Archive for February, 2021

Bob Seidensticker’s Silver Bullets: 28

February 26, 2021

So, after my painstaking work in going through his previous 27 entries, Bob Seidensticker has decided to add a 28th silver bullet argument.  This one focuses on the idea that people who end up in heaven will be aware, one presumes, of people who didn’t make it into Heaven, and thus are in Hell, and thus are suffering infinitely for their sins.  Some of these people will be loved ones.  The basic idea, then, is that it seems like no person that we would in no way imagine ourselves to be or that we would in any way want to be could enjoy Heaven knowing that others are damned to Hell, especially if those people were their loved ones.  The emotional reactions we should have, the argument claims, range from at least missing our friends and loved ones to being tormented at the thought of them being tormented.

Seidensticker lists a lot of theological reactions to this, which immediately strikes against this being a Silver Bullet argument for the same reason as many of the other purported bullets:  if there are a lot of theological responses, then it’s not an argument that you can essentially drop the mic on and walk away, as you have to deal with all of the theological responses first.  However, I think this one suffers from another common flaw in his Silver Bullets, which is that this argument cannot be the Silver Bullet argument because it relies on another argument being true first:  that the people who end up in Hell are not, in fact, people who deserve to be there.  If they deserve to be there, then any emotional reaction on our parts that suggests that they don’t deserve it would be a flaw in us, not in God or the idea of Heaven and Hell.  If as expected those who end up in Heaven are perfected, then we wouldn’t have those flaws and so wouldn’t have those feelings.  We would be able to properly assess the situation and, presumably, have the proper emotional reactions to them.

Now, I disagree with those theologians who say that we should look at the people in Hell with happiness for various reasons.  I don’t think that makes sense.  Their arguments tend to be emotional reactions the other way, where those in Heaven delight in being spared Hell.  If those who are in Heaven deserve to be there and those who are in Hell deserve to be there then all we could have is the more intellectual perception of that as fact:  we deserve to be in Heaven, and they deserve to be in Hell.  So we’d have a “calm passion” of understanding, not a hot passion of sadness or glee.

And this argument applies to loved ones as well.  While we might miss loved ones, in general we can and should understand if they cannot be with us for some reason.  And while we obviously would not want to see our loved ones suffer, being upset about them getting the punishment they deserve is indeed a huge flaw in us.  The parent lamenting the tough time their child is having in prison when they were legitimately convicted of murder is understandable, but clearly wrong.  So, again, once we have proper understanding and are perfected, then these things will not ruin our experience of Heaven, because we will be in a state where our flawed emotional states are, at least, taken away.

Now, some might argue that this makes us us not entirely human.  How can we live as beings that do not have emotion?  My answer is, of course, in my name.  I am Stoic-leaning, and so think that it is indeed true that more perfect beings do not have and are not susceptible to the whims of strong passions.  The main reason that Seidensticker and the people in his comment section find being that emotionless so disturbing is because they enjoy feeling those strong emotions.  Strong emotions feel good.  But that doesn’t mean that they’re right.  We can remain compassionate and merciful and caring without having to feel the extremely strong emotions that tend to accompany them.  And with that we would always in fact actually be merciful, compassionate and caring, without any risk of our emotions leading us astray.  While we might lose the pleasure of strong emotions, pleasure is not, ultimately, what makes life worthwhile.  And that would apply even more so in Heaven.  So we would never have pleasures that trump our virtues, and our path to the life and experience worth having.

Which leads to another argument:  what about Hitler?  If he repents, they argue, he could be in Heaven, while someone who, say, merely didn’t believe in God might be in Hell.  How can that be justified and how can can we be happy in a Heaven where that can happen?

To suss this out, we need to look at Virtue Ethics, because this argument depends on a clash between justice and mercy.  The argument is that justice clearly states that Hitler deserves to go to Hell if anyone does, but mercy is about pardoning people and rescuing them from the punishments that they clearly deserve.  So if God forgives Hitler, then who, in fact, could deserve to go to Hell?  And if God doesn’t or can’t, then He can’t be infinitely merciful either.  Yes, the actual arguments are presuming that Hitler will end up in Heaven for being at least nominally Catholic, but that’s not a safe presumption and if God can forgive what Hitler did, one would think that He would forgive someone who just happened to never be told about Christianity but was clearly willing to accept it once they found out about it.  So ultimately the argument, to be in any way sensible, has to boil down to a clash between justice and mercy.

Obviously, this again would be relying on another argument than the one Seidensticker claims is the silver bullet again.  But it’s worth looking at this from the angle of Virtue Ethics since the clearest way to do so is through that angle, since these sorts of clashes are part and parcel of Virtue Ethics.  After all, Virtue Ethics defines virtues like justice and mercy and compassion and so on and then asks us to go out in the world and act on them.  We thus immediately hit the issue of what we should do if one of those virtues demands on action and another demands a different action.

Obviously, we need a method to resolve such conflicts.  Perhaps that’s going to be a compromise position, where we’re a little less just and a little less merciful and some up with an ideal notion.  I don’t think that’s the right approach, though.  What I believe is that once we define what the virtues are, the proper understanding of them will show how they are always consistent with each other.  Thus, there can’t be any meaningful clash between them, properly understood.  So in this case, it’s entirely possible that what Hitler did was so bad that no repentance or act of contrition could spare him from his rightful punishment in Hell.  Thus, mercy could never demand it.  On the other hand, it is also possible that if he was properly repentant that he could indeed deserve mercy, and so justice could be suspended in that case.

