Archive for May, 2019

Elsinore finally gets a release date …

May 31, 2019

So, a game that I’ve been somewhat following, Elsinore, is finally getting a release date. It’s slated to be released on July 22nd. Since it was originally supposed to be released in April 2016, this means that it’s only over three years late. As I have commented, this means that it can’t be considered an astounding success, but I have to give them credit for, in fact, actually sticking with it and finishing the game.

From the announcement, it seems that it will be available on Steam or on itchio. I don’t buy anything through Steam, but itchio should work, so it looks like I’m going to pick it up after it releases and see what the final result is. My prediction is not disaster, but unless they changed their philosophy from what it was in April 2016 it probably won’t be great either. Still, three extra years of development time does give you time to rethink things.

Thoughts on Thuycidides’ “History of the Peloponnesian War”

May 30, 2019

So, a while ago I was browsing for history books and came across Thuycidides’ “”History of the Peloponnesian War”. Back in high school we covered some Ancient Greek history and the period interested me — I was sympathetic to the Spartans — and so I picked it up.

While the book does a credible job of covering the historical timeline, its great strength is about speeches. Thuycidides really loves the speeches, and outlines them in full at many points in the work. Whether the rhetoric is verbatim or something that he himself wrote, if you like speeches and are in the mood to read them, they’re quite good. Unfortunately, I myself wasn’t really in the mood for speeches at the time.

It’s unclear how unbiased Thuycidides was in his history. While he was a citizen of Athens for most of the war, at one point he points out that he was exiled from Athens and had taken up with the Spartans — he uses that to highlight that the events he was describing on the Spartan side were things he had experienced — and so you could probably make a case for bias on either side. Without having an actual full history to appeal to, I can’t say one way or the other. I will say that if you want a parallel to Nazi Germany vs Europe on a political basis — not ideological — you’d be hard pressed to find a better one. As presented, Athens kept pushing and pushing at the Spartan League members, emboldened by Sparta’s lack of interest in foreign entanglements. At the same time, given the Spartan dominance on land the Athenians were at times quite frightened that they might get involved, right up until the point when the Spartans actually did engage them in a land battle, and lost, which then gave the Athenians a false sense of superiority and they then overextended themselves and lost battles and ground.

The history ends abruptly before the end of the war and that, combined with the above issues, means that I really should find a more direct history and read that to get a better sense of the war itself. Still, it wasn’t a bad read, especially if you happen to like speeches.

Ranathawn Diary: Introduction

May 29, 2019

My name is Galen. I was born — and created — as part of a mysterious group that uses cybernetic enhancement to simulate Force abilities and even to channel the Force itself. Yes, there’s probably a reference in there somewhere, best not to think about it. At any rate, while we are nominally — and generally physically — associated with the Sith Empire, for the most part we have no actual loyalty to the Empire or the Republic, which allows us to take a more … unbiased attitude towards the two. Namely, that both of them are terribly flawed and desperately need reform to survive.

Thus, my latest project: recruiting a number of people from both sides of the conflict and guide them into positions of power and influence so that they might affect positive change on their respective areas. However, the number of people who have direct experience of both sides is limited. Obviously, I have some, but even I am primarily Empire-based. The only other of my recruits is Mi’kael, a former Imperial military officer turned Republic smuggler, but that was the result of his own choices and for the most part he simply regards both sides cynically, considering them both lost causes. But, still, he was interested enough in the rewards I could promise him to do what I needed him to do, which is sufficient for my purposes.

As such, I’ve asked the Imperial Agent Kanathawn to infiltrate the Republic and get a good idea of what it is like. Having another dual perspective will greatly improve my ability to influence both, as well as a set of dual contacts to call upon. If all goes well, she could become my second in command and, perhaps, even take over managing the endeavour allowing me more time to … pursue other pursuits. No, I’m not telling you what those are at the moment. Get your own fanfic.

I selected her because of her capacity for analysis as well as the fact that as an Agent she should easily be able to infiltrate the Republic in an undercover role. I’ve given her a nondescript ship and am certain that she will come up with a very clever and deceptive alias for her mission. I look forward to seeing her reaction to being in the Republic herself and seeing its flaws first-hand.

