Archive for October, 2022

Trunk Diary: Taris

October 31, 2022

Taris is a hell-hole.

Well, I guess that’s only to be expected on a planet that was bombed into oblivion by Darth Malak’s Sith a long time ago, but from what I’ve heard it actually wasn’t all that much better before that.  Sure, the city itself was nice, but the undercity had Rakghoul monsters that were pretty much the only things that really managed to thrive after the bombardment.  The Republic wants to rebuild it.  The Empire wants to stop them from doing that.

I’m siding with the Empire here, and worked against the rebuilding.  The reason is that the Republic isn’t doing this to help people.  If they wanted to help people, they’d get a lot more bang for their buck on a host of other planets.  No, they’re turning this into a symbol, and big middle finger to the Empire by rebuilding something the Sith wiped out.  That’s why they’re doing this and shipping people back who had homes here before and all of that.  I have no problem tweaking their noses and making their symbolic gesture more realistic.

I also had to work with another Sith named Thana Vesh.  She was pretty much the archetype of the sort of Sith I hate.  She was powerful, sure, but way too confident in her abilities and way too interested in hurting and killing people to think straight.  So, of course, she managed to fail a lot of her missions and get captured at least once doing that.  Her master Gravus didn’t seem that impressed by her attitude and used me as a foil to try to show her restraint, but it didn’t work that well.  I had a chance at the end of all of this to kill her, but I let her live.  You’d think that given my attitude I would have taken the chance to kill such a Sith, but she’s young, and there aren’t all that many ways things can end for young Sith with her attitude.  They overextend themselves and get themselves killed.  Or they learn restraint and harness their power.  Or they attach themselves to a powerful enough Sith that they can act on their desires without facing too many consequences for it.  If it’s the first case, then I don’t have to kill her.  If it’s the second, then she might end up as an ally somewhere down the road.  And if it’s the third, I’ll probably end up killing her when her master sics her on me.  Either way, I didn’t need to do anything now, and she might learn how things really are at some point.

Speaking of that, I had a chance to teach a Jedi that the Jedi Order aren’t any better than they think the Sith are much of the time.  At least the Sith are honest about it, but the Jedi often become masters of rationalizing the nasty things they want to do in the name of “serving the Light”, which means following their instincts and what they want to do and claiming that it’s “The Will of the Force”.  A young padawan named Ashara was getting visited by the ghost that I wanted to capture — turns out that I’m not the only one with Sith in the family tree — and so I had to convince her to let me into the compound to talk to it and, at the same time, to take the opportunity to convince her to doubt the Jedi.  She was proud and headstrong and that was my way in, but I tried to present myself as a reasonable Sith to show her that one can indulge in those things without turning into a monster.  Seems like I should have spent more time talking up the rewards, because when she let me in she had told her superiors about me and said that she didn’t believe that I was a reasonable Sith.  So her superiors tried to kill me and I killed them and captured the ghost — negotiating with it instead of just capturing it — and for some reason Ashara decided that she might as well join me as she probably wasn’t going to be able to go back to the Order after getting her superiors killed.  This wasn’t much of an endorsement and makes me wonder what her real objective is, because it really sounds like she was going to come with me no matter what I said.  I have to hope that the reason is because she’s being pulled to the Dark Side instead of her deciding that she would make a good independent double-agent.

After this, it looks like my inherited apprentices are in a bit of trouble, so it’s off to Quesh to help them.

What Does Meaning Mean?

October 28, 2022

So Jonathan MS Pearce recently wrote a post talking about how we should build our own meaning and purpose without appealing to something like religion.  One of the things he says in it is this:

Thus, meaning is, of course, whatever you want it to be. If you want to change the meaning of the word “table” to mean “chair”, go for it. You are free to do that for yourself. But be warned that it might be advisable to consider others in the process for the practicalities of navigating life.

This reminded me of the old riddle:  How many legs does a dog have, if we call a tail a leg?  Four, because no matter what you call it a tail is not a leg.  The same thing applies here, and demonstrates why Pearce’s nominalism fails.  When he talks about a person changing the “meaning” of the word “table”, he is implying that he’s talking about changing the concept through his nominalist stance, but that is precisely what he isn’t doing.  All he is doing is changing what the English word “table” refers to, by shifting it from pointing to things that we commonly place in the category of tables and instead to pointing to things that we commonly place in the category of chairs.  Thus, all he’s doing is changing the label we apply to those objects in the world.  But he isn’t changing any of the properties of those things nor what we’d generally use to determine if they fit into the category that we are applying the label to or how we use them.  And given that the label points to things in the real world, the properties we find in the world are real properties.  While there may be some leeway in what importance we place on the various properties and even on what categories we pay attention to, those categories are out there, in the world, to be discovered, making them as objective as anything we find in science.  And this is true by necessity, as for the most part what empirical science does is nothing more than create these categories and labels and concepts to describe the world and how it works.  So if Pearce can use his nominalism in a way that means that these determinations are not objective and are merely what everyone gets to make up for themselves, then the same thing is true for science as well, which would put a lot of Pearce’s positions in a bad spot.

However, we can also see that Pearce’s argument here actually relies on equivocation.  When we talk about meaning in terms of the meaning of our lives, we are not talking about what a word signifies or “points to”, but instead are talking about what gives our lives importance or value.  Pearce can get away with saying that someone can change the meaning of the word “table” and only have to worry about whether others will understand what they’re talking about because meanings, in that sense, are absolutely unimportant in that sense.  We don’t think that what word we pick to point to and signify the things that we call tables gives it any sort of value one way or another.  It doesn’t matter to the value of those things what word is used to point to them.  So when we talk about meaning there, we are using it in a way that excludes the idea of value from the picture.  But the reason we want to find a meaning or purpose for our lives is one that inherently includes value, and is inseparable for it.  We can assign a word to something that we don’t think has any particular value, but we cannot come up with a meaning for our lives that doesn’t give our lives a value.