But wait, you might ask, how can someone deserve mercy?  Isn’t mercy just ensuring that someone doesn’t get what they deserve?  Well, we can easily say that if Hitler arrived at the Pearly Gates and was still convinced that what he did was right and was completely unrepentant that he wouldn’t deserve mercy.  It seems clear, then, that at least a precondition for mercy is an acceptance that what you did was wrong and a willingness to make up for that.  Without that, then, you would not deserve mercy.  So mercy is not and cannot be unconditional.  So the question is if accepting that what you did was wrong and wanting to make up for it is enough to get mercy, or if there are cases where justice and other virtues can demand more from you, or make it so that the conditions required for mercy can never be met.  I lean towards the idea that mercy would trump the other virtues because it seems to me to be rather inconsistent to refuse to grant mercy to someone who is legitimately repentant and understands that what they did was wrong.  But I admit that the argument that there are some things that mercy cannot forgive and so that justice would demand that we still punish it is a pretty good one.

But does this apply to God?  After all, God is supposed to be infinite in all His properties, including His virtues.  So wouldn’t infinite justice imply that God always punishes actions to the level demanded by justice, and infinite mercy imply that God always relieves people of such punishments?  This returns to the comments above, as infinitely virtuous does not mean infinite in quantity, but instead infinite in perfection.  God would be perfect in His assessments of what is virtuous, including how to resolve potential clashes between virtues.  In line with my above analysis, that would mean knowing when mercy is the applicable virtue or when it’s justice.  And since I argue that we would be perfected in Heaven, we would know that as well, and so know who deserves Heaven and God’s mercy and who doesn’t.

You could reply that this depends on Virtue Ethics, but Virtue Ethics might not be correct.  However, the alternatives actually have an easier time with this because they don’t have explicit and individualize virtues to conflict with each other.  For them, for the most part, virtues are merely names for conditions defined by their overall moral project.  For example, in Utilitarianism mercy would be a name for a set of conditions where sparing someone from punishment provides a greater overall utility, and justice would be a name for a set of conditions where punishing them provides a greater overall utility.  Since these are all justified by utility, you are merciful when utility demands it and just when utility demands it, and utility cannot demand both mercy and justice by definition.  So, in general, properly understood, whatever we use to define things like justice and mercy, they cannot clash.  And so they cannot clash in a way that matters for the argument.

As noted, the main issue here is that this argument depends on other arguments being true.  Most atheists do think that no one deserves Hell — or, at least, that the people who Christianity says will end up in Hell deserve to be there — but that is indeed a separate and hotly contested argument.  This argument depends on that one, and so itself cannot be a silver bullet argument.

Seidensticker has made another post talking about takeaways from this argument.  I’ll make a separate post on that next time.

Thoughts on “The Sandman”

February 25, 2021

While I’m writing about this much later, I watched this over the Christmas break, and I was wondering, after watching it, what caused my reaction to the movie.  Did my heart just grow three sizes because it was Christmas?  Are these horror movies finally wearing me down?

Because this movie is terribly flawed and yet I found myself enjoying it anyway.

The big flaws all follow around what the movie is about … or, rather, that the movie doesn’t really know what it wants to be about.  Which, again, is something that I’ve savaged other movies for, but found didn’t bother me that much in this movie.  The movie itself focuses on a young girl whose father is killed by a monstrous creature who then has to move in with her aunt, who takes pornographic pictures for a living.  But other than it being shown at the beginning and being a minor complication in her being able to take the girl in, this really doesn’t come up again.  It provides a little fanservice at the beginning of the movie and then is completely ignored.  The girl herself has strange powers, which include summoning the titular monster “The Sandman” when she feels threatened, but the movie is unclear about whether she’s supposed to be a girl with powers that she can’t control that sometimes cause her to lash out and hurt people directly — she does it to the aunt’s boyfriend when he wants to kill her to stop the monster — or whether she’s the victim of otherworldly forces that spawn through her power, as “The Sandman” seems to be.  Also, there’s a shady organization that wants to capture her in order to use her powers, but they show up just  in time to be a complication and to bring the girl’s powers out again — and she and The Sandman wipe most of them out — but really don’t do anything than to hint that there’s more of a world out there that includes such powers but the movie really doesn’t do anything with it.

So, this is a movie that is so convoluted and so unclear in what it wants to be that I should by all rights dislike it.  And yet, as noted, I enjoyed it.  Why?  I think the reason is that it ties into two movies or sorts of movies that I also oddly liked.  The first is “Arizona”, where it comes across a lot like that and the other sorts of movies that you’d see on Lifetime or Crave in Canada where there’s just enough plot to get you through a couple of hours of light entertainment but for the most part the plot gets out of the way of the rest of the things that are going on.  This movie is quite like that, as the plot comes in just in time to create the next complication for them but then gets out of the way so that we can watch them get out of it.  Thus, this means that the plot issues end up  being like the ones in “Friday the 13th”, where we can see that they’re there but the movie itself doesn’t seem to care at all about them, and so by that it kinda chides us for caring about them, so we feel embarrassed if we worry about it.  The movie never makes these revelations seem important.  They just seem to happen to be the case.  So it doesn’t really milk it for drama and so make us have to pay attention to see if they pull that off, and so can just follow it along as a series of events that happen to get us to the next part of the movie.

However, the movie falls down on this in the credits scenes.  There are two of them.  The first one shows that after they lock The Sandman away the girl still has her powers … but we knew that her powers were independent of The Sandman so it’s not a surprise that she has them, and there’s no reason for us to consider her powers necessarily sinister from the movie itself, since most of the time the locked away Sandman was the killer.  The second one shows the researcher from the shady government agency bringing The Sandman to the agency to study, and seeing some grains of sand fall from the statue.  This gives the agency some importance and also focuses us on The Sandman whom the movie never really explained, meaning that both of them were too important for the lack of attention they had in the movie.  So those scenes are the only blemishes in a movie that seemed to be striving to make us not really care about the details and instead to encourage us to simply follow along and not think too much.  And it was pretty successful at that.

