Archive for August, 2021

Thoughts on “Fantastic Four” by Dan Slott

August 31, 2021

So I’ve picked up some graphic novels and comics collections over the past few months, and one of them was a collection of Dan Slott’s run on Fantastic Four.  Now, I’ve discussed my impressions of the Fantastic Four eras before, and said how much I prefer the earlier eras to the modern ones.  This is obviously from the modern era (2018) and my impression still holds, but I like this one better than the 1998 version that I had read there.

The reason is that Dan Slott did a couple of things.  First, he ultimately got rid of the group of super-geniuses that was prominent in some of the modern works that I had been reading.  While some of the characters were a bit interesting, the entire concept simply focused things too much on super-genius Valeria and made the stories too much a conflict of ideas and technology, which left the other members out and lost the feel of this being a super-family.  By getting rid of it, Slott is free to return this to being a super-family story and work with the relationships that way.  He also manages to return a fun sense of banter to the series, and sense of fun, which is quite welcome, and is something that he does really well.  He also does a bachelor party/bachelorette party for Ben and Alicia in a similar way that X-Men at one point did competing girl’s/boy’s nights out that of course end up with superpower related complications, and while the X-Men version was better this one is also pretty funny and entertaining, on top of the banter.  So it at least has being entertaining through being funny going for it.

However, where Slott fails here is in the drama, which is really weak.  For example, there’s a thread with Franklin losing his superpowers — or, at least, it’s the case that if he uses them he’ll lose them — and then feeling inferior to Valeria whose abilities are in her intelligence, but it doesn’t really come across as that and we don’t really care that much about the conflict because it wasn’t built up enough.  In general, the drama in Slott’s comics here fail because he doesn’t have enough time to develop the drama around the humour he brings to the work.

I enjoyed it more than the 1998 version, and it is a bit more entertaining than the 1963 version (mostly because the writing is a lot better) but I still prefer the overall dynamics of the 1974 version.  Still, it’s something that I could re-read at some point, which gets it bonus points from me.


August 30, 2021

So, it should be no surprise to anyone who has been following my Accomplishments posts that I haven’t really been playing video games as much anymore, and in general significantly less than I’d like.  But while I did keep trying to find time to fit games in, it wasn’t really bothering me all that much.  Until very recently, when I made a big mistake, and came across and started reading this blog about playing old RPGs.  And doing that got me feeling very frustrated about not being able to play video games, and ranting to myself about all the reasons why I can’t.  And that leads to this post where I rant about that to you.

Okay, so first, why did reading that site cause me so much consternation?  Because there are a number of games on there that I’ve wanted to replay for years and that I’m not at all close to being able to play, let alone replay.  Such as the Gold Box games (I have the GOG versions as well as some emulated versions).  Such as Sentinel Worlds I:  Future Magic (I have an emulated copy of that somewhere, probably provided by my friend).  Such as the Might and Magic games (I have the GOG versions of these).  And then thinking of that reminded me again of games like Icewind Dale (I have original disks for this one), Icewind Dale II (original disks and a Switch version), Planescape:  Torment (ditto) and Baldur’s Gate I and II (ditto).  And then the Fallouts as well (I have through New Vegas from GOG, I think).  So there’s a lot of old and not-so-old video games that I want to play, and the CRPG Addict’s tale of spending 10 years — up to now — trying to play all of those games simply reminded me of them.

That wouldn’t have really bothered me much, though, except that I had already been a bit annoyed at not being able to play games, and had recently just reworked my schedule to try to fit some in and was trying to figure out what to play.  I had been trying to find a game that I wanted to play that I could play for about an hour or two when I had time.  Now, again, on its own that would have been mildly annoying, especially since I couldn’t find a game.  I have the remastered Mass Effect Trilogy on tap, and loaded up the original Mass Effect game that I had started with a Barbara Gordon expy (again, like the first time, I was playing with the character creator and noted that the default looked a lot like Dina Meyers’ “Birds of Prey” version), and was surprised to note that I had, in what had to be only a couple of  sessions, played it for over 10 hours.  And then took an hour to finish the Terra Nova mission, and realized that this was really not going to be the sort of game that I could play for an hour.  I’d already decided that that was true for a new game of Wizardry 8 that I’d started by creating the Gilligan’s Island characters, because there’s lots of combat that can often run long.  I also have a Human Noble play of Dragon Age:  Origins on tap that I started with the GOG version so that I’d get a chance to play all of the DLC, and mused that it might work although its areas can get a bit long.  And I had tried to run Sith Lords but it kept crashing on my new laptop before getting into the game, so I’d have to play it on my older gaming system.

So my mind was already on these things, and then the blog came along and added a number of other options, and then that reminded of other options — some Vita RPGs, for example — and a bunch of older console RPGs on the PS2 and … Gah!  Thinking overload!

(Which, to be honest, I’m prone to.  The entire reason this blog exists is to allow me to stop thinking about things so I can think about other things).

Okay, so even though I was being overwhelmed with options, the real issue was not the number of options but the fact that I didn’t think that any of them would really work for me.  One issue was the issue that I’d had previously, kinda dropped, but has returned:  I work from home all day and so work in the office(bedroom) that I use for my main computers all day.  At the end of the day, it is kinda nice to get out of that room and into the living room, and so I wanted to play games that I could play there.  So games that will play on my newer laptop and on my consoles.  But Sith Lords and another good candidate — Disciples 2 — only play on my older gaming system due to it seems operating system incompatibilities that I don’t really want to take the time to fix, especially given the options.  Even then, with the laptop and with the PS4 and PS3 and Switch and the Vita and the PS2 there were a ton of options.  But I kept running into the issue of “I need to be able to play these games for about an hour or two a day in the couple of days a week that I can play games.  I might get some more time than that, but can’t count on it.”  Which leaves out the big game that I really, really should play sometime, Persona 5 Royal.

And as is my wont, this got me pondering why that was.  While in the past I’d had issues playing games, it was never really this bad, and really only happened for a few months at a time when I was really busy (and sometimes I played more when I was really busy because I let everything else slide).  And this got me thinking about how since I’ve been working from home my schedule has been a lot tighter than it used to be, even though in theory I’ve lost about an hour a day of a commute to work.  And it isn’t that being able to work from home has meant that I work longer hours, because other than some late meetings every second week I haven’t been, mostly because I haven’t had the time.  So what’s taking up my time.

