Archive for January, 2011

What Has Passed is Prologue (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 451-457)

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

In order to accurately go through this section we have to go waaaay back to my second post in the series. I mentioned then, that beginning any story with a phrase about dying is difficult to do. Because while it sets the tone of the story it also ruins the fact that the character is going to survive until we come back to that point. Well here we are, the point in the story that syncs up with where we began almost a year ago. Bella is laying semi-conscious on the floor of the dance studio, where she begins her tale saying, “I’d never given much thought as to how I would die–”

James has left, Bella is drifting out remarking, “And then I knew I was dead.”

Well the thing is she isn’t. We know she isn’t and she knows she isn’t because she’s still having thoughts about her mortal life. As an atheist I don’t pretend to understand what happens to a person when they die. People who know me don’t usually ask me either so I haven’t really given it much more thought than I had when I was a teenager. The best explanation I ever heard or read comes from Plato who, through the mouth of Socrates, explains that you either go to the afterlife where you get to meet all of the dead people that you have known or wanted to know or it’s like a deep dreamless sleep. Bella’s worldview is probably more of the former given the writer’s religious leanings, but in either case she isn’t dead. She’s drifting in and out. Then the angel appears.

The identity of the angel is obvious. It’s so obvious because we have been beaten over the head with it throughout the entire book. At some point I would imagine that even the most star struck readers of this book must be rolling their eyes thinking, “we get it Edward is perfect.”

“Carlisle!’ the angel called, agony in his perfect voice.” So it sounds like the entire Cullen family has finally arrived. Carlisle, who is a doctor, obviously is going to tend to Bella’s injuries. It’s noted by him that she has a broken leg, the cut on her face is nothing serious, and probably some broken ribs. These are all from the beating that James gave her in the dance hall. What I wonder is how much blood is in the room, and how the vampires can stand it. I know that these are special vampires that can resist the blood lust, but a funny scene (that we are not going to get) might be one of the them licking their fingers or their hands. A more realistic scene might be the trepidation or the anxiety over actually having to touch the blood on her face as they are bandaging the wound. The doctor is probably used to it, but the others probably don’t have the experience.

‘She’s here, she knew where to find you

Really? Alice knew where to find her. How did she do that? By looking into the present. Like the prologue Alice is a tricky part to write and only a very clever person is going to figure out a way to have Bella outwit the future, other than merely walking out of the airport. Then again we don’t know enough about Alice, maybe she saw the whole thing and wove her threads so that went exactly as it did. She let Bella escape and let her confront James. Bella couldn’t have been unconscious to the world for very long so Alice’s timing seems to revolve around when Edward and Carlisle landed. Hopefully they didn’t have to wait too long before their luggage was unloaded. In the end of it all, Alice knew Bella would be ok…right? The thing is that for the whole expanse of this book I have only liked one character, and that was Mike. He was just a pitiable guy shafted by a girl who wanted better. Alice is the next one, but I only want to like her, so I’m probably cutting her more slack than I would if it was just Jasper in the airport.

Back to Bella though, she’s on the ground and Carlisle notices that she has been bitten, by James we assume or perhaps some large rat wandered into the Studio. As Bella thrashes about she begins screaming that her hand is on fire. We know from Alice that the way a person becomes a vampire is through being bitten by one, there is a toxin in the Vampire’s saliva that changes the human into the undead. That’s why Bella’s hand is burning, it’s been infected.

Carlisle looks to Edward, “See if you can suck the venom back out. The wound is fairly clean.”

Edward hesitates and then hems and haws. Finally doing so. Why? Because Carlisle isn’t a very good doctor that’s why. This type of advice appears to be sound, in fact at some point we were probably taught that this is what you do if you are bitten by a snake, BUT YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTELY NOT DO IT. Carlisle should know this, and he should know that Bella is screwed unless there is some sort of anti-venom she can take. First off, sucking the venom out is bad because the sucker is now poisoned. In this case we can assume that vampires are immune to the vampire-making toxin. Secondly, the blood stream isn’t like a series of straws. You cant just rewind the circulatory system by pulling in the other direction. And thirdly, how long was Bella out? A couple of seconds or an hour? Even after a couple of minutes a snake’s venom is dangerous when the bite is untreated, and Bella wasn’t doing anything. We can assume that she was unconscious for more than a few seconds because she never realized that she was being bitten.

