Rannm Thawts Eight

Thoughts, "uncorrelated but not uncaused", as it is written in the tomes of the learned.
  • I had thought that Suicide Squad represented a shift to DC movies being like DC shows, and actually taking place in a comic-book world, in the same way that The Flash, Arrow, and even Legends of Tomorrow are unafraid to be what they actually are. (Although Arrow took a season or two to ease the mundanes into it—wasting Brother Blood in the process. I accept that, though, since it laid the groundwork for everything to follow.)

    But it turns out the shift of the "cinematic universe" started sooner: with Batman vs. Superman. It's got flaws; it's not actually accurate to say its Luthor is trying too hard to be the Joker, but he does come across as a very coked-up, sleep-deprived Luthor. (But, if you just imagine Clancy Brown saying his lines, you'll realize he's actually a tenable interpretation of Luthor, although he's supposed to be more Objectivist/Nietzschean than simply destructive and malevolent.) It still unfortunately has Snyder's Man of Steel Superman, a whiny little Hamlet-figure rather than "even more powerful Vash/less aggressive Goku", which is the real nature of the character (at least pre-New 52). And perhaps most importantly, "Secret identities? What the hell are those?"

    And yet still, most of the negative reviews, which I was all too willing to believe, were wrong; it is actually a Superman movie. The "they stop fighting because Clark says 'Martha'" accusation, for example, is unfounded. What actually happens, is Clark says "you're going to let Martha die", which, I mean, Bruce Wayne—every time he closes his eyes, he sees those pearls falling. Saying "you're going to let [same name as one of the parents you're obsessed with] die" is guaranteed to get his attention.
  • There is a lot of talk in discussions of the rationality of Christianity and the "science vs. religion" business of how pagans, unlike Christians, worshiped "immanent nature gods". But...no they didn't. The gods of paganism are only immanent within nature in a very late phase of pagan thought, as the people begin abandoning their old religions for philosophical schools, or reinterpreting them in the terms of philosophical schools (the related idea that gods are divinized ancestors originates with Euhemeros, who was contemporary with Alexander). It's fitting that "religion is a bad attempt at science" is used against Christians by their enemies, frankly, because it was used by Christians against pagans, with exactly as little justification. Nemesis is a pagan goddess, after all.

    In actuality, pagans who really believe their gods are real (which may well not include any phase of the Greco-Roman civilization that we have direct records of) absolutely don't think of them as immanent within nature. Even the Greco-Romans don't usually, neither in myth or in ritual; what, exactly, about "nature" is "immanent" in Hades' taking of a black goat sacrificed at a crossroads at midnight, by worshipers who turn their back to the carcass? "Immanent within nature" seems to have been the private theory of a few thinkers, no more typical than Young Earth Creationists are of Christianity. And when you get to people who lack the cosmopolitan, Pascal's Bet-hedging agnosticism of the civilized pagans, people who know their lives are "on the knees of the gods"—because for hunter-gatherers and pure-subsistence agriculturalists, they are—"immanent in nature" is the last thing you'd say...even of the gods of nature.

    The Hopi Kachinas, for example, are not the rain. They send the rain, or even just good luck with the rain, if it is in accord with cosmic order to do so, in answer to the Snake Clan's prayers. (Anyone who defends praying for the sick and then makes fun of rain-dances: are you a hypocrite or just an idiot?) While the Navajo goddess Changing Woman is somehow related to the seasons, and she's married to the Sun...what, exactly, about "nature" produces He-Kills-Hostile-Gods and Born-for-the-Water?
  • Decided instead of eight seasons, in my campaign's calendar, to go with "year-tithes", tenths of a year (for the human, solar calendar; the lunar elements remain unchanged). The interesting thing about year-tithes is that if half of them have thirty-seven days and half have thirty-six, you wind up with a 365-day year. (Ignoring leap years.) This is also convenient because in my campaign's human civilization there are ten major deities.

    Also did my dragons. Made them all chaotic neutral, since a dragon is basically a gigantic cat. Instead of making them just color-coded, I gave them slightly more complex color-schemes based on where they live—swamps, forests, glaciers, volcanoes, and then instead of deserts my lightning-breathing blue dragons live on clouds (I never understood why blue dragons lived in deserts).

    I also have shadow dragons, more or less unchanged; also giving thought to somehow incorporating amethyst dragons (I need one whose breath-weapon is force, that being my sixth "element").
  • Because people commenting on memes I was reading(?) on Facebook are obsessed with him, I had occasion to look up the work of John Green. Vapid YA chick-lit? To be sure. Also, gut-wrenchingly pretentious. And yet despite that, also really, really stupid. For example, in The Fault in Our Stars: "That's the thing about pain. It demands to be felt." This is listed as "profound" at several websites about writing and literature and such-like, every single one of which has no excuse not to know better. Because no, see, the actual thing about pain is, it's a feeling. You just said "That's the thing about a kind of feeling. It demands to be felt." Who knew L. H. Franzibald actually existed?