Of Course This Makes Me More Likely to Watch “Captain Marvel”

May 28, 2019

So there’s a bit of an uproar over a released or referenced or whatever extended scene from the “Captain Marvel” movie. In the original movie, some guy with a motorcycle makes a sexistish remark to Carol, and then she steals his motorcycle to get to where she was going. In the extended scene, after being told to smile, she invites him to give her a handshake, uses her strength to hurt his hand, and then demands his motorcycle from him, stealing clothes from a store mannequin to ride it (although, does she really need riding leathers given that she has a super suit anyway? While he calls it a scuba suit and so it might stand out, it’s not really that much different from just being an odd motorcycle suit).

You can see the video at Dave Futrelle’s post on the topic, and if you know anything about him you’ll know that he’s only mentioning it because people on the at least anti-SJW side are complaining about how this makes Danvers a villain or, at least, not heroic. The one post he mentions on the topic is by Ashe Schow, which Futrelle mocks. More on that later.

For the most part, the Twitter comments and post he cites criticize Danvers here for, well, not being very heroic. What the extended scene certainly implies is that Danvers’ actions are taken as retribution for what he did, and not as a necessary evil because she has to get somewhere. As the original tweet from “USA Today” says:

Get an EXCLUSIVE first look at @BrieLarson taking on toxic masculinity (in the form of @RobertKazinsky) in this extended #CaptainMarvel scene:

However, if she’s supposed to be a hero, it doesn’t look like what he did deserved that sort of retribution, especially since in order to do the “test of strength” thing she ends up inviting him to have a handshake, which is the only reason she can then use that to bully him into giving her his motorcycle. In the actual movie, she just takes it, which is better. And, of course, it doesn’t justify her stealing the clothes from the store either (which is one of Schow’s points).

Futrelle takes the common tack of Social Justice reasoning and says that we’d have no problem with this sort of behaviour if it came from a man:

The scene is a clear homage to a similar if much more violent scene in Terminator 2, in which a nude Arnold Schwarzenegger appropriates a motorcycle from a biker after squeezing his hand real hard (and then throwing him onto a hot stove, throwing another guy through a window, and thoroughly beating up a good portion of an ornery looking biker gang).

In the original John Wick movie, for example, the titular hero seeks revenge after some thugs kill his dog — and in the process he manages to kill 77 people. (His body count across all three John Wick films? An even more staggering 299.) Yet we still root for the guy.

The problem is that neither of these characters are actually heroes. At best, they’re anti-heroes, although the Terminator had been the main villain in the first movie and so might well still be considered to be one at this point in the movie. So using them as examples isn’t all that great. Futrelle does try to relate it to how in movies the heroes will often commandeer vehicles and the like:

The trope of a movie hero or heroine stealing a car — or a truck, or a horse, or a motorcyle, or a spaceship — to get to where they need to go is nearly as old as the movies themselves.

However, this would entirely invalidate the line about “toxic masculinity” that the original tweet references, and that a number of people think is key to the scene. Even Futrelle himself thinks that:

Dudes, this is a movie, not a WikiHow video. No one is recommending that women literally steal a motorcycle every time a creep asks them to smile. It’s a fantasy in a film that’s all about fantasy. The scene is funny because it allows women (and men) to indulge a harmless fantasy of taking violent revenge against some of the most irritating men on the planet.

So she doesn’t do this because she needs a vehicle in the extended scene. She doesn’t do this because she needs a vehicle and she might as well take it from the mildly or even really annoying person who has one. It is critical to this scene that we see this as appropriate retribution for what the guy did when it doesn’t seem to be anywhere near that bad. And this was the heart of Ashe’s post:

Let’s recap. After a jerk suggested he would help her in a creepy way and asked for a smile, Danvers crushed his hand, carjacked him, took his clothes, and stole items from a nearby clothing store and broke traffic laws. And this is supposed to be a celebration of feminism and rebuke of toxic masculinity?

