Friday, November 04, 2005

"real" aliens... and bad sci fi

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?

2. One fellow writes in: "Remembering your 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

29 comments:

cryptochrome said...

Of course the aliens won't be contacting us - we're made out of meat.

HarCohen said...

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.""

Never let the facts get in the way of a good rant. I always figured the clones were bought and paid for by Palatine, using the previous head Jedi's name. I was always amazed Yoda didn't look this gift horse in the mouth. Especially when the clone model is a mercenary in cahoots with the dark side.

Episodes 1-3 were never my favorites in any case.

Palliard said...

Thinking about this notion of "what you ARE is what you make of yourself"...

I think this fairly modern notion came about in the western hemisphere largely from having vast resources available to anyone with the will to take them. Or to put it another way... there was no "European Gold Rush" because there was no European gold.

Egalitarianism has resulted as a historical accident: that peasants could command fortunes was by no means inevitable, and has yet to be common.

It comes as a great curiosity to me that those people who most tout equality are the same people that most tout disempowerment.

Nicq MacDonald said...

"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."

Why not have contempt for "normal life"- AKA, the mediocre life of people who seem to be fit only to produce, reproduce, and die? Is this all there is? A few years, then oblivion? Boring suburb-life? Staring at a screen all day to be able to buy junk we don't need?

Bah. I'll take anything over this. Fascism is beginning to sound pretty nice- as long as I'm one of the people in charge. I recently re-read 1984- as a utopia. Read it from the point of view of O'Brien, a member of the inner party... utterly drunk on power, able to use useless putzes like Winston Smith as toys... and it begins to sound very, very appealing.

You see, most of humanity, I'm beginning to realize, only has worth as food for great men; without them, they are nothing. Forgotten a few years after their death, lost to the abyss. Who cares about the dross of the world? All that democracy has done is put the mediocre of the world in charge and made the petty and bourgeoise into the standard.

Screw modernism. Modernism is a dead end that destroys all greatness. I tried to embrace it for awhile, but I'm done with that. Being a psychopath is much more fun.

tc said...

Nicq MacDonald, I can't help but wonder if your post is an attempt at black humor? And maybe I'm just not getting it?

Why not have contempt for "normal life"- AKA, the mediocre life of people who seem to be fit only to produce, reproduce, and die? Is this all there is? A few years, then oblivion? Boring suburb-life? Staring at a screen all day to be able to buy junk we don't need?

I think it's a good idea if folks individually decide what's best for them, don't you? The "reproduce" piece -- I take it you're suggesting these individuals don't raise their children? Don’t educate them in their civilization and customs? Turn their creativity loose on the world? Are you honestly suggesting that raising a family is without worth?

If you don’t think so, that’s cool – don’t have kids. What concerns me is the implication that your dislike should become a prohibition against others liking it. That seems strange to me.

Heck, if someone just wants to get through life, watching TV, holding a low-paying job, and being a consumer, why should I a) have any opinion of it if they don't ask me and b) want to change about it? My life has enough challenges as is; I don't really have time to take on the cares and judgments of someone else's life.

Bah. I'll take anything over this. Fascism is beginning to sound pretty nice- as long as I'm one of the people in charge. I recently re-read 1984- as a utopia. Read it from the point of view of O'Brien, a member of the inner party... utterly drunk on power, able to use useless putzes like Winston Smith as toys... and it begins to sound very, very appealing.

What if I don't want you in charge? What if, in my judgment, my standards for a worthwhile life are different from yours? What if I don't believe that using others is "appealing" -- that I'd rather nurture the intellect and creativity of those around me for the betterment of humanity? Would that mean you'd just kill me -- if you could? Or die in the attempt?

You see, most of humanity, I'm beginning to realize, only has worth as food for great men; without them, they are nothing. Forgotten a few years after their death, lost to the abyss. Who cares about the dross of the world? All that democracy has done is put the mediocre of the world in charge and made the petty and bourgeoise into the standard.