For all of its flaws, I still enjoyed this movie … but not enough to put it on my list of movie that I will definitely rewatch.  So it will go in the box of movies that I might rewatch at some point but really can’t say when.

First Thoughts on “Huniepop 2: Double Date”

February 24, 2021

So, like Shamus Young, I found the original Huniepop game strangely compelling.  It’s less of a surprise for me than for Shamus because I am a long-time fan of dating sims and Shamus isn’t.  Still, he was turned off by the seeming doubling-down on the anime sex elements while I was turned off by the change in girls and that none of them seemed interesting to me.  Still, when I looked it up to see what the mechanics were I was interested, as you indeed have to “double date” and try to get into a threesome with girls, but this means that you need to balance your “attention” between the two girls, which means that you have to switch between them before the one gets too tired where they are unusable for a number of turns before they recover.  They have different traits which means that they like different matches, and will get baggage later that impacts what you can or should do.

So how does this Match-3 gameplay actually work?  The two girls at a time and the stamina is itself kinda interesting, forcing you to balance your time between them and look for the matches each girl likes best and for stamina matches when you need to.  However, that the broken heart matches now exhaust them is terrible if these ever come up by accident, so removing broken hearts from the board is more critical than ever.  Except that while in the first game you got a number — 4 or 6, I think — of slots for date gifts which can do that and you could slot in your favourite gifts for your playstyle, here it seems like the gifts are per girl and you have to open up more than one slot as you go along, which is quite pedantic.  And you still have to build up sentiment to use them, and of course that has to be built up per girl, which just adds more playing around to the game when all I wanted to do was match some threes or more.  All in all the gameplay is a bit more fiddly and so I don’t feel it’s really taking advantage of the concept all that well.

Moreover, the dating sim elements seem to be added to a bit as well … except that I have very little interest in them because I have very little interest in any of the pairs I’ve discovered so far.  In the first game, you could focus on the girls you like, but here it has to be on the combination and that means that you have essentially two girls-worth of a combination of looks and personality to balance to try to gain some interest.  And for me almost all of the girls have pretty uninteresting or annoying personalities.  So I have no interest in talking to them, and little interest in dating them or doing anything for them, which is turning the dating sim into a puzzle game, and I’m not that interested in a straight puzzle game.

So far, it’s not that interesting to me, and looks like it won’t be a game that I can use to fill in a couple of hours when I have some time, which means that I’ll probably put it off for a while.  I like the concept, but the gameplay doesn’t take full advantage of it and the girls just aren’t interesting enough for me to bother.

Thoughts on “Annihilation”

February 23, 2021

Last time was “Tomb Raider”, and the last movie in that three movie pack was “Annihilation”.  Now, I do like Natalie Portman, and so I saw this movie a few times for relatively cheap and was tempted to buy it.  But the focus in the description on the all-female team — which the movie would have to justify if it wanted to make a big deal out of it like the description was trying to do — and the overall idea that Natalie Portman’s character was going in to find out what happened to her husband made me decide that the movie was probably not going to be very good.  I didn’t realize that the movie was one of the ones in the pack until I looked to see how long it was and realized who was in it, and so out of all of these movies this is the one that I approached with the most trepidation.

The movie doesn’t actually justify the all-female team that was sent in the second time, at least not as far as I recall.  But that’s okay because the all-female team isn’t really a big part of the plot either, so I have no idea what the description was going on about.  However, the movie fumbles things a bit with its framing.  Essentially, the movie is a collection of flashbacks.  The overall framing device is that Natalie Portman’s character has returned from the mission itself, and was the only one to return.  As part of this, there are flashbacks to her life with her husband to build up their relationship and give us an emotional connection to the two of them.  However, the main reason for a framing device where we are told about a disaster is to build in a mystery of what happened and how things ended up that badly.  But the world that they enter is quickly revealed as an extremely dangerous one that messes with their minds (although it isn’t clear why it does that).  So, yeah, we can pretty much figure out that all of the others will die and that the previous expedition was lost the same way.  The real mystery, then, is how her husband and how she managed to get back at all, which leads to the real twist of the movie.  But we didn’t really need that framing device to build that mystery, and neither the framing device, nor the flashbacks, nor the expedition itself actually set up for the twist itself.

And the twist itself is ambiguous (seemingly deliberately so) and not very interesting.  Towards the end, we find evidence that at least some of the creatures can duplicate people they come across.  One definitely duplicated her husband, and there is a duplicate of her that she fights, and the impression is that she defeats it.  Now, one of the reasons that she entered the portal into the other world at all was because her husband was falling ill and was clearly dying.  The video she sees showing the duplication of her husband has one of them essentially kill himself, which is implied to be the duplicate.  When she returns, the portal is closed and her husband recovers, but when she goes to see him he asks a question that the duplicate was directed to ask her, implying that he’s the duplicate.  But then there’s no reason given for why he was sick when the portal was open and recovered when it was closed, which would suggest that he was the husband and infected with something from the portal.  Maybe.  And then she doesn’t reply, but then hugs him, suggesting that if he’s a duplicate, she’s a duplicate as well.  But twists that are that ambiguous are at the very least very risky.  The best twists are the ones that we don’t see coming but completely understand and then kick ourselves later for not seeing it and not thinking of it.  So this twist is far too ambiguous to be interesting.  Now, you can have good movies with ambiguous endings, but those have to be pulled off very carefully to avoid the ending feeling unsatisfying.  “Annihilation”, however, doesn’t do anything to make this ending follow from what happened before or prepare us in any way for it.  So the ending comes across as more puzzling than interesting.

The rest of the movie is loose action, and so can’t save it and, again, doesn’t fit with the more artistic ending.