One big thing that I’ve lost is Sundays.  Because I’m working from home, I’m not eating out much.  Or, rather, at all, as I haven’t bought anything from any kind of restaurant for about 9 months now, and that was to freeze it in preparation from Christmas.  So what it makes the most sense for me to do is cook things ahead and then have stuff that I can heat up during the day when people at work aren’t bugging me (usually early in the morning since I start early).  So my Sundays are taken up with my weekly grocery run, cooking for the week, eating, doing dishes, and doing laundry.  And while this costs me an entire day, it’s actually a lot less stressful for me to do things this way and so is working out pretty well for me.

Of course, the problem is that before Sunday afternoons and potentially mornings were the times when I go do a lot of things, like playing games.  And that’s gone away pretty much completely, so aside from writing some blog posts or possibly doing some reading pretty much everything else that I would do there has to be done some other time.  So the big thing to move to is Saturdays, but that isn’t as free as I’d like for a couple of reasons.  The first is that I have a lot of things to put there — cleaning, other basic errands, and the blog — that pretty much takes up that day.  If I happened to have a morning free on Saturday, I also have The Old Republic to fit in there, since that definitely requires a long session to play — I like to do one planet in a session, which takes me about 3 – 4 hours — and so wouldn’t have time to do any general thing.  So that leaves me a little time on Saturday afternoons, but I’ve been cooking something to eat on Saturdays and doing that requires me to do the dishes, especially since I’ve often left some from the week that need to be done.  But of course when cooking on Sunday I will generate enough dishes to have to do them again.  And before anyone suggests that a dishwasher might help, it’s not the general plates and the like that take time, but the pots and pans from the cooking, which need more attention than most dishwashers can give them.  So my time is limited on Saturday afternoons, but I do have some time there (I recently played some arcade and board games in this time, and am trying to do that more regularly).  That being said, that time ends up being about the same as I have most weekdays, which then is a bit shorter than I’d like.

So why is that?  Well, as it turns out, there are some constraints on my time, especially on weekdays, that I didn’t really have before.  The first one is my push to get through my stack of TV shows on DVD.  In order to do that in any reasonable amount of time, I want to spend a significant amount of time on them a night.  For hour long shows, that was usually at least an hour and a half (two episodes or half a disk).  But that last sentence hints at another constraint, which is that how I watch these things is to stop doing everything for the night, shut off the lights, and just watch them.  Because of that, I’d like to not have to get up and change the disk in between.  While watching hour long shows, watching two episodes allowed me to do that, but also would drag the shows out pretty long, but watching an entire disk would generally leave my evenings a bit short.  Some of the shows I watched had more episodes on a disk, which pushed me to push that time out a bit longer but to finish series faster.  And Crave shows worked well because I could watch as many episodes as I wanted without having to worry about disks at all, so I pretty much started it when I finished my other stuff for the day.  But half hour shows have more and sometimes a variable number of episodes per disk, so I settled in to watching about 2.5 hours of shows a day.  That left me a total of four hours in my evening, which seems like more than enough.

Except that I have other things to do in that time as well.  Since I eat early, I have to eat something at some point (usually something light).  That takes a bit of time.  While I’ve been taking a break from it, one of the other reasons to eat early is so that I can play Ring Fit Adventure without being full and getting sick.  So I lose at least an hour to those things.  And then I’m modding Arkham Horror games again, and usually need to update every day.  That takes me about a half hour to an hour.  So you can imagine that if I balanced everything perfectly I’d have about two hours to play games in the evening.  Hence, a game that I can play for about an hour or two and make progress.

(And, of course, I’m not a master at time management either.  There are all sorts of times when I could do things but then get distracted reading or watching something or playing around that I later lament that I could have just done one of the things that I’d been wanting to do for a while).

And even there I only have about two days where I can do that, because of the other things I want to do.  One big time sink for me right now is the blog.  I’m proud of keeping up my “every weekday” posting rate, but it does mean that I spend a lot of time writing blog posts.  A horror movie post takes me about a half hour to and hour to write, as does the “Philosophy in Popular Culture” post.  The commentary on general movies and TV shows can take a half hour to an hour and a half, depending on how detailed I want to get.  The longer philosophy posts always take over an hour and can take two or more depending on how deep the topic is, as do the Deep Dive posts that I’ve been making lately.  That takes up a significant amount of time, but I like doing it and am happy to do so.  But if things take longer on the weekends than I anticipated or don’t feel like writing blogs there, then it eats into my weekday afternoon times.

And then there’s general reading.  I’ve been working through a number of fiction and philosophical books for the last while, and trying to finish them.  Although I read a lot at pretty much any time (like when I’m eating), there’s some pressure for me to read in the afternoons and evening to get through them.  As it stands, they’re going slower than I’d like but quickly enough (I’m doing Tad Williams’ “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series right now and then going to re-read “Lord of the Rings” before reloading with something else, while working through some Nietzche as well).  But that takes up time and can happen every day.  I also bought a lot of books with logic puzzles and really want to get into them.  And then there’s the two longer meetings every second week.  And I need to find time to watch at least one horror movie a week to keep that running (and as seen above they are great to watch and write ahead because they don’t take a lot of time).  So I lose even more time to play video games.

Which them leads to the conclusion to this entire thought chain:  I am not playing games as much as I’d like, and that can be a bit frustrating, but in general it’s a matter of priorities and I think that my priorities are right.  I didn’t realize how much losing Sundays would impact my time in general, but I still think that what I do there really works for me.  I probably need to manage my time later, but at the same time I think it’s good for my mental health to sometimes just goof off and not do anything important. 

Because the one thing that I’ve been grumbling to myself about for a while is that I no longer seem to do anything just for fun anymore.  My reading is often things that I want to read for a reason and to write about.  What I watch I watch to ultimately write about.  Writing the blog is something that I do to do it, not just because I feel like it.  And everything else is some sort of work.  While I do enjoy most of the things I do, it’s not very often that I do it just for fun without it doing something else for me as well.  Times where I just say “Screw it” and do something just for the heck of it are important to me, as well.  I probably just need to make sure that everything else is under control first before I do that (or be willing to face the consequences of that.  Which I’m pretty good at by now).