Okay, this is where I really think you're just joking. Holy shades of “A Modest Proposal!” First, what about great women? Why just great men? Sexism is soooo 1900s.

Is being remembered really that important? What if my life positively influences 10 other people who go on to discover zero point energy, or discover a cure for power addiction? I'd say that's a good life, though my name be lost in obscurity. Who cares who gets the credit? The achievement is what's important.

Since you mentioned the “bourgeoisie”, does that suggest you think the proletariat should be in charge? Or is that a red herring?

Screw modernism. Modernism is a dead end that destroys all greatness. I tried to embrace it for awhile, but I'm done with that. Being a psychopath is much more fun.

Yeah, you're absolutely joking now. Psychopathic behavior is not sustainable over time. Any civilization of any complexity needs cooperative behaviors, and psychopathic behaviors tend not to encourage cooperation. Coercion can work for a while, but history suggests it builds aggression and antipathy to the point of social explosion. The psychopaths in charge are usually the first to go.

Modernism is the best way I can think of (so far) to achieve sustainable greatness as an individual or civilization. It's a great protection about psychopaths getting into power. You suggest that modernism has resulted in the mediocre getting into power – I don’t think so. I think it's resulted (at least some cases) in those with psychopathic leanings getting into Washington D.C. where we can keep an eye on them and use the bureaucracy to keep their ambitions in check.

Really, I believe you were either joking or baiting. You’re replaying the conflict between the Albert’s green ditto and the realAlbert at the end of “Kiln People,” aren’t you? A regular guy’s intuition almost always beats a psychopath’s delusions! Isn’t that one of the points of modernism?

David Brin said...

Of COURSE Nicq was kidding! He wrote a satire of one of the most insipid styles of anti-modernism... one that (I'm afraid) underlies a lot of dippy Marxism on the left of Randian libertarianism on the right.

Contempt for the masses is the "food" of dopey wannabes who dream that they would have been great, if only the rules of society were drastically simplified to allow those with inherent quality to rise to the top. True, Marxist dopes and Randian dopes define "quality" differently in the details. (The "revolutionary vanguard" vs the "creative elite"). But the psychological driver is the same.

What's wonderful and hilarious is that these are usually guys who have benefited profoundly from a gentle civilization that has succored and fed and clothed and educated and subsidized them... but alas, that society hasn't made them rich or put them in charge.

What betrayal!

In fact, they resent the very things that have prevented THEIR pallid, white, flabby, UNDER-menschen asses from being "food" for the real predators out there. Those with all the wealth and influence and connections and social skills and vicious amorality to make slaves of us all, if it weren't for a decent enlightenment civilization of accountability.

But, as I said before, romanticism doesnt' have to be logical. Its purpose is to howl and screech and throw a tantrum... or else to spread a balm, a wash of unsupported superiority over the neuroses and wounds that we all pick up, during long, pampered, modern lives. Neuroses that grownups learn to overcome. But the great thing about this culture is that it does NOT demand that we grow up!

Want to be Peter Pan? Want to wallow in resentment? It's a free country. Yes it is. So long as grown ups run it for you. Keeping the barbarians at bay.

The common fantasy offered by Orson Scott Card and JK Rowling and George Lucas is - "I might be a superbeing or wizard or jedi... and simply not know it yet! But when I get my powers, watch out you guys!"
I would sell more books if I pandered to this vile illusion. But I won't. I make that whole belief system the BAD side in THE POSTMAN.

SO thanks Nicq, for the satire. The philosophy you describe ruled every human culture except this one, across 4,000 years or much more. It's track record was yummy. Obviously far better than Accountability-Enlightenment has achieved in 1/20th of that time.

Oh! We rented BATMAN BEGINS last night. Yeow! It had flaws but the movie generally rocked, and even some of the flaws arose from good intentions, like the thoroughness with which they tried to make the Bat Cave, Bat Mobile, Unitlity Belt and flying cape all seem plausible.