So, now that I’ve finished the pack, let me talk about whether or not I’d watch these movies again.

I wouldn’t watch Annihilation again.  The movie itself isn’t very interesting and is fairly slow-paced, and the ending is so ambiguous as to be confusing and unsatisfying.

I also wouldn’t watch Tomb Raider again.  The movie lacks an interesting and sympathetic main character because this version of Tomb Raider’s main personality traits are being arrogant and being reckless, neither of which make for a character I want to watch.  There were lots of elements that they could have used to make her more interesting as a person, and they didn’t use any of them.

I could potentially watch Arrival again.  The attempt at doing something like real science is somewhat interesting, and it might be nice to see if there are more hints at the future in the other parts of the movie.  However, it’s not that interesting a movie in and of itself.

Since these are all in the same pack, this means that it goes in my box in the closet to potentially watch again at some point instead of in the box to potentially sell at some point.

Next up … I have another three-pack of movies, and so will do the same thing for them as I did for this one.

Curling is back!

February 22, 2021

So when Covid-19 started to surge, curling essentially decided to punt on the year.  The World Championships were canceled, and the Grand Slam of Curling, which had two events left in the season running through April, decided that its next events were going to be the two that they had to cancel that they would play in 2021.  Of course, for various reasons sports in general and curling in particular are still challenging, so curling decided to create a bubble in Calgary and play all of the national events there, and the Grand Slam decided to get in on that action and have scheduled their two events inside the bubble as well.  That bubble is getting its first test this week with one of my favourite events, the event that I usually take vacation to watch, the Scotties.

Now, again, things aren’t all that normal at the event.  Things wouldn’t have been all that normal considering all the changes that happened after the season was canceled, but the situation and the bubble and all sorts of other things are making things a lot different.  To start with, normally to qualify for the Scotties each province holds playdown tournaments from which the winner emerges.  Due to Covid restrictions, that wasn’t possible in many provinces.  So the question became:  how in the world do we determine who actually gets to go to the Scotties?  This was left up to the provincial governing bodies, who in general decided to do things the easy way and simply send the team that they sent last year.  There was also an issue with the Wild Card teams, since in general the two teams with the most points where brought in to play a one game play-in to fill the final spot.  Bringing a team into the bubble  for one game really wasn’t going to work, so they decided to add another team and have three Wild Card teams for the entire tournament, selected by their points in the curling ranking system (yes, there is one, mostly used for Olympic qualification).  Except that there was a wrinkle there as well, as the rules say that in order for a team to be considered the same team for qualifications and for points, the team must retain three members out of four (which excludes their alternate).  So some teams that were at the Scotties last year and some of the higher ranking teams that could have been one of the Wild Card teams couldn’t go because, essentially, they weren’t the same team anymore.

And then there were a number of personal issues, as some teams had members who for various reasons couldn’t make it into the bubble for the tournament.  Krista McCarville’s team had two players were the long quarantines clashed with their jobs, and so Krysta Burns, the runner-up from last year, got Northern Ontario’s spot.  And the most notable in-game change is that Tracey Fleury’s team isn’t really her team anymore, as Fleury wanted to stay home with her child, and so Chelsea Carey, who had all of her team bail on her at the end of the season, is taking over as skip, necessitating the commentators having to constantly say “Team Wild Card Fleury, skipped by Chelsea Carey”.

And on top of all of that, provincial restrictions actually made practicing difficult.  After all, most sports and sporting venues were closed during lockdowns and under restrictions, and so the players couldn’t get into curling clubs to practice.  Many of the players, as well, are spread out across provinces — you can have one import on your team — and so couldn’t travel to practice together like they might have been able to do otherwise.  Of course, most of the time the teams then play a lot of tournaments in the fall to shake all of those issues out and to be able to practice together … except, of course, this real all of those tournaments were canceled.  So we have a lot of teams that normally would play a lot of games and practice a lot that haven’t actually managed to do any of that for this Scotties, which could lead to some somewhat random results, at least at the beginning.  On top of that, a lot of the teams that managed to get more tournaments in are younger teams coming out of juniors, which also adds a random element as they tend to be skilled but not necessarily strong at strategy.

The first weekend is over.  I haven’t managed to watch as many games as I would have liked due to the fact that since it’s in Calgary the late game starts right at the time I go to sleep, and Sunday is my insanely busy day so I was only half paying attention to the morning draw yesterday.  But here are my first impressions of the tournament:

1) We knew that the teams would have some foibles in learning how to make their shots again, that wasn’t helped by the fact that the ice has been changing a lot early on, due to things like humidity — the commentators were pointing out that the “pebble” drops of water that they usually use to add some grip to the ice were evaporating before hitting the ice because it was so dry — and differences from temperature and not having fans in the seats.

2) One of the games I watched more carefully was yesterday’s afternoon draw between Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges and PEI’s Suzanne Birt, which drove home the welcome attitude of at least some of the younger teams.  They’re just happy to be here.  Despite giving up some big ends to the extremely experienced Birt, they were laughing at their missed shots and really just seemed to be having fun.  And despite being down 6 – 2 with only two ends to go, the team came back to win that game 8 – 6.  They don’t really have any pressure since they aren’t expected to be as strong as the more experienced team and so can go out and just play.

3) Rachel Homan is playing while 8 months pregnant.  She’s done something like that before, but I was surprised that she did it at this time in this situation … but since they replaced Lisa Weagle with Sara Wilkes if she had they wouldn’t have had three returning players and so wouldn’t have been allowed to play.  There likely will not be a World Championships for the women again this year, so that won’t impact that should she happen to win.

4) So far, the matches I’ve been watching have shown some of the lesser known teams, which means that they’re teams that I don’t have any opinion on one way or the other.  I expect that to change when they get to the championship round later in the week and when the better known teams start to distance themselves from the field.