So the meaning and purpose to our lives exists precisely to give our lives value, which gives it a far greater importance to us than the example of what word to use to refer to a certain set of things in the world.  So when we try to build it ourselves, we can see a potential issue with how Pearce suggests we do that:

It might be useful to pose a question at this juncture: What do you want out of life?

This question is met almost universally with some variation of “To be happy, for my friends and family to be happy, for as many people as possible to be happy.” And happiness can entail pleasure, a lack of pain, and well-being in general. We could even talk in terms of fulfillment and flourishing.

But while we may not be able to achieve ultimate meaning, we may be able to achieve at least some degree of transcendence. Meaning and impact can live on past our lives, through our children or the people we know or the people and world we influence and affect, progressing into the future. Okay, we might have to admit the eventual heat death of the universe or some such scenario. Just don’t be afraid that meaning might be much more about living in the here, living in the now, and perhaps working hard for the future, even if it is not eternal.

The issue with this — and Richard Carrier makes the same mistake — is that it bases everything on the desires that we currently have and what we currently want.  We are trying to figure out by this what we want out of life and then either using that to determine our meaning or else defining our meaning so that it justifies and allows us to fulfill our desires.  But this ignores that the main reason we want to figure out our purpose and meaning in life is so that we can determine what it is we ought to want.  Ought I want to be “happy”?  Are the things that make me happy the right things or should I change so that other things are what makes me happy?  All of these approaches tend to ignore the fact that we can indeed shape to a large extent what makes us happy and what makes us have satisfying lives, and the whole point to searching for meaning and purpose is so that we can determine what shape the things that make us happy should take, and what shape we, as sentient beings, should take on in order to live the “best” lives.  This, then, means that we want an objective answer to what meaning our purpose should be, even if that ends up being a meaning and purpose that is unique for each individual.  If any meaning and purpose will do, then what is the point of having a meaning and purpose at all?  Instead, we should simply reflect on who we are and insist that, to paraphrase a great philosopher, that we yare what we yare without having to have any additional “worldview” or “meaning” or “purpose” underpinning or overarching that.  Meaning and purpose, on this model, becomes meaningless and purposeless.

And we can see this with Pearce’s example of the spade, where he asks us to consider a spade that was created by someone to dig in a garden and so would have that as its purpose, but where it might disagree with that purpose:

If the spade were sentient, and decided that it didn’t fancy being used to dig holes in my garden at my behest (I am the purposer here, the god), but wanted to take on a nobler cause of digging gardens in the community, and helping criminals rehabilitate their ways in a gardening program, then the spade is entitled to feel that its own purpose was superior (even if it was something less morally upstanding).

But we can see here that Pearce is trying to make his point here by using something that we already think follows from our existing notions of meaning and purpose in saying that the spade wants to take on the “nobler” cause of working for the community and helping criminals rehabilitate instead of just digging in our personal garden.  But why is that a nobler cause?  We would be inclined to think that that purpose is nobler because the idea we have of purpose means that helping others fits our purpose better than simple self-interest.  If the situation was reversed, we would be far more likely to consider the spade selfish instead of considering it to be pursuing something “nobler”.  Pearce can be seen, here, as arguing that the spade is justified in considering the purpose nobler mostly because it’s its own purpose, but we would not be as quick to go along with his analogy if he had had the spade rejecting a purpose that we considered more noble in order to pursue a personal purpose that we considered less noble.  Given this, again, it seems like the concept of “noble” also becomes meaningless in Pearce’s model, as it reduces to “what the individual wants”, and shortening that to “noble” implies a moral superiority that doesn’t apply to it and so is equivocation and on top of that lacks a justification for calling that “nobility” instead of “desire” or “preference”.  The only reason to call it “noble” is to make the link to superiority, but that idea of superiority only exists because we think that there is an objective moral value that we can assign to things … all of which Pearce’s view requires him to reject.

Ultimately, that is the main issue with subjectivist ideas of meaning, purpose and morality that those like Pearce advocate:  the only reason we care about them at all and the only reason they have any value to us is because we think of them as objective and so something that we can use to shape our own ideas and notions.  If we make them subjective, then they can no longer do that, and so have no use or value to us anymore, making it so that we have no reason to care about them and so no reason to spend the time Pearce advocates we spend trying to figure them out for ourselves.  Thus, if Pearce’s view is right his own approach means that he is wasting his time doing the “hard job” of figuring that out.

Thoughts on “Black Friday”

October 27, 2022

I’m returning to individual movies for a while, starting with “Black Friday” that is probably most notable for being another horror movie that Bruce Campbell plays a relatively major role in, this time as the manager of a toy store on Black Friday.  Of course, this one turns out to be an even crazier Black Friday than normal, as meteors from the sky create some sort of strange monsters that kill people and, even worse, use them and their bodies to create some kind of strange biological entity that ends up turning into a huge kaiju monster that the employees need to defeat to survive.

The employees are a mix of pretty standard horror movie tropes, from the single father to the hot chick to the extremely fussy about cleanliness somewhat teenage slacker.  This is good, because this movie is a rather light horror movie — pretty much a given for almost anything Bruce Campbell does — and we don’t really need to have deep characters to pull off that kind of story.  All of them have issues that they are dealing with — the father and the hot chick are some kind of friends with benefits, and the somewhat slacker has issues with his father — and there’s a subplot about the store not being able to provide overtime pay and planning on laying people off after Black Friday, which tie into the manager’s subplot where he really and legitimately loves the store and even the employees — when he treats them badly, it’s more because that’s how he thinks the store should be run based on how it was run when he was climbing the ranks than out of malice — and so goes out in a blaze of glory to go down with the store and save them.  But as I said, since this is a light horror movie the issues are touched on just enough to provide the characters with some small arc and to provide something for the movie to do in between horror-filled attacks.