The Virtue of Hard Work

August 27, 2021

I came across this post by Andreas Avester commenting on the “supposed” virtue of hard work.  The post thus, in general, tries to defend laziness against the charge that working hard is the better way to go.  Since it relies heavily on the idea that hard work isn’t necessarily better for you, let me start with that idea.  Basically, people encourage people to work hard because if they work hard they can succeed.  Avester has a German story in there where a tourist looking at what seems to be a loafing fisherman tries to convince him to go out and fish in the second part of the day after taking in a good haul in the first part of the day, and does so on the basis that it will eventually lead the fisherman to become a success.  Avester comments this about it:

Of course, there is a problem with this German short story—it is too optimistic. It assumes that with hard work it is possible to earn a lot of money. More often than not that is not how capitalism works.

It’s true that many people argue that if you work hard you will be a success, but that can’t be guaranteed.  There could be a bunch of other factors that will impact that, like luck, opportunities, and even your skills (if you don’t have a really marketable skill using it is not likely to produce success.  But what is important about hard work is that at least the willingness to work hard when it makes sense to will result in better outcomes no matter what those factors say.  A hard working person without marketable skills will still be able to work hard and perhaps at multiple things to produce a better income for themselves.  A poor person who is willing to work hard can, at a minimum, often substitute hard work for money to get things they want or need (offering, for example, to do something for someone else in trade for something they want).  Even those who are striving to be successful can find that opportunities are easier to take advantage of when you are willing to work hard, as you would be willing to go all in on the work to put the pieces in place to take advantage of them.  If you aren’t willing to work hard, then in general things will go worse for you than someone who is indeed willing to work hard.

This doesn’t mean that working hard should be seen as a virtue in and of itself.  You shouldn’t work hard just to work hard.  So the important thing, perhaps, is not working hard but instead being willing to work hard.  If you are willing to work hard when it makes sense to, then obviously things will work out better for you than if you aren’t.  But you do need to be able to determine when the hard work will be worth it, if for no other reason than that working hard on something that isn’t worth will accrue an opportunity cost, as you could be working hard on something else that provides more benefit if you weren’t working hard on the thing that you are working on.  Also, you don’t want to work hard when you don’t need to because we are all physically limited and so if you work hard on something that isn’t worth the effort you might not have the energy to later work on something that is worth it.  Especially if it’s a new opportunity.  So you need to know when to rest as well.

So part of the virtue of hard work is knowing when hard work is indeed virtuous, or when it’s vicious — when it’s hard work for the sake of hard work — or when it’s pointless or erroneous.  You don’t work hard when it provides no benefit to work hard.

Which cycles back to the fisherman story.  The tourist basically said that if the fisherman worked harder, they could eventually create a full-fledged business out of it and so, from there, be able to actually sit and watch the sea.  The fisherman replied that that was what they were already doing, so it didn’t seem like there would be a benefit to putting in all that hard work to get there.  But they’d had one good day.  What if the next few days were worse?  What if the next few days had terrible weather so they couldn’t get out?  What if their boat or nets were damaged and they couldn’t go out until they were repaired?  Yes, they had enough fish for a couple of days, but if they put in the extra work when they could and even managed to create the business that the tourist talked about then they could sit in the harbor and watch the sea and not have to worry about what was going to happen the next week.  They’d be secure enough that they could enjoy it without having to worry that taking that afternoon off was going to leave them in trouble in the future if things didn’t go so well.

That’s why the benefits of hard work are less “get more things” but are more “be secure in getting things” if the people are smart.  While lots of people do take what they earn with hard work and use that to buy things and in fact spend all that they earn from hard work on such things — leaving them nothing in reserve — those aren’t the people who are using their hard work wisely.  The main benefit from hard work is to secure your future, and spending your money on things you don’t need isn’t doing that.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use it to buy things that you want, or save it to buy things that you might want later.  Avester comments about not needing things and so not needing to work to get those useless things, but in general people always want some things, and there are always some things that will make your life better.  The virtue of hard work and excessive materialism need not be joined at the hip, but having more resources for things you need or want is better than not having it, and the best way to secure that for yourself it to at least be willing to work hard to get it when the opportunity to turn work into resources comes up.

So what we can see about laziness is that it isn’t merely not working, but is instead putting a priority on not working, making not working too important a consideration in what they do.  Which fits in with Avester’s view of the world:

Since I am lazy, I have optimized my lifestyle so as to work as little as possible. For me free time for my hobbies brings more joy than owning the latest smartphone model and having lots of stuff.

That is laziness, where someone goes to great pains to minimize their work.  The problem isn’t that they work as little as possible, in the sense that they only do the work that it benefits them to do.  Again, intelligent hard workers don’t waste their time doing work for no reason or benefit.  No, the problem is that Avester puts “not working” as their top priority, and organizes their life around that.  But work is a means to an end, and should be thought of as such.  It sounds like Avester would give up other things in order to avoid working, and would need to be doing that to be truly considered lazy.  But, again, if working will get you something that you want and will make your life better, then one should not be afraid to do that work.  There should not be an internal debate over whether you want that thing or to not work more.  No, the consideration should only be if the work is worth it to get the thing you want.  If you make not working the thing you value most, however, you really can’t properly make that assessment, and as such you may well end up far worse off than you would if you weren’t lazy.

So, to tie it back to my Stoicism, laziness really means that someone values not working too much, and thus treats laziness as a virtue, and hard work as a vice.  But hard work is neither a virtue nor a vice.  The willingness to work hard is a virtue, but we should indeed only work when the benefits we get from that work are sufficient to justify the effort.  Yes, people who work hard simply to work hard are wrong, but so are people who try to avoid working as much as they possibly can.  Ultimately, at the end of day, treating avoiding work like a virtue is the heart of laziness, and explains all of the problems that laziness causes for a person.

Thoughts on “Vivarium”

August 26, 2021

This is another “Crave” horror movie, and again not a Blumhouse one.  Perhaps thankfully, I’m coming towards the end of what’s available there and will be able to move on to DVDs again, including a set of the original Dracula movies (from the 1930s on) which might give me a point of comparison to more modern horror movies.  Anyway, that’s in the future, and the current present is this movie.

When I originally saw the description, I thought it would be something like “Stepford Wives”, as it talked about the two protagonists trying to buy a house in a neighbourhood where everything was remarkably the same.  As it turns out, the end up being the only two people in that neighbourhood, and the neighbourhood turns out to be incredibly artificial, from the food and the smells to the clouds themselves.  They get lured there by a development agent named Martin, who then leaves them behind.  After they try to leave — and run their car out of gas trying to do so — they are eventually presented with a baby and told that if they raise it they will be released.  The rest of the movie is based around them raising this rapidly aging boy and their attempts to escape from their captivity.