Apparently, the answer to fairly mild toxic masculinity is extremely violent, chaotic, and criminally toxic femininity. As journalist Tim Pool wrote on Twitter, Danvers’ actions make her the “villain.”

Futrelle completely ignores that context in making his point. In the Terminator case, the scene is not there to show the Terminator beating up bikers as an elaborate revenge fantasy for the viewer. It’s supposed to play on the reputation they had for being both extremely tough and extremely mean to demonstrate to the audience — or, at least, remind them — just how tough the Terminator is, that it can take on a group of the toughest and meanest people out there and win without an issue. While I haven’t seen the “Captain Marvel” movie yet, it seems clear to me that at this point in the movie we are already aware of how tough she is and so clearly believe that this guy is absolutely no threat to her. Thus, the only point of the scene is to pay him back for his “crimes”, which seems disproportionate, especially since the handshake, again, only starts because she pretends to be friendly and offers one. The scene would have been better if he had, say, groped her or put a hand familiarly on her shoulder and in removing it she gripped it hard enough to cause pain and, out of utter frustration and annoyance, then decided to take his motorcycle, because at least she would have been just reacting to what he did spontaneously, as opposed to planning it.

Oh, and to make matters worse for Futrelle’s argument, Captain Marvel was hinted at taking over Captain America’s spot on the Avengers, and we already have an example of him commandeering a vehicle, from “Winter Solider”. You might say that this would only help make Futrelle’s case, as it would be an example where the hero steals a vehicle and no one cared, except when Natasha teases him about it he is insistent that they are “borrowing” it and, to forestall arguments that that’s rationalization, he immediately tells her to get her feet off the dash, clearly trying to make sure that they take care of the vehicle to at least attempt to return it in as good condition as possible (it might, unfortunately, have ended up blown up by the missile at the military base).

Now, one other possible motivation is to show Danvers growing in her role as a hero, showing that she was unconcerned about people and willing to do whatever it takes and not even look for other options but discovering that she can’t just be that sort of soldier and so has to be a hero. Given her start as a brainwashed soldier for the Kree, that makes sense here. Futrelle himself references that:

The critics of Captain Marvel’s motorcycle theft are not only forgetting that this is a MOVIE and not real life; they’re also completely ignoring the plot of the film — and the character arc of the air-force-pilot-turned alien-human-hybrid who became Captain Marvel.

When she arrives back on earth at the start of the film – and steals the motorcycle she needs to complete her mission — she’s basically a brainwashed, emotionless killing machine working for a race of aliens called the kree. Over the course of the film she regains some of her humanity. That’s called character development.

The problem is that, again, this trumps what the USA Today tweet highlighted in the scene. For this to work, we have to show that her actions were unjustified and disproportionate, and in the end she’d pretty much have to explicitly come to understand that what she did there was wrong. But to stand as an example of standing up to toxic masculinity, that can’t be the case. She’d have to not only be wrong, but be more wrong than the guy there. So we’d have to feel sympathy for how the guy was treated. Yes, for this to work we’d have to sympathize with the guy who is being used as an avatar for toxic masculinity. I … really don’t think that was the intent.

Look, the problem here is not that she commandeered a vehicle or put an annoying person in their place. The problem is that her actions are disproportionate to the “crimes” we see on screen and so she is presented as a bully and, yes, a villain. As pointed out, as a way to get her to grow out of that and become more of a hero, that could work. But the extended scene, as presented, relies on us seeing her actions as justified and not as disproportionate. It’s no surprise, then, that Futrelle starts by claiming it justified and then moves on to seeing it as showing a character flaw that she develops out of (if she does, as the end of the movie doesn’t necessarily show her in a new, less bullying light). So while the critics might have ulterior motives, the critics have a point. And the fact that it didn’t make it into the movie shows that the filmmakers themselves better understood those flaws than those making contorted arguments — like claiming that the DC characters’ actions, especially Superman destroying a trucker’s truck for annoying him, didn’t get called out when that’s one of the main complaints about the DC universe — to defend this scene do.