The heart pumps the blood at a good rate so that venom from her finger tip should be long gone by now. Edward’s sucking it shouldn’t work at all, even worse as he sucks the counter motion in his mouth could actually put more of the venom back in her! Carlisle and Edward are realistically making this situation much worse than it was. Bella ought to be done for, but then Edward finishes, “Her blood tastes clean,’ Edward said quietly, ‘I can taste the morphine.

I don’t know where the morphine came from or why it’s in Bella’s bloodstream. The more important question is to ask why Edward knows what Morphine tastes like. I wonder how long has he been chasing the dragon?

Everyone’s Doing It

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

As I much as I disdain some people’s insistence that the spectre of Socialism is haunting the United States and that is only with the vigilance of a few people that this country isn’t stomped down whilst the red flag is raised over the capital there are many other things that I would like to see eliminated from the national political discourse. While I am sure that this post will provoke comments from both the left and the right in my readership I want to be clear: this isn’t a partisan attack. Believe it or not I share sympathies with both sides on certain political issues. While it may seem that most of my political and current events postings have more allegiance with the left I can offer this explanation: they simply have louder voices and also seem to be more frequently attributing conspiracy to what can easily be explained by ignorance. Here are a couple of ideas that if everyone followed them we can probably make the current dialogue more civil.

How about this idea? Let’s eliminate the word “Nazi” from the political discourse. Both sides do it, have done it, and will probably continue to do it. This isn’t 1930 and this is not Germany. Likening any president to Hitler, and his followers to the Nazis, doesn’t help anything because the accusers seem to think that their argument ends there. While the accused know that it is too ridiculous to actually address. This of course doesn’t stop one group from doing the same thing when their side loses power. We can simply look at the Democrats/Liberals from the mid 2000s who accused Bush and his people of being Nazis during the 2004 Presidential election who know think that it is unseemly that the Republicans/Conservatives would do the same to them. No side is willing to take the moral high ground on this because for some reason this rhetoric actually works.

Second idea: It’s not the guns that are at fault for the Arizona shooting (that’s for the left) and no one is trying to take them from you (that’s for the right). In the case of Arizona, as well as the case at Virginia Tech, the solution is very simple: we should not let people with severe mental disorders own weapons. The alleged Arizona shooter without an 18 round clip would have just purchased another gun, which would have given him about 24 rounds with which to open up with before needing to reload. The problem isn’t the availability (which IS NOT changing) but rather that he was the type of person to desire their use in his delusional confrontation with Senator Gifford. Now, there are a couple of law makers out there who are talking about instituting a ban on large capacity magazines, but that isn’t a new thing. In fact, throughout the entirety of the Bush presidency assault weapons and extended magazines were banned, they were banned under Clinton (although I don’t remember the exact year–1996?) and that ban expired. So if the House and Senate pass a bill which then the President signs: it’s not because the Socialists are coming for your weapons. One might even go so far as to say that there is no Socialist Agenda in the Legislative and Executive Branches of government.

Third Idea and this might be news to people who appear frequently on camera: if you host or have a regular guest appearance on a television show, you aren’t being censored. I may direct this one more to Governor Sarah Palin than anyone else as she is now playing the part of persecuted martyr, but it is ridiculous that anyone can claim this on their own television show. The very fact that you have a television show is proof that no one is censoring you. The short lived Liberal Radio Station Air America used to try and say the same thing, but they neglected to understand that no one wanted to listen to them. Jeane Garofolo isn’t funny or poignant, and she was the best they had.

Fourth, and this is for the Senate: how about this for a new rule, if someone is going to filibuster a bill–make him actually filibuster the damn bill! This drove me nuts during the Healthcare Debate (sigh, part 1 of the debate) as the Democrats constantly said that they couldn’t pass the original bill because the GOP was fillibustering it. Which they weren’t, they were threatening to do so. As I understand it, the filibuster is based around the Senate’s rules of order which require 60 votes in order to force someone to yield the floor and move to a vote. Without that 60, the Senate has to wait until the person speaking is finished this means that in order to filibuster all a senator had to do was just keep talking and talking and talking. The claim that the GOP has filibustered the appointment positions of some bills, cabinet members, and judicial appointees is complete bullshit. They merely threatened to do so, but because the entire Senate doesn’t actually want to go through with anything that would offend someone else they capitulate to the threat. The GOP made the same claim after the 2006 election, but again no one actually did the standing and talking. Let’s see how many members of any party use the threat when the rules compel a calling of the bluff?

