Monday, July 10, 2006

The Illusion of Public "Panic"... and the Power of People.

Several of you commented on a story-motif that has rarely appeared in films and other media, till recently, that of showing common citizens -- everyman and everywoman -- stepping up to help the hero of the story, showing guts and grit in defense of their civilization.

(Certainly the complete repudiation of this concept is one of my biggest complaints against the Star Wars universe - at least in the later four films. See STAR WARS ON TRIAL!) *

Daniel and Stefan gave examples of some superhero stories in which common folk got to help in pivotal ways. These used to be exceptions, but I see cause for hope in a rising number of examples. Certainly, I found such moments to be especially vivid and moving in both Spiderman films, and I hope the theme continues in the third.

What does this reflect about real life? At the Defense Dept "threat" conference two weeks ago, several of us on the panel stomped hard on the notion of public "panic" - a mythology that has been fostered ever since 9/11. From varied expertise (e.g. psychology, sociology, emergency services), a dozen of us opined that there were almost no signs of genuine panic on that day. Yes, we all saw people running from danger and some crying. Still, New Yorkers and DC ites ran TOWARD danger whenever there seemed some useful purpose to be served.

See The Value -- and Empowerment -- of Citizens in an Age of Danger for a possible explanation for why this notion of "public panic" has been fostered.  (See also: Forgetting Our American Tradition: The Folly of Relying Exclusively on a Professional Protector Caste.)

Indeed, at the conference I suggested that this entire phase of the "War on Terror" was launched, fought and won all on the same day.

Think. Due to a combination of unlucky factors, our professional protectors failed on 9/11. FAR less culpably than their failures during Hurricane Katrina, I think, because point failures happen. Live with it and deal with it. The real lesson is that it is foolish to rely only on professionals anticipating and stanching all dangers. We also need the partner of anticipation, resiliency, the very trait that erupted amply on 9/11, a day when EVERY action that worked was performed by empowered and dynamic citizens. Citizens no less courageous than those at Lexington and Concord. The spirit of Cincinnatus lives.

(And was deliberately quashed during Katrina! Keep your eye on these symptoms.)

When the heroes of UA 93 rebelled, taking the plane down, rather than letting the US Capitol be struck, they effectively repudiated the image of soft-decadent Americans. (An image that all enemies must foster every generation, for deep psychological reasons.) THAT is why there have been no further hijackings... that plus reinforcing and locking the cockpit door.

Just a few days ago yet another deranged person attacked the pilot's door on an airliner. It held for the necessary minute or so before alert passengers leaped up and sat on him. This has happened maybe a DOZEN times since 9/11! Proof. Simple proof.

Now please stop frisking us to death at airports. Let us get back to normal life.

Even if we really were "at war", there would be no excuse for a lot of the gup we've put up with. But in fact, we are NOT "at war." That is pure political propaganda. A ploy that Americans are getting sick of. (In four years, Americans marched from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo and Berlin. In five years we cannot catch one absurdly tall and gawky terror chieftain. Nu?)

Not at war? Correction. Way back in 1986, I predicted both the fall of the Berlin Wall and that we would have our next "memic war" early in the 21st Century, "against some version of machismo - one that will have a superficial ideological dogma-excuse like Islam, or latin culture. But the underlying foe will be some form of retro-macho-romanticism that deeply fears and hates the West."

Yes, I said that. And a memic war ... over ideas and how human beings ought to live... is exactly what seems to be going on, right now.

Just look at the letter that the Iranian President sent President Bush, a couple of months ago. Did any of you actually read it? Do so! It is startlingly intelligent and thoughtful. Stark jibbering loony (from our perspective), but smart and deeply, deeply sincere. In it, the Iranian addresses Bush as a fellow opponent of "liberalism" and flawed-false Enlightenment values. He collegially calls upon Bush to look past superficial differences of religion and nationality, to see their common desire for a return to tradition, authority, and every person knowing his or her demure place.

True, Bush rejected this overture. He has no practical or dogmatic reason to accept the hand he was offered. Indeed, the Enlightenment is far better fought by fomenting foreigner-paranoia! Fear is the great enemy of modernism, after all. Still, I found that all but a few commentators, in dismissing the letter, completely missed this important aspect of a fascinating event.

The crux: democracy and the Enlightenment (especially the pragmatic modernist branch) are under assault exactly as I predicted back in 86, by a memic attack from both without and within. This "war of ideas" can be won, but only with confidence and agility. Not by driving away every ally! Not by dividing us with “culture war.” Nor by bankrupting us or destroying readiness.

Nor by denigrating and quashing the very thing that makes us strong -- the very same trait of dynamic resiliency that our ancestors showed every time it was needed in the past. The trait that common citizens can and do display, whenever they are allowed to, in an open society that is forever strengthened by light.

----

(* The aforementioned rejection of civilization and citizenship by George Lucas is a special pity, since the entire saga began with an act of defiance by a normal man - Captain Antilles - who was shown being snuffed-out by an evil demigod. That stirring moment could have been a theme-setter. But alas,the same demigod would be made the central awe-fixation of the series, and civilization/citizens would be portrayed as fools.)

