Archive for October, 2019

Thoughts on “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning”

October 31, 2019

On Hallowe’en, let me continue following through the original “Friday the 13th” series. Part 2s through 4 were pretty bad, with 4 being the worst. “A New Beginning” picks up from Part 4, bringing Tommy Jarvis — who killed Jason in the previous movie which has clearly caused him some mental issues — coming back to play a prominent role.

Or, rather, a pseudo-prominent role. The first Friday the 13th movie’s charm was that it was aggressive in ignoring any kind of character arc or mystery plot, despite having some of those elements present in the movie. They kept trying to hide the killer’s face, for example, but never made any kind of big deal out of it at all and, for the most part, at the end of the movie and even at the big reveal we not only didn’t care, we were pretty sure that the movie not only didn’t care either, but also didn’t want us to care. What was important was the murders and everything else was there just to be there or to provide a break from the murders. The next movies diminished the focus on the murders, but only replaced it with boring character arcs that they never really paid off. The fourth movie was the worst for this as the murders seemed perfunctory and the teen drama the most prominent features, which doesn’t really work in a slasher movie.

Out of all of the later movies, A New Beginning is the best one at handling the murders. The murders come fast and heavy, and are probably the most creative out of all of them at times. Thus, in terms of crafting a slasher flick, it’s pretty much the best one. But I not only found that it didn’t have the charm of the first movie, I found it uninteresting and not engaging at times. It was, again, better crafted than the other movies, but wasn’t any more entertaining. I noted how the structure worked, but just didn’t care about what it was doing.

One of the reasons for this is, I think, that it suffers both from being the fifth movie and also from being an older movie. All of the things it’s doing have been done before, both in previous movies and, for me, in later movies. So there’s no real surprise or shock. Stuff happens, but it’s stuff that’s become heavy tropes of the genre so it comes across as uninspired. At the time, it might have worked better, and it might have worked better if you hadn’t just gone through the previous four movies, but it really did come across as same old, same old.

It doesn’t help that all of the victims are either annoying or underdeveloped. Now, I do like to complain about movies stopping to develop characters that are going to die horribly because we shouldn’t need to develop a relationship with them in order to feel bad for their horrible deaths. But I think this movie goes overboard with that. Many of the victims only get any development from acting like jerks, and the ones that are left generally get only minor scenes to show us who they are. This means that the ones that get the most focus tend to be the ones that we want to see die, and the ones that we should feel sorry for are the ones that we don’t know anything about and so don’t have any connection to. Even the Final Girl gets only a few scenes, none of which let us get to know her in any way as a person. So for the most part it really comes across as “some people are getting killed”. If the murders feel uninspired and the characters little more than simple victims that the killer has come across, there’s not much there to make us interested in the murders.

Which returns us to Tommy, and something the movie did that flopped miserably. With him being in the movie, we weren’t going to be able to get a simple movie that was uninterested in anything other than simply having slasher-style murders. Surely he was going to have to play some prominent role in the movie. And yet he spends most of his time doing nothing, only to have a — mostly failed — Big Damn Hero moment at the end and then a seemingly rather odd transformation into a slasher-killer in the Jason-mold himself. The reason for this, I think, is that what was supposed to be in the movie was a mystery over who the killer was, and importantly over whether Tommy was the killer himself. The ending can indeed be hinting that while the one they caught killed some people in revenge for the death of his son earlier in the movie, Tommy himself killed some of the others. There were indeed some victims that seemed to be unrelated to the death but were people who annoyed Tommy, and seemed to be people that were directly targeted. The problem is that if you are going to do something like that you need to do something to get the audience thinking about this, and the movie never did. And it doesn’t have to be direct. If the movie wanted us thinking this about Tommy, in the scene where the mayor (I guess) and the sheriff are talking all you need is to have the sheriff keep his line about it being Jason, and then add to the deputy “Strange that these are starting up right when the guy who killed Jason showed up”. If you want to hint at this in the ending, just have the sheriff find out, right at the end, that some of the killings were ones where the purported killer had an alibi. If you want to keep it vague, just have him comment that he had to be running around like a madman to get to some of those places in-between killings. But the movie never draws our attention to any of this, so all we have are musing over odd things in the movie that might indicate something that the movie intended, or might just be our own idle speculation. For all the time spent on scenes that seem to serve little other purpose than to hint at issues like this, that they couldn’t do little things like these to make this clear is really to the movie’s detriment.

Structurally, A New Beginning is one of the best in the series. But it left me fairly cold. I could watch it again, but then I might want to watch “The Final Chapter” again, and watching the two of them again isn’t of much interest to me. Let’s see if “Jason Lives” can finally return the series to something like form.

Extra Credits on the Prisoner’s Dilemma

October 30, 2019

So, since I’ve been a bit busy lately, and since I had decided to check out some of the Extra Credits videos that I hadn’t been watching lately, I decided to comment on their video on the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Now, I’ve talked about the Prisoner’s Dilemma in video games wrt “Virtue’s Last Reward”, which reveals a common error made in considering the Prisoner’s Dilemma: the idea that, somehow, the only rational choice is to betray the other person, and that’s what reason would demand, which always at least indirectly implies that we need something other than reason to settle these sorts of questions, which is a position that I find … dubious, to say the least.