NHL Playoff Predictions: Finals

May 27, 2019

I did okay in the third round, going 1 – 1, for a rather unimpressive overall record of 5 – 9. Since I had chosen both of the teams that didn’t have home ice advantage, that means that home ice advantage also went 1 – 1, for an overall record of 7 – 7. Home ice advantage wasn’t much of one this year.


Boston vs St. Louis: Boston has to be the favourite here, as they’re the top-ranked and most consistent team left in the playoffs, have won it before with a lot of these players and so have the experience, and have home ice advantage. However, they are coming off a sweep and no team that won by a sweep this year has done much in the next round, and Boston is at the end of a sweep chain where every team that won with a sweep in that chain was swept in the next round. While I don’t really think it will be a sweep, this year it seems clear that rust is a larger factor than rest, and with St. Louis winning in six they did manage to get quite a bit of rest themselves. I remember this same thing happening to the Senators against Anaheim a number of years back, where they decided at the end of the Anaheim series — after the Senators swept — to have more days off before the start of the finals, to the chagrin of the Senators. The Senators did not do well in those finals, and I think it likely that Boston won’t either. And St. Louis is a far better team than their record indicates, and so are probably pretty close to Boston in terms of skill. Given that, any little advantage can be crucial. Unless Binnington collapses from the pressure — which he hasn’t done so far in these playoffs — I think St. Louis will ultimately take it.

Prediction: St. Louis.



Boston vs Carolina

Overall Record: 5 – 9
Home Ice Advantage Team Record: 7 – 7

Why There’s Still an Abortion Debate

May 24, 2019

So, in the United States the debate over legalized abortion has started up again, as some states are putting in tough new restrictive laws on abortions hoping, it seems, to get a new Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe vs Wade. In an article on Elizabeth Warren’s idea to have abortion rules set at the federal level, Andrew Sullivan comments that in the 45+ years since Roe vs Wade, opinions on abortion haven’t changed much:

But abortion? Roe was decided in 1973. Unlike many other progressive Court decisions, this one didn’t budge public opinion. In 1975, two years after Roe, some 22 percent favored a total ban on abortion in a Gallup poll; today that number is … 18 percent. Back then, 54 percent favored a middle ground: keeping the procedure legal under restricted circumstances. Now it’s 50 percent. Twenty-one percent believed in 1975 that abortion should be legal in every circumstance; today that number is 29 percent.

And while those who favour a total ban on abortion are a minority and a smaller one than those that believe it should be totally unrestricted, the vast majority of people support at least some restrictions on abortions, and that number has moved only slightly in the past 45+ years, and doesn’t really show signs of a trend.

So, why is this? Sullivan points out that for other progressive issues there has definitely been a strong trend towards the progressive side, so why not for abortion? What makes abortion different? In my opinion, the reason is this: the main argument in favour of unrestricted abortions is that the fetus should be considered as a clump of cells and not as a baby/person, but our entire view of pregnancy makes that idea highly implausible and counter-intuitive.

Think about wanted pregnancies. Here, the overwhelming cultural consensus is that the fetus at least represents a baby. When it starts to move or kick, that’s a joyful event. Prospective parents spend their time planning for it as a baby. If a miscarriage occurs, that’s a tragedy because they lost a baby, not some kind of potential that those cells might have turned into eventually. In a wanted pregnancy, the fetus is treated like a baby that is developing from the start, not like a clump of cells that, some day, will turn into one. So anyone who thinks of pregnancy from the perspective of wanted pregnancies is not going to find the idea that the fetus should be treated as a clump of cells that the woman can do with as she pleases very compelling.

But even in unwanted pregnancies, in general the considerations are about a baby and not about a clump of cells. The main reasons to have an abortion in those cases tend to be either about the health of the mother — and mostly in those cases about them both dying anyway — or about the health and quality of life of the baby when it is born or about the impact that having a child and having to raise it will have on the mother’s life. So even then we don’t treat it as a clump of cells, but as a baby and think about what life will be like if it is born. About the only cases where considering it as a baby are clearly not present are really shallow — and incredibly rare — cases like where someone says that she doesn’t want the pregnancy because she doesn’t want to be pregnant during swimsuit season, say. While these would fit the narrative, almost everyone finds them to be so incredibly cold and callous that appealing to those sorts of cases will in general do far more harm than good.