Notice how the typical villains (mad scientist and mob boss) are augmented by the very same mystical eastern cult that is portrayed as sooooo sweet and good in so many romantic tales, like Star Wars? And though he is superior (without being an ubermensch), Bruce Wayne is nevertheless nothing without help from a normal cop, a scientist, a DA a butler and a kid.

There was a similar scene or two in that 2nd Spiderman movie. Remember the people aboard the train, after he saves them from Doc Oc... how THEY then save HIM? They fight for him, not once but twice in the film. And they never reveal his identity.

I haven't seen a movie lately that better typifies the mythic tradition we all have to fight for.

Heroes are fine. SUPERIOR heroes are fine. But when they start treating my kids as "food" they will find out why Ben Franklin and George Marshall won every single battle they ever fought.

REAL heroes.

daveawayfromhome said...

Thanks to tc and David Brin. I was fixin to rip into Nicq and tell him to grow his punk ass up, but fortunately y'all pointed out that he was just having us on. Whew!

Anonymous said...

It's time to start writing fiction again DB . . . take out your hostility toward elves on the page! The sweetest revenge would be to show them to be utter feebs with good PR. Make magic real . . . but being good at it requires a personality disorder.

Stefan

Rob Perkins said...

Vernor Vinge depicted malevolent aliens manipulating a bergeoning information society, to their advantage of course, in _A Deepness in the Sky_.

Vinge being who he is, of course, the villainous aliens were the humans, lurking in the L1 point of the sun-planet gravity field...

Vinge is another one whose books I re-read.

Rob Perkins said...

I was about to react badly to your placing Card in your list of authors who write super-man romances, but then I started thinking about all his stories, and all his early work is like that.

The later stuff is more complex. Ender is our superman, but he's flogged and abused in _Ender's Game_, by "lesser" men seeking to acheive results from him. After that he's kind of just a catalyst for the other characters around him, some geniuses, some not so much.

Han Qing Jiao, in _Xenocide_, is a superman, but she fails and goes mad in the process. His later stuff is less so, it seems, as the stories get to be more about the interactions between the main characters, than about the Star Wars romance malaise you describe. But still, the elements are there, aren't they?

So I guess I stand corrected about that, sort of, even before I got a chance to be spectacularly wrong! :-D

Luke Stirling said...

I actually finished rewatching episode 3 a few days ago and yet another thing struck me as nasty Jedi behaviour. As Anakin is apparently slowly burning to death, Obi-Wan says "I loved you like a brother", but apparently this is not enough to either pull him out of the flames or put him out of his misery with a quick chop of the light saber. Admittedly this was a hole that Lucas had dug for himself back in earlier movies, but I gotta wonder if it could have been done in a way that did not portray Obi-Wan as quite so callous and cruel.

HarCohen said...

I don't mind condemning the whole thing to being space opera. The movies are essentially romances. I notice no one brings up EE Doc Smith, with his Skylark and Lensman novels as a progenitor of space opera in this discussion. Why is that?

The Jedi are not supposed to be the 'light' to the 'Sith' after all. They are supposed to represent the balanced middle ground. So of course they come up unbalanced in holding up the 'light' as the ideal.

But they fail even as pragmatists. Yoda must simply find humans and their allies too devious for comprehension. The Sith apparently arise out of the Jedi order spontaneously.

Anonymous said...

Bah, episode III had plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. Obi-wan should have finished off Anakin, but really what difference would that have made?

My biggest disapointment with episode III is how IRRELEVANT the whole Anakin story was. After all the set up that Anakin was the one to "hunt down and destroy the jedi" he is only personally involved in the death of ONE jedi, and only in a supporting role. The jedi were betrayed by the clone troopers, under orders from Palpatine, in a pre-existing plan.

Alan said...