5) There was actually a Covid scare with one game canceled because one of the players wasn’t feeling well.  They believe that she actually had food poisoning and all tests came back negative.  But if you feel sick at all, they’re planning on punting games until they can be sure.  For me, personally, it means that there’s a game this morning when there wouldn’t have been (the rescheduled game).

So, curling is back.  And since I’m working from home and can see the TV from my desk, I’ll be able to watch it and still get my stuff done.

Scalzi on Canceling

February 19, 2021

So, the idea of “canceling” has been around for quite a while.  It’s up to years at this point.  Recently, Gina Carano was fired from her role in “The Mandalorian”, which has spawned more of the right-wing complaining about canceling than we’d seen recently (the most recent was probably at least attempts to cancel J.K. Rowling).  But with this, John Scalzi woke up from doing his writing and decided to make some comments on it.  However, he seems to be woefully uninformed about the history of canceling and what it actually is.

He lists it out in points, but I’m not going to address the points directly, but instead yank comments from it and show how the issue isn’t at all what he thinks it is.  Starting with this:

But I think everyone else knew that fact all too well: it turns out if the people with the money decide you’re more trouble than you’re worth — for whatever reason, not all of them virtuous — then you can be gone in a snap and someone else can easily (easily!) take your place. This is particularly the case in creative fields, which have always been and likely will always be a buyer’s market. There is always a new actor, director, writer, musician or whatever — or an established one who needs a gig and who is not going to be a pain in the ass.

While for Carano it actually does look like the company had thought that she was causing trouble and had warned her about it, this isn’t something that Scalzi would generally agree with.  Especially if the “troublemaking” is done based on either their personal lifestyle or their words.  Someone, say, who complained about a bigger star making sexual advances towards them would certainly be causing trouble, but people like Scalzi have certainly not been so accepting if the company decides to get rid of them for “causing trouble”.  Arguably, someone calling out Carano for the posts they didn’t like would be causing as much if not more trouble than she was, and if someone was, say, advocating for Black Lives Matter or for trans rights I am quite certain that Scalzi would be far more upset about them getting fired like this.  So the first problem is that while he’s stating that this is just how the world works, this isn’t how he wants the world to work.  He doesn’t want people to be replaceable in this way, or at least for similar reasons … or, at least, if he doesn’t see their lifestyle as a problem or if he agrees with their words.  It seems quite likely that the only reason he’s not up in arms over this is because Carano is saying and doing things he doesn’t like, which makes the dismissive attitude here quite disingenuous.

And this is especially the case now, in an era where the franchise is the star, not the actor or the director. Disney, of course, has this down to the proverbial science — its Marvel and Star Wars universes are so vast and popular that, for example, a troublesome actor in a secondary role is not worth the hassle. Out they go, their character to be replaced with another previously minor character from the vast store of minor characters in those universes. Actors are the most visible replaceable people, but directors, writers, etc., are equally swappable.

This is flat-out false.  Disney has done nothing to make the franchise the star more than the actors or directors.  They advertise directors and actors all the time.  They had to give big send-offs to Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans just to hope to be able to move past them, and they’ve been advertising their “diverse” actors and directors and writers out the wazoo.  In fact, the only reason this matters is because people were drawn to the specific character and specific actress playing her, and Disney itself as well as the more progressive fans were harping on her being a kick-ass female character providing the diversity they wanted (as long as that diversity isn’t saying the wrong things, apparently).  So, no, prominent actors, directors and writers are no more replaceable in Hollywood than they’ve been in the past.  It boggles the mind that Scalzi isn’t aware of that, which makes this seem, again, somewhat disingenuous.  It’s at this point where we have to start wondering if he really believes this and has rationalized himself into those beliefs, or whether he’s trying to put up a smokescreen to dodge the real issues here.

I don’t want to say that capitalism is value-neutral, because, whoooooo boy, it is not, buuuuuuut it is pretty much 100% percent accurate that capitalism will always, always, follow the money. And where is the money? Well, in America two decades into the 21st century, the large capitalist structures have decided that the money will be multicultural* and socially inclusive* and politically liberal*, and all those asterisks are there because it should be understood that the capitalist take on each of these concepts is heavily modified and strained through the “to the extent we can make money off this” filter, i.e., don’t expect capitalism to lead us to a multicultural American utopia, just expect it to be happy to rent-seek inclusively on the way there.

Well, first, is that indeed actually where the money is?  The ones advocating for those things habitually cry poor, even going so far as to demand that the more “traditional” markets should subsidize them.  In line with that article, deliberately diverse works that should be designed for that market have not exactly done well financially.  Appealing to that market has yet, as far as I can tell, been any kind of financial windfall.  So either big corporations are idiots, or else there’s some other reason why they at the beck and call of those groups.  And before you start thinking that I’m suggesting that there’s some kind of conspiracy going on here, I’m not.  The reason is that right now the mainstream media is pretty attached to them, and so amplifies any screaming they might do.  The companies don’t want to feel bad or keep weathering the press, so they react to try to make it go away.  But even that can’t quite explain it, because big companies are famous for delaying and mouthing sympathetic words until the problem goes away naturally.  Then again, they’re also noted for doing something big and dramatic but utterly irrelevant to make it go away, too, without having to actually change anything, and firing Carano pretty much works as that.

The second reason ties into that:  this isn’t about money because the companies when they cancel, in general, don’t bother to wait and see if they’re actually losing money before responding.  It’s quite likely that most people don’t really care that much about these issues, and also quite likely that many of the people complaining don’t even watch the show.  My guess is that if they didn’t do anything here, they wouldn’t lose any ratings or money over the issue.  So it’s all image.  It’s all PR.  And, in general, it’s all about how the mainstream media will react.  So, no, it’s not about the money, but about the mainstream media and what they are at least currently willing to scream about.