This is actually a really interesting premise, and it raises a really interesting mystery.  Martin was decidedly odd in his mannerisms, and the child definitely resembles Martin.  The child also seems to learn mostly by mimicry, and Martin had a scene where he mimics the woman as well.  So who is behind this?  What do they want?  Why do they want to choose this method to raise their children?  Why did they choose these two to bring here, and seemingly brought only these two?  Why is everything artificial?  And so on and so forth.  These are all questions that it would be really interesting to explore.

Except the movie doesn’t bother to explore them.  In fact, the movie doesn’t bother to do anything.  Instead, it commits the common modern horror movie mistake of inserting elements but not making them actually mean anything because they aren’t developed.  While Gemma — the woman — insists at one point that the child is a mystery and she’s going to solve it, beyond a few small attempts that she ends when she discovers that he’s inhuman — which we already knew — she drops that line entirely.  And the movie never solves that for us either.  At the end, the now grown up boy “releases her” by killing her, saying that she was his mother and after the child is grown the mother dies, which was not set-up at all and so is meaningless.  She replies with am emphatic reply of her constant refrain that she isn’t his mother, but again this has no real emotional connection because there is nothing in the boy or in anywhere else that it relates to. 

At the same time, for most of the movie Gemma and her boyfriend Tom don’t really interact, and yet at the end when he is dying at the end — he dies before she does, and dies from being sick — she embraces him from behind and they reminisce about how they met in a clearly emotional scene … that isn’t all that emotional because we were never shown the two of them actually being in love or doing things as lovers, nor did they separate over their obsessions and then only reconcile at the end.  It’s supposed to be an emotional scene, but we have no emotional connection to them or their relationship and so the scene is hollow.  And in fact his death is another wasted opportunity since he starts trying to dig a huge hole and then gets sicker and sicker, and so it seems to imply that the mud or whatever is causing his sickness.  But the end implies that it might just be lung cancer, and certainly never explains if anything in the world killed him and so we just don’t know.  So the movie sets up things that are potentially interesting and then never does anything with them.

The pacing, however, is actually pretty good, so it took me about an hour to realize that the movie wasn’t actually doing anything.  And unfortunately this makes the ending predictable, because we knew that it was going to be the boy going back after he was grown and taking over from or doing a job like Martin did in the beginning.  And that’s what happens, with Martin being old and ultimately dying of old age before the new “Martin” takes over and tries to repeat history with a new couple.  But, again, the movie doesn’t bother to tell us what’s going on, and so it again all falls flat.

And because the movie ultimately isn’t doing anything, it ultimately isn’t all that scary either.  We don’t even really get threats or punishments for the cases where they break away from raising the child.  They are stuck there, sure, and that in itself is a bit scary, but the movie never really builds horror or tension or drama or anything.  It really does nothing.  And since it doesn’t reveal anything, even at the end we don’t know if they are evil, misunderstood, misunderstanding, or anything else, and so don’t know if we are supposed to see the new “Martin” as horrifying or not.

And the sad thing is that there’d be a trivial way to make this better.  The movie implies that they learn a lot by mimicry, and so if you make them alien creatures — as is implied by the strange writing in a book she gets that, again, nothing is done with — that are trying to learn how to be human, then we can see what the purpose of doing this is.  And there is a scene where the two of them find that their car battery is still working and take some time to dance, and the boy joins in.  This, then, could be a critical moment that leads to the boy being different and more developed than the original Martin, and more human.  From there, you can either make that sinister as an attempt to subvert and conquer the Earth, or more sympathetic with this being the only way they know to find out how to fit in on this world that they now want to be a part of.  This would take little time to establish and resolve, would fit in with the rest of the movie, would make what happens have a point, and would allow the protagonists to actually have a notable impact on how things turn out, for good or ill.

As it is, the movie really doesn’t do anything except take an interesting premise and mystery and fill an hour and a half doing nothing with it.  I won’t watch this movie again.

Deep Dive: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex

August 25, 2021

This one is Troy Denning’s second book, and ends the first two thirds of the series.  We only have three books left, so we’d expect that this one would be setting everything up for the last three and put everything in place.  And yet it still seems to be spinning its wheels on a number of the main plots while oddly ending some of them in what seems to be a rush.

I’ve already talked about the Jedi plot, and how Saba Sebatyne takes over as acting Grand Master of the Jedi Order.  The main issue here is that this was supposed to be set up as Hamner failing as Grand Master, losing the confidence of the Jedi Council, needing to be replaced, and then going a bit berserk in trying to prevent them from launching their starfighters to help Luke out.  Except the main evidence is that Hamner had made a deal with the known and honourable and eventually ally Nek Bwua’tu to try to calm things down if they didn’t launch the ships.  Saba Sebatyne is given an internal monologue to express how terrible this is and how great a betrayal it is, but it doesn’t seem that unreasonable, especially since Hamner was sworn to secrecy by Bwua’tu about it.  Hamner comes across as someone who was trying to do the right thing in a very complicated situation, and the Council comes off as a bunch of adolescents — see the whole “Kenth’s Pet” issue from “Allies” — who don’t have anything like a sensible plan to oppose Daala but simply want to do it, leading to Saba declaring at the end that they must depose Daala despite them actually having no plan or contacts that they could use to do that at that time, and right after they made Daala back down with a rather visible hostage taking and threat in order to rescue the Horn children.

The big issue with this is the slavery angle.  There’s a slave revolt on a certain planet, but the Jedi note that the purported slaves aren’t really sentient enough to actually be free.  Because of this, it’s clear that this situation is being arranged and inflamed by someone for their own purposes, whatever they might be.  It certainly wasn’t the idea of those beings that couldn’t really conceive of such a thing and, well, weren’t being treated all that badly.  The Jedi, however, don’t seem all that concerned about it and don’t clue in that this may be a sign of a threat to both the GA and the Jedi.  Now, it does make sense for them to send someone there to keep the Mandalorians that were sent there from doing something disastrously stupid — which they do — but the two Jedi that were sent overstep their bounds and declare against slavery … and as a reaction the Jedi Council is pretty much okay with it.  Okay, then, with this situation where the Jedi were sucked into a fairly transparent plot that resulted in them coming into direct and visible conflict with a GA government that already didn’t like them, and none of them — even Corran Horn, although he did have other things on his mind — seemed all that concerned with investigating this obvious set up.  Add that to their immediate move against Daala when Saba takes over, and it really seems like the Jedi really just wanted revenge against the GA and to oppose them directly.  Which, you know, is exactly what Daala was afraid of.