The silliest feature of the first three movies is that the great and powerful galactic elite (both sides, but especially the Jedi) have the political skills and institutional understanding of the average house brick.

The senate must have been doing something for the last several thousand years, but it evidently did not include learning that granting untrammelled powers to the executive is generally a bad idea, even in war time. Nor did it include learning that anti-corruption measures are necessary to ensure that senators and judges behave as they should.

If the best the republic can come up with to protect itself from a corrupt and dictatorial chancellor (after granting the said untrammelled powers) is a Jedi military coup then they've got a level of political sophistication about 3 centuries less advanced than ours. Evidently the mystical powers of the Jedi have never been used to think about designing political institutions.

Moving quickly from the ridiculous to the batshit crazy let's consider subtle political manoeuvres like the Jedi council trying to ensure Anakin's loyalty. The average small town council would work out that the way to keep Anakin on side is probably not to deny him mastership and then ask him to spy on Palpatine. They might even notice that their celibacy rule is probably not being followed when Anakin is shacked up with a beauteous senator. Why they'd want a celibacy rule is just another of those things we're supposed to accept because the great and powerful Lucas thinks we should.

What we end up with is pure glorification of the kind of fuehrerprinzip the great and powerful Lucas thinks he opposes.

HarCohen said...

The senate must have been doing something for the last several thousand years, but it evidently did not include learning that granting untrammelled powers to the executive is generally a bad idea, even in war time.

We've had several thousand years at this civilization thing and we're still doing what you describe as a 'generally' bad idea.

You're objecting to a badly drawn caricature without having seen the actual party.

This actually seems to be an evolving civilization with frontiers and rivals. Palpatine is working on the scale of a Trotsky, Stalin, or Mao. The rivals could represent Europe, Britain, the US, and Japan. It would give me a whole new interpretation to the droid armies.

I can even imagine that the hyperdrive is a relatively recent invention and that the Republican Senate worked because it could only deal with long term strategies up until now.

Near light-speed drives make for poor troop mobilizations. You can have an Alexander, but not the Roosevelt / Marshall / Eisenhower hierarchy. A Jedi modus operandi of disassociating with the general population would be inherent in moving around as couriers and police at near light speed.

I didn't think any of this would be news to you folks. I believe part of the 'willing suspension of disbelief' means 'place a reasonable explanation for this plothole here'.

I don't know if the novels ever tackled these matters head on. Certainly the movies didn't sketch in much, but the evocations of Greek, Roman, Russian, and Chinese stories of empire are certainly there. There is just a hint of Dr. Zhivago in the first three episodes for me.

WatchfulBabbler said...

If I had more faith in Lucas as a humanist, I'd be inclined to see SW as a clash between the three primary modes of Western ethics: deontic, teleological, and justice-based. The Jedis' deontic ethics lead to a completely untenable end: accept whatever exterior evil you must to avoid doing active wrong. The Sith, on the other hand, are consummately teleological in their ethical approach: sure, we've had to plunge the galaxy into a decades-long civil war with incalcuable loss of life and a government based on oderint
dum metuant -- but really, we're better than the alternative.

But in the final movies, we're presented with what could be considered a third path: that of Luke, who rejects the deontic fallacy of Yoda ("Your friends? Eh, let them die") and the teleological madness of the Emperor and Vader ("We'll rule the universe -- it'll be like 'Sanford and Son,' but with exploding planets!") for an essentially pragmatic ethical rule. Finding deonticism too confining and teleologism ethically unbound, Luke rejects both Yoda and the Emperor in favor of Roycean loyalty. This also has the virtue of explaining why Luke does not save the galaxy: by expressing loyalty, he enables others (Vader, Han, Lando, &c.) to do justice.

Since I have no faith in Lucas as a storyteller, I can see him trying and in many ways failing to express this clash. (He did, if I recall, study philosophy as an undergrad.) But I'm not sure I have enough faith in his beliefs to believe my own hypothesis.