Fifth, and finally: maybe everyone in politics and the media should remember that this is the information age and if you say something on recording it can easily be looked up. So when Pelosi used to cry about the GOP filibustering a bill and how that was unconstiutional she ought to have remembered advocating just that same action when Bush was president and she was speaker. Or when Fox News morning anchor claims on camera that no news personalities on Fox use the Nazi comparison it can easily be shown how many times that has happened. This probably won’t help the discourse but it might make people shut their yaps when they consider the fact that what they say today belongs to the internet tomorrow. Then again that will probably help some.

Categories: daily complaint, politics

Nice Move (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 442-451)

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Bella has escaped the airport through the daring and creative move of walking out the door and hopping in a shuttle and then a cab. I’ve said numerous times that she is neither possesses the intelligence or the ingenuity that she would like us to believe, but despite that her plan worked. At her mom’s house she does as James asked her dialing the number on the phone. Again James answers with a playful voice that is befitting someone who is outsmarting someone that is completely below his level. I wonder if Moriarty had this voice when he was taunting any opponent other than Sherlock Holmes…then again probably not. Moriarty was too smart to actually make contact with his other victims.

Unless you didn’t come alone, of course.’ Light, amused.” First off there is no way that he can know whether or not Bella is alone. The only reasonable motive for her to actually be alone is fear of James and his mother. Secondly what is with that second sentence? It’s clearly not a sentence since it contains only two adjectives, I’ve been seeing this more and more in fiction which leads me to believe that this is either being taught somewhere or some extremely popular writer used it a decade ago. The placement of the comma is even more confounding because at this point why should the writer even pretend to be using the rules of grammar?

Bella is instructed to leave her mother’s house and go to the dance studio around the corner. This seems unnecessary. If she’s already alone why make her do something else to attract attention? Maybe I should cut James some slack as he could just be exercising caution, let’s go with that as it actually makes some sense. If Bella showed up with the Cullens in tow he might not notice it right away, but making her go to another location in the sun would certainly indicate the presence of the other undead. She opens the Dance studio door which has a sign indicating that the place is closed for Spring Break. Yeah, sure whatever. A private studio wouldn’t close for Spring Break, it has no reason to, in fact it might stay open as its customers wouldn’t have school to interrupt their lessons there.

Bella? Bella? That same tone of hysterical panic.” Bella hears her mother’s voice, but the “as” is misplaced if she’s not going to tell us what it refers to. The tone she heard on the phone earlier? The general tone she uses because she has mental issues? We don’t know, but then we find out.

Bella looks around for her mother and instead sees a television playing a tape from a vacation they took several years ago. It would seem that James has pulled a ruse. A well done ruse I might add. Apparently I need to backtrack a little bit in my entries because James really did a good thing here. Everything that I have said previously about James and the hostage situation and how dumb it was has to be retracted, he never had a hostage. So while Alice and Jasper were keeping vigil (although not as vigilant as they ought to have) over Bella’s mother’s house it was all for naught. They would never have seen anything because Alice’s vision of him going through the tapes was completely accurate. They just thought it was more than it was, such must be the trouble with being able to see the future.

The only thing wrong that James did, although it worked out for him, was assume that his opponents were completely stupid. It wasn’t wrong in this case, because they are, but he assumed that Bella would do exactly as he asked with no backup plan. He’s either really new at this or really old at this. The former because it’s quite a risk, the latter because he could just really understand his prey. “Sorry about that Bella, but isn’t it better that your mother didn’t really have to be involved in all this?”

Ah the polite villain. While I can’t actually back this up with evidence I do wonder if this has its origin in “The Final Problem” where Holmes and Moriarty meet having a relatively polite conversation. Now it’s such a trope that we are almost shocked when our villains act like villains. Another trope Meyer exploits here is the idea that the villain must explain his actions to the protagonist. Instead of just killing Bella he has to go into a monologue about how beneath him she is, how the Cullens were so easily duped, and how the two of them are now meeting in the studio.