One big disappointment of mine is that for a movie called “Black Friday” that lampshades how the mob is very similar to how normal consumers act and can be seen as merely taking it to an extreme, there isn’t really much in the movie that takes advantage of that or references it directly.  One employee lampshades that it’s all about consumerism and tries to appeal to the kaiju on that basis, but since he’s a terrible person it ends badly, and the others never pick up on that.  It would have been nice for them to use it in some way to defeat the kaiju.  Also, the ending has the three survivors driving away happily with all of their issues sorted out … only to simply show another kaiju in the background, making it pointless.  But this isn’t presented as it being a twist ending and isn’t remarked upon at all, and given that we knew that there were more meteors and so expected it it doesn’t really seem relevant, and it’s not presented in a way that would be at all funny in line with the lighter tone of the movie.  So it seems to be something that we could figure out and maybe ask about but that neither we nor the movie cares enough about to do anything with, which makes for a disappointing ending.

The movie is lighter and is paced fairly well and so I have to admit I kinda enjoyed watching it, but afterwards found that I had absolutely no interest in watching it again.  There’s just nothing to it that would make a rewatch interesting.  There aren’t enough jokes to make it worth rewatching to laugh at them again, the character arcs aren’t deep or interesting enough to want to re-experience, the plot has nothing interesting to it, and there’s no real mystery and so nothing to look for on a rewatch.  So it wasn’t a bad movie and as I said I kinda enjoyed it but at the end of it all it really just seemed like a more empty movie, something that I could watch once and somewhat enjoy but that had really nothing specific going for it to make it memorable.  As such, I think I’m going to toss it in my box of movies to possibly sell.  I have far, far better movies to rewatch out of the ones that are already in my box to maybe rewatch at some point.

Thoughts on “Troilus and Cressida”

October 26, 2022

This play is another historical, and so far the best of those has been “Julius Caesar”.  Given that “Hamlet” is supposedly based on history (as is “Macbeth” that is coming up), it might be a good idea for me to outline here what makes me characterize those as dramas while “Julius Caesar” and this play are ones that I characterize as “historicals”.  The traits of the historicals, to me, are ones that Shakespeare based on stories that much of his audience probably would have heard of.  For the most part, these were famous stories from English history but while I’m not a historian it seems to make sense to me that they would have heard at least some things about “Julius Caesar” and, in this case, the Trojan War, and so the characters themselves would be familiar to the audience.  As such, he tends to give them less development than he gives the characters in his dramas, and he also includes more characters and more threads — especially here — than he does in the dramas.  Another trait is that in the historicals the title character or characters are actually given much less focus than the other characters.  “Julius Caesar” is, in fact, all about Brutus, with Caesar himself playing a very minor role in his own play.  This can be contrasted with “Hamlet” where Hamlet himself is the main character and pretty much every plot and character thread can be traced right back to him.  They also don’t seem to have a true ending and only lead into later events and possibly later plays, while “Hamlet”, for example, pretty much ends with the death of all the main characters.

The one definitely seems to be a historical because it hits all that criteria.  As noted above, the audience probably had some exposure to the Trojan War and Trojan War heroes.  Most of the time in the play is spent focusing on Hector, Achilles, Ajax and the Greek and Trojan high command, and the title characters are mostly a minor complication to those plots.  There are also a lot of individual plots going on that are, again, only tangentially related, and very little character development is done for any of the characters other than people flat-out stating what their personalities and relationships are.  So, given that I prefer the dramas to the historicals, this play was starting off on the wrong foot for me to find it really enjoyable.

The basic plot is, well, the Trojan War, with Achilles sulking in his tent, Ajax taking up the challenge that Hector makes against Achilles, and a lot of consternation over how and why Achilles won’t fight and a bunch of the negotiations and machinations over that, as well as the relationship between Paris and Helen and the like.  The plot that involves the main characters is that they are both Trojans and are in love, although Cressida literally plays hard to get for about a scene or two before she accepts it, just in time for the Greeks to demand her in exchange for a Trojan VIP, at which point she goes over there and seems to fall in love with Diomedes, which enrages Troilus and makes him fight like a demon in the upcoming battle (although it is unclear if he ever killed anyone in the battle), while Hector is killed in the battle, which again leaves the ending hanging.

I wanted to like the couple, but Cressida ends up being a completely unsympathetic character.  First, she plays hard to get with Troilus, and then when sent to the Greeks when she is admonished not to fall in love with any of them after protesting that she would never do that she ends up rather quickly forgetting all of that.  While this makes me sympathize with Troilus’ anger, it makes that entire arc — which is the title arc — rather pointless.  This is where I think giving the title arc more space and leaving out some of the other historical arcs would have worked better, because there would have been room to have Cressida be wooed by Diomedes and to expand on her speech of being torn over that, which would have had a much better dramatic and tragic payoff, as Troilus would have been justified in his anger but her shift would have seemed less callous.

One of the reasons I wanted to like her was because Shakespeare does give her some good dialogue which makes it interesting to listen to her, and his dialogue is generally good throughout.  As such, I didn’t mind the play at all, but the multiple plots make it seem a bit disconnected.  It’s better than some of the other historicals, but then I know more about the Trojan War and so have a similar if not greater connection to that history and that story as Shakespeare’s audience had.  So it does seem to me that the historicals do work given the right audience, and the English ones fail more because we aren’t as connected to that history as his audience would be.  Still, though, I prefer the straight dramas for the reasons given above.  There are indeed some structural issues with the historicals — at least the ones I’ve read so far — that means they struggle to hit the heights that the pure dramas can hit, even as the best ones — “Julius Caesar”, specifically — can be really good plays.

