that I should take anyway, I am going to bite down for this one. The fact that I am not familiar with professor is only encouraging as the only other time that this subject has been broached was in a guest lecture given the first time I was in Grad school, and I hated it. Not the subject but the lecturer, who was more about us being witness to his genius rather than actually trying to teach something (you can do both, I have experience ;-).

Today, I am more encouraged to take the course because of a series of conversations that I have been having with Gwendolyn. The trouble is that I was told the little creatures aren’t supposed to be this inquisitive for another six months but here we are. Anyway, the first scene takes place in a parking lot behind the coffee shop where she is a favored customer and I am her chauffeur.

“I want go outside,” she says, remember we are actually standing next to the car walking toward the coffee shop, i.e. already outside.

“Well Gwen, we are outside.”

“Want go outside?” (this time the tonal inflection at the end indicates this is a question as in “how come we are not going outside?” or “why can’t we go outside?” )

“No, see Gwen, already we are outside. This isn’t like getting more chocolate in your milk, we can’t get further outside.”

“Want outside.” (she’s reverted back to making declarative sentences, in other words she wants to go outside and I’m just not doing it because I’m a jerk or whatever)

“No Gwen, it’s not actually possible for us to go outside, because we are already outside. There isn’t a door we can open and walk out of to get out of the outside, the only thing we can do is go inside. Unless you want to build a rocket ship and go outside of the planet, but even then we would have to go inside the rocket so I don’t think that is what you mean.”

“Outside,” (no she’s giving me the big eyes. The ones that get her free stuff everywhere we go and the reason I advise people to not stare directly at her when she’s asking a question)

“Well we have to go inside right now so I guess you’re just out of luck.”

“Out of luck” she likes to repeat things.

So we are in the coffee shop. After she says hi to her friends and we find a table to sit down she takes three gallon deep chugs of her drink, plays with my wallet, her ‘colors’ (silly bands), and then looks at me, “Want to go coffee shop.”

“You want to leave?”

“No, go coffee shop.”

“We’re already in the coffee shop.”

(she takes both of her hands grabs my cheeks and pulls my forehead to hers) “Coffee shop.”

“Gwen, unless this place opens a coffee shop in the bathroom of their already existing coffee shop again it’s not really possible, although this is Starbucks so that may be possible.”

Nodding, “Coffee Shop.”

My wife, Laura, seems to think that Gwen is not asking to go anywhere but is merely stating what we’ve already done. So when she says, “want to go coffee shop” she means that “we have already gone to the coffee shop.” That may be so, but I think things are much more fun this way. Plus it’s good practice in logical argumentation when you deal with someone that won’t accept reason or evidence as counter proof to their claims much like a Mac user, Creationist, or Marxist…the only difference is that Gwen isn’t even two yet.

Character Creation (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 290-307)

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I remember in the early days of the video game console revolution, when the NES was king with that usurper the Sega Master System approaching from behind, there were the epic length role playing games that came over unsullied from Japan. These games were long, 48 hours worth of story long, not today’s bullshit random item collection hunt to pad out the length of the game (Gears of War). One of the things that always intrigues me about getting them, and then always getting disappointed, was the character customization portion. It promised that you would be creating a character from scratch but in the long run all you really did was pick a name and a job for it. I didn’t understand the limitations on memory and computing power then, but I do now. Books, however have no such limitation even though they hold only about 1mb of data. The writer can literally do anything with their pen/keyboard.*

Good writers learn restraint, so as not to actually do anything they want. Which is why this book completely ruins one of the few decent dialogues between Edward and Bella with this, “She knows things. She sees things–things that might happen, things that are coming. But it’s very subjective. The future isn’t set in stone.”