So the argument that the fetus is just a clump of cells isn’t very compelling, because intuitively we don’t think of the fetus that way. And yet the feminist arguments either make that case directly or rely heavily on it. Obviously, the argument that it is just a clump of cells so she can do whatever she wants with it relies on this, but the bodily autonomy argument and the argument from the “enslavement of women” relies on this as well, as people are hesitant to allow an unrestricted ability to kill someone else or even let them die because it is more convenient for the person who has the choice there. This is why most people favour at least some restrictions on abortion: when you’re talking about life or mental health, people can see how that might be a reasonable case for abortions, but as the reasons become more and more about the convenience of the mother people become more and more uncomfortable with it. If they thought of it as something like a wart, then that wouldn’t be a consideration, but since they don’t, then the discomfort sets in.

This, I think, even applies to the case of rape. People do seem to consider that the child itself is innocent and so doesn’t deserve to die for the crimes of the rapist father. So that argument does seem to have some traction. But empathy kicks in and we can all understand how difficult it would be for the woman to spend nine months carrying a living and developing reminder of the horrific suffering she experienced. So while someone who is willing to go through that anyway because the fetus isn’t responsible for that or even out of an attitude that bringing a new life into existence would have some good resulting from that terrible evil, we can certainly understand how it might be too difficult for some if not most women in that situation, and we hesitate to drive them insane just to have the child be born. But this still relies on considering the fetus as baby, not as clump of cells.

And I’m not sure this situation will improve, because various modern feminist debates are wearing away at the underpinnings of another assumption needed to make their arguments work. In various cases — especially the incel debate — feminists argue that it isn’t a huge or damning restriction for someone to not have sex, and so nothing needs to be done to address people who can’t have sex and if ensuring consent and the like reduces the ability of people to have sex or how much sex they can get, then that’s not in any way a problem. This, then, leads to the ideas that if you don’t want to fall afoul of the rules around sex, then you should choose to not have sex, and this is considered to be a reasonable and even moral position. However, there is a simple way for women to ensure that they never have an unwanted pregnancy and so never need an abortion: they can simply choose to not have sex except when they want to or are willing to risk a pregnancy. For now, the progressive position has been that denying people sex is terrible and has a huge and unwarranted impact on their happiness and welfare, being a big part of the abortion debate and the same-sex debate and even at times the trans debate. But as the arguments for sex not being that important gain more prominence and get accepted, that argument will no longer seem credible for the abortion debate either.

I don’t think that the argument for unrestricted abortions is ever going to gain that much traction, and will wax and wane as time goes on. The only way it will be able to do so is if we no longer consider pregnancies blessings and instead start to consider them as blah and blase everyday events. Given our biology and our culture, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Book of the Month Clubs

May 23, 2019

As I mentioned when talking about re-reading “The Stand”, I used to be a member of the “Book of the Month Club” when I was younger. That got me musing about it, and thinking that depending on how things were run that might be a good thing for me. I have the disposable income to be able to simply try things out that look interesting and since reading is the one consistent pastime that I have I’d definitely at least try to read them. So I started Googling around to see how things worked.

So, I found the site that calls itself “Book of the Month”. And it seemed pretty decent. You subscribe to the service, and then once a month you get a selection of books that you can pick one of to fulfill your subscription. If you want more than one, you can pay for the extra ones — essentially at the price of a month’s subscription — to get them. If you don’t like anything in a particular month, then that credit carries over to the next month, which then I presume means that it could be used — and is intended to be used — for extra books or perhaps for extra months after you’ve stopped subscribing. This is better than when I had it originally because there they’d send you a book if you didn’t tell them not to, whereas here the default seemed to be that they’d just credit it to you if you didn’t select one. However, unlike the original one … they don’t ship to Canada. So that’s out.