Next up is another comedy in “All’s Well that Ends Well”.

Comparing “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” and “Scream Queens”

October 25, 2022

So while I was rewatching “Scream Queens” with an eye towards comparing it to “Pretty Little Liars:  Original Sin”, I had a strange and horrible feeling.  I couldn’t help but feel like “Original Sin” actually used “Scream Queens” for its inspiration.  I tried to tamp down that thought by thinking that perhaps they were inspired by the same series, but that didn’t last long before I realized that their slashers were too different for that to be the case.  I could argue that “Scream Queens” was inspired by something like “Scream”, but “Original Sin’s” slasher is far more of the unstoppable force of a “Friday the 13th” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street” which does not fit into a “Scream”-style movie.

Now, I don’t think that “Original Sin” was inspired by “Scream Queens”.  I think the reason it has a more “Scream”-like structure with a more “Friday the 13th”-like slasher is because they wanted to use that sort of slasher but also wanted the secrets part of the original series, which explains why things ended up the way they were.  But that I could see it as being inspired by an excessively over-the-top horror parody and still find that the parody did those elements better is a very bad sign for “Original Sin”.

Let me start with the big similarities.  The obvious one is the actual plot, which is similar to that of “The Row” and “Scream Queens” in the sense that its basis is the actions of a group of women in the past that are getting paid back in the present, on people who are not them but are associated with them in some way.  Sororities are the big one in the other two works, and a high school clique is the one here.  You can see right away that this concept is a really good one for the “Pretty Little Liars” universe — which indeed completely ran on such past sins — but isn’t a good fit for a “Friday the 13th”-style slasher.  Someone getting revenge for a past slight is, but keeping that secret isn’t.  A mystery around who is the actual killer works better when the killer is more of a normal person who could be everyone — or even multiple people — while “Original Sin”‘s killer is a hulking brute who would stand out in a crowd, and so needs to stay out of sight.  That sort of killer also kills people by overpowering them, while a “Scream”-style killer kills by outsmarting them and thinking one step ahead of everyone … which is the perfect sort of replacement for “A”, sticking to their hypercompetent characterization but adding that they kill people on top of that.

This is probably why “Original Sin” failed so miserably with the reveal that the principal was involved and running the show the entire time.  For a “Friday the 13th”-style killer, none of that is necessary so there was no mystery to be resolved by that reveal, and so it came completely out of nowhere and seemed unnecessary.  A simple “psychopathic killer brutally getting revenge for a past sin” works really well with a “Friday the 13th”-style killer, but if you want a mystery you want a more normal slasher whose killings can reveal hidden and puzzling motives to resolve.

Another big similarity is that both of them build in a double act between the nice girl who looks like the traditional Final Girl and a Mean Girl.  Let me talk about the Final Girls first.  “Scream Queens” has Grace, whose mother was a member of the sorority and over the objections of her father she wants to join that sorority and make it better.  As she notes, she’s the only member who doesn’t have a mother.  The same thing is true of Imogen, as Imogen’s mother’s suicide starts the killing — although the slasher, ultimately, didn’t kill her — and is a major issue for Imogen throughout the series.  However, “Scream Queens” uses that to advance the plot and the character and “Original Sin” doesn’t.  Again, the main reason that Grace joins the sorority is to get a sense of who her mother was and to rebuild something her mother cared about.  In addition, Grace believes that she was the child born in the past when the teen mother was left to die so that her friends could dance to “Waterfalls” because, as noted above, she was the only one without a mother, explaining why the killings are suddenly starting now.  And, in fact, that ends up being a red herring that raises the issue of why the killings would happen now because it is indeed because the girl born that night has joined the sorority:  she’s actually the killer.

In comparison, “Original Sin” doesn’t really do anything with Imogen’s mother issues.  It doesn’t explain why she wants to oppose Karen or ended their friendship, for example.  It isn’t the impetus for her to run against Karen for Homecoming Queen.  It’s totally irrelevant to the overall plot.  All it does is come up on occasion when the writers need Imogen to get upset about something, and is hinted at at the very end when the principal comments that her mother took the coward’s way out.  But it has no real meaning to the story at all.  This is another reason why the principal reveal doesn’t work; Imogen is a main character and yet her story doesn’t relate to that at all, even as a red herring.

“Scream Queens” also gives Grace some character arcs.  She starts off with her father being her best friend, who is also a bit overprotective.  As things progress, she learns to stand up to him and take risks on her own and he learns to trust her more, with them having a lovely scene where they part after resolving those issues.  Imogen doesn’t have a father-figure and her relationship with Tabby’s mother must be sidelined by Tabby’s relationship with her, and so she doesn’t get any arc like that.  She does get a boyfriend arc, but it’s also shared with Tabby and feeds into the rapist angle, which is mostly disconnected from the rest of the plot.  Grace also gets a boyfriend arc, which works out better as he’s her main compatriot for most of the series, and is more directly related to the plot as he ended up working with the killers at one point and committed a murder.  This also creates a great character moment as he talked her out of killing the Dean because it wasn’t like her, but then reveals that he killed in order to find out who the killers were and so turned into the sort of person that he told her not to be, which devastates her.  And then he dies before they can resolve that.  And then on top of that her father also ended up dating one of the killers who is also killed in a devastating way.  The only misstep here is that the two of them don’t really bond over that shared experience — which would have made it matter more to the overall story — but it’s still miles ahead of what “Original Sin” did.