This is just a mess.  Hamner is presented as being totally unreasonable, despite the fact that what he’s doing isn’t that unreasonable and that he’s in a really tough situation, and that he isn’t actually getting any support from the Jedi and the Jedi Council.  In previous books, they went out of their way to undertake actions without his knowledge that, if they were discovered, would clearly increase tensions with Daala, and they had to know that if they were discovered Hamner wouldn’t easily be able to rely on the “They did it without telling me”, even if that precise sort of thing wasn’t the main concern Daala had with the Jedi in the first place.  But in this book, we’re supposed to believe that his taking what he saw as the best chance to resolve things without excessive violence and not breaking a confidence is an ultimate betrayal of the Jedi Council and a terrible lie.  If the plan didn’t seem like it would work, that would be one thing, or if Bwua’tu was untrustworthy — as Saba hints in her thoughts — that would be one thing, but he was presented as being trustworthy and later they’ll end up relying on him themselves.  It seems to assume that the readers will like Saba better than Hamner and so buy her thoughts over his, and feel sorry for her that she had to kill him — or, rather, let him die — and be happy with her taking over the Council afterwards.  I don’t think it would be that easy even for her fans to do that, and people like me that dislike the character are simply not going to buy it.

This could have been done so much better.  All they needed to do was make this be an actual conflict.  Make it so that the slavery case is a real and legitimate one.  Heck, take the one from last time where Lando and Jaina ruled that the contract was still valid, and it was pointed out that it wasn’t going to end the revolt.  Have the Hutts appeal to the GA for assistance, and have the Mandalorians be sent there.  Then we’d have Hamner being able to make a case that interfering would antagonize Daala and go against the judgement that a Jedi had made in the matter.  Have the rest respond that such a contract isn’t valid and the Jedi really should be there to deal with such injustices.  Then there’s a real conflict that they could use to lose confidence in Hamner:  that he’s putting maintaining some sort of peace with the GA ahead of the actual principles of the Order.  This would maintain the idea that he had a point while giving them a strong rejoinder that he had lost the sense of what a Jedi was supposed to be.  While I really, really dislike the fight with Saba and his death, this would be enough to have him set aside as acting Grand Master, at which point they could launch the ships without his direct interference, decide to move to a full-on warrior stance, and then put Saba in place to lead that battle.  We could even have seen him wrestling with his conscience over what the right stance was without trying to scuttle their attempts.  If they felt the need to kill him off, in the last book they’re going to kill off some Jedi in various attacks, so it would have been the perfect way to let him go out as a hero.

But as it stands, if you don’t agree with his stance it feels like his character was derailed, and if you do it feels like the rest of the Jedi were idiots who appointed his murderer to leadership of the Jedi.

We also get more of the Abeloth and Sith subplot, which is again a bit more of an exploration of a planet and its Force traditions and a continuation of the Ben/Vestara plot than anything else.  Things are a bit more serious at this point as the Sith are made more of a threat, but again this plot seems so much less advanced than the other plot that it seems out of place.  Even if I did care about it, which I don’t.  I like the Ben/Vestara relationship and how it’s developing, but it seems somewhat trivial given what’s happening across the rest of the galaxy.

There’s also another little Allana adventure, which I feel the same way about:  I enjoy it (and this one will play a role later) but it just seems out of place here.

We also have the continuation of Tahiri’s trial, which seems utterly irrelevant given that every other plot is so much more important than it.  It really should have been used as an instigating event in the first books and not dragged out to this point in the series.  I like trials and I like the lawyer, but it just doesn’t seem important enough to take up pages at this stage of the series.

So, we’re heading into the home stretch, and the series, to me, has already killed pretty much whatever they were trying to do with it.  In the last third, it was going to be really hard to save it … and the writing isn’t going to be able to pull that off.

Shallow Thoughts on “The Addams Family” and “The Addams Family Values”

August 24, 2021

So after watching “The Munsters”, I was reminded of their counterpart,”The Addams Family”.  I don’t have access to the original series or to the remake, but as it turned out I did have the two movies, “The Addams Family” and “Addams Family Values”.  It seemed, then, like a good time to carve out some time to watch them.

I found that the first one seemed a bit off.  For the most part, it seemed subdued and seemed to lack energy.  Gomez was normally incredibly hyperactive, but in the first movie he seemed incredibly subdued.  Part of that might have to do with the subject matter — he was supposed to be a bit depressed by Fester being missing and their feud — but even when he was happy he didn’t seem to have the energy that characterized that character in the TV series.  And while characters like Morticia and Wednesday were more stoic in the series, here they seemed overly subdued as well, especially Morticia.  In the series, she at least seemed interested in what was going on, but in the first movie she seems more disinterested than stoic.  It’s a bit grating.

“Addamd Family Values”, though, works a lot better at this.  Gomez is almost back to his hyperactive self, and more importantly characters like Morticia and Wednesday, although they remain stoic, seem interested in things again.  Part of the reason for that might be the writers and actors finding their footing and so capturing the feel and energy of the TV series better, but I also think that a big reason for this is the plot itself.  In the first one, the plot was more serious, and the villain was a little bit goofy but was also pretty serious.  In the second one, the plot — to marry and then kill Fester to get his money — is still serious, but we can see from the beginning that the villain is going to have “fun” trying to kill Fester, because we know that the Addams’ are really, really hard to kill.  The villain also really seems to enjoy chewing the scenery which works to make it more comedic and upbeat.  The plot could be serious, but none of the characters really seem to be taking it all that seriously.

I also think that the plots that split the family up also worked for this, as it gave each of the major characters the chance to participate in a plot that worked for them.  In the first movie, there wasn’t much for the children to do, for example, other than to be a way to appeal to Fester and encourage him to break away from his fake mother to rejoin the family.  Here, they get their own arc at summer camp which gives them something to do and is a plot that fits into their characters and allows them to react to that situation in a way that is entirely consistent with their characters and the humour that follows from their characters.  Then the main Fester plot was able to focus on those characters and the humour that follows from them.  There was, thus, no need to interrupt the action with an aside to build the humour for all the main characters, allowing each plot to set up their humour and fun more organically.

So, obviously, I like the second movie better than the first one.  But both of them are good.  I’m going to stick this in my closet of movies to watch again.