Browsing around, I found “My Thrill Club!”, which sounded interesting. You can select from Thriller, Mystery, or Horror categories — or a mix — and they’ll send you two hardcover books and an e-book — useless to me — for a fairly reasonable price. However, despite hearing that they did ship to Canada for an extra shipping fee, when I sent an E-mail to their customer service asking about that I got no reply. I’m actually far more concerned about getting no reply than I am about shipping costs to Canada, since them being non-responsive is not a good sign, so that’s out too.

I also tried “Bookcase Club”. Here, you select a category and get sent two books in that category. I was interested in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category and in the Thriller/Mystery category, and since the price was pretty good might have been tempted to have multiple subscriptions to be able to get it. However, they don’t ship to Canada. So that’s out.

I did browse more and found some other ones that likely shipped to Canada, but in general they were either pricey or added on a number of little items that I didn’t want, or both.

I find myself bemused that, for the most part, decent book of the month clubs simply can’t take my money. This is becoming a trend.

I guess I’ll just have to keep doing what I’m doing now. The good part of that is that I still have hundreds of books in boxes in my house to read at some point, so it’s not like I’ll end up deprived.

More Upheaval in Women’s Hockey …

May 22, 2019

The destruction of the NWHL continues, which really makes it seem like that was the intention behind the boycott from the start. The New Jersey Devils ended their association with the Metropolitan Riveters, and the NWHL has taken back control of the Buffalo Beauts when their own — who also owns the Buffalo Sabres, I believe — backed out. And now the hold-out players have formed a Player’s Association. As this isn’t really going to do them much good in dealing with the NWHL, it really seems like the push here is to get the NWHL to fold so that the NHL can create a league in the vein of the WNBA. There’s no chance of the NHL getting involved without there being a PA because the NHLPA wouldn’t stand for it. But that’s the only reason for one if the women aren’t simply acting idiotically entitled — which is a possibility — because there isn’t all that much that a PA can do for a league that’s close to folding and doesn’t have revenue support.

It really sounds like the NHL has been involved in this behind the scenes for a while now, dropping hints that they’d be willing to take this on if the league folded. Gary Bettman has repeatedly made comments that they weren’t going to get involved as long as leagues existed but that if there weren’t any then they’d do something. While I’ve read comments that the NHL won’t create a league themselves, they almost certainly will, as Bettman tends to follow the NBA in a lot of matters — and he started out there — and there’d be too much criticism and bad press if the NHL couldn’t create a WNHL for women’s hockey. Given how this has gone down and been made massively public, things would look even worse. So it really does look like the NHL and those 200 holdouts are waiting for the NWHL to fold so that the WNHL can start. That two of the teams that were associated with NHL clubs have lost that association only makes that even more obvious.

And while it might sound like a conspiracy theory, it makes one wonder if the sudden collapse of the CWHL is related to this as well. While it seems to have come as a complete surprise to most of the players, if the CWHL didn’t think they could grow the game it’s not unreasonable for them to have talked with the NHL about them taking over and gotten the “We can’t look like were bullying leagues out of existence” response, and so folded to allow for the NHL to take over and did it dramatically so that there’d be lots of attention. They might have expected the NWHL to start to at least worry over this, but their actual reaction was to absorb more teams. This, then, could have driven the boycott in an attempt to drive the league under, followed by the NHL teams abandoning the league to put even more pressure on them. So while the NHL isn’t the bully, it’s using players and teams and leagues to bully the NWHL under nonetheless.

Regardless, it’s clear that the desired endgame is that the NWHL folds and the NHL starts up a WNHL. I’ll be keeping my eye on this to see how it all works out (although I still won’t watch women’s hockey).

Thoughts on “The Stand” (Miniseries)

May 21, 2019

So, after reading and commenting on the book, I sat down and watched the 1994 miniseries that I picked up in a Stephen King collection a while ago. The miniseries is the longest of his miniseries adaptations, coming in at right around six hours, and so I had to make sure that I had free blocks of time when I was unlikely to fall asleep to watch it. It was a long weekend here in Canada, and so that worked out for me.

The miniseries itself got a pretty good reception and, spoilers, that was a bit surprising to me. What I can say about it is that it drew in a number of well-known actors who put in good performances, it was in general well-crafted, and it was well-constructed (although it had a number of special effects failures, even in more normal scenes like in the control room of the disease control centre). But it runs into the problems the book had as well as the problems that Stephen King adaptations tend to have.