In the video, though, they take an interesting, if seemingly somewhat confusing, tack in trying to explain it. They explain defecting as being the only choice that you won’t regret making no matter what the other person chooses. But since if the other person chooses defect and you choose defect you end up with a worse outcome than if you had both co-operated, that doesn’t seem to make sense. I think what they mean is this: no matter which option the other person chooses, the choice to defect leaves you better off than the choice to co-operate. If they defect, if you defect you get the medium length sentence, but if you co-operate you get the longest possible sentence. And if they co-operate, if you co-operate you get a short sentence, but if you defect you get to go completely free. So, looking at it strictly from the perspective of “What happens to me if they choose X?”, defecting always works out better for you.

The reason why this isn’t necessarily the only rational decision to make is that it isn’t rational to ignore readily available facts in making your decision, and here the relevant fact is that the other person is, presumably, as rational as you are, possesses all of the same facts, and so is going through the same thought process as you are. As soon as this is understood, then it becomes obvious that the other person is going to make the choice to defect as well. Therefore, the best possible case for you — going free — isn’t going to be attainable. So what you’d want is to make it so that instead of both people choosing defect, they both choose co-operate. The reasoning above in general should work to achieve that, as that’s the best option for both of you. The only thing that could trump that is the fear that the other person is either not going to do that reasoning, or might try to take advantage of you reasoning that out, and try to defect anyway. But since, again, the same reasoning applies all that will do is lead to the defect/defect outcome.

I argued this when arguing with people over issues with the Tragedy of the Commons wrt Objectivism. Everyone would, of course, like to cheat, but they know that if everyone cheats they’ll end up with an undesirable outcome. And if they conclude that what’s best for them is to cheat, then they have no reason to think that the same reasoning won’t apply to everyone else, and so that everyone else will also cheat. This leads to the undesirable outcome. Thus, pretty much everyone is going to want to sacrifice their ability to cheat to ensure that they don’t end up in that undesirable situation. That’s the rational thing to do. So it’s only irrationality that causes people to instead rush to cheat out as much as possible — ie profit-take — from the Commons instead of looking to find ways to enforce non-cheating.

Of course, the one issue with this is when you run into someone who doesn’t care about that negative outcome. Let’s imagine a group of people looking to go out to dinner, but who all have different preferences on where they want to go. In general, a compromise is always reached because everyone understands that if they can’t find a place that’s at last moderately acceptable to everyone, they aren’t going to go out to dinner, and so they don’t want to be too stubborn about their top choice because that will scuttle the entire event. But imagine that there’s someone in the group who doesn’t care about going out to dinner that much. If they can’t go to their preferred place, they’d rather not go. This gives them incredible power in the discussion, because due to their circumstances they don’t care about the negative consequences. Unless the rest decide to go without them, either the group will go to that person’s desired restaurant or they won’t go at all. So alternative forms of persuasion are needed. In my experience, commonly social pressure/guilt and the will of the majority are mustered — pretty much reflexively in any situation that even looks like it might turn into that sort of case — to push that person to compromise. In the discussions of Objectivism, I argued that you could also add incentives to do so. For example, in my example you could use the promise of a free dessert or, in fact, appeal to the fact that a compromise restaurant has superior desserts to get them to go along with the compromise. But the big issue you run into with the rational reasoning outlined above is someone for whom the rational choice really is to risk or take the negatives.

Which leads into the examples they used from games: someone in an online team game who racks up kills at the expense of the others, or someone who is a DPS character who demands heals when the tank needs them far more. The problem with the examples is that there is an additional factor here that isn’t present in the Prisoner’s Dilemma that makes their actions more irrational: a shared goal. In both of those examples, the base presumption here is that those players won’t win unless the team wins, and so all of their actions should be directed towards that. So players at that base level, all that should matter is that all the opponents get killed or that the boss ends up being defeated. If sacrificing kills will better achieve that shared goal, then the rational move would be to sacrifice those kills, and racking up kills at the expense of that goal would clearly be irrational behaviour.

Unless, of course, there’s an external reward for racking up kills.

And in a lot of games, there is. There are rewards and trophies for kills. Many games rank players in the match itself or award points on the basis of kills. Since these can impact rankings and the like, often there’s an incentive for players to act selfishly instead of co-operating with their teammates. And, in fact, in many cases the individual rewards can be so great that it trumps the team winning. A player does better racking up kills even if their team loses. In those cases, it’s clear that acting selfishly is the rational move.

We can see this in co-operative and semi-co-operative board games. Arkham Horror is a fully co-operative game. No points are given out to the best investigator. There isn’t even an MVP award. The points are awarded to the team itself, and no points are awarded if the team doesn’t win the game. So there’s no reason for one player to try to rack up monster kills or gate closings or hog the best items or whatever. If they do, it would only be for two reasons (other than irrational competition). The first is because they believe that their character having that will be best for the team to allow the team to win the game, either to ensure that their powerful character survives longer in the Final Battle or is better equipped for their function (monster hunting, gate running, and so on). The other is that they’re worried that they’ll be eliminated in the Final Battle and so bored, although the Final Battle is pretty quick so it’s not a reasonable stance to take. The only other reasons are irrational, and will only hurt the team and thus make them less likely to achieve their shared goal.