Lists …

August 23, 2021

So, here on the blog, I have a number of lists.  I have a list of books I have a list of DVDsI have a list of video games.  These three lists are indeed lists that I use to keep track of what I want to read or watch or play.  I also have an older list to track the list of video games that I want to try to finish at some point, and to track my progress on that.  And it’s that list that spawned this post.

I had already been musing that I hadn’t been updating the lists very much, and then remembered that June had come and gone and I hadn’t done my annual post tracking my progress on finishing games.  But then I wondered if I had made any progress at all and if it was worth bothering.  So I looked.  And last year I had finished 34 games.  This year?  35 games.  So, not all that much progress was made … and that’s assuming that the list is actually up to date with games that I’ve played and finished.  Given that at this point all I seem to be doing is adding games that I buy new and finish and that none of the games actually on it are ones that I’m really considering making a push to finish, the list doesn’t really seem important anymore.  It doesn’t really seem to be doing anything, except maybe provide a place for me to keep track of what I actually finish so I can refer to it later.

And the same issue is only multiplied with the other lists.  All of these lists originally existed as a way for me to keep track of what I wanted to do and to order them so that I knew what I was going to do next.  However, what I’ve been doing with that lately is creating stacks in various places, which provides the reminder, the ordering, and also, of course, lets me actually grab the next thing that I want to do from the stack when it’s time to move on from that.  So the lists don’t add anything to that, and so essentially end up being extra work that isn’t that important to me anymore.  Tracking everything I’ve watched or read or played is interesting, but I also generally remember that and I don’t really read them enough to get a sense of accomplishment from doing that.

Right now, the only list — and sort of list — that I still think has use for me is a list like the one for the Classic Game Console Games, where what I’ve done is go through all the available games and write down which ones I want to play at some point.  I intend to do that for the arcade game console thing that I picked up recently.  But why these are useful is because it isn’t easy to see at a glance what I want to do, and in general would have to boot up and scroll through all the options to even get a list to consider.  For the other things, they’re all in bookcases and on shelves and the like so I can see what things I haven’t done and which things I want to do and then make a smaller stack somewhere of the ones that I want to do in the near future (followers of the blog will know that that works really well for books and DVDs and not so well for video games).  So for me, personally, the stacks work better for me to keep track of what I want to do in the near future, and it is trivial for me to assemble those stacks from the physical objects whenever I need to build a new stack of things to do.  So they don’t provide any useful information for me anymore, or even a useful place to keep information to keep track of things.  And it doesn’t seem like any of my readers use them either to keep track of what I’m doing, even out of mild interest.  So they aren’t much use to me, and not much use to my readers, so then it doesn’t seem like they’re really of any use at all.

So the long and the short of it is that while I don’t think that I’ll delete the pages, I don’t think I’ll be updating them much anymore either.  I might update the List of Games to Finish one if I feel motivated, but I won’t be posting every year how much progress I’ve made unless I’ve made great strides or think it will be cool (or need a quick post for a day).  The list pages, then, will track things that I need to keep track of, but not what I’m doing or planning to do on a short-term basis, and any list page that tracks what I’m doing or planning to do will probably not get updated.

As a final note, Shamus Young at his site runs every so often a This Week I Played feature, which in typical Shamus fashion does not run every week, where he says what he’s been playing and asks the readers to add comments saying what they’ve been playing, which I’ve been adding to.  If I can’t remember what I’ve been doing over those months, I don’t check my lists.  I go back through the “Video Games” category and note what I’ve been talking about, and then insert stuff from my memory.  Just another example of how those lists aren’t actually useful anymore.

Living Without Free Will

August 20, 2021

So, it’s only in the last two chapters of “Living Without Free Will” where Pereboom finally gets around to talking about how we can live without free will or what life would be like without free will.  But for the most part all he does is try to talk about how hard incompatiblism doesn’t seem to have the problems that we think it does, and so ends up making the same mistake that a lot of hard incompatiblists — like Jerry Coyne — do in that he ends up essentially trying to stick with the general structure of a society that we currently have while taking specific cases where hard incompatiblism says something different to show how it’s better.  The problem is that even those purported improvements are dependent on the structures and ideas that we developed in a world where we at least thought that we had free will, and so it ends up not being clear that those underlying structures make any sense in their model.  And even worse, if all they want to do is keep most of the ideas and structures of free will but alter some of them as a reaction to determinism, that seems to be pretty much what compatiblism wants to do, so it becomes difficult to see why it’s not just a form of compatiblism with a different approach.  So hard determinists like Pereboom often make strong statements about us not having free will and how we need to throw the entire concept out, but then either continue to use things that assume some form of free will, or else throw out the terms but then reinsert them with different names but without a justification.

The example that most struck me is the one where Pereboom talks about someone who constantly does something that harms or irritates you, but then when called out on it seems genuinely apologetic and committed to avoiding doing that.  The first problem with this is that it’s difficult to say what it would mean for someone to be genuinely apologetic under hard incompatiblism.  That apology is just as much a determined reaction as the original event was.  What does it mean for them to be genuine?  They’d have to be able to act differently if they weren’t being genuine, but again they can’t react differently.  Being genuine does imply that the main difference is internal to the person, and that their internal state is the real difference.  But if that internal state is totally determined by external factors, then what meaning is there to saying that they are being “genuine”?  Presumably, they could be just as genuine when they are taking that harmful or annoying action, and certainly under hard incompatiblism both cases reflect them equally well, because under hard incompatiblism neither case can really reflect “them”, being determined by external factors and not things specifically about them.  If we wanted to claim that these things were still determined but that the internal processes are importantly the ones that determine their actions — and so that the actions are critically determined by them in and of themselves and so really reflect them — then we’re pretty much pushing a compatiblist line.  So it’s very difficult to see how the term “genuine” can even have meaning under hard incompatiblism.

But hard incompatiblism also seems to have a problem deal with this situation.  Under libertarianism or compatiblism, in such a case we would see an obvious contradiction that needs to be resolved.  If they really do genuinely want to avoid hurting us but nevertheless keep doing it anyway, then we can identify that as a specific issue that needs to be resolved.  And we can see that either they really don’t want to avoid hurting us, or else they have some kind of overwhelming compulsion to commit that action that we need to help them break.  But under hard incompatiblism, their purported compulsion to commit that action is exactly the same thing as their expressing that they “genuinely” don’t want to take that action and hurt us.  In the “normal” cases, we have a contradiction that we need to explain and resolve.  In the hard incompatiblist case, that purported contradiction is nothing more than what the agent does in those situations, and so isn’t a contradiction at all.  We have to contort the philosophical position of hard incompatiblism to even get to see it as a problem that needs to be fixed, and contort it even more to decide that the actions that harm us are the ones that need to be fixed.  And yet the entire example relies on us understanding it as a contradiction that we care about and, presumably, want to resolve.  So it’s entire basis is a model that it is purportedly rejecting.