The book itself ended up being anti-climactic because most of the work focused on the plague, its aftermath, and assembling the communities. However, this mostly worked because it made sure that we knew that the focus characters were important and the slice of life moments were interesting in and of themselves. Having less room than the book, the miniseries had the same issue, but also didn’t have the time to really build up the characters, so a lot was lost. It also seemed to follow the trend of taking iconic scenes from the book but without being able to delve into the backstory to make them meaningful. The worst of this is the suicide of the general, as we never really get to see his internal struggle that leads to his suicide, and so the event is a bit less shocking than it probably should be. The work also, in general, makes the military figures much more brutal and unsympathetic than they seemed to be in the book, and Stu Redman is far more antagonistic towards them than he was in the book, where he was more implacable rather than openly hostile.

Now, in some sense having just read the book causes some issues with watching the miniseries, as I both am constantly comparing the two and noting the differences and also know what’s going to happen and so don’t feel any suspense. Without that, the miniseries might be more compelling. On the other hand, I know the characters already and so will have emotional connections to them even if the miniseries itself doesn’t really develop them enough to really pull it off. So call that a wash.

Anyway, the miniseries was obviously going to have to change things up a bit to fit everything in, but in a lot of cases those changes weren’t very good. The worst one is what happens to Nadine and Larry. In the book, Larry was someone who was a bit self-interested and certainly cared more about himself than about others, which his mother explicitly called him out on when he came to New York but clearly showed that she cared about him anyway. In the miniseries, she more considers him a deadbeat like his father and his good side or potential good side is never made clear. Nadine fits into the role that another woman he met — who dies of an overdose — on leaving New York, but that removes that event and how it impacted him. Then, Nadine leaves him later, and he takes up with the feral boy Joe and Lucy Swann. They keep the scene where Joe attempts to stab Larry, but take out any other interaction between the two and how they bond over the guitar, and also Joe returning to Leo and coming out of his shell, making the character pretty pointless … especially since he can’t get a funny feeling about Harold Lauder showing that Harold isn’t all that good anymore (more on Harold later).

This feeds back into the relationship between Larry and Nadine. In the book, they had traveled together and then met up with Lucy, and I believe all came into town together. This set up the idea that Larry was in love with Nadine but since she wouldn’t have him took up with Lucy instead. Then, when Nadine comes to him in a last gasp to avoid going to “The Dark Man” and being his bride, we can see Larry acting differently, deciding to give up what he arguably most wants because of how it would impact someone else, namely Lucy. This cements that he is a changed person, while ironically dooming Nadine and potentially giving “The Dark Man” a victory. But in the miniseries none of that is clear. Lucy seems jealous for little reason — at least little reason given in the miniseries — and while we can figure out that this is Nadine trying to dodge “The Dark Man” we don’t really have any reason to think that Larry would even be tempted to leave Lucy for Nadine. This carries over to her final scene, where Nadine jumps to her death while carrying “The Dark Man’s” child because she lost everything, even Larry. There’s no real reason for her to do that at that point, and no real reason for her to be that attached to Larry, and it also doesn’t work as well as “The Dark Man” killing her in a rage, which he just prior to that had almost done to his second-in-command.

Harold also gets far less development than he did in the book. In the book, there was a tension between his good qualities and his bad ones, which then culminates in his death scene where he comments that he was misled and apologizes. Without his crush on Fran and losing her to Stu, and without his being deprived of influence that he thought he deserved, he likely wouldn’t have turned against them and betrayed them. In the book, Larry follows his directions to Colorado, and seeks him out to thank him for that and show how impressed he was by what Harold did and managed to accomplish. And then Nick cuts him out of the committee, sending him irrevocably down the path to betrayal, especially with the reward of Nadine dangled in front of him. Here, though, Harold doesn’t ever do anything all that impressive. He mostly crushes on Fran and fights with Stu. Thus, there’s nothing to establish why he would feel that he should have been on the committee in the first place, and we don’t get to see any redeeming qualities that would make his death tragic. He doesn’t even get to try to kill Nadine and almost foil “The Dark Man’s” plan, which is the start of it all falling apart for “The Dark Man”.