The biggest problem with this is that by not knowing how everything worked out James seems that much more impressive. When he explains what happened it makes his plan seem less and less impressive because those he was outwitting acted really oblivious. Here’s what we can piece together: James headed North behind Edward and Carlisle. Victoria stayed behind where Esme tracked her around Charlie’s house. So far the Cullens have their ridiculous plan working. Then Victoria gives up on Charlie and somehow finds out more information on Bella which she then communicates to James. James just stops heading North and flies directly to Phoenix. We should note that Phoenix had always been the destination of Bella, Alice, and Jasper. When James disappeared, no one thought to either follow him or head to Phoenix, where I should note they were going to head eventually anyway. Not one of the super-awesome Cullens ever thought to watch Bella’s mother’s house or at least inquire as to her location. Edward couldn’t read James’s mind to determine anything. If, Bella is killed then the Cullens are as responsible as she is. This is the most incompetent group of guards to work outside of the James Bond universe.

It also gets a little eye-rollingly coincidental as James explains that the only time he had ever been outsmarted is when he went after a young woman under the care of an older vampire in an insane asylum. He remarks that the woman would have been burned as a witch a hundred years prior for her visions, but not was being subjected to electroshock. This woman is, of course, Alice. Again this is just like how Leia’s ship gets attacked over Tatooine in Episode IV. Of all the forests in all of the world, James had to walk into Forks. This also means, that the explanation of the psychic powers of the vampires is bullshit because Alice had her visions before being a vampire. The established story thus far is now unravelling.

This also means that Alice, not Bella, was the original target of James.

The beating begins. James attacks Bella, throwing her against the mirrors in the story and hurting her in several ways before she passes out. It makes no sense for him to do this other than to enrage the Cullens, but just biting her as was his intention should have done this as well. The needless sadism of the scene lends us to believe that James is more of the psychotic type of villain than his previous politeness would have indicated. Bella is unconscious, beaten, and bitten (we assume) by James. Left to die with a nice recording of it on the video camera. We assume he wants revenge but we don’t know why. If he’s doing all of this for the sport of the thing then why leave the tape? New mysteries abound but none of them are exactly interesting, they just simply are.

The Hitler Paradox

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

I have two possible paragraphs (although this paragraph actually means that there are three) for an introduction to a time traveling problem that I can pose: the first is to explain that I came up with it during a rather trite time killing exercise in class wherein we had to list the five best things that ever happened and the five worst things that ever happened. The worst things were typical cliche answers that people give in order to sound like they care about the great issues that have faced humanity in its history. All of which have an easy objection. For instance a good number of the people said “nuclear weapons” or “the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima” or something to that effect. Easily objected to because the development of nuclear weapons gave us great advancements in science but more importantly ended the Pacific War, ended the Korean War (at least the threat of using them did), and prevented the US and its allied from getting into WWIII with the USSR and its allies. Nuclear Weapons prevented more deaths than they have taken. More popular than that answer were answers based around Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. Essentially these answers were all based around Hitler as if WWII happened in a vacuum. My answer that held tentatively around this was the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand (although even then there are subtle things that could have prevented it: like if he was a little more of an asshole and didn’t concern himself with the health of his guards on the initial attempt he would still be alive); after all that caused the first world war which led to the second.

The second possible paragraph to introduce the actual topic of this post was to talk about civility in politics and how maybe we should just stop calling people that aren’t Nazis “Nazis.” Congressman Cohen, you aren’t helping and Jon Stewart had a good point skewering the Democrat last night, that if he thinks the Republicans are lying then just call them “liars.” Yet the topic has been done so to death, that the horse they are beating is already glue. And it’s not like anyone actually means it. Cohen changed his stripes in a week, Governor Palin went from rightful indignation at being accused of being responsible for the shootings to calling the shooter a “leftist;” but I guess everything is going to be fine once they sit together at the State of the Union address.

I decided to not make either of those ideas my real introductory paragraphs. Before anyone points out that, yes, I just did exactly that, I will stress that if they were the actual opening they would be much longer.