Rob Perkins said...

Wow, watchful, I think you just kindled the hopes of fanboys everywhere, by finding a rubric under which Lucas' stuff *might* make sense.

Trouble is, Lucas himself doesn't ever describe his story in those terms, who says it's the story of the redemption of Anakin Skywalker by his son, which is an interesting twist on the Christian messianic theme, if you think about it in those terms.

Lots of valid points here, but I went to Ep III knowing going in that I wasn't going to get a tenable morality play. Or, from the writing and directing, much of a play at all.

"Hold me, Anakin! The way you did by the lake on Naboo, when there was just our love!" Or some such.

Clunky Archetypes.

But I still enjoyed it, because I went for what art there was; John Williams' appropriatly American-symphonic score, expressed in near visual perfection by literal armies of artists and artisans. And for the choreographed sword-fights, developed over years.

Lucas once pointed out that he made Episode I to be seen as a scored but otherwise silent film; that's where he puts his stories. The dialogue is obviously secondary to him. I could go on, but why?

HarCohen said...

"("We'll rule the universe -- it'll be like 'Sanford and Son,' but with exploding planets!")". A hysterical image of space debris surrounding a beat up Death Star comes to mind. Yoda could be the righteous Aunt.

I'm not certain I know my deontic from my teleological. I'm not even certain it's my comment to which you're replying.

I only meant to express that Lucas had plenty of historical examples for his back story. And I agree, there is a better story when the philosophical underpinnings are well thought out.

Essentially, Anakin's character is flawed. His destiny would probably have been much the same, but he would have been happier remaining with his mother, with a handsome reward, away from Tatooine, Naboo, and Coruscant.

Here's an Episode 2 might have been. Anakin would have been drawn into Palpatine's plans regardless, at some level. We might have seen him as a Roycean colonel or general in Amidala's army before they go off to vanquish the Death Star. Amidala could be captured in the attack and Anakin turned by the Emperor, only 18 (?) years late and without an heir. Now where would that have put episodes 3 through 6?

Anakin could be frozen in stasis, ready to be turned by the emperor, but Amidala is rescued by the handsome Han Solo (introduced in episode 2). They both infiltrate the Emperor's new Death Star with the help of a surviving Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Anakin is rescued and trained by the pair.

Episode 4. The denouement. The final confrontation where the trio, (representing the deontic, teleological, and Roycean) trap Palpatine and destroy him with nihilistic argument and abandon.

However the modernist philosophy of Han sways Amidala (we may need to alter their dialogs), they fall in love and marry while our musketeers are out of town. Han turns to a political career in the New Senate while Amidala becomes pregnant, takes up charity work and (down the road) raises the children, while the Wookie runs the household. Strangely, her eldest child looks like no one so much as Palpitane.

Upon their return, Yoda and Obi-Wan establish the Jedi Order, Reform, with new philosophical underpinnings and Anakin receives the Millenium Falcon from Amidala and Han in gratitude.

There. Done in 4 movies and nothing really lost except Anakin's apprenticeship, the rise of the clone army, and Ewoks. I never liked the Ewoks with their yip-yip-yipping. Who was Lucas listening to when he put those in?

Anonymous said...

"Who was Lucas listening to when he put those in?"

Supposedly, Lucas put them in for his then-young children. I've read -- forget where -- that he regrets it now.

I was so disgusted with Episode III that I've just given up on the whole enterprise. From where I am, there is no use trying to redeem or justify or rewrite it. I have no plans to buy any of the movies in any medium. I don't read, or skim through, posts on the subject. If Lucas produces the rumored TV show, I won't watch it . . . not even if smart people write for it.

You can't polish a turd. (Not unless you freeze it first, and even then it's still just a shiny turd.)

Stefan

HarCohen said...

... it's the story of the redemption of Anakin Skywalker by his son, which is an interesting twist on the Christian messianic theme, if you think about it in those terms.

