Okay, time for space and aliens.
1. The organizers of the "Invitation to ETI" site are finally planning to revise that interesting project. Now under the direction of the SETI Institute’s admirable Paul Shuch.
The premise is that alien entities (possibly AI /machine travelers, as in my story "Lungfish" might already be in the Solar System, listening to our radio and – now – sifting the Internet. The core notion of the ITETI site is to warmly invite these lurkers (in a rather touchy-feely way) to not be shy and to make contact. I don’t think the founder of the site, Dr. Allen Tough, much liked my rather tough-minded contribution (see: http://www.ieti.org/articles/brin.htm) , which deals with a dozen possible excuses that Ets might give for their apparent reticence to make contact. But some of you might find the broad ranging appraisal of potential alien motives rather fun, even broadening.
Have a look at the "Contact Us" page. Clearly what they need is a few enthusiasts to set up a blog or discussion list for them, so that both humans and shy Ets can miggle and chat (sometimes humans pretending to be ET and vice versa) till the real ones feel comfortable enough to formally say hello! Any volunteers?
critiques of Star Wars (with which I wholly agree) I thought you might find this article in the Slate amusing. It appears to be a clever piss take of both Star Wars and post-modern deconstructionism by abusing both of them in one article (if it's at all possible to abuse post-modern deconstruction more than it does itself)..." http://www.slate.com/id/2129225/
My response. Yes the article was above-average. Still, it evaded the main issues. Will you guys forgive a re-examination of an earlier rant? The problem – as I see it – is that romantics often pose as polar opposites archetypes that are actually very very similar in fundamentals. By doing this, and posing it as a "basic dichotomy", they effectively exclude from consideration every other option.
Especially all of the options that we call "modernist".
Take the arch-figures of Star Wars -- Yoda and Palpatine. We are told that they represent two "fundamental" opposites. Alas, they are neither fundamental nor opposites.
In fact, BOTH the light and dark sides of the force emphasize contempt for normal life, for the normal loyalties of family, neighborhood and civilization. Both hold fast to Plato’s notion of an unaccountable elite composed of inherently superior and self-chosen philosopher kings, who are (again, according to Plato) at liberty to manipulate the masses and to lie as much as they like.
Both Yoda and Palpatine disdain democracy and promote relentless secrecy within hierarchies of absolute discipline.
While the Dark Side seems (on the surface) a bit more elitist – partly in order to curry favor with the egalitarian-minded American audience – both in fact exclude anybody but supergenetic mutants and demigods. You might call it the "muggle effect" except that JK Rowling has been vastly more willing to explore this issue than George Lucas ever was.
Now, I’ll avow that this was NOT at always clear in the series, at least during the first two (and by far the best) films – "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back." We were won over by Luke’s common touch and comradeship with normal soldiers. Inspired by World War II dramas, Luke’s character was (and remained throughout) endearing. Nor was this the only egalitarian notion. Indeed, recall that Obiwan offers to teach Han Solo how to use the Force, implying that we could learn too… if we tried. The Force was portrayed as 90% concentration and 10% talent, not the other way around.
Then came "Return of the Jedi" – when we were NOT given the promised explanation for Yoda’s lies (he fakes a conveniently timed death + fadeout in order to get rid of the kid.) Leia’s ubermenschean status never makes any difference. And the only persons who actually matter in the film are Lando and the Wookie. Naturally, I liked that! If only it had been the director’s intent. But alas, this cool fact is only an accident arising from bad/lazy plotting, not deliberate egalitarianism at all. (If you watch closely, NONE of the Nietscean super beaing make the slightest difference in the Rebellion’s final outcome.) Of course, morally, ROTJ is a nightmare betrayal of everything we loved about TESB. (Tragically, this could have been fixed by ten minutes of altered dialogue.)
Alas, it is the morality of ROTJ that dominated the prequel trilogy, setting us up for a war between two viciously deceitful and murderously manipulative cults, in which billions die as collateral damage.
The situation is much like in DUNE, where you only root for the Atreides because the Harkonen are so vastly worse. (Frank Herbert hated his world and wrote it as a warning. He was dismayed when people actually told him wanted to live in such an awful place.)
Or try Middle Earth, in which the secretive, selfish, unhelpful, superior and altogether needing-wedgies ELFS can only be stood because we need them to defeat slathering armies fulla tusks and red-glowing eyes. (You elf-defenders, answer me this - why didn’t Elrond open a JUNIOR COLLEGE about a thousand years ago? Every single secret magic trick, from lembas bread to kingsfoil to orc-detecting blades, could have been shared, instead of hoarded, making life better for all and maybe reducing the resentment that let Sauron rise! Oh! And those Palantir globes! If mass produced, they’d have become a Middleearthean Internet! See: http://www.davidbrin.com/tolkienarticle1.html) Snooty elfs.
Or take the best example, F. Paul Wilson’s THE KEEP, which pits Nazis vs vampires! What we are talking about here is the great cheat of all horrific oppressors – both in fiction and in real life – which is to pose some nearby enemy as even worse. "Put up with MY oppression in order to save us all from THOSE guys!"
Oh, sure, you can hobble together villains so bad that they make even Yoda look (marginally) preferable. The Dark Side does emphasize a callous Darwinian selection program to create a superbeing, much like those ‘Nietscheans’ in the TV show Andromeda. Sounds nasty. But not MUCH nastier than old Yoda, who is one of the most unpleasant figures in storytelling history. (Find one example of the horrid little green oven mitt ever saying anything helpful or informative to anyone, ever! His refusal to actively help Anekin is almost as vile as leaving the boy’s mother in slavery for ten years, while demanding that the kid never think about it.
Then there is the implicit fact (never denied) that the Clone Armies were bought and paid for by Yoda, who, upon taking delivery of his new "force" chose THAT MOMENT to order the Jedi into a suicide charge, annihilating the Republic’s corps of secret agents by dropping them into a trap. Ooog, don’t get me started.
If you have not already seen my infamous Star Wars rants… that may have resulted in my partial banishment from Hollywood… (yeah, Brin, screech relentlessly at a billionaire that his work is eeeeeevil! Real smart.)… do drop by http://www.davidbrin.com/starwars1.html The foaming-at-the-mouth you see here is nothing! I give Savanarola and Rasputin a run for their money. ;-)
See: The Dark Side: Star Wars, Mythology and Ingratitude
as well as: Star Wars on Trial