I’m just going to dive right into it. Some times, on occasion, a person will pose a hypothetical question about what they would do with a time machine. Often times they ask you, and then nod until they can give their answer. If posed to a group someone will answer, “I would kill Hitler.” This comes up so often that I become confused at the smug look on their face. Am I supposed to be impressed with that answer? It’s not original, and it’s not the self-sacrificial act that the person saying it thinks that it is. Killing Hitler is so trite that in the worst time travel movie (that is to say a movie about time traveling) of all time: Time Cop, the people in charge of the time machine even mention that it’s not a good idea although their reasoning was along the lines of “we just don’t know if he was supposed to be there.”

Here’s the paradox about answering that you would kill Hitler. It’s completely immoral and if it’s not it is useless. Here’s why, we know that Hitler became a genocidal megalomaniac. At the time he was alive only very little of his life was lived as that. If you kill him as a child, congratulations you are a child murderer. If you kill him before he was leader of Germany you are guilty of murdering a man who didn’t get into art school. A non-drinking vegetarian who couldn’t get into the popular art style of the time. If you murder him after his election as chancellor, you basically make him a martyr for his beliefs and someone just like him takes the reigns and if you kill him after he becomes the Fuhrer it’s already too late to have a real effect on the course of history.

The problem is that by murdering the man who would become the Hitler we all like to compare US presidents to, you are effectively eliminating all of the justification that you have for killing him. So murdering him younger then, say 1928, means you have no reason to murder him. Just explain to the person answering the question in that manner, that they essentially want a time machine so that they could just go back and murder someone in the past. See if that wipes the smug look off their face.

You are actually better off using that time machine to bribe an official at the Vienna school into letting him in for a year or two.

Categories: philosophy

The Troubling Future (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 431-442)

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Note to faithful readers: due to my school schedule I shall be moving the updates BACK to Mondays.

Last week I ended with the hope that the good vampires are aware of Bella’s plan to ditch them at the airport. Bella has to do so because James demanded that or else her mother, his hostage, will be hurt. The interesting thing about that fact is that Alice cannot see either James’s plan or Bella’s. Odd. Even more odd is that Bella is more worried about Jasper, which leads me to doubt what exactly his power is. We know that he calms people down with some sort of empathic dominance but Bella is worried that he will be able to sense her emotions. Maybe he can, maybe he can’t, it’s a pretty fuzzy notion so far.

When Bella leaves the bedroom of the motel she sees Alice sitting at the desk gripping it with both hands. “Alice?” She didn’t react when I caller her name, but her head was slowly rocking from side to side…”

Descriptions of how someone sees the future are curiously lacking in classic literature. Herodotus, in his Histories, never gives us a description only the mysterious foretellings of the Delphic and Pythian Oracles. Because of their mysterious utterings we can assume it is a trance like state, and Meyer continues on this trend. Alice is seeing the future, now typically she goes into a wide-eyed state where she speaks to the room but this time she isn’t doing so. Leading me to believe that she is seeing the encounter that Bella will have with James. Then Alice speaks, “Bella,’ she said.”

Alice isn’t talking to Bella, but merely saying her name. Whereupon she turns to Jasper and buries her head into his chest. This is evocative of concern, although we have to guess at that because Meyer doesn’t give us any description of her voice, only her actions. Can we fault our author for this? Long answer no, short answer yes. I’ll explain the long answer.

The thing about using a prophetic character in a story is that it often times has the effect of ruining the story. We know that Alice’s abilities are accurate to some degree. So far, Meyer has gotten around this by making Alice’s visions come either too late (as in the case of meeting James in the woods) or are intentionally vague and mysterious (like the room at Bella’s mother’s house). In both cases we find out that Alice is right. The trouble here is that Meyer has to write around Alice’s vision while handing the reader an answer to the obvious question of how Bella is going to outwit her. The only way she can do so is by not telling us what it is that Alice sees. It’s a valiant attempt but it is also a cheap one.

Herodotus gets around the whole thing by making the visions completely ambiguous even when it refers to a historical fact. When King Croesus goes to the Delphic Oracle to ask who will win the war between himself and Darius the Great of the Persians the answer is, “the winner of the battle will destroy a great kingdom.” It’s clever because while it is established that Darius had won the battle by the time Herodotus finishes his book it answers the question of why Croesus went to war if the Oracle had informed him of the result. The prediction was thus misinterpreted by Croesus whose kingdom was destroyed preserving both the accuracy of the prediction, the historical event surrounding it, and the suspense in a first time reader.