A flawed father and a better son is not a reverse Messiah theme since it predates Christ. There are a number of creation myths, Gilgamesh works this way in a sense, Kings David and Solomon, and so on. Oedipus's father can not escape his fate and perpetrates the very act of betrayal that will ensure it. (Oh No. Tell me this isn't where Harry Potter and Voldemort are headed! Hey, there's another prediction registry for you in those novels, David.)

This is where Lucas's rendering of Joseph Campbell's works comes in. I doubt Lucas is alone on the contemporary scene when you consider Children of Dune (as well as Children of the Lens) and a few other works.

How many sons would not try to redeem their fathers or at least their good names? How many fathers would not try to redeem their sons, in any case?. I think it represents a part of the gestalt, or one of the reasons we can conceive of a gestalt.

HarCohen said...

You can't polish a turd. (Not unless you freeze it first, and even then it's still just a shiny turd.)

Stefan


Good thing you weren't advising Shakespeare. "You want to rewrite The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet. Why that turd?"

Rob Perkins said...

"A flawed father and a better son is not a reverse Messiah theme since it predates Christ"

Didn't say anything about the quality of the father or son, only that the son redeemed the father.

In Christian soteriology, the son died to redeem the father's stuff.

In Oedipus, the son killed the father, ignorant of who it was he was killing.

In David and Solomon, the father killed the mother's husband in order to mask the father's identity to the husband.

In Star Wars, the father died to save the son, but only after the son rejected the father's mentor's memes, which father held out to son in order to try and defeat mentor... oh never mind. :-)

But in any case, none of that is a creation myth. Gilgamesh is... a long complicated story that doesn't appear on the surface to have much to do with Star Wars, but might make a wonderful underpinning for a compelling sci-fi romance! :-D

Rob Perkins said...

@ David Brin --

On a more serious note, I wonder if...

What's wonderful and hilarious is that these are usually guys who have benefited profoundly from a gentle civilization that has succored and fed and clothed and educated and subsidized them... but alas, that society hasn't made them rich or put them in charge.

...has relevance in terms of the kids running around France this week and last?

Especially after reading in the Washington Post that some of the details of their anarchy include the use of refined products (like gasoline) as accelerants for their bombs, and the use of complex communications networks (cell phones) to coordinate getting away from the Gendarmes as they do their wreaking?

I read details like that and think, among other things, "these kids are *poor*? How did they afford the cell phones!?" ...which is unfair, I know.

But the use of the cell phones is interesting cleverness, just barely. It's also evidence that those "youths" are far better organized than the news is letting on, or overtly denying.

HarCohen said...

In Christian soteriology, the son died to redeem the father's stuff.

Right. Of course. I had my head up my butt on that one. But keep in mind that in a time of idolatry and political turmoil, Jesus had redeemed God in the eyes of his disciples. A distant and impersonal God had (once again) been replaced by a miraculous God. Not Jesus himself necessarily, but a God that can enable Jesus to do miracles like Moses and the prophets.

"Father, take this burden from me..." in Gethsemane. Won't Jesus find redemption from God for this weakness, and by carrying forward his intentions? Isn't that the only way for his ascension to occur?

In Oedipus, the son killed the father, ignorant of who it was he was killing.

In Oedipus, the father sends the infant son out to be killed to avoid the (back to the prediction registry) prophecy that the son will kill the father and wed the mother. Of course nobody is really redeemed in this one.

In David and Solomon, the father killed the mother's husband in order to mask the father's identity to the husband.

God prohibits the father David from building him a temple (The First Temple) because of his misdeeds and acts of violence. It is left to Solomon and a peaceful kingdom to build it following David's demise. However Solomon doesn't cause the demise of David so it's definitely more obscure in this context.

But in any case, none of that is a creation myth.

True. But don't creation myths like Zeus, who slays Jupiter before he can be eaten, have relevance here? Campbell's references are often obscure to me but may be more relevant to you.