Battlestar Galactica is a hidden traitor game. There are two teams, one of which is human and one of which is Cylon. There’s roughly a 60% chance of staying human throughout the game and a 40% chance of being a Cylon. Whether a player is a human or a Cylon is hidden until the player decides to reveal (or it is revealed through various mechanisms), and a player can start the game as a Cylon or might “pick up Cylonness” at roughly the midpoint of the game. I was involved in a long debate on boardgamegeek with someone who said that a player who had a human card at the start should play selfishly, hoarding resources and titles and positioning themselves to be in the best position possible. This was objected to on the grounds that it looked suspicious: while he wanted to do that to put himself in a strong position once he knew that he was going to stay human, it was pointed out that those were the precise same moves that a Cylon would make as well. Which was a fair point given that one of his motivations for the move was, in fact, to be ready in case he turned Cylon at the midpoint. But since the Cylons are hidden, all that he was going to do was engender mistrust in all the other players. And that would at least make things less efficient — as they couldn’t trust that player to do anything until they were sure the player was human — and so hurt the overall team game. So to the extent that it hurt the team, it was seen as a poor strategy. And the alternative of playing selfishly before the midpoint and excessively generous afterwards would lead to an easy tell for Cylonness, and so wasn’t good for them anyway.

So they have a point when they say that, in general, to trump the Prisoner’s Dilemma is to provide some sort of punishment for defecting. However, if everyone was rational then simply removing external incentives to selfish behaviour would also work. We can indeed all see that co-operating will lead to a better outcome for us … when it actually does. The problem is that in too many cases it is indeed possible for us to cheat and win.

Thoughts on “And Then There Were None”

October 29, 2019

“Remington Steele” referenced it at least twice, once directly and once by naming most of the characters after the characters in the book. I hadn’t read it, I think, since it was actually read to my class in grade school. Put that all together and I was inspired to buy and read Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”, which in the modern-style removes all references to Indians and replaces them with Soldiers … which doesn’t in any way change the impact of the book.

Of course, I know how it all ends, and pretty much all of the twists. So I wasn’t going to be able to read it to enjoy those again. So I decided that I’d focus on seeing what was interesting to me knowing how it all turns out.

One thing that was interesting is that Christie drops a lot of hints as to who the killer is outside of the ones listed at the end. As stated on TV Tropes — I’ll spare you the link — a lot of Wargraves’ inner thoughts are ones that at first blush look like an innocent person but in hindsight are really indications of his real status. In the beginning, for example, he re-reads the note he “received” and notes that it does sound exactly like what that person would say or do, which can be seen as him re-reading it to assess whether the odd invitation is credible, as some of the others were doing. In hindsight, though, it’s an assessment over whether his situation will seem credible and almost congratulation himself on coming up with such a good ruse. And this is important to him, since some of the people invited moved in the same circles as the person who purportedly invited him and so it has to seem believable … a fact that Christie highlights by having there be a minor family connection revealed in the initial conversations and referenced again later. There’s also a number of references to Wargraves looking reptilian or predatory, things that it might seem odd at first but could reflect his “hanging judge” personality but which also, later, can be seen as hints that he might be the murderer.

It’s also easy to see why the play, when it has people survive, has those two be Vera and Lombard. As the last two left on the island, that’s obviously made easier, but Christie herself seems to treat them the most sympathetically. Vera’s the most obvious — and it’s pretty easy to explain her thoughts as misplaced guilt — but Lombard is also portrayed in a manner that would incline us towards him. Outside of Wargraves, he’s the smartest and comes up with the most ideas, and also takes the most direct actions. Everyone else is either passive or annoying or both. Blore is probably the biggest example of this as despite being a police inspector he’s portrayed as being dreadfully unimaginative and needlessly and often ridiculously confrontational. Lombard’s crime is also one that shows at worst his survival instinct and a disdain for native people that, well, most people at the time probably also felt, whereas the others tended to be either careless, self-interested or cruel. Lombard would have died if he hadn’t done what he did, but none of the others had such an excuse.

Overall, it is an interesting and well-written book, one of the better ones of the genre. Of course, it is far less interesting when you know the ending or, rather, when you know exactly how the murderer did manage to be the murderer. Which I haven’t told you, so you might get some interest out of the book yet. Just don’t watch “Remington Steele” first.

Thoughts on The Masters

October 28, 2019

Well, we’re now late in October and that means that curling is back! The first Grand Slam event — or, at least, the first one that was actually on TV and so I could watch it — was the Masters this weekend, and I managed to watch a bit of it.

The women’s event was won in a pretty entertaining match between Tracy Fleury — who last season took over Kerri Einarson’s old team when she assembled an all-skip team — and a newcomer in Sayaka Yoshimura who had won a Tier 2 contest last year to get into the Tier 1 Grand Slam and managed to topple big name teams on her way to this, her first final. Tracy Fleury, on a number of teams, had made a final a few times before but had never managed to win it. Early on, Yoshimura’s team seemed to struggled, especially at the third and skip positions, but Fleury only managed to keep ahead by 3 by the seventh and Yoshimura took two to make it close. Needing one point to tie and two to win, they left Fleury a hit and stick for the win … but Fleury’s rock overcurled but managed to clunk up against Yoshimura’s second rock to get the win, which was a bit of a lucky bounce for them.