Here Meyer could have done better. Maybe Alice doesn’t see Bella and James together but maybe some sort of danger. Anything, because it doesn’t make sense if Alice cares about Bella that she wouldn’t warn her of whatever her vision is that has Alice so rattled. Bella, though sees that Alice is having a vision and maybe has divined her plan. She does the reasonable thing: panders to her guilty conscience asking Alice, “How does it work?”

Oh good, some explication. Thought to Meyer’s credit there haven’t been too many of these, unlike those horrid Left Behind novels, but the answer is worth quoting in full, “Yes, things change…Some things are more certain than others…like the weather. People are harder. I only see the course they’re on while they’re on it. Once they change their minds–make a new decision, no matter how small–the whole future shifts.”

The first part of that quote is fine. Things like the weather obey laws, meteorological laws that aren’t about choice. Here Alice’s abilities would be more like someone who detect the small details that indicate a shift in condition that the weather would change under, like subtle spikes in humidity or pressure. The second part is what doesn’t make any sense and I would go so far as to say that it is wholly incorrect.

A person’s actions do not take place in a vacuum. It’s not like I make a decision that is completely independent of any other decision that I have made in my life prior. What we do today is representative of the amalgamation of our lives up to this point. My decision to begin this blog is representative of a couple of things from my past: my previous and current other blogs, my desire to write, my preference for series in blogs, my fascination with popular culture, the existence of my daughter for whom teen fiction may be something that she desires to read, etc. Deciding to write this was not an individual decision made on the day I first began it about a year ago.

It’s important to note because if Alice could have seen me two years ago she would have been able to see my writing this even though at that time this was not something I could have conceived. Yet, I was on that path. The path that will take me wherever I end up in ten years, is the path that I am on now. No matter what decisions I make or if I suddenly change my mind. The trouble for Alice’s description is that a person could only change their mind and throw off her prediction if they knew the future and the decisions leading up to it. If Bella knew the result of her encounter with James and then changed her mind about meeting him, that would be close to what Alice was is talking about. Close, but not close enough, because even then the future doesn’t change. It is written as it is written. Bella cannot outsmart fate. The trouble is that even if we accept all of the problems with Alice’s description it doesn’t do anything to help Bella, she hasn’t changed her mind.

At the airport Alice is acting strange but Bella waves this off, “she must be attributing the change in her vision to some maneuver of the Tracker rather than a betrayal by me.

Repeating from last week, Bella is an idiot. She is doing this whole charade because James asked her to do so. She’s not betraying Alice, just keeping a really dumb secret. The whole scene in the airport is rather trite. She escapes by entering into a two story bathroom, then hops in a shuttle and then a cab arriving at her mother’s house. It’s quite unlike the daring escape that she would need to perform to outwit a psychic and an empath, whose powers mysteriously disappear. Which again, from last week, I hope they are just pretending if only for the sake of the plot making sense.

The Optional Re-Write

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Back in December I had a one on one interview with a professor to discuss my final paper in the class. It wasn’t anything special, he required these in lieu of a presentation in the class. I didn’t like this requirement because without sounding too boastful I completely rock at giving presentations. Yet, a face-to-face interview is still nice because I’m a much better speaker than I am a writer. As long as the paper was adequate I could better explain the concepts in it orally rather than through the writing itself. I’m not sure what the difference actually is in my head, perhaps it’s the immediacy of the conversation and the opportunity to correct myself on the spot rather than having a written paper which is complete and final.

I walked into the professor’s office, which was completely Spartan by any definition of the word, and after introducing myself again to him he remarked that he didn’t like my paper. I didn’t blink at the comment, because it didn’t matter whether he liked it. Academics are about what you can prove not about what a person likes. If, for instance, a person wrote a paper I hated (which happened more than I would have liked–basically any pro-Marx paper I received) they could get a good grade if their argument was good. I knew the professor wasn’t that into American Pragmatism and my paper concentrated on John Dewey with respect to Martin Heidegger. He could not like it, but it could still be appreciated.