I’ve already talked about how I thought “Original Sin” messed up the “Mean Girl” Karen, but what I had forgotten that both of them actually shared the idea of the main “Mean Girl” being less powerful than one might expect.  I had remembered that Chanel — the main “Mean Girl” — wasn’t as strong as she seemed, but had forgotten that the series started out that way.  Chanel gets called in to talk to the Dean, and comes in with an attitude of arrogance expecting things to just go her way, insulting the Dean unnecessarily, but the Dean pretty much shuts her down completely and it’s only the intervention of the representative of the overall sorority groups that avoids having the sorority shut down, with a compromise that Chanel hates.  But even here, Chanel certainly believes that she has all the advantages and only fails because she runs into someone who just has it completely in for her and isn’t looking out for her own advantage.  Moreover, later on Chanel manages to get the sisters to cover up a murder through bribery, showing that she can indeed manipulate people into doing what she wants.  To directly compare scenes, in “Original Sin” Imogen and Tabby simply assume that people hate Karen enough that Imogen can beat her in the election for Homecoming Queen, while here when Grace’s friend runs against Chanel for Sorority President her friend says the exact same thing, but then later another sorority sister points out that Chanel will by necessity win because there are only eight girls in the sorority and Chanel’s posse of four will vote for her, so the friend needs to get all of the other votes just to get a tie … and Chanel will win with a tie.  This, then, requires some machinations — including getting Chanel arrested — to spin the vote against her … and it still doesn’t work.

In “Scream Queens”, we can see that Chanel is not an ideal manipulator — and we are shown early on that that’s likely because she was a nobody a short year before this — but that she does have some ability and some power and some things she can use directly for leverage to get what she wants.  “Original Sin” provides nothing of the sort for Karen.  Thus, we don’t really see why Karen has any power at all and the moments where they make her sympathetic only serve to make her sympathetic, whereas for Chanel those moments are character moments that make us think that there might be more to Chanel than meets the eye.

“Scream Queens” even does the “homophobic racist” line better.  Yes, the series is over-the-top and so definitely would throw out more incidents, but more importantly the incidents seem to be casual for Chanel, and in instances where there is no benefit to her to express that and, in fact, where it actually hurts her cause to do that (like with the Dean, whom she fires insults about being a lesbian at).  Karen gets two small incidents that are not casual and are done to deliberately hurt people or to try to gain an advantage.  This time through, I definitely felt that Chanel was that sort of person, and never got that for Karen.

There’s even a Ouija Board scene in the series, but unlike the one in “Original Sin” it’s actually relevant to the plot.  The deceased Chanel No2 first tells Chanel that her boyfriend is cheating on her (again) which turns out to be false and gets Chanel in bad straits with him.  It then implies that Chanel is a threat to the other Chanels, which gets them to plot to kill her.  Then she has a dream/vision from Chanel no2 warning her about the threat and encouraging her to stand up for herself and take charge, which she does, foiling the plot.  In contrast, I used the equivalent scene in “Original Sin” as evidence that Imogen was behind the killings because otherwise that scene would have been irrelevant.

So I think that “Scream Queens” used its elements better than “Original Sin” did, especially the ones that they have in common.  However, in watching it this time I think the biggest issue is in the sort of slasher “Original Sin” went with.  As noted above, a “Scream”-style mastermind slasher would have fit really well with the “Pretty Little Liars” universe, but instead they chose a “Friday the 13th”-style slasher.  And then tried to pay it off with a “Scream”-style reveal which didn’t fit.  Now, they could have made all that work if they had, say, created a discrepancy in the murders that would have raised questions about what was going on.  If the slasher was killing bullies at the school but the texts and some of the murders were tied directly to the revenge plot, then they could have created a set of killers where the principal was trying to keep the slasher on a leash but the slasher’s main goal was stopping the bullying.  Heck, it even would have worked if the principal was more interested in killing bullies and cleaning up the school along with the direct revenge.  And a benefit of these is that it would have allowed for them to commit more murders, as one of the main issues with “Original Sin” as a horror series was a lack of killing.

As structured, though, it couldn’t do that.  There simply weren’t enough killings for either sort of slasher to work.  A “Friday the 13th”-style slasher needs more killings to establish the killer as a threat so that we are afraid when the protagonists encounter them, and a “Scream”-style killer needs more killings to establish a pattern that provides a puzzle that makes perfect sense given the reveal.  With only about three killings, there’s not enough there to provide either a real threat or a real puzzle.  “Scream Queens” used the sorority and university environment to provide for victims that are disposable but can be used to establish a pattern of killings and demonstrate that the slasher was one step ahead of everyone.  If they had expanded the victim set to the bullies in the high school, “Original Sin” could have done that as well.

But it didn’t, and I think that’s really where it failed.  And that is why I will rewatch “Scream Queens” again at some point and won’t rewatch “Original Sin”‘s first season.

Tour Challenge

October 24, 2022

So the next event on the Grand Slam of Curling was the Tour Challenge.  On the women’s side, Rachel Homan beat Kerri Einarson  and on the men’s side, Niklas Edin’s team beat Matt Dunstone’s team.

The reason that I said “team” for the men’s side is that Niklas Edin’s team won it without him as he was injured before the semi-finals, hurting his knee, and so his third Oskar Eriksson stepped into calling the game and throwing the last stones and the other two players threw three rocks apiece.  Normally, this is considered to be a disadvantage, and yet they managed to upend too really good teams in Brad Gushue’s team and Dunstone’s team.  Now, this could be seen as an anomaly but earlier in the season there was a women’s team that also had to go with a three person team and did far better than anyone expected, and over the past few seasons there have indeed been cases where a team had to go to three players and in general they seem to have done quite well.  Of course, it’s known that players that throw more rocks will get a better feel for the ice and so will have an advantage that way, but that’s supposed to be outweighed by the fact that they only have one sweeper and so that important part of the game will be impacted.  It doesn’t really seem like that’s actually the case, as the recent games have shown.  It was already pointed out that the second sweeper doesn’t have that much impact on how far a rock will go or how straight it will run most of the time, which is why a number of teams decided to focus on only having one player sweep instead of having two.  About the only real disadvantage, then, would be that it’s potentially easier to switch between sweeping the rock for it to run straight and sweeping it so that it will curl, as you can just switch players instead of having the one sweeper have to switch what they’re doing, but since with two sweepers that has to be coordinated I’m not sure that it is that much easier to switch who is sweeping instead of switching how the one sweeper is sweeping.  For dragging it, it seems like two or three players can make a difference, but those sorts of desperate drags aren’t that common anymore.  So it looks like either two sweepers are no longer needed or else teams aren’t doing enough when playing a three-person team to make sweeping really relevant.