I also did manage to watch a little bit of the men’s games — there was nothing else on — and noted a number of oversweeping instances. But from the commentary, this wasn’t just the normal oversweeping where the shot or ice is misjudged and so they sweep too long. Instead, it seemed to be really, really strong sweepers just sweeping so very, very hard that a shot that looks like it really needed to be swept is, indeed, just swept way too hard and either overcurled or kept way too straight (in modern curling they actually do try to sweep to curl it as well as to keep it straight). If they manage to figure this out, then that might give me another reason to not watch men’s curling, as sweeping having so huge an impact will just mean more and more very precise shots, which will limit strategy. I don’t like matches being won simply by which team made the least mistakes — see mixed doubles curling for that — but I do want to see some of the randomness so that teams can’t simply be certain that their shot will work every time and will have to adjust to shots of theirs or of their opponents that didn’t quite do what they thought they would.

And it might be due to my thinking about chess again, but this time the curling really did remind me of chess. You had rocks setting themselves up in set positions and attempts to take out or position rocks to threaten things, thus leading to a chess-like move-countermove sort of strategy. Of course, it’s never the case in chess that if you try to move a piece it might stop short of its target or run right off the board, so that’s something that curling does differently.

Anyway, the next curling is the Tour Challenge in a couple of weeks.

More on the Fall of the Atheist Movement

October 25, 2019

There’s still lots of atheists talking about the atheist movement and the “Deep Rifts” that they usually lament killed it. Much of the talk is aimed at the purported big name celebrities of the movement — generally Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, and Steven Pinker — and the people who defend and still associate with them like Jerry Coyne, and showing how they were never all that great and how their incompetence ended up destroying atheism. What is interesting to note, however, is that both sides have had a tendency through this to try to analogize their opponents to a movement that they all already hate and through that to argue why it’s clear that their opponents in their own movement are wrong and, often, unworthy of any real discussion. It wouldn’t take too long, for example, to find atheists on both sides — but more so on the “rational and skeptic” side — claiming that the other side is acting just like the theists that they all hate.

The Social Justice side also likes to link their opponent to the alt-right, as P.Z. Myers did in a recent post. He links to a video in a series looking at alt-right tactics, and claims that there’s a frightening — to him — parallel between the tactics the alt-right is using and the tactics his opponents in movement atheism were using. Unfortunately, Myers only reveals his own issues with self-awareness, understanding the arguments of others, and a tendency to lump all of his enemies together by little more than the fact that he hates them so much.

For instance, there’s the bit where they redefine the bits they don’t like, like feminism, as political, and we can’t have our group divided by politics…and at the same time conveniently redefine alt-right attitudes as apolitical.

Feminism coined the phrase “The personal is the political”, so you’d hardly need to redefine it to call it political when one of its base principles is that everything is political. Second, that very move means that we should be very skeptical of people who see everything as political claiming that their opponents are redefining things as not being apolitical, as it’s hard to imagine an argument that could convince them that those things aren’t actually political. And as progressives many of them did indeed adopt or agree with the sentiment that everything is political, and that even not getting involved in any way or declaring apathy was a political statement for the status quo. In fact, some commenters on Myers’ own site have made that exact argument (again, I’m too lazy to look it up). So Myers is vulnerable on two counts here. First, of ignoring the actual arguments to declare that his opponents are doing something dishonest, and second of ignoring that the starting point for this whole dispute over politics would have come from trying to introduce feminism as something crucial to atheism itself and thus as something that’s “apolitical” wrt atheism itself.

Then there’s the elevation of micro-celebrities as representatives, not because they’re particularly good people, but because they conform to the mores of the vocal minority.

Like, say, people like Rebecca Watson or Myers himself, elevated to micro-celebrities because they say and talk about the right things? Additionally, the Social Justice side defines being a good person by their set of mores, and while in some cases their definitions aren’t that controversial — an actual rapist is, of course, not a good person — in some cases they are. So saying that the micro-celebrities on their opponents’ side are not good people but that the ones on their side are is attempting to argue through tautology: if you aren’t on our side, you’re just a bad person, and can’t even be considered a good person with some bad ideas. Ask Ophelia Benson about that. She’s no worse a person before she became deeply concerned about trans issues and how they related to feminism than she is after.

Or the fact that poor arguments are repeated over and over, precisely because they are bad arguments and aren’t going to win anyone over on their quality, so they have to reaffirm it to themselves and find solidarity as a chorus.

Myers — and anyone who has ever been inside movement atheism — probably shouldn’t talk about rote repetition of bad arguments. This goes double for Social Justice atheists, as they repeat a lot of terrible arguments as if they settled things.

Have you ever heard an atheist declare that “all atheism is is a disbelief in god”? Think about it. That’s an argument that’s going to win no one over; it’s certainly not going to persuade anyone outside the core fandom that “Hmm, maybe I ought to give that a try”. Yet it’s the go-to claim of insular atheists to shut down any substantive discussion of goals and principles!