In the book, one of the big issues with the ending was that “The Dark Man” in the first time we really get to see him in action pretty much grabs the Idiot Ball and through his idiocy everything falls apart, which turns a potentially frightening threat into something of a farce. In the miniseries, that doesn’t happen and he fails far less, but then it’s hard to understand why his followers were so willing to turn on him. They mention rumours that the Judge got away and that Tom Cullen definitely escaped, and there was the fact that his trusted follower Trashcan Man blew things up, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to get them to start leaving and for Whitney to stand up to him at the execution. And it certainly wasn’t anything the heroes there said, as their roles are as superfluous as they were in the book. So it all collapses for no real reason and not due to anything “The Dark Man” actually did.

So, it’s time to ask the question: would I watch it again? The problem with rewatching it is that it’s really, really long. It’s not a bad miniseries, although it does drag at times, but it’s just far too long to sit down and watch. I can imagine that it would be good sometime when I’m sick and just want to have something on that I can doze off through, but other than that it’s not likely that I’ll watch it again.

The Self-Corruption of Norman Osborn

May 20, 2019

The next essay in “Avengers and Philosophy” is “The Self-Corruption of Norman Osborn: A Cautionary Tale” by Robert Powell. Here, he compares Norman Osborn in the “Dark Reign” to Plato’s attacks on the Sophists and to his dialogue with Alcibiades where Socrates shows Alcibiades that he knows little about justice and, in fact, that because of that his attempts to help his city are actually causing more damage than it is fixing. Powell suggests that Osborn’s tale is a cautionary tale of the same sort.

The problem here is that it isn’t clear that Osborn’s main concern was indeed the state or society at all, whereas for Alcibiades — at least according to Powell, as I haven’t read that dialogue in ages — that was his main concern. Alcibiades both went about helping his city incorrectly and arguably let that concern corrupt him into focusing on power rather than on justice. It would be easy to see Alcibiades wanting to take more control and have more influence in order to ensure that what he wants to happen and thinks is necessary does happen. He might well follow a darker form of the reasoning Mordin Solus in Mass Effect gives for being the primary researcher of the Genophage: he’d rather he hadn’t had to make the choice, but it had to be him. Someone else might have gotten it wrong. Alcibiades — and other well-intentioned dictatorial tyrants — might well justify having to have complete control and influence over events because others might get it wrong, either from ignorance or corruption. This even explains not surrounding themselves with advisers who will tell them the unvarnished truth: they need advisers that they can control and rely on to simply do their bidding, or else, again, they might do things wrong. Independent-mindedness is not a desirable trait when acting on their own might get things wrong.

But we don’t really have any reason to think that Osborn is such a noble character. As even Powell admits, it seems that his actions were strongly driven, at least subconsciously, by his “Green Goblin” persona, who was not interested in civic duty. But even before that, Osborn himself was strongly motivated by self-interest. When Powell notes the manufactured crises that Osborn uses to gain power, it doesn’t seem like these are motivated like, say, Admiral Layton’s in DS9’s “Homefront”, where Layton fakes a crisis to spur the Federation Council to take action, done because otherwise they won’t take action until it is, in fact, too late. Osborn’s have always seemed aimed to give him, specifically, power and control. “National security” seems to be an excuse for him, not a motivation. And he surrounds himself with the villains he does simply because he knows that they will do the actions that he’ll need them to to gain power and that he can control them in various ways. That they betray him in the end is, of course, to be expected, but always happens when he loses power and control, and his entire purpose seems to be to gain power and control. If he falls enough so that they feel confident in betraying him, it would mean that he had already lost. Their betrayal, then, is the result of his losing, not the cause of it.

Norman Osborn isn’t a man with good intentions corrupted by his mistakes, his allies, or power. In some form, his intentions were bad from the start, and so lead inevitably to the end they are destined to. As a cautionary tale, it’s more about forming the right values rather than making sure that you go about achieving them in the right way.