Rob Perkins said...

"Father, take this burden from me..." in Gethsemane. Won't Jesus find redemption from God for this weakness, and by carrying forward his intentions? Isn't that the only way for his ascension to occur?

Dunno. The idea that someone would die to save another's stuff is anathema to me, so I don't give trad Christian soteriology much rigor.

Alan said...

The senate must have been doing something for the last several thousand years, but it evidently did not include learning that granting untrammelled powers to the executive is generally a bad idea, even in war time.

We've had several thousand years at this civilization thing and we're still doing what you describe as a 'generally' bad idea.

Perhaps you could point me to the republics and governing assemblies that have existed on Earth for several thousand years?

HarCohen said...

Alan wrote, "... granting untrammelled powers to the executive is generally a bad idea, even in war time. "

My point was, we have a written history of three thousand years and have forgotten a great deal more. We still see that 'bad idea' perpetuated or repeated today. Why shouldn't Lucas's Republic not make the same mistake. Especially with so many cultures being represented and a general hands off policy in interplanetary affairs being the prior condition.


Perhaps you could point me to the republics and governing assemblies that have existed on Earth for several thousand years?


Is your point that nobody can hold together a government for more than an arbitrary (fill in the blank) number of years?

Let's see. The Icelandic Althing and Athenian democracy each lasted about 300 years. I think the Jesuits just celebrated 500 years. The Christian Church is closing in on 2000 (I'm not counting the birth and life, but you can if you like).

The founding of the Japanese Empire is roughly 2700 years ago. Although a single governing assembly is not even debatable, how do you know the concept of the Republic being several thousand years old isn't a bit of similar hyperbole (if you want to call it hyperbole).

And as I said, if this is a republic with only near light speed drive for much of it's existence, the Republic was a strategic council, not one that could work proactively in concert on much of anything.

Alan said...

Is your point that nobody can hold together a government for more than an arbitrary (fill in the blank) number of years?

No.

Let's see. The Icelandic Althing and Athenian democracy each lasted about 300 years. I think the Jesuits just celebrated 500 years. The Christian Church is closing in on 2000 (I'm not counting the birth and life, but you can if you like).

300 is somewhat less than several thousand. The last two institutions do not not meet the definition of republic or assembly.

The founding of the Japanese Empire is roughly 2700 years ago. Although a single governing assembly is not even debatable, how do you know the concept of the Republic being several thousand years old isn't a bit of similar hyperbole (if you want to call it hyperbole).

The Japanese date is mythology. It is reasonable to look at what the films say rather than try inventing excuses like recent development. I do not know that Pierre in War and Peace is not a secret agent for the Chinese emperor, but I tend to avoid readings where it's necessary to believe he is.

And as I said, if this is a republic with only near light speed drive for much of it's existence, the Republic was a strategic council, not one that could work proactively in concert on much of anything.

The near light speed theory is not anything said by a character or even suggested in any way.

All I argued was that a galactic political elite with a long parliamentary history could reasonably be expected to show a certain degree of political sophistication. Lucas has not come anywhere near suggesting that or even understanding that he needs to do it..

HarCohen said...

@Alan

Let me see what that definition of assembly is that you're using, because I want to know how the Catholic hierarchy doesn't conform to one.

I see this is turning into an open universe / closed universe debate, in the philosophical sense. In my open universe, one assumes an answer may lie beyond the confines of the system. In my closed universe one assumes all answers must be provided by the system.

Since you appear to be a micronationalist, I'll assume you lean towards the closed universe system. IE, that you have the answer to everything. ;)

If I am enjoying a story I invent what is necessary for cohesion. Apparently you can't enjoy a story that isn't cohesive.

Unless you want to discuss how personality and other internal systemic factors must influence enjoyment and happiness, we should leave it to a difference in personalities. Meyers-Briggs and Keirsey tests generally show me as an INTJ. What about yourself?

'Nuff said?