Alice is the Pythia, this is getting to be too much. Not only do these vampires have no real weaknesses but now they have special powers that extend beyond just the “normal” vampire advantages. This only indicates that Meyer was getting bored so she had to mix the story up a bit by adding mystery into the plot. Now that everyone has superpowers they can each apply them into suspenseful situations that will come up specifically because of their powers. For instance Edward being attracted to the only person for whom he can’t read the mind of, even though his mental powers have contributed nothing to the story thus far.**

Alice, having precognition is going to hamper the story more than it is going to help, because now, everything that happens we have to ask ourselves, ‘why didn’t Alice see it coming?’ Especially because, as Edward explains, that her power is more accurate when dealing with their own kind. So any vampire problems or conflicts she should anticipate, and since she’s supportive of the relationship she is a powerful ally. Of course, in order to maintain any sort of suspense the power will only be brought up when convenient, just like the ship’s counselor on Star Trek: The Next Generation.***

My other problem with Alice’s new powers is that it is so obviously cribbed from Yoda’s description of the same in Empire Strikes Back. “Always emotion the future is,” emotion being purely subjective which is exactly what Edward is saying now. Which of course doesn’t make sense since the future is a set of events, it can’t be subjective.

The whole description is self-contradicting. If she can see what is coming then she is seeing the future, which means that it is set in stone, if it were to come true. If it doesn’t come true because we have the ability to master fate, then her power is useless. In either case subjectivity is not possible, if it’s up to interpretation she’s no better than a Roman soothsayer or Sylvia Browne–accurate only based on what people want to hear.

The worst thing is how they squander their talents. Edward could be a world class Chess player provided he never plays computers, and Alice could run a psychic network or a gambling house, but instead they are in a little town playing high school. The other Cullens must have powers too right? Well they do and I’ll summarize in list form, skipping Alice and Edward: Dr. Carlisle: compassion, Esme: Passion, Rosalie: Stubborness, Emmet: Strength, and Jasper: Can implant emotions in people.

Carlisle has a theory…he believes that we all bring something of our strongest traits with us into the next life where they are intensified–like our minds and our senses.”

Carlisle’s theory makes a good deal of sense. Since everything else is heightened in vampirism their strength, speed, hearing, etc. why not add to that? Of course his theory is only good at explaining the ridiculous. Some of the Cullens have legitimate powers Alice, Edward, and Jasper; but their powers aren’t explained by Carlisle’s theory. Alice it seems must have been a little psychic before becoming a Vampire and is now full blown. That’s like explaining why gravity works by dropping something…we know things fall, we need to know why they do. Alice was already psychic that’s why she’s psychic now? It’s not an explanation it’s just a rephrasing of the question.

Jasper’s ability makes a bit more sense, Edward explains that he must have been charismatic as a human which explains his ability to inspire crowds or individuals. I’ll buy that, but how charismatic could he have been at 16 during the Great Depression? Or Edward, his telepathy can’t be explained by normal human ability. He was good at paying attention to people’s reactions? Or is he telepathic because he was slightly telepathic as a human. I’m just looking for consistency here, not realism, although I’m finding neither.

The others’ powers aren’t really powers though. How is Carlisle “super-compassionate?” Aside from his ability to stalk Chicago high schools looking for teenage boys to sink his teeth into I’m not understanding what Meyer means. Same with Esme, and her ability to “love passionately.” What does that mean? Is her passion just limited to love, or if she gets angry she’s Hulk-like?

Rosalie gets it the worst though, being stubborn isn’t a super power. Unless she becomes a literal immovable object she has no advantage over me when it comes to fixing my mind. Ooooh, she won’t bend her will-how unlike a two year old. Emmet, yeah super strength is a good thing, but then don’t all vampires have that? Or is he strong beyond them?

The best thing about the list is that you can see from it who is going to be of future use in the story. The ones with useful powers are going to be protagonists and the ones that are useless are either non-entities or antagonists. I’m guessing that Rosalie was against the relationship as was Emmet. That family has a bit of dysfunction in it, because what Jasper wants I’m sure he just implants. Unless the deus ex machina of the author comes down and limits that power to humans. Of course he could probably get a good job working political rallies, but then again all of these abilities are indications that one thing vampirism didn’t give them was super-intelligence.
*I put this to the test when I was just of grad school, by attempting to write the most implausible science fiction story ever. I threw in every cliche I could think of from zombies to cyborgs (and even the hybrid “zomborg”), to AI cities and Vampire/Angel wars. The trouble that I had was that the story was getting out of hand for me, I found myself writing ten page back stories for certain characters attempting to explain their powers and where they came from. I actually have a fifty page back story that explains one character which takes place 10,000 years before the main work. The trouble is that each cliche reminds the reader that they are reading a story.