The problem was that the reason he didn’t like it was exactly for the reason that I feared the most: I had made a mistake. Heidegger has these concepts of ready-to-hand and present-at-hand. Because he’s German he likes to hyphen, don’t ask me why but I’ll bet it has something to do with the German language which I don’t speak. In basic definitions present-at-hand is the theory of an object. If you need to pound something you think of the idea of an object for which to pound and that object is a hammer. Present-at-hand is the idea of a hammer and its possible function. In this respect as well, it is any object that could possibly be used to pound things. The second, the ready-to-hand, is the object as you are using it. We tend not to think of the objects that we use while we are using them. To do so would severely impede our abilities to perform actions. My typing is me using the keyboard without thinking of the keyboard or the location of my fingers. If I did so, my typing would completely slow down reverting possibly to the hunt and peck method of writing. Even now, in writing these sentences I am having trouble not thinking of my fingers while typing. More to the point is walking. One of the most difficult problems in robotics is getting a robot to do everyday tasks that we perform without thinking of them. Walking was the first hurdle, which is why that 1950s looking Toyota robot (from the late 90s early 00s) moved so slow, it needed to compute weight balances and such just to take a couple of steps.

That makes sense right? The problem I had was that I had messed up the definition of the ready-to-hand. I had written the paper as though the object being used was still considered an object. To do this would fall into the consciousness trap that I had just previously mentioned. Since the whole paper was built around this it essentially collapsed under this fault. Not good, what saved the paper (and my subsequent grade) was the section on John Dewey after the mistake which was independent of the mistake–until I put the two together–and my explanation of some of the concepts in the paper.

I re-read the paper and huffed. I tried to turn the paper in early so I could get some pointers on it as Heidegger is notoriously difficult to read, comprehend, and enjoy (although people like the Nazi for some reason). Yet the professor stated that he didn’t do pre-reads of drafts. A policy that I am unfamiliar with and disagree with, but that’s his policy so I just have to deal with it. A reviewed draft would have saved my grade, but I stress that I should NOT have made the mistake in the first place. So today, sans conclusion, i have just re-written the paper making the changes necessary.

Here’s the thing: it probably won’t be accepted for a change of grade. If the professor in question won’t even look at them early the odds that a grade change for a better paper are pretty slim. None of this really matters to me though. My other class grades are sufficient to bolster what I received in the class. Why am I doing this? Because I feel terrible for having turned in a bad paper.

Statistics rule society. People need things that can be measured, because as Calvin said (the comic character not the theologian) when the numbers go up you are having more fun. We know things are effective when the numbers increase or decrease depending on what the numbers are attached to. Thus an effective student has good objectively defined grades. This doesn’t take into consideration whether or not that student can teach, speak, or perform only that the student is technically proficient. This goes for any subject. Good accounting and the focus on the numbers are what got us into the banking collapse. The numbers went up so the business was doing well and this focus is inherently dangerous because it removes any focus on the individual or on ethical considerations.

I want to turn in the revised paper because I want to show that I can write without making a mistake. Nothing in the paper was that groundbreaking but the mistake burns in the back of my head. Even if I had gotten a good grade in the class overall, I would still have rewritten this paper because I care about more than just my grade. Education is supposed to be about more than just grades and numbers, we are supposed to be learning something and I cannot without hypocrisy let the paper slide and still hold that opinion. In all the requirements of passing classes in graduate school should go way up and everything should just be a pass/fail. We would probably turn out better doctoral (Ph.Ds and Mds) and Master’s students that way.

Hostage (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 421-431)

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Still holed up in the danky motel room, Alice and Bella have a brief discussion about how one transforms a person into a Vampire. Way back in this book Edward spoke of Carlisle’s history and Bella noted that there was something in his turning that he was leaving out.* I posited that it was sex for two reasons: first because it was funny and I could easily reference a horrible movie that I rented**. The second was that it made sense for Edward to repress the memory and skip over it. What else could be so traumatic, unless it was a shared blood drinking action like Ann Rice used in Interview With A Vampire (the movie, I never read the book)?

Alice explains that her kind are infused with a superfluous weapon–venom. They bite a human and the venom is carried on in the bloodstream, then after a little bit they are transformed into vampires. Apparently this is so traumatic that Edward can’t just explain that this is all it takes. I have the feeling that our author wanted a bit more but then couldn’t come up with anything that would be original but non-sexual. So this is kind of a let down.