So, to finish off Pereboom, there wasn’t much in this book that I didn’t get from “Four Views of Free Will”, and so it wasn’t all that interesting to me from that angle.  But at the end, I came away even more convinced that hard incompatiblism is a non-starter because he hit the same problem that most people do when they promote that position, which is coming up with a way to talk about “Living Without Free Will” that isn’t totally nonsensical.  Since this is very difficult to do, most of them end up importing terms from our free-will-infused world and using them in at least slightly different ways.  But those terms only make sense because of their association with free will — at least in our minds — and so when we look a little deeper and remove those associations as seen above it isn’t clear that those terms still make sense and make sense in the way that the hard incompatiblists need them to to make their theory work.  Compatiblism has the issue of allowing for real decisions in a determined world, but at least it is far easier for it to reuse our everyday terms and so make sense than it is for hard incompatiblism.

And that’s the real issue I have with hard incompatiblism:  if we shake out its philosophy, it has to be a radical departure from how we view and talk about the world today (but the ones that cleave closer to that are libertarianism and compatiblism).  But that makes it really difficult to talk about hard incompatiblism in a way that aligns with our current views of the world, and trying to do so often smuggles in the very concepts of free will that they deny.  At the same time, hard incompatiblists don’t seem to have been able to come with a new way of talking about these issues that lets us get into the right mindset to see how it would work.  So they themselves seem to want to appropriate the original terms, with all the attendant risks.  My impression, then, is that hard incompatiblism becomes nonsensical if we actually try to take it seriously, and the only way to make sense of it is to import the very concepts associated with free will that it’s trying to convince us are nonsensical and not real.  So then it’s very difficult for me to see how hard incompatiblism is even a coherent concept, let alone the one that is most likely to be true.

Thoughts on “Toys of Terror”

August 19, 2021

This is another “Crave” horror movie, but isn’t a Blumhouse movie this time.  The basic premise here is that a family and their nanny decide to spend Christmas in an old Children’s Home that they have bought and are trying to restore to make a fortune, but the building has a horrific past, where after a woman’s child died she brought them some kind of cursed toys that basically killed them.  They find the toys, and the younger children find them and start acting very strange, as the toys seem to come alive and have some sinister purpose.

At first, I thought that this movie was surprisingly good.  The story was interesting and provided an interesting mystery, and the relationships among the characters worked and worked to add complications.  However, by the end it all falls apart, because it falls into the trap that many modern horror movies do by sticking together a lot of elements and not doing anything with them.  We don’t learn what the toys wanted — they hint that they wanted to see Santa — and they get burned up at the end instead of dealt with.  So we never even find out what the curse really was or what it was intended to do.  We also see a number of scenes with children that are seemingly trapped in the building and want to be helped, but we never find out why that happened or how they could be freed.  All that happens is that the nanny is killed and then is shown at the end reading to the ghost children.  While they hinted that she had lost a child, we don’t know how she got trapped in the house, if she’s trapped in the house, if this is something that will help the children or, well, pretty much anything about that, actually.  So it seems to be relying on us thinking of it as a common sort of situation:  woman who lost a child dies but ends up helping children as she has always wanted to do.  But none of that is actually set up and so we don’t have the emotional connection there.  It’s just a thing that happens.

So despite having a decent premise that promised a decent story and an interesting mystery to solve, at the end of the day nothing gets explained or resolved and so it ends up being incredibly hollow.  While it could have been good, because of that I won’t be watching this movie again.

Deep Dive: Fate of the Jedi: Allies

August 18, 2021

So this is Christie Golden’s second book, and with this we are exactly half-way through the series.  Hopefully by this point we’d have all the main plots developed and be bringing them all together into a coherent whole, and if we wanted to drop some plot point we’d have set all that up and developed the new threads that we wanted to follow.  Here, though, the series is almost going to drop a couple of important threads, but has nothing to replace them with and will actually end up reviving them later.  And it has the absolute worst scene in the entire book series.

So let’s start with the Daala and the Jedi plot.  After putting the Jedi Temple under siege and invading it by force in the previous book, here she’s brought them under siege by Mandalorians to demand that they turn over two of the sick Jedi that they are keeping there.  This is despite the fact that the Mandalorians already failed to invade the Temple and aren’t exactly known for diplomatic subtlety.  This was set up a bit by comments that the Alliance’s forces were now commanded by someone who would be more sympathetic to the Jedi, but deciding to give them the authority to try to negotiate with the Jedi and force them to turn those two people over is a clear mistake of incredible magnitude.  This is not helped by the fact that the leader of the forces is not exactly one who seems capable of actual diplomacy.  He gives them an ultimatum to send out the sick Jedi — which, since they were not in their right minds would have only started a fight anyway — or else he’ll attack or fire on them.  Wanting to avoid escalating things, Kenth Hamner sends out his new assistant, a person that we only meet in this book, a young and optimistic and energetic and nice young girl, to talk to him figuring that the leader isn’t going to be stupid enough to harm or kill her while he might well attack a Master or a Jedi.

Well, the leader is stupid enough to not only attack her, but basically execute her out in public.

Daala’s right-hand man, Wynn Dorvan, is obviously horrified, but then remembers that another character, Raynar Thul, will be coming out to eat lunch there — Dorvan often eats lunch with him — and so is obviously pretty convinced that the Mandalorian leader will kill him, too, and so rushes off to save him.  The Mandalorian even pulls rank on Dorvan and on purported orders from the Chief of State, but allows Dorvan to save Raynar and they take the young girl’s body into the Temple.  In public.  In broad daylight.  With the press watching.

Obviously, this would create terrible PR for Daala, and they do note that it does impact public support.  And yet Daala is not seen to be in any way more willing to be reasonable or negotiate, nor does it really result in calls for her dismissal or issues with her anti-Jedi policies.  Although there are some small changes — eliminating the special Jedi Court, for example, and thus putting them under the same law as everyone else — there’s no real movement in any way from this, nor do the Jedi really seem able to use that to apply any pressure on Daala to change her policies. 