But because this is the (current) way the wind is blowing for capitalism, it’s now slightly harder out there for a “conservative.” Which feels wrong! Conservatism is the pet political theory of capitalism! Conservatism is designed to protect capitalism! The venn diagram of a conservative and a capitalist is a perfect circle!

Remember, we’re talking about canceling in general, not this specific incident that Scalzi won’t talk about directly.  Liberals have been canceled, too, or at least people have tried to cancel them.  Scalzi could argue that conservatives are uninterested in these sorts of things unless it’s happening to conservatives, but that’s not what he’s arguing here.  Also, it’s not capitalism because as noted above it’s not about the money, but about the image.  And that’s where the complaints are coming in, that canceling subverts both capitalism and free speech by making something external to those things the determining factor.  People fired from their jobs even though they would still make money for the company, and people having their livelihoods taken away even in unrelated fields for saying something that some people don’t like.  You really can’t say that capitalism is doing the work here.

Look, America has its problems, but from the strictly capitalist point of view it was the best country on the planet because it was politically stable, and capitalism works best when things are stable. It’s hard to rent seek in chaos!

But then January 6th happened, and American Conservatism, which had been tromping away from stability for quite some time, thank you very much, finally served notice that it’s no longer on capitalism’s side: it would rather mob in chaos than make money in stability. 

Considering the riots that happened in the United States last summer under the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as things like Occupy, you can’t argue that American Liberals are better for stability.  Plus, again, canceling has been happening far longer than since January 6th, so tying canceling to instability seems, again, pretty disingenuous.  Either he’s rationalizing to things he already believes or he’s building a smokescreen to hide what’s really happening.

So now capitalism is doing what capitalism do, which is to shrug, say, “fine,” start working with the people who will let it function more or less to plan, and start punting the people who won’t. Again, this doesn’t mean that suddenly we live in a Delightful/Horrifying Multicultural Dream/Nightmare — hey! Most of the hands on the tiller of capitalism are still attached to white dudes, y’all! Check out the billionaires list! — but if that means a “conservative” loses a gig because they talked shit on social media, well, son, that’s the free market for you.

Except, that’s not what “capitalism” generally does, as noted above.  Capitalism, in general, doesn’t use explicit canceling.  Companies do not, in general, use explicit canceling for matters related to money and finances.  They wait to see where the money is really leading.  If you have, say, a stand-up comedian that says something that offends people, in general capitalism doesn’t have people advocate for them to be banned from all comedy clubs because of what they said, but instead it has people be so offended that they just stop showing up.  Since the person can’t draw audiences anymore, clubs don’t book them.  And so the market speaks and says that they found what they did so unacceptable that they need to redeem themselves or else need to find another job.  The same thing applies to things like book sales.  Instead of screaming at publishers not to publish them, capitalism simply has people stop buying their books, at which point publishers stop publishing them because they don’t make money.  In all cases, how capitalism actually does this sort of thing is to let the money dry up and through that remove them from public view.   That’s not what’s happening here.  Canceling is clearly not letting the market and capitalism decide because it short-circuits all of those measures by leaping in before those numbers are in.

And that’s rather the point.  The people advocating for canceling don’t want to wait for the market’s opinion to come in.  After all, the market might well disagree with them.  In fact, I think in many cases they’re sure that the market will disagree with them.  But if they can trigger the mainstream media to scream loudly enough about it, corporations will take mostly meaningless actions to get the mainstream media to shut up.  But those meaningless actions will generally get that specific person out of the public eye and make it so that no one will hear their words, and will also punish them for their sins, and that’s what they really want, so even though it does nothing to deal with the underlying problems it allows them to pretend that the people who hold those views are either non-existent or at least are being punished, and that makes them feel good, and isn’t that the point of everything?

“Cancelled” means you publish with Regenery or Skyhorse rather than with Macmillan or Simon and Schuster. “Cancelled” means you make a movie with (ugh) Ben Shapiro instead of Disney. “Cancelled” means Gab, or — heavens! — your own web site instead of Twitter. “Cancelled” means being a talking head on Newsmax and not CNN.

That’s not how canceling works.  When these groups really want someone canceled, they don’t stop there.  If they move to those other publishers and channels, then those trying to cancel them move on to attack those publishers and channels and demand that they be removed from there as well.  This continues until they hit things that won’t bend to their wishes, at which point they accuse them of pandering to facism and evil and bigotry and try to get them canceled.  Try to go to your own web page and want to fund it through Patreon?  They’ll scream at Patreon to stop funding you.  Use Paypal?  They’ll do the same thing.  Post videos on Youtube?  They’ll do the same thing.  They don’t want the people they cancel to be marginalized.  They want them gone!  And they’ll go after anyone and anything that gives them even marginal support as long as their attention span allows.

So, no, you can’t just go to that.  This isn’t like the old capitalist idea where the big publishers were simply choosing not to publish things.  Canceling isn’t about that sort of choice.  It’s not about deciding that the things aren’t things you think will sell or want to see in print, where you shrug your shoulders if someone else does it.  It’s about things that these people think should not be seen anywhere by anyone.  They start with the bigger ones first, but they’ll work their way down to the smaller ones, too.

Is this so awful? Well, yeah, apparently, it kind of is — but again, this is not anything that anyone who isn’t a privileged white person didn’t already know about how capitalism works in America. Entire commercial and political ecosystems exist and have existed for decades, created by and for the people who have otherwise found themselves shut out of or simply ignored by the commercial mainstream — marginalized economies, in effect

Of course, Scalzi and the entire diversity movement are based on the idea that this is terrible and something that the law should step in to remedy, so again being so dismissive of it is disingenuous.

