Talking at Large

Random thoughts.
  • Been playing my brother's Phoenix Wright games. I really hate the localization—these people are almost wastefully Japanese, yet they've all been renamed for no good reason. I mean, nobody surnamed "Fey" is the kind of spirit-medium that "Maya" (or rather Mayoi) is. And while we've got spirit-mediums over here, they tend to speak languages where metals are actually "flint + adjective" and "town" actually means "many houses" (also they're mostly male, wise-women are a Eurasian thing).

    But interestingly, these games have made me appreciate the "innocent till proven guilty" thing. See, the games seem to use the Continental justice system, which contrary to the Anglo caricature isn't "guilty till proven innocent" but "you have to prove everything". Unfortunately, that does make defense much harder (hence the caricature), because while you can't convict someone without evidence, you also can't let them go without making just as much of a case.
  • In my last post, I said that the "long defeat" conceit of Tolkien is not Christian, but pagan. Not Catholic, anyway; it is, admittedly, also Calvinist, mostly because the only way Calvinism is more Christian than Islam or Manichaeism is that it didn't happen to jettison the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation.

    Seriously, where did Tolkien get that strange idea that there's anything Catholic about viewing the world like that? Chesterton knew better:
    The difference between Puritanism and Catholicism is not about whether some priestly word or gesture is significant and sacred. It is about whether any word or gesture is significant and sacred. To the Catholic every other daily act is dramatic dedication to the service of good or of evil. To the Calvinist no act can have that sort of solemnity, because the person doing it has been dedicated from eternity, and is merely filling up his time until the crack of doom. The difference is something subtler than plum-puddings or private theatricals; the difference is that to a Christian of my kind this short earthly life is intensely thrilling and precious; to a Calvinist like Mr. Shaw it is confessedly automatic and uninteresting. To me these threescore years and ten are the battle. To the Fabian Calvinist (by his own confession) they are only a long procession of the victors in laurels and the vanquished in chains.
    What's Wrong with the World, "The Calvinism of Today"
    Arguably the worst thing for the Church in the last five or six centuries has been our habit of identifying Catholicism with our various classicist fetishes, claiming everything from Diocletian's political theory to Aristotle's physics as identical with the faith delivered to the saints.
  • There's a Chinese superstition that tigers will make the sound of a baby crying to lure humans closer. I say superstition because we've never actually heard a tiger do that. But...margays do do it to other primates. So maybe there are tigers that can do it, too? Or were, anyway, tigers are pretty much extinct in East Asia.

    Jaguars and pumas are also alleged to make the sounds of monkeys, according to the natives of some of the places where they live. In case you wondered why they don't ever mimic humans, the way tigers were said to do, well, humans and tigers have been living together for the last hundred millennia or so—and that's just modern humans, in some places tigers may've shared territory with other members of Homo at least as far back as 600,000 years. Jaguars have only shared range with humans for about 20,000.
  • In my neverending perfectionism, I was wondering if I could maybe rewrite my stuff so zled ships use spin-gravity—they're spherical, remember, and it sorta looks like the metric patching they use for an engine would preclude using a space-time topology artificial gravity (that is, "for realsies" art-grav). I thought I might have them have a "stationary" outer shell, and an inner habitat section that rotates. I could put cool descriptions of how they get into the rotating section, and maybe have their little two man attack-ships be weightless (metric patching means there's no acceleration, and they're strapped in anyway).

    But I crunched the numbers, using SpinCalc, and to get the zled equivalent of one G (their surface gravity is 8% higher than ours), the rotating section would have to be, at minimum, 241.445 m in diameter. In other words, the inner section of one of their ships would have to be half the diameter of a space station designed to house 10,000 people (it's also the same diameter as St. Peter's Square, which has sufficient standing-room for upwards of 100,000 people).