And all of this seems to follow not from malice on Daala’s part, but instead due to incompetence.  Even in previous series — and even under Karen Traviss — making the Mandalorians the main negotiators would be seen as a bad idea.  They were always in general best used as muscle and a threat, not as the main force and main figureheads.  But if Daala was going to be stupid enough to do that, then both her and Boba Fett are smart enough to know that you send a commander who at least has some diplomatic ability.  You certainly don’t send someone who thinks that the best message he can send to everyone is to kill a young, unarmed girl as a threat.  And if you did happen to send someone that stupid, both of them would be smart enough to disavow and punish him for doing such a stupid thing.  And given what was shown, you wouldn’t send the Mandalorians out to do similar things later (and Daala will send the Mandalorians to put down slave revolts in a later book, with the same disastrous results).  This is all the result of incompetence.

Which is where this book and series fails.  They are building a conspiracy to oppose Daala and the existing authorities, and so could have used this to push Daala into these sorts of mistakes.  Then we could have had a real conflict between Daala who was facing hidden opposition who would make every move she made — even the correct ones — look like a problem and who could manipulate public opinion to make Daala think that some of her actions would be welcomed when they wouldn’t be, and the Jedi who would be looking at the moves she made and thinking that she wasn’t being sincere in her efforts and was letting her feelings about the Jedi dictate her moves, leading them to genuinely believe that her end goal really was nothing less than the disbanding of the Jedi Order.  This would leave Kenth Hamner in a tough position in the middle of all of this, not wanting to trigger anything but having to see, along with the Council, that things really did look like she was being disingenuous and unreasonable, and with him grasping at any straw that he could find to avoid open conflict, which then would explain his making a secret pact with an Admiral who was Daala’s lover and confidant to calm things down.  But while the threads are there, they are never used for any purpose like this and so it all comes down to incompetence, which means that Daala is at least in some way willing to resolve it peacefully and yet is acting like she isn’t, and no one, even those close to her, can figure that out or tell her to do something smarter.

Now, in reading around I heard some people talking about how this might be a reaction by the writers to having Daala shoved into the leadership of the GA and to the focus on the Mandalorians from the previous series (mostly, it is claimed, by Karen Traviss), and what I see here is so ridiculous that this almost seems credible.  However, if that is the case it seems incredibly petty to perform this sort of character assassination, especially given the impact that it has on the overall work.  If they didn’t want to use those characters, they could have simply shuffled them aside (especially the Mandalorians) but they seem to only be used in the story to make them look bad or reduce them to the sorts of characters that the other writers thought they were, which again if deliberate is quite petty.

And speaking of petty, let’s talk about the Jedi Council and the conflict with Hamner.  The Jedi girl’s name is Kani, but they call her K.P., which is short for “Kenth’s Pet”.  They grumble that it seems like Hamner is looking to settle in as Grand Master because he’s taking an assistant, and note that Luke didn’t have an assistant.  Of course, things are much more complicated now with many more forces on all sides pressing Hamner, and Luke really did seem like the sort of Grand Master who would let the paperwork and things like that slide which is not true of Hamner, so this does seem like a very petty complaint.  And the worst of it is that the nickname and the worst of the accusations come from Han Solo, but the writers don’t seem to get what that means.  Han has always been irreverent and suspicious of authority, but the key to the character has always been that while he’ll always have a point in his accusation he never gets them entirely right either.  He is right to at least suggest that authorities can’t be trusted and so will both discover these sorts of situations earlier and will have plans in place when something like that happens, but he’s never completely right about what’s going on and often will distrust and antagonize legitimate authorities that he needs.  So the right approach in this case is indeed to let Han shoot his mouth off about Kenth, but have Leia and the Jedi Council be more understanding and less inclined to go off half-cocked.  Then the conflict can be built slowly over time until things become untenable.  But here, the Jedi Council is pretty much opposed to anything Hamner tries to do, and don’t seem to trust or respect him at all.  Sure, Kyp Durron was always a troublemaker, even for Luke, and Corran Horn, who would normally be the voice of reason is not in position to do that, but why is Kyle Kattarn, for example, not stepping in?  We get too much of the Jedi Council to ignore the conflict but not enough of it to see real dividing lines forming.  And this is not helped by the fact that from the perspective of the Jedi, Daala really does seem to be courting open conflict, even though they definitely have sources — like Dorvan — that could show them that she isn’t and that Hamner’s approach might work.

If things are really that bad between Hamner and the Council, surely there’s some procedure in place for removing him or making him see that he would need to step aside.  But at least here, no one even brings it up and no one really seems to want to reason with him, and his concerns are too valid to be ignored.

The other big part of the book is the chase for Abeloth, which brings a fleet of Sith into the picture, as well as Lando and Jaina.  The Sith are, of course, trying to be devious and they want to try to convert Ben to the Sith side, using his attraction to Vestara as the main in to doing so.  I actually do like their relationship and the conflict as he’s trying to convert her and she’s trying to convert him, and there are some interesting dynamics with Vestara’s father and Luke as examples of fatherhood and their different styles.  Again, I’d like to see it explored, but way too much is going on here to do it justice, as they have to bring in some Sith, and then get rid of them, and then show what their plan is with a sidequest to claim some crystals and cause problems on Klatooine with a slave contract that is utterly pointless.  See, there was an agreement from the people on that planet that they’d basically enslave themselves to the Hutts if the Hutts would protect a sacred crystal formation.  The Sith and Abeloth try to disturb that, which damages it, which has the people declare that the Hutts have broken the contract and so they are free.  Lando and Jaina are snookered into assessing whether that was the case or not, and after some discussions declare that the Hutts tried their best and so the agreement should still be in effect.  At which point it’s made clear that the inhabitants were going to demand freedom regardless, making it all pointless in a way that’s probably supposed to be tragic but, given everything else that’s going on, just comes across as frustrating.

It’s in this arc that they end up potentially dropping two plot points, because Luke, Ben, the Sith Leader, Vestara, and her father all track Abeloth down and attack and seemingly kill her.  And this causes the sick Jedi to recover.  So, yay?  But if that’s all it was going to take to put Abeloth down, then it doesn’t seem like she was worth the build-up.  So it will surprise absolutely no one that the deaths don’t take, and even the cure doesn’t really take because the Jedi that were in stasis don’t get cured, as we find out in a later book.  So at the half-way point, threads get dropped only to be picked up again later.  This is obviously not something that lends itself to a great reading experience.

Still, we’re half-way there.  But the back half isn’t any better than the front half.