That argument was introduced to the atheist movement long before the “Deep Rifts” as an argument against theists. The point of that was to remove the burden of proof from atheists because, well, they didn’t actually have a belief and so didn’t need to justify it with argument. So it’s a fundamental principle of New Atheism, not a mere argument that’s supposed to convince people of … something. And Myers ignores how it was used against his side in the discussion, as it was used against people who insisted that being an atheist meant accepting all of the liberal and progressive values and morality that they did, and through that to insist that that was the case by definition and not by argument. This was the response of what Myers himself calls “dictionary atheists”, saying that just because they’re atheists that doesn’t mean that they have to share all the same values as other atheists. And one big argument that it featured prominently in was the debate over how to deal with conservatives wrt the atheist movement. David Silverman, I believe — before any of his other issues were at least directly raised — was castigated for trying to recruit atheists and talk about atheism at a big conservative conference, because the atheist movement didn’t want conservatives to join their liberal club. This despite the fact that most people currently in religions were probably going to lean conservative. Myers’ side has constantly been adamant that you aren’t or can’t be a real atheist unless you share their social, political and moral values. The “All atheism is is a lack of belief in gods” principle was mustered against them to show that they were wrong about that. That it didn’t have any traction with Myers’ side and has been derided says more about that side than it does about the argument or those who use it.

This pseudo-apoliticism is exactly what’s allowed atheism to become a haven for the right. While on one hand feminism is declared to be a cancer that causes Deep Rifts, on the other, well, Libertarianism is just natural good sense.

Well, in the atheist movement feminism did create the “Deep Rifts”, because it was the feminist atheists who insisted that atheists who were not equally feminist were not proper atheists. No one as far as I can recall did any of that for Libertarianism. The Libertarian atheists were generally pretty good at merely advocating for their view but not insisting that all good atheists simply had to accept it without argument. In fact, the big kerfuffle over Libertarianism in the atheism movement seems to have come from the atheists that didn’t agree with it again insisting that those who did support it were just bad atheists and bad people.

The good news is that it makes me feel better about having been mobbed out of the movement.

Wait … Myers thinks that he was mobbed out of the movement? Has he forgotten that they were the ones who insisted that movement atheism was no longer fit for them because they disagreed with the other people in it? Has he forgotten things like Atheism+ and all of the attempts to form a new movement atheism that would exclude those terrible people running the old movement atheism? Has he any evidence that he was mobbed out as opposed to his actually directly leaving willingly by publicly stating that he didn’t want to associate with it anymore? This really sounds like sour grapes, as he and his side left to form their own movement atheism and failed miserably at it, and so have declared it dead.

So Myers doesn’t even seem to remember the words of his own side properly, let alone those of the other side. But they are bad, and the alt-right are bad, so they must all do the same thing and the good sides must be doing better things somehow. The lack of self-awareness is notable.

Bonus post!

October 24, 2019

I just came across this post on Rose McGowan and a lawsuit. I’m not going to say anything about any of that, but since I’m currently rewatching “Charmed” I found this line and my reaction to it amusing:

McGowan, 46, known for her role in the “Scream” movie franchise …

Wait … she was in the “Scream” movie franchise? I mean, I know that Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox were in it, but never heard of Rose McGowan being in it. Yeah, “Charmed” might be more of a niche show, but at least she was a clear and important character in it.

Do most people know her from that series, or are they like me and know of her from other things and didn’t remember or know that she was in that series?

Thoughts on “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”

October 24, 2019

So, this is the purported final chapter of the Friday the 13th series that they then made at least four more movies after. And the sad thing is that, so far, it’s by far the worst of the series. And the big reason for that is because it all comes across as perfunctory.

From the beginning, the series constantly mixed general, every day activities with the murder sprees of the two main murderers (Jason and his mother). The first movie was, in fact, the best at this and came across as charming because it was utterly unapologetic about how pretty much all of those scenes were pretty much irrelevant to what was going on. They existed pretty much to give a break in-between the suspenseful killings and to fill out the runtime while setting up for the next killing. The subsequent movies, though, started to try to make these things meaningful, by adding in some musings and exposition on the legends itself in a way that stopped the movie to do so and also by adding in some character plots to talk about while we’re watching those ordinary scenes. But since they never pay off those character arcs and exposition, they fall flat.

“The Final Chapter” takes this to the ultimate extreme by coming across as a typical teen party-type of movie that’s occasionally interrupted by a very brief murder scene. We have even at the beginning a hospital scene that focuses on the odd sexual relationship between the morgue attendant and the nurse — after we’ve already spent a lot of time with a campfire tale exposition and flashbacks to the previous movies as well as the clean-up at the end of Part 3 — with a couple of Jason jump scares. And then, for no reason, the guy that a number of medical professionals concluded was clearly dead just gets up and kills the morgue attendant and then the nurse. This comes completely out of no where and takes a scant couple of minutes of screen time when compared to the much longer scenes of the morgue attendant, the nurse, and the 20 Minute Workout. Then, we shift to a family in the woods near the lake and their backstories, and hint at some kids coming up to move in next door, and then there’s one murder of a hitchhiker, and then meeting the kids with a long introduction of their various sexual and romantic issues, and then there’s a skinny dipping scene, and then there’s a red herring about Jason that introduces someone else — whom it is clear is there to kill Jason since we know that Jason is alive, even though the movie later tries to hint at the body having been stolen without ever having told us that beforehand and in that scene us being pretty sure that he’s still alive — and then we link everyone together and start to get into the movie proper. So, for a slasher movie, we spent a lot of time focusing on the characters, and the murder gets less than a minute.