On the women’s side, it was a relatively high scoring game (Homan won 8 – 4) but that happened mostly because of mistakes.  Early on, though, there was a difference in the mistakes the teams were making.  Homan’s team made more mistakes on their throws, missing shots that they probably should have made, but what got Einarson’s team in trouble was mistakes in strategy.  In one of the early ends, they seemed to be setting things up to concede a deuce at most but at the very last minute went for a freeze to try to force Homan to just one point, missed it, and gave up three, and later they tried I think a double that wasn’t the best shot and again missed it to give up more than they wanted.  Even the commentators noted that the shots seemed like poor decisions.  While Einarson’s team also missed shots later, it really does seem and has seemed to me for a while that teams like hers and like Homan’s aren’t as great at strategy as they should be, calling much more difficult shots than needed and while they are talented enough to make them a lot of the time they can also go badly and cost them games.  I haven’t seen that as much in the men’s games I’ve watched, as for example Brad Gushue will often call really difficult shots but the strategy is usually reasonable and it makes sense, as there’s no easier shot that would be that much better or the situation in the game is such that it’s worth the extra risk.  So the women’s teams might need to do some work on their strategy.

This was also the first time I was able to really watch Homan’s new team, and while they are doing well together and in one of the segments Fleury talked about how she’d known them all since they were teens meaning that it makes more sense for them to join together, I was struck by how I don’t think that adding Fleury really added anything that Homan’s team lacked.  Homan throws the last rocks and Fleury throws third stones and arguably calls the game, but Fleury isn’t a better game caller than Homan and Fleury was not a player that was known to struggle under pressure.  This is why Sylvana Tirinzoni’s team works, and Tirinzoni did feel that the pressure of throwing last stones didn’t work for her and Alina Paetz clearly doesn’t have that issue, while you have to think that Paetz thinks that Tirinzoni is at least as good a shot caller as her if not better and definitely feels comfortable letting Tirinzoni mostly run the show knowing that she will set up the end for shots that Paetz can make (which is pretty much all of them).  But when Homan is throwing last stones she pretty much gets to say what shots she wants to make but if Fleury is calling the rest of the end there is the potential for Homan to get frustrated with how the end set up for her last stones, and if she pushes too much for how she wants to set up the end then she might as well just be calling the game, which would reduce Fleury to simple third role which, given this structure, she might not be happy with.  Clearly, it worked in this tournament but it still seems like an odd arrangement to me.

Also, there are commercials for I think Goldline where Homan’s team says things that reflect failure but then switch it to talk about that that’s what people say when they want them to quit but champions don’t quit and they’re champions.  This commercial really annoys me because a) most people didn’t want them to quit, b) the errors and letting down the fans don’t sound that unreasonable and c) most importantly, champions accept their mistakes and learn from them and overcome them, including cases where they might have “choked”.  It’s just a really aggressive commercial for this team given that it really does seem to be referencing at least Homan’s failures at the Olympics where while it may not be totally on her there are indeed things that she could have learned from them, and it not only doesn’t seem like she has, it seems like she’s insisting that she doesn’t need to.  I really think that that commercial and statement is one that didn’t need to be made.

The next curling is the Continental Cup, starting on Hallowe’en, before returning to the Grand Slam in December.

Trunk Diary: Horror Tropes

October 24, 2022

When my quest for revenge started with my picking up a Force-powered monster who wanted to eat people and kept threatening to eat me, I couldn’t help thinking that this was adding horror elements to an action/suspense story.  Then when I entered a number of tombs including ghosts and insane people soaking in Dark Side energy, and then was saved by my ghost ancestor, it just felt even more like that.  Given what happened here, I’m starting to think that the action and suspense elements are being added to a horror story.

Yeah, I finally found out what Zash’s big plan was.  She told me to come back to Dromund Kaas and to the tomb that she had prepared for the ritual, where she revealed the downside of being a Sith:  she had pretty much burned her body out with her dark rituals and needed a new one.  What that meant was that she wanted my body and had spent her time building me up so that she could step into my body and retain most of her power and influence.  Obviously, I didn’t want that, but she had been preparing this for a while and had more knowledge than me, so I had to realize that I was probably going to lose.  At least, until Khem intervened and broke up the ritual, despite not having any idea how to actually do that or what it meant to do that.  He’s so much like Hamr …

And that was important, because while Zash wanted to take over my body and kick me out, it didn’t work that way for Khem.  Instead, she moved into his body … and he stayed.  And so the two of them are now sharing his body, and of course are fighting for control.  And, of course, both of them want me to help them kick the other one out so that they can take control of the body.  And what a wonderful choice it is for me, as I can choose the monster who keeps talking about eating me and doesn’t really bring much to the table other than brute force, or someone who knows a lot of stuff that I might want to learn and knows how to work the politics of the Empire but who tried to betray me and probably would still rather have my body than Khem’s.  To be honest, if I ever have to directly choose which one to support I think I might just let them fight it out.