I am not the first to make that observation, even among white people. But boy, is it ever true! And also, look, I do actually get it — if you’ve gotten away with **** for literally years with little to no consequence, getting called out on it and being judged for it and being penalized because of it, in what appears to you a sudden fashion, feels unfair, in no small part because, well, you did get away with it for years, and no one told you to stop (or if they did, you were able to overlook it).

If you’re going to argue that these are just consequences of their actions, you have to be able to argue that these are, indeed, fair consequences.  Again, Scalzi and other progressives do not think these consequences are fair when it happens to people they sympathize and agree with and so, again, this is quite disingenuous.

When I hear or read “I have been cancelled” I mostly translate that to “I am facing consequences for something I got away with before and I don’t like it.” When I hear or read “I will not be cancelled,” I mostly translate that to “I refuse to change my behavior, it’s the rest of the world that’s the problem, not me.” Which, you know, okay. You do you. Enjoy Newsmax.

For people who did anything that was considered immoral, this is precisely their response.  And Scalzi and people like him hailed them as heroes for it.  When it’s people that they consider immoral, it’s not at all heroic, and they deserve to be marginalized for it.  Canceling is not capitalism.  Canceling is the progressive Moral Majority.  But they don’t see it for what it is, or are trying desperately to dodge those implications.

Thoughts on “Gretel & Hansel”

February 18, 2021

This movie is a reimagining of the “Hansel and Gretel” fairy tale, which has been done a fair bit before.  The challenge with doing this one specifically is that there really isn’t much to that fairy tale.  Two children wander into the woods and come across a witch who wants to eat them and lures them in with food, whom they ultimately kill.  It’s a pretty simple story, so expanding it into an hour and a half movie can be tricky.

I will give the movie credit for trying to stick to the original story as much as possible.  What it adds is the idea that the witch might have been unfairly outcast from her original village and is interested in Gretel becoming her apprentice, to pass on her abilities and have someone like her around.  However, what I noted in the first paragraph is still true here:  that’s not all that much to hang an hour and a half on, and so the movie really does seem to drag as nothing at all really seems to happen.  There just isn’t enough plot to carry the story through its short runtime, so the movie ends up being boring for the most part, despite the fact that at least the lead character is sympathetic enough for us to be interested in her story.  There’s just not enough story there to keep us interested for the entire movie.

The movie also hits one of my pet peeves where it starts using a first-person narrative from Gretel in the beginning, but drops it for long stretches only to bring it back in at the very end.  It doesn’t really give us any big insight into her character, nor is it maintained long enough to work as a stylistic device.  So it seems pointless and not taken advantage of, which makes us wonder why it’s here at all.

It’s not a bad or terrible movie in and of itself, but because it doesn’t have enough plot to carry the movie it ends up being boring.  I think this will go in the box of horror movies to maybe sell because I don’t want to watch it again.

I’m kinda obsessed with Star Wars right now …

February 17, 2021

No, not the new stuff.  I still strongly dislike it (although when watching the OT over the weekend I became tempted to compare the three trilogies to talk about why I think the OT really works, the PT is disappointing and the ST really, really sucks, but then I’d have to rewatch the first two movies and get and watch The Rise of Skywalker, and I’m not sure how much I’m willing to sacrifice for this blog).  No, I’m talking about the things that existed before Disney took over.  I’ve set aside some time on the weekend to play The Old Republic (but haven’t been able to do that as much as I’d like because of things like snow and work and the like).  I just finished re-reading the X-Wing books (including “I, Jedi”) after having read the Timothy Zahn works (including “Survivor’s Quest”).  I’ve just started re-reading the megaseries, starting with “New Jedi Order”.  I’m tempted to include “Fate of the Jedi”, but if I don’t I still have a few more books that I can get through.  And as noted above, I just watched the OT again.

And yet, I still want to do more.  I’m looking for some video games to play and with Huniepop 2 being disappointing (more on that next week) I’m tempted to drop my current run of Dragon Age Origins and play some of my Star Wars games.  Take another run at Rebellion like I did a month or two ago, except try to win as the Rebels this time.  Poke around with Galactic Battlegrounds.  Play Empire at War.  And there’s a real temptation to go through the KotOR games again (I replayed the first one a while ago and started but never finished the second one).  So adding more to my Star Wars obsession, and those re the games and things that I am most interested in playing.

And then there are the things that fit less into my normal schedule but that I’m getting reminded of and tempted to play anyway.  Like the graphic novel I have collecting some of the Marvel comics.  Like the board game of Rebellion.  Like the card game that I haven’t really played and probably should.  Like the comics I collected of the new run.  And all the games that I own from GOG but have never really played, like Battlefront II, and Jedi Knight, and Dark Forces, and Republic Commando, and Shadows of the Empire (I also have the book that I can read), and Starfighter, and Rebel Assault.  And then I remembered Rogue Squadron and was going to joke in this post that if it was on GOG then I’d be really, really tempted to play it … and then looked and saw that, yes, it is there and so picked it up, along with the X-Wing series (including Tie Fighter) because I remember that the reason I didn’t buy them was because they were on disk but since my new laptop doesn’t play well with CDs and I have multiple systems to play things on figured that getting the digital copies was the right way to go.  So they’re in the mix as well (and X-Wing Alliance is cool because the simulator gives me the ability to play for a short period of time with scenarios I invent in my head).

Is it sad that I’d probably watch the Holiday Special if I had it, and still don’t want to watch the new movies?  Well, I had a little temptation watching the OT to watch Rogue One, but I will probably be able to resist that temptation because finding it will probably take long enough for it to pass.