This continues for the rest of the movie: long periods of time following the character antics, with the actual murders taking up a minute or two of screen time. The movie doesn’t even really spend any time building the suspense in most cases, except in the most boring way possible (having them repeat, say, calls for someone when we know that the person isn’t coming and that they’re going to be killed, which isn’t suspenseful but is instead just rather dull). And so the plot points are repetitive enough that we know what’s coming and yet it takes a maddeningly long time to actually get around to them. It doesn’t even properly handle the ending where the survivors finally discover the murders and have to flee from Jason, as again that’s actually really short and so seems to rush.

So, ultimately, the slasher parts that are the only interesting part of the movie seem perfunctory compared to the teenage party movie parts that it seems it wanted to focus more on. I have no idea how this came about. All I know is that it makes the movie boring. Previous movies certainly didn’t have enough gore or creative killings for the modern horror fan, but “The Final Chapter” doesn’t even seem to be trying to make a horror movie anymore. If it was a teenage party movie, presumably it would have made those sequences interesting, but it doesn’t, and yet more effort seems to have been spent on them than on the actual murders, which is what Friday the 13th fans clearly were there to see.

I can’t imagine ever watching this movie again, as it was simply boring and didn’t even work as a pseudo-horror/slasher pic.

Things change and irritate me

October 23, 2019

i So, a while back I had picked up some music video channels that I had enjoyed but that I’d kinda stopped watching for a bit, although I was starting to get back into watching them a bit more lately. So, while looking around to prepare for adding a Canadian news channel pack to my service, I noticed an announcement that those channels were all being dropped by my provider. Looking at the rest of the package, there isn’t that much else in there that I care about, meaning that I now have to decide what I’m going to do about it.

The whole chain, though, follows on from changes. I want to keep at least one package of news channels on my service just in case something happens and I want to follow it on the news. The American networks are too expensive, so I can choose between a International news package and a Canadian news package. Obviously, the Canadian news package would show news more relevant to Canada, but the International news package has more channels and also has the BBC World News channel, which I like better than the Canadian options. So, for the longest time, I stuck with the International news channel.

But then I noticed that due to changes in how the shows work I wasn’t watching any other channel but the BBC World News channel. And then they said that they were cancelling one of the shows I did watch semi-regularly and replacing it with a new show, which then got me wondering if there’d be anything for me to watch on it at all. As it turns out, it’s really just a name change and a change in some of the hosts, at least for now, but with me once I start thinking about something or changing something I keep thinking about it even if the initial conditions have changed.

So, I decided that I should try the Canadian news package until about New Year’s — when I’m going to plan everything out again — while keeping the International news package as well, to see which package works best for me. This gives me a few months with my regular schedule and a month — hopefully — when I’m off to see what works and what I like.

But then I was reminded of the other packages I have that aren’t going to be as good anymore. There’s one of music channels — just music, no videos — that I never listen to anymore, and the one that’s changed so much — one channel dropped out, three were dropped — that I don’t think there’s anything left in there that I care about. I was going to leave this until after New Year’s like I did with the others, but there’s so little left in that package that I really don’t think it makes sense to keep it around.

However … there really isn’t anything that great to replace those packages with. And I don’t want to keep both news packages because I don’t watch the news often enough to spend that much money on them. So I might end up cutting off some of my cable packages. I’d spend less, which is good, but also wouldn’t watch it as much, which is bad. I’m watching DVDs and the like more often now anyway, but I still need to keep the service for the sports channels.

This is the same annoyance I had with comics subscriptions: things kept changing and I didn’t want to have to keep paying attention to adapt when that happened. Still, it hasn’t been as frequent and I’ve been able to keep this line-up for years, so it isn’t that annoying. Yet.

Thoughts on “War and Peace”

October 22, 2019

For the past few weeks, I’ve been posting about some Stephen King adaptations — to movie — in this spot. I intended to do the same thing this week, but the next movie in the pack that I’m currently working through is 167 minutes long. I just didn’t have the time this weekend to watch a movie that long. However, I had just managed to finish reading “War and Peace” and since I had planned to talk about it decided that today was a good day to do so.

I’ve been reading “War and Peace” off and on for about four months now. I finally managed to finish it about a week or so ago. It was a long and rather heavy book, and again as usual I kept getting distracted by other things. The pace, therefore, was incredibly slow. Some days I’d manage to read a whole four pages before putting it aside for the night. This was mostly because the book was detailed and deep enough that I had to focus more on it than I would otherwise and so when I got distracted I did have to make sure that I went back and caught the details of the parts that I might have skimmed over otherwise, especially since a lot of it was in French where I had to make sure that I read the translations to figure out what was going on.