After this, Thanaton decided to take me under his wing, but gave me a task first.  When I went into the tomb he directed me to, I had to face an insane Sith ghost who killed everyone who came near him, and was going to kill me until my ancestor intervened.  He then criticized me for going into these things unprepared, but I think he’s forgotten what it’s like to be a Sith.  The main plan of a Sith dealing with a rival is to put them into a position where they don’t have a chance of getting out of it.  If I had said that I wanted to take some time to research the tomb and prepare, Thanaton probably would have just killed me, and certainly wouldn’t have let me do that.  So I had to do what I have been doing:  walk into the trap and hope that I’m powerful enough to fight through it.  Yes, my ancestor has had to save me too many times and I can’t keep relying on that, but in all of these cases I haven’t had any choice.

At any rate, I learned how to capture and harness Force ghosts from another, more sane, Force ghost, and managed to capture that Force ghost and fulfill my mission.  Thanaton was incredibly grateful, and showed that by trying to kill me.  He believed he succeeded, but I survived and Zash’s apprentices — who are now mine — spirited me away.

Which is a good way to put it, because it’s clear that my connection to the spirits kept me alive due to Thanaton going for a fancy Force ritual attack instead of just cutting my head off, and in order to defeat him I’m going to need more Force ghosts.  So I’m off to find some, and am adding Thanaton to the list of people I want revenge on.

Vacation, Schedule and TOR

October 23, 2022

So, I used some vacation time recently, and usually after I do that I talk about it, but this time I didn’t do it, at least not right away.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  The first reason is that I didn’t really do anything all that interesting on my vacation.  I had decided not to play a video game and while I was planning on working on some projects about the only thing I managed to do was finish a story.  I did manage to catch up on a lot of the stuff I needed to do here around the house, which was nice, but that made for a pretty boring vacation.  And I finished playing “Space Crusade” and poked around a bit with “Galactic Battlegrounds”, which was nice, and also did manage to catch up on my reading, since the new schedule doesn’t leave me much time for reading.  But, yeah, not a very eventful vacation.

The second reason is that I’m currently pretty much filling up my weekday blog posting blocks with regular posts and so don’t have a lot of room to fit posts like this into it.  I had the “Original Sin” stuff on tap for Tuesdays, the Trunk Diaries come out on Mondays, Wednesdays is the Shakespeare, and Thursdays are horror movies.  Fridays I tend to try to get a Philosophy post in, so that means that I always have something set for or even scheduled for all of those days, making it difficult to fit anything else in.  Hence the story post coming out on a Saturday and this one coming out on a Sunday, and the curling posts being added to Mondays.  This may change but right now the only really flexible day is Tuesday and I have a lot of things I can put there already.

I have gone back to working from work more often, and built out a schedule to try and to get into a routine with for that.  And, of course, I ended up going on vacation after about three weeks which … doesn’t really help in establishing a routine since when I’m at home the routine is completely different from when I’m working from work.  I also wanted to run that routine until January which is when I normally reassess everything and so to not change it and … I ended up changing it.  The big issue was that I had planned on buying lunch on Wednesdays and then coming home to watch a horror movie to keep that stack growing, but the one place that I bought lunch at at least moved and the other wasn’t the same as I remembered it, which made buying lunch not as simple as it used to be.  So that was an issue, but I could have worked that out except that I also realized that the time was a bit rushed to watch a movie.  I had about an hour and a half available but if anything that I did before that ran long or if the movie was longer than an hour and a half then it wouldn’t work.  Given that, I found that I felt like I was trying to rush through the evening to get to being able to watch the movie, which was more stressful than I wanted.  So I shuffled that out of the weekdays and onto the weekends.  I also shuffled when I play video games and do projects.  Of course, I haven’t actually managed to really do that schedule yet because of other things that have gotten in the way, but for good or ill the base schedule is changed because it simply wasn’t working at all.

Finally, about the only video game that I play regularly is The Old Republic, and one thing that struck me about it is that for at least the last three characters I haven’t been doing the romances (which in that game means flirting with a love interest).  This is odd for me since I tend to really like the romance options in Bioware games and games in general (like the modern Personas) as I feel they add to a story and to a character.  But after pursuing Dark Side Jaesa on the Sith Warrior path — I went Dark Side specifically to try out that option — I didn’t do a romance with any of the others.  Well, Sledge Hammer, while he ended up in a kinda romance with Dori, wasn’t the sort of character to pursue them, so that was out.  There weren’t any really interesting romance options for Dori in the Imperial Agent story, so while she certainly would have been interested in a romance she wouldn’t have been interested in the options presented to her.  As for Trunk, while he was married in the show he likely wouldn’t be all that interested in Ashara who is the Sith Inquisitor option and his story of raging revenge doesn’t really align with him flirting with people anyway.  That being said, my next two planned characters are a Corran Horn ex-pat who will definitely romance Kira and a Benjamin Sisko ex-pat who will probably aim for a romance (I haven’t decided whether to make him a Bounty Hunter to align him with his Mirror Universe counterpart or a Warrior to fit with his normal approach) so I will come back to them at some point.  But it is odd that I dropped the romance options for so long.

“The Razor’s Edge: Galactica, Pegasus and Lakoff”

October 21, 2022

The next essay in “Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy” is “The Razor’s Edge:  Galactica, Pegasus and Lakoff” by Sara Livingston.  In it, Livingston tries to analyze the two main commanders and “father figures” of the revamped Battlestar Galactica series using George Lakoff’s idealized parenting strategies of the Strict Father and the Nurturant Parent, using Kendra Shaw’s experiences first with the Strict Parent of Helena Cain and then with Apollo who was taught by the Nurturant Parent of William Adama.