**If you think about it, even his finding of Bella in Port Angeles was based on a guess. There is no way that Bella’s possible attackers could have known who they were stalking, therefore Edward couldn’t have known even by reading their thoughts. The only thing he did know is what they were possibly going to do.

***Seriously, what kind of contribution did she ever have aside from stating the obvious? “I feel anger,” she remarks to the Captain as the enemy ship has just cut off communications and powered up their weapons.


August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I realize a couple of things among the stuff that I read. The first is that among the non-fiction books I have an addiction to reading the notes that go along with the work, especially if it is a translation which is funny because I speak no foreign languages and wouldn’t know the subtleties of moving something from Greek to English without many more years of school. I just can’t help it reading them though.

I despise end notes, whether they are at the end of the chapter or the end of the book is inconsequential because it still involves me having to flip from the line I’m reading over to another section in order to find the corresponding note. It’s disruptive and a lot more time consuming than just glancing down at the bottom of the page without having to avert my head in any manner. I always prefer to use footnotes when I am writing, never end notes.

All of that being said I’m getting quite angry at footnotes while I am reading Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Granted there were a couple of things I could have done to avoid this, the first being most obvious: not read them. I explained before though that this is a little addiction of mine and unlike most of my other addictions this one only hurts myself. The problem is that the footnotes are spoiling the story.

I should note that as a matter of my personal knowledge I do know how this war turns out. It’s not the general result that I am most interested in but the small matters. It’s becoming more and more about the role of fortune in this war as Thucydides remarks too often about how the unforeseen chance plays the greatest role in determining the fates of man (he was against using supernatural explanations, which makes me often think about what the people at the time were thinking especially with the plague). That role of fortune: we’re possibly talking about a dissertation topic here so a book that I decided on a whim to read might just pay off.

The civil war following the Median (Persian conflict) is made up of numerous internal squabbles between the Athenians and their allies/subjects as well as the Spartans and their allies. That’s where the real tension in the story lies, I don’t know who wins these things, who the players are, and how they eventually panned out. It is in these things that repeatedly Donald Lateiner, who introduced the book and noted it for the Barnes and Noble Classics,* that is really starting to piss me off.

I mean that literally too, it’s pissing me off. I was angry enough today when I found out that Cleon was going to lose the argument he was making that I shut the book and left the place i was reading it. The Lesbians (from Lesbos) revolted from the Athenian empire, their capital city of Mytilene was central to the revolt as it tried to go over to the Spartans. As it turns out the Athenians win bringing the city of Mytilene under heel, but now what to do with those dastardly Lesbians?

One thought was to execute every male member of the city of Mytilene and enslave the women and children. A punishment, I am told, is common fare for cities/states that revolt from their alliances. The issue is that the revolt was suppressed not only with the military force of the Athenians but also by the Lesbians themselves. The Lesbian aristocracy were the ones leading the revolt and once they armed the commoners, the commoners wanted to negotiate their position.

With this in consideration the argument was how to punish them. Our footnote let me know that Cleon was going to lose, but it did so prior to him making his argument for his side and he was the first speaker. This also happened at the siege of Salamis where I was privy to the knowledge of an escape attempt before I knew there was an incarceration.

Maybe the whole book should be a footnote with the end result of the war as the main text…I should have read the Thomas Hobbes translation.

*Aka: stuff with expired copyrights that don’t need royalty payments but can still cost 11.95 unless you want to read off your laptop screen.

Categories: book reviews, history, reviews

One more on the New York City Mosque

August 18, 2010 2 comments

” I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.

The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.

The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.”–President George W. Bush address to Congress September 20, 2001.

It’s almost like he’s saying that he understands that the people who committed the terrorist attack nine days earlier didn’t do so because they were Muslims but because they were radical extremists.