Now, this is a very famous work, and is well-known in literary circles. There’s a lot of literary analysis that can be done and has been done for this book. I’m not going to do any of that here. Instead, I went into this with the attitude of “Okay, so this is labelled as an incredibly wonderful book that stands the test of time. I’m going to just sit down and read it and see how it works simply as entertainment from someone who likes to read books”. So, I was reading it for fun. Was it fun?

I’m going to start with the good points, segue into some of the bad points, and then give an overall assessment at the end.

While obviously how the work is translated can play a big part in this, nevertheless it’s clear that Tolstoy’s writing style is very good. His conversations generally flow, his asides generally work, the pacing is normally fairly good — more on this in the negatives — and his descriptions generally work. Character-wise, Tolstoy is generally able to describe them well-enough and to speak well-enough in their own voices to make them distinct and also relatable and sympathetic. There are a number of characters in the work that I really liked — Marya and Sonya in particular — and that I grew to like later like Pierre and Natasha. Most of the background characters work even if they often don’t really get any resolution to their character arcs. For the most part, Tolstoy does a good job of mostly describing people going about doing things and talking about things that they would talk about, and exposing them for their strengths and foibles, which makes it seem like a description of Russia at the time and not so much a work of fiction at all. That he uses the actual historical backdrop of the Napoleonic ways only adds to this; without knowing the actual detailed history, you probably won’t notice the differences in characters or events that Tolstoy hints at in his epilogue, nor will at least some of the prominent characters that he invents seem out of place as prominent characters. There are some rather major discrepancies as Tolstoy notes, but as a work of fiction it works well to make all of those discrepancies at least seem like things that could have happened.

Tolstoy also at times takes a rather cynical view of wars, politics, history and historians, and a number of other things. While these are generally asides, they also usually work pretty well. Tolstoy is a master of expressing what he sees as the foibles of people and institutions in a way that’s interesting and somewhat cynical but still leaves them as mostly human. He also always spends some time arguing for his positions which puts him ahead of many cynical people today who seem to want to say “This is stupid!” but never want to talk about why it’s stupid. Tolstoy always says why it’s stupid or at least wrong, even if you don’t agree with this assessment. A big part of the work, in fact, is Tolstoy’s rather pronounced views on how historical changes actually happen and what they are actually caused by, which is an interesting theory in itself that I don’t have the time to explore in detail.

This, however, leads to the major problem with the work, by Tolstoy’s own admission: it’s disjoint. There’s no real central plot or narrative to follow as you read it. The major progression is the Napoleonic Wars leading up to the famous taking of Moscow and subsequent retreat of the French from Russia with that infamously disastrous Russian campaign — also infamously repeated by Hitler in WWII — but it’s clear that that’s the framing device and not the plot of the work. But, then, what is the main narrative here? You could say that it’s the story of the Rostovs, but while the story keeps touching their lives and all the main characters that survive end up in their family either directly or through marriage for the most part the Rostovs are too unimportant to be the focus of the work. The character who plays the most important role in all of the proceedings is probably Pierre and he does have a character arc, but as he plays almost no role in the war that would leave much of the work mostly extraneous. Tolstoy in an afterword does point out that people have objected to this sort of thing in the work, so this isn’t unknown to him and is likely partly intentional. But the problem is that in such a lengthly and heavy work we really want to have a set narrative, even if a small one, to focus on and help us push through to the next scene, especially when the book shifts to things that we don’t care as much about. All that we have here is the desire to find out how things for certain characters will turn out, but this hits the same problem that I noted with “Legacy of the Force”: that sort of structure means that when the work is focusing on events and characters that we aren’t interested in, we’re going to be bored. This is epitomized in the Epilogue, where after he resolves the issues for the characters and explains what happened to them, he goes on and on for a number of pages about his personal theory of history, which is repetitive and boring and only something I struggled through at all because I was wondering if he was going to talk about the characters again at some point. While his pacing is generally good, when it goes wrong it’s usually because he stops talking about the interesting characters and goes off to talk about something less interesting.

Also, a number of events require people to be idiots, which can be problematic. At the political or military level, it isn’t an issue — there has obviously been a long history of people at the highest levels acting stupidly and causing disasters — but it is a bit of an issue when it happens to the characters. It’s hard to remain sympathetic to characters to act hypocritically or idiotically and cause massive problems because of it. And it builds from characters that we would expect to act that way — Natasha is one of the biggest idiots in the work, but she’s a vain and emotional teenage girl when she does so so we can forgive her for that — to characters that should probably know better later on. That being said, Tolstoy does manage to pretty much rescue all of the important characters and shows their human foibles to, in fact, be nothing more than human foibles, but it can get irritating at times.

Still, it’s a pretty good book. The characters that we end up with are the ones that Tolstoy has spent time making sympathetic, and they mostly end up with the sort of life that they’d want in the end. The only real downers are Prince Andrei dying and Sonya getting passed over for marriage by the man she loves and never really finding love herself, but again both of those are clearly supporting characters that you have to remind yourself of to get that downer feeling. Most of the asides are interesting and Tolstoy usually leaves enough mystery and threads around to push you through the parts that you may not be all that interested in. Except for the length of time it takes me to read it, this is a book that I’d consider reading again.