68 comments:

Stefan Jones said...

Funniest Star Wars cartoon ever:

Darth Vader, his back to us, walks down a spacecraft corridor lined with storm troopers standing at attention. Except for the few nearest us, who are staring at Vader's back, which has a KICK ME sign.

* * *

The superhero* trope really deserves deconstruction and mocking. Something along the lines of DB's "Captain America" short story.

The superhero story depends on public cowardice and official stupidity to work; it appeals to the reader's belief that he would know what to do with those special powers, and show all those so-and-so's who stole his lunch that . . . well, you get the picture.

Imagine if Peter Parker DIED in that subway car . . . and the riders present decided to take things into their own hands. Dozens might die taking Doc Ock out, but enough pissed off New Yorkers could do it.

Stefan

* Warren Ellis calls them "spandex perverts".

monkyboy said...

The "enemies of modernism" only use fear as a tool to recruit the timid.

They use money to recruit the greedy.

They use racism to recruit the bigoted.

They use piety to recruit the superstitious.

And to recruit the people who fancy themselves as genii...why, they recruit them by inviting them to speak at their conferences...

Glen said...

The earliest example I know of the "ordinary folk help the hero" shtick is the 1979 John Ritter film Hero at Large.

David Brin said...

eat my shorts, monkyboy! When I go to conferences, I am invited because they KNOW I will be the most ornery contrarian they ever saw. It is my rep. It is what I am paid for. And if that doesn't fit your image of "authority figures" then tough.

Civilization is FILLED with pro-democracy and pro-market billionaires, decent and responsible companies, skilled and sincere professionals, loyal officers and hardworking politicians. All oxymorons in your cynical book (I bet) ;-)

The problem is that these people are not enough to make up for the neo-feudalist billionaires, the corrupt and dopey corporations, the unimaginative, guild-protecting professionals and the masses of dogmatic and lazy politicos.

I will tip the balance whenever I can, however I can, at every opportunity. And if that gets me invited BACK to speak again, it likely means that some folks thought there was something useful said.

Brother Doug said...

Great stuff David.

Short and to the point. This fake war on terror is just tiresome.

Andrew Price said...

Hi David,

I agree with your take on civilization in general and 'public panic' in particular; which is frquently used by those in power as a handy cover to undertake all kinds of responsibility and accountability avoiding behaviour.

I recently read "The Great Influenza" by John M. Barry -- an account of the 1918 pandemic. I strongly recommend it as it has many illustrative parallels with today's world.

AdrianTM said...

We shouldn't discount the possibility that these people do believe there's a war on terror and that there's a life and death conflict between Christians and the Islamic world.

(beside I've been taught never to assume malice when stupidity can explain everything -- kind of moral Occam razor)

As for superheros, I think the idea of superhero excludes the idea of intelligent/courageous public. Superheros have helpers/sidekicks, very rarely the public help. I don't think we'll see very often superheros and intelligent public together very often especially that superheros are meant (invented/created/dreamed) in order to save the sheep and meek AKA public.

Daniel Bruno said...

I'm getting pretty fed up with the argument that the president should be able to suspend certain rights because Lincoln and Roosevelt did it, too (which I heard a lot of following the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case).

It's remarkably refreshing to see someone willing to point out that we're not engaged in a real, WWII, Civil War-style war war, and I hope every day that more Americans will question the assertion that there is one going on right now. Not that even a real war would justify the sort of things that went on during those ones, like suspension of habeas corpus and the internment of Japanese Americans.

But criminy, if we let the president suspend whatever rights he see fit every time large groups of people have ideological disagreements and it's possible that someone, somewhere in the world, will attack someone else, we can kiss all civil rights goodbye, forever.

Tony Fisk said...

David, it's good to hear that your views were shared by others at the confeence you attended, but how was your presentation received overall?

Bryan Hoyt said...

AdrianTM: I've learned never to assume malice or stupidity when a well-intentioned but unfortunate misunderstanding can explain everything.

In general: Aren't we taking this superhero thing a bit too seriously?

I think there's four things that we're missing.

1) The superhero pattern is not a conscious or subconscious ploy on the part of the romantics to elevate the elite. There have been such superheros (from Nietzsche and others), but in general I think it's more directly explained by the fact that being able to fly, turn invisible, see through stuff, and whatever else, is just plain cool. I'm not denying there are deeper psychological reasons for this -- there are -- but I don't think the philosophical implications are as insidiously far-reaching as some people are saying.

2) There's only room for so many characters in a story at once. (Not every story can be a War And Peace. And not everyone can get through War And Peace.) Unless you're getting really experimental (and are willing to risk writing a really boring story), you need to choose a small number of them as major characters. The simplest case is to have one bad guy and one good guy, and a bunch of townsfolk. Even Starwars isn't that simplistic, though.

3) An incredibly large portion of the romantic body of literature does just what people are saying has only been done very recently -- ordinary people help the hero. Think the Grimm fairy tales (a backbone of romanticism); the prince usually gets the