This excerpt also seems to imply that the freedom of a person to practice Islam would be respected in this country and not demonized hence the phrase “We respect your faith.”

Very strange to me that a Republican Conservative Christian President would be making such claims and an appeal to what is Constitutionally protected while that very party that he belongs to is claiming that doing so would be an affront to American values.

Categories: current events, politics

2014 Class

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

So this list has finally come out.

It’s weird to think of most of these things being normal for them but actually abnormal for most of the population. I remember teaching some students in the run up to the last presidential election and a good majority of them had never been alive when the United States’ president wasn’t named “Bush” or “Clinton.” The funny thing is that when I was teaching it was a good possibility at the time that this was still going to be the case with Hillary.

Of course some of the entries on the list just seem capricious. Item number 62 indicating that there have always been hundreds of channels but nothing to watch is only an extension of my generations “dozens of channels” but nothing to watch. The really odd one has to do with Ice-T because it really missed the mark. They remark about how “Cop-Killer” (#24) has never been available on recording, they should have mentioned that Ice-T has always been an actor in police television shows, the irony there being more remarkable than one of his controversial songs at a time when the entire genre of gangsta rap was controversial.

The other rap oriented one regarding how Snoop Dogg has always been rapping is strange to me. Because I have been alive for his entire career and not only is he still rapping, but he’s always been rapping with the occasional movie role. What else am I supposed to be remembering about him? His murder trial, well he was rapping when that was going on as well.

#74 is obsolete stating that “they’ve always been able to blast off with the Sci-Fi channel.” That no longer exists as it’s called “Sy-Fy” in an effort by the station’s management to divorce it from the Science Fiction aspect that most people associated when the station was called “Sci-Fi” (seriously*).

What interests me more than a group of high school kids now entering college are the future mind sets of people like Gwendolyn, or my new cousin Michael. In 16-18 years there is going to be an astronomical gap in their experiences versus mine.

For instance if Gwen is on a bad date, she won’t have to suffer through it any more than she will a bad television show since her phone is going to have access to all sorts of entertainment. Sure that will make her a jerk, but a more entertained jerk. When I used to date, a boring conversation was something you ground yourself through, it focused your ability to make something out of nothing, these kids nowadays won’t have to do that. That’s probably a bad thing though.

Speaking of phones, kids her age will never have to carry around quarters, pocket sized phone books, or write down a number on their hands. All of that will fit in their pocket on the very device that they will have needed the above three for to begin with. I know this is a bit detrimental, as in high school and the first couple years of college I could remember about twenty phone numbers with only a second’s thought, now I feel lucky if I can remember five…yeah, five.

Although when asked what she wants to do, Gwen will sometimes say “libwawy” [library] she won’t ever need to go. With the advent of Google Books, electronic readers, and the internet she could go to the library but that will be mostly because her dad wants to drag her there for free CDs. While in this economy libraries are receiving a great deal of new interest, some of them are starting to convert over to electronic texts which will not need a visit to an actual building. Although how you limit someone’s time using them will be interesting to see, anyone remember DivX? By that time though, CDs are likely to be a thing of the past as well, given that media companies are realizing that removable media wastes valuable money that they could be raking in not allowing you to share copies of things.

She won’t know a lack of cruise control or GPS. Battery power will be as important to her as gas is in a fuel tank. They are already talking about ways to get around “charge anxiety” in electric cars, but I’m talking more about electronic notebooks, books, and pens. The element Li (Lithium) while be a prized commodity as she will encounter that more than she will Fe (iron).

Going four years from now seems like a light move. Gwen will never know a time when the Simpsons wasn’t in reruns also I will remember a time when she was younger than Maggie…she, of course, won’t. Rap will always have had it’s own Grammy award, and at one time or another a movie starring Gene Hackman or Michael Caine will always be on is no longer a hypothesis but a proven fact. Which according to a thin majority of Americans makes a bullshit thesis from the movie PCU more scientifically accurate than Evolution. 

*“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular…We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi.”- Tim Brooks, founder of Sci-Fi