Immediately, we can see some issues with doing this.  The first is that Cain is far more Psychopathic Parent than Strict Father given how she acts.  Livingston might be able to make a case for it by ignoring the worst examples of Cain’s behaviour and instead only focusing on the cases where she aims for strict military discipline — such as the interesting comparison of how Cain and her crew treat the first face-to-face meeting between the crews versus how the Galactica crew treats it — but she also references the scene from Razor where Cain shoots her XO for disobedience and tortures the human-form Cylon that was her former lover.  That definitely exceeds the scope of a Strict Father and doesn’t follow from it.  But we can also note that she needs to cherrypick Adama’s actions to set him up as the Nurturant Parent.  Yes, he gives the crew more leeway at times and seems to forgive them their faults more than a Strict Father, but often this comes across as him more playing favourites than being a nurturing parent to his crew as a whole.  He certainly doesn’t seem like he was a Nurturant Parent to Zac, which is why he and Apollo are on the outs at the beginning of the series.  And while Cain executes her XO, Adama executes Gaeta for mutiny as well, and while you can certainly see that as justified Gaeta had more reason to oppose Adama than others had and other acts of mutiny went completely unpunished.  So Cain is in general more cruel than strict and Adama is more strict than nurturing much of the time.

Now, in general this reflects how things work in real-life, as you rarely get a parent that is all nurturing or all strict, and it’s probably not a good idea to adopt either of those as an overall parenting strategy.  But we can ask what it really means to be a Strict Father or Nurturant Parent.  Livingston roughly presents it as the Strict Father setting out rules and punishing those who step out of line while the Nurturant Parent lets them make their own mistakes, but obviously neither of these work in reality.  The Strict Father definitely wants their charges to learn what does and doesn’t work for them, and the Nurturant Parent can’t let their charges make all of their own mistakes since some of those are fatal.  So we can argue that the Strict Father relies on making the actions have consequences when their charges don’t understand or aren’t capable of understanding those consequences, feeling that when they get older they will be able to work out why the rules were right in the first place, while the Nurturant Parent relies less on strict rules and providing consequences because they focus on making sure that their charges understand what the consequences are.  Both ultimately want to achieve the same end, which is people who understand the consequences of those actions and make the right decisions.  The Strict Parent ingrains the behaviour first hoping that their charges will come to understand the reasons later, while the Nurturant Parent pushes the understanding first hoping that they won’t hit cases where their charges can’t understand the consequences before they need it.

Thus, Strict Father would be the right approach for cases where their charges can’t understand the consequences or don’t have the experience or information to understand them, while the Nurturant Parent approach works better where the charges can understand the consequences if it is explained to them and will chafe at rules.  So the Strict Parent approach works better for young children while the Nurturant Parent approach would work better for older children and teens, as they wouldn’t feel talked down to and would feel better about taking a more active and adult roll in their own decisions as opposed to simply following imposed rules.  And I think we’ve seen that, as many parents have moved towards the Nurturant Parent approach with younger and younger children and have discovered that they understand more than we thought … but still have issues and cases where they really need some structured rules.  So perhaps these aren’t competing strategies but instead are complementary strategies that are to be used when appropriate.  As such, Adama might then be capable of being a better parent than he was, and that anyone expected him to be.

Thoughts on “Psycho 4”

October 20, 2022

This is the last of the four movies in that pack of “Psycho” movies, and if it isn’t the last of the official “Psycho” movies it at least is one that really seems to wrap up the story of Norman Bates.  The movie picks up a number of years after the third one, with a radio host exploring men who kill their mothers when Norman calls in to talk about his own experiences, with the expert on the show almost remembering him.  This spawns an exploration of Norman’s youth and relationship with his mother, and so sets this movie up as basically a prequel to the entire series.  Norman reveals that his is considered cured and is married, but will have to kill his wife because he didn’t want to have children that might turn out like him and she essentially lied to him and tricked him into getting her pregnant, figuring that he’d come around when it was going to happen, which is obviously not the smartest thing to do with someone who had the hangups that Norman had.  At the very end, he returns to the house to kill her but can’t do it and then destroys the house, finally freeing himself from the influence of his mother.

The movie is reasonably well-acted and is written pretty well, but it fell a bit flat for me.  I think the main reason for this is that while exploring Norman’s past and his relationship with his mother is a valid thing to do, the movie ended up answering questions that I didn’t really care about, and if you aren’t interested in seeing how Norman became the person he is you aren’t going to be that interested in the movie.  The structure of the radio show moving to flashbacks does work well for that sort of story, though.

I was also a bit disappointed in the ending.  The movie ends up having him try to flee the house but hurting his leg while doing so, which means that he has to drag himself out of the cellar which takes an interminably long time but is rather boring.  The sad thing is that they had him be confronted by the image of his mother a number of times as he fled, and they could have built the suspense and tension entirely through that, especially given that the big thing that needed to happen here was that he confronted and overcame the image of his mother and his past to hopefully become fully healed.  Once that’s resolved, about the only tension is seeing whether he escapes alive or dies, and given his wife and unborn child we probably all want him to live now that he knows that he ought not kill his wife to avoid having a child like him, so it’s just a slow-moving section rather than one with real tension and suspense.

I didn’t mind the movie, and as it wraps up Norman’s story I could watch it as part of rewatching the entire series, but it’s not a movie that I’d want to rewatch on its own.

Now that I’ve talked about all four movies, what do I think of the disk and them as a series?  Well, unlike the Amityville movies, these four movies actually are a series, each of them playing off of each other and picking up where the others left off and filling in details that the others left open and vague.  That gives them all a big plus in my opinion.  And all of the movies are, in general, relatively good and competently done movies.  I like the first the best and, well, think that my opinion of them overall goes down from movie to movie, but at the end of it all the last movie is still an okay movie that isn’t really focusing on something that I was interested in, which still puts it above most of the horror movies that I’ve been watching.  Given that, it should be no surprise that this pack will end up in my closet of movies that I will rewatch at some point in the future.