I’ve turned away from Russian classics towards mystery, having both “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” and Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” on the go at the moment.

Canada’s Desperate Need to Do Something About Climate Change

October 21, 2019

Today is the federal election in Canada, so let me pause my reflections on Philosophy in Pop Culture and turn my attention to it for a moment. And to specifically reflect that at least the media sources are saying that climate change and thus reducing carbon is a big issue for Canadians, which is something that at least all the major party leaders also believe because they themselves spend a lot of time talking about it. So considering that this is, obviously, a global issue, let’s examine it in light of that and what role Canada can play in it.

Let’s start by assuming that there is a carbon issue contributing to climate change. Some may want to disagree, but it’s not relevant to the discussion I want to have, for reasons that will become clear in a moment. So, worldwide we need to reduce carbon emissions. Okay, so what should Canada do about it? Many of the parties are screaming for radical reductions and carbon taxes and all sorts of things, but does this make sense for Canada given the position it’s in?

The first thing we need to figure out is how much Canada itself is actually contributing to the problem. After all, if Canada, say, produced no carbon emissions then we’d clearly have no need to do anything but could still be impacted by climate change and still see it as a problem for us. In addition, we need to do this to see what the impact of us actually reducing our carbon emissions would have on the problem. Note that in the rhetoric I’ve seen this is almost never actually brought up. They talk as if we need to make radical changes to stop climate change, but never say what that impact would actually be. So let’s start there.

From Wikipedia and other sources, Canada’s percentage is about 1.6%, and we fall about tenth on the list. From this site, that ranking is confirmed. The only thing that’s interesting from the second site is that when you look at it by rankings per capita, we’re pretty high on the list — we jump up to fourth — relatively speaking. But the immediate take-away from the percentage is this: if Canada’s carbon and greenhouse gas emissions dropped to 0, it would do not one bit of good if countries like China, the U.S., India and Russia don’t do anything to reduce emissions. And if they significantly reduce their emissions, things will improve dramatically even if Canada does nothing.

So, first, there is no reason for us to join or attempt to live up to any climate agreement that the Big Four either aren’t a part of or are exempt from. One of the complaints in Canada was over Stephen Harper pulling us out of the Kyoto accords, but if I recall correctly the Kyoto accords exempted China and Russia from having to meet emissions targets, which by this made it a stupid agreement anyway. There’s what I believe is called the Paris Accord, but the U.S. pulled out of that one, making it, again, a pointless accord. The only reason for Canada to join and attempt to live up to these accords is just to be able to at least say to those countries that they aren’t the only ones making sacrifices in this, but it’s only that social/political guilt-trip that would have any real effect. Canada actually reducing its emissions is going to have no real impact, one way or another.

Second, this means that Canada taking drastic steps to reduce emissions isn’t a good move for Canada. After all, if we do it and no one else does, then nothing will change. And if at least the biggest contributors do it and we don’t then we should see a major improvement regardless. So Canada should not be taking drastic steps itself. Instead, it should be looking for a way to get the biggest contributors to take strong steps to reduce emissions.

Now, it is interesting that Canada is relatively high when it comes to per capita emissions. Of course, so is Australia, and their emissions are miniscule compared to everyone else’s. It might be worth looking into why Canada’s emissions are so high per capita and seeing if we can do anything about it, but I suspect that the reasons are rather trivial: Canada is a modernized society which has higher emissions overall, but is also a very large country that is very spread out, and is also a very cold country. So Canada is going to have higher emissions due to transportation and heating than other countries are. There’s … not much we can do about that, other than to encourage cleaner options. Which we definitely can and should do. But if all countries went to the exact same set of clean options, Canada’s per capita emissions would still be higher (unless they all went to 0) because of a relatively small population in a large landmass country that also has a long period of winter.

Now, countries like China can protest that while they produce a massive, massive amount of emissions, their per capita emissions are relatively low — they’re 12th on the list — and so they’ve already reduced their emissions per capita as far as they can reasonably go. It’s time for others to reduce their emissions per capita to China’s level and then they can complain about China. However, one problem with this is that China’s per capita emissions are so low likely because they have a lot of people in rural areas that are not yet modernized, but as China modernizes those areas their per capita — and overall — emissions will greatly increase. Heck, even a migration to the urban areas will increase that dramatically. Second, for all of the biggest contributors a small increase will have a dramatic impact. Take China. Their overall emissions in 2016 were 9056.8 MT. Let’s say that they reduce that by a mere 10%. That would be 905.68 MT, which is almost as much as Canada and Australia produce combined. So China reducing emissions by 10% would reduce the overall emissions by about as much as Canada and Australia reducing their emissions to zero would … which is a lot harder to do than reducing the emissions of a country by 10%, even if they were being incredibly efficient with their emissions. Which China obviously isn’t. So what we should be focusing on is getting the big contributors to reduce their emissions, not on getting the smaller contributors to reduce theirs.

So, it doesn’t look like Canada needs to take drastic steps to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. That’s not going to impact climate change at all. What we need to do is find ways to guilt or bribe the biggest contributors into reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon tax in Canada is not going to do that.