    I think I'm just gonna leave it like I have it, and have them have figured out a way to create topological artificial gravity while their metric patching drive operates. Hey, we barely know anything about spacetime geometry; it's only just over a century that we even knew there was such a thing.
  • Disney's Princess and the Frog incorporates elements not found in the French version of the fairy tale—but that are found in the Russian version. Facilier? Yeah, he's Kaschey the Deathless; his "friends on the other side" are presumably on the other side of the thrice-nine lands, in the thrice-tenth kingdom. Mama Odie? Yeah, AKA Baba Yaga—"money ain't got no soul", and therefore she has no incentive to eat it. (Incidentally the sea-witch in the Little Mermaid, both Anderson's "original" and the Disney one, is also Baba Yaga—or her Czech equivalent, Ježibaba, anyway, since Anderson is basically retelling the same story Dvořák was retelling in his opera "Rusalka". Only Hastrman/Vodník, the lake-god, serving the function of Triton/the unnamed sea-king in Anderson, is the freaking boogieman.)

    I don't really mind Disney retelling a pan-European fairy tale as American black New Orleans Creole. Even if it is basically mid-90s race-tokenism whose attempt at being inclusive seems to involve randomly changing the ethnicities of the protagonists of exclusively European stories—see also a certain HBO show. Or, well, I wouldn't mind, if Disney were not doing their damnedest to hush up a genuine piece of authentic Creole culture that they already produced, purely due to pressure from illiterate folklore-Lysenkoist PCniks. Namely? Song. Of. The. South. All real Creole fairy-tales, kiddies. Br'er Rabbit? Yeah, they call him Compère Lapin ("Rabbit who has the same godparents") in the original versions—when they don't call him "Ñombar", the Wolof word for "hare" (with maybe some other kinship term?), because guess what the Senegalese trickster figure is. And Br'er Wolf? Originally a hyena named Bouki.
  • You know how House and L and Monk and to a certain extent Goren in Criminal Intent are all basically Sherlock Holmes? They are, if you didn't know. Anyway, I was thinking, is there anyone based on Hercule Poirot or Father Brown?

    And then it occurred to me, in a way, Shawn Spencer is kinda Poirot, what with the disarming shenanigans and the extremely dramatic reveals. And as for Father Brown, well, if you think about it, his method and character, secularized, basically gives you Columbo.
  • I realized, Prometheus' attempt to save Alien's plausibility, by chalking the evolutionarily impossible traits of xenomorphs up to being an engineered bio-weapon, actually undercuts the whole point of the series. The point of Alien, after all, is that it's a cold heartless cosmos out there, in which humans don't matter—we're just the caterpillars these wasps lay their eggs in. It's sorta Lovecraft-lite, or what Nietzsche would've called "Dionysian" (i.e., "the acknowledgement, restricted to mystical ecstasies, that nihilism is true", as opposed to Apollonian, "the pretense that nihilism is false, necessary to conduct ordinary life").

    But Prometheus voids all that, by making the whole thing the work of the Engineers. And the Engineers look human for a reason: they made us. The original's point was "the cosmos has so little regard for you that it might as well be actively malevolent, see, here's a monster that's just as natural as a dog", but the point of Prometheus is "that which made you is actively malevolent, and it made the monsters out of hatred for you".

    If that sounds familiar, it should: once again, it's Gnosticism, with the Engineers as the Demiurge. From the first film to the chronologically last prequel is an intellectual and artistic degeneration worse than the one that brought the series from Aliens to Alien Resurrection.
  • That element of a hostile creator in Gnosticism, by the bye, is probably due to Gnosticism originating in Mesopotamia (and its presence in Greek myth probably has the same source, the Greeks having been influenced by the Hittites, the only other Indo-Europeans who have that element). Mesopotamian mythology is basically derived from the Sumerian mythos, with Semitic or Indo-European gods tacked on all willy-nilly.

    That's the problem, see, because the Sumerian gods created mankind as a labor-saving device, and they're quick to slap down any humans who forget their place (see also Zeus's attitude toward "hubris", which, again, not present in Hindu, Celtic, German, or Slavic myth). There's a reason the ancient astronaut theorists use Sumer as the basis when the "ancient aliens" are supposed to be hostile—so the fact Prometheus used that goofball device is, it turns out, no accident.

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