What isn’t a let down is what Alice is doing right now. Alice is furtively sketching the room from her vision. This is good, it makes a lot of sense. They need to see the room, and by illustrating it they can move forward to solving the mystery. James is in the room but other than that we only know that it is populated by a gold rim around the walls and there is a wooden table and a television. Without the table it sounds like he is on a private jet or in a limo, either would make sense since Carlisle followed him to Vancouver where he boarded a plane but then there is that table. Bella looks at the drawing and recognizes it as her mother’s house.

Alice is on the phone immediately and declares that, “Edward is coming to get you.”

Right, my question is to ask how that helps anyone? Alice had the vision yesterday,** so we don’t know when it is coming true. Since it involves a Vampire we do know that it is going to be more accurate than otherwise. We have been shown that her visions are pretty damn good too so Edward’s presence will only serve to get Bella away from the situation. I suppose that is a good thing but it is only marginally good. None of these people have even considered laying a trap yet. Which is really odd considering that they know exactly what James is after. Just carelessly clue him in and then waylay him on the way there. For being super-predators they really don’t think like one at all.

“But my mother…he came here for my mother, Alice.” No you idiot, he’s after you. Your mother’s house is merely a means to an end. However James isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed not considering that there could be a trap for him.

Then there’s a phone call which Alice hands to Bella mouthing to Bella that it is her mother. Bella begins to calm her mother down, because we must remember that she’s emotionally unstable, when a male voice begins talking. It’s James and he’s right where Alice thought he would be but didn’t do anything about it. This ploy of James is a cliche, but well apt for the situation and level of intelligence we are used to reading about, as he gets Bella to answer in one word terse sentences until she’s out of ear shot.

Even then, he’s aware of the super hearing of the Vampires and continues the charade. Good thing he knows he’s called a cell. He’s also smart, “Why don’t you walk another room now so you’re face doesn’t ruin everything?

Good move, score 1 for James. How many movies does this not happen in? The person has to suck up their facial expressions while the cops listening in pretend not to notice and then never act on their observations. Basically every mystery in an episode of CSI involving hostages revolves around the double cross and no one seeing it coming.

James, for all his cunning on the phone, is a complete idiot. His plan, on the Dark Knight Joker Scale of Over-Complication (patent pending), is about a 6. It’s needlessly complicated which gives it an original scale of 8, but since it only relies on one other person we can knock it down to a 6. He wants Bella to ditch the super sensitive vampires and go to her mother’s house. The very same house that Alice and Jasper have just said they were going to keep an eye on. That’s not such of a problem since Bella plans on escaping them at the airport, but James can’t know that. What he can know is that there is only one reason they would be in Phoenix to begin with. He’s being careful but not careful enough, the phone call is probably too risky. Extended conversation with your intended victim and giving her a location to call him from? No possibility that information could be used against you. Good thing he’s up against Bella and the Cullens because there are two possibilities that the Cullens sans Bella are ignoring: that James is either at Bella’s mother’s house or on his way there. In either case the Cullens’ quarry is at a place known to them, or on his way. This is the, and I mean THE, perfect opportunity to get him. After all didn’t Carlisle and Edward seek to lure him away for just this purpose? Maybe Alice and Jasper aren’t equipped to handle James but they can certainly keep tabs on him.

And Bella is being just as stupid in keeping this quiet. She should just confess what James has told her and the three can wait for Edward and Carlisle and make a plan. While her plan on the DKJSOC is a 0, she just isn’t thinking it through. Getting away from a person in an airport, especially post 9/11, is pretty easy. Yet Bella has to outwit the future seeing Pythian of Alice. Alice, who in the meantime is deep in thought on the bed, we know what this means–she’s seeing the future.

She breaks from this to reassure Bella that “We’ll make sure she’s (her mother) fine, Bella, don’t worry.” Curious that Alice can’t see that James already has her, which leads me to believe that Alice is playing Bella right now and already knows what is going on. I hope so because to assume otherwise would mean that Alice’s prescience comes and goes for the plot’s sake.

*I covered it in September 28th’s post.

**Modern Vampires if you are curious, but don’t actually see it.

**Which, by the way, it is getting harder and harder to remember what day it is…my best guess is that it is Thursday.