    And then there's such gems of impossibly pretentious, stultifyingly stilted and stagey verbal masturbation as "I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence." If you meet someone who claims to be sixteen and he says things like that, don't say I didn't warn you when he starts reanimating the dead or emitting brainwashing-waves to turn people into his puppets, or something. Because clearly, that is a demon-lord, and one half-assing his human disguise, at that. Is John Green concerned at all with his characters not sounding like they were written by entirely-too-impressed-with-themselves middle-school creative-writing club members? Seems like not.

    (There's apparently also a scene, in The Fault in Our Stars—which I am apparently not the first to think of calling The Fart in Our Stalls—of the protagonists making out in Ann Frank's house. At which, I am told, literally, "everybody claps". J. M. Greenzibald should just name his next book Lord of the God-Kings and have done. Although honestly that's actually a lateral move from An Abundance of Katherines.)
  • I was trying, in my campaign, to come up with a cosmology that was not the Great Ring, dear though it is to my planewalker heart. Basically went with a thing sorta sketched out in the Manual of the Planes of having Shadow and Ethereal merged, and replacing the Astral with "Spirit-world"...which as it turned out is basically the Oriental Adventures, "Rokugan" cosmology (minus the "Taint" aspect of the Shadowlands).

    Decided to call them "Dusk Country" and "Dawn Country", respectively, evoking the idea that the twilit parts of the day represent a "thinning" of the boundary between this world and that. There are actually three of both planes: one Dusk and one Dawn for the planet, and one of each for each moon. I think the people originally from the moons (elves and dwarves) go to the appropriate Dawn Country, despite currently living on the planet; it's only the Material Plane of the moons that's been taken over by fiends and monsters.
  • I have not mentioned it here, I think, but apparently, IQ tests only measure how much you think like the people who write the tests. That's why we have to re-norm them upwards every decade or so; we're not getting smarter, the mass media is making us more homogeneous. And it's trivially obvious that the average person 100 years ago was not mildly mentally handicapped, but that's where they score based on where the tests are currently normed—again, because we are more uniform and homogenized than they were. (Presumably the over-100 scores just mean you think more consistently than the people who wrote the tests, but still along the same lines.)

    A test, grouping objects with the objects they "go with", was given to the Kpelle people of Liberia. They scored low, because they insisted on putting vegetables with the tools you use to process them, rather than with other plants or maybe other foods. When asked, they said they did so because a wise man would never do it differently (the most useful way to arrange plants really is with the tools you process them with). The researchers said "Okay, so what would an idiot do?" Then they grouped the objects in the prescribed, high-scoring manner. Your "smart" is literally someone else's "idiot".

    I was thinking of this when I came across that stat, chanted by self-righteous WEIRD people who think they understand science, that "spanking children lowers their IQ". Actually, spanking children is primarily a class-/non-WEIRD "marker", and the less like the WEIRD people who write IQ tests you are, the more likely you are to spank your children. They, then, will score lower, because the culture you pass onto them is less like that of the test-writers.
  • A term I think I invented is "Neon Kowloon". It describes the aesthetic of movies like Blade Runner, the rain and squalor and inexplicably ubiquitous Asianica(?), where everyone's umbrella has a glowing tube, all the Coca-Cola ads were imported from Taiwan, and stubbly detectives eat ramen at street-stalls in the rain.

    It's the aesthetic that cyberpunk was trying for, mostly unsuccessfully; apparently William Gibson landed on the same concept around the same time and freaked out about twenty minutes into Blade Runner, worrying that people would think Neuromancer, then in-progress, was ripping it off. But really the same "Japan will take over the world" vibe was in the back of everybody's minds at the time, so it would've been stupid if people had thought he ripped off the movie (which I don't think they did think, although they did seem to think it was actually good, so maybe "think" is not the word I want). Besides, Blade Runner doesn't have any stupid VR video-game user interfaces.

    I don't include Firefly in "Neon Kowloon" because fundamentally it describes an interesting aesthetic and production-design, something that Firefly has not, in fact, got. At all. Firefly is all the shallow orientalism of the cyberpunk that's trying for Neon Kowloon, but without even their partial success at actually capturing it.
  • My brother recently got me into Young Justice, and, while it ain't bad, it does have the (fairly common) issue that it doesn't so much "end" as it just stops. Also apparently all black males in the DC Universe are Kevin Michael Richardson this time around? Which, I mean, I like his voice as much as anybody, but there are limits to even his range as a voice-actor. Certainly he ain't no John Stewart, for instance—he's a rather booming, hail-fellow-well-met type, and John is actually the most unassuming of the 2814 Lanterns. (In part, I think, because he's a sniper, and not in the Jun-A266 "oddly chatty for a sniper" sort of way.)