So, yeah, just a little bit obsessed with Star Wars right now.  The only reason I can give is that reading the books has really engaged my interest with the universe again, an interest that was smothered a bit by the new movies.  Not sure what that says about the new movies, especially since the newer novels aren’t really on my list right now.

Thoughts on “Tomb Raider”

February 16, 2021

So the second movie in that three pack that I watched (as referenced last time) was “Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider”.  Yes, the movie spawned from the successful video game series that pretty much cemented the idea in the minds of non-gamers that all gamers cared about in their female characters was their excessively large … assets.  Which makes it doubly ironic given that I’ve heard the rumour that they padded out Angelina Jolie’s breasts for the first movie that the biggest issue with this movie is that Angelina Jolie comes across as a bit flat.

What they seem to be wanting to try for is to make Angelina Jolie have a similar personality and style to James Bond, given the accent and the various quips and one-liners that she tries to make.  The problem is that in doing so they make her come across as a bit emotionless, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but can make it difficult to empathize with the character.  But if they had stuck with that, it might have worked.  However, what they did was have her show emotion in only two cases:  when she’s being arrogant towards someone, or when she’s doing something extremely reckless.  Since she seems like she’s enjoying being arrogant towards others and treating people badly, we don’t find her very sympathetic.  We aren’t all that concerned with her and have no real reason to want to see her win, and that pretty much drags down the entire movie.  It’s okay for her to be arrogant, but as I realized later the issue is, as noted, she seems to enjoy being arrogant, in the same way as she enjoys doing adventurous things.  Enjoying the risk and danger is one thing and that she might feel that that is the only time that she either feels alive or at least can forget all the things that weigh her down is a standard personality trait for adventurers and would have worked really well.  The arrogance doesn’t really work, though.

I also find the action a bit contrived.  It starts with what we can quickly figure out is a training session because it involves a futuristic robot and I didn’t think that the movie was that much of a science fiction movie.  And then there’s an invasion of her house to find a key needed to advance the villain’s plot that is only there to let her do some strange fights with some bungie cords and to let Arnold Rimmer  shoot at people with a shotgun.  Things don’t get that much better from then on.

Additionally, as a Tomb Raider Lara Croft isn’t all that smart.  She doesn’t find the key originally, but instead finds it because it starts ticking in her house and she has to tear open a little room underneath her stairs that she knew nothing about.  Then in going around to investigate it she tips off the villains as to its whereabouts and then loses it because the villains can penetrate her security.  She manages to find a back way into the tomb, and also corrects her competitor and kinda lover I guess when he says that the wrong thing will open it (and it’s on a timer so they can only try it once at the exact right time), but that also seems a bit obvious and he didn’t seem all that smart to start with, so outsmarting him doesn’t seem all that impressive.  Compared to Sidney Fox, she is neither all that smart at hunting relics nor does she seem to have a good reason to do so.

Anyway, that’s “Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider”.  Again, I’m not going to say whether I’d watch it again until after I talk about the last one, which is “Annihilation”, and will come out next time.

Final Thoughts on “The Unnecessary Science”

February 15, 2021

So with last week’s look at Chapter 6, I’ve finished my in-depth look at each chapter of the book.  So this is a good time to summarize my overall thoughts on it, both from my own reading, my own posts, and the much-appreciated comments that Gunther Laird has made on each individual post here.

When I first took a look at the chapter titles of the book, I really didn’t expect the book to go as well as it did.  The chapters, frankly, seemed far more like mockery than like humour, and so I expected the book to spend most of its time mocking Feser and people who held his view, and I knew from experience that the view was not worthy of mockery (even though I don’t agree with it myself).  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Laird does indeed take the view far more seriously than his chapter titles would suggest.

That being said, I think Laird makes a mistake in trying to take Feser down from inside his own philosophy rather than simply trying to oppose the general philosophy itself.  To take down a philosophy while playing by its own rules is amazingly difficult to do, especially if it’s a philosophy that has been around for a long time.  The reason for this is that they’ve had a lot of time to see and address any internal consistency issues, and opposing it based on its own assumptions is really just doing that.  So for most of Laird’s objections either Feser has had an argument for it, it’s a natural variant in the view itself (different Scholastics do look at some ideas differently) or it likely isn’t all that important to the philosophy itself.  To find something that important that hasn’t been addressed or that it seems like it couldn’t be addressed is a tall order, and I don’t think Laird did indeed manage to accomplish it.

But the big reason why I think that was a mistake is that even if Laird had succeeded it wouldn’t really have gotten him where he wanted to get.  The two big things, I believe, that Laird opposes in Feser is his theism — the existence of God — and his sexual ethics.  The problem is that those positions are so tightly intertwined with his metaphysics that it’s difficult to separate them, let alone get them to where Laird wants them to be.  As an example, he was at least somewhat appreciative of my attempts to weaken Feser’s sexual ethics, and as I noted there my view was a bit of a trap for most progressives because to make those criticisms I had to accept that the main purpose of sex was indeed for procreation, which is precisely what progressives want to deny.  I also noted that moves to deism work poorly in reference to Feser because he’d have to accept that we’d have a God that could indeed interact with the world and had to still exist but argue that somehow He wouldn’t, which is a much weaker argument.  While it may seem like a great move to take someone down with their own philosophy, it’s usually both very difficult to do and if all it does is find minor inconsistencies it’s also not that interesting either.  A focus on showing that Feser’s science is really unnecessary likely would have served him better, showing that we didn’t need any view like Feser’s as opposed to not needing some of his specific conclusions.

At the end of the day, the book was worth reading, but I wasn’t convinced by pretty much any of its arguments.  Ultimately, they seemed to end up either being misinterpretations of Feser’s view or requirements, or things that Feser didn’t need to care about that much.  I think it might be worth Feser’s time to read and respond to them, but don’t feel that any of them are things that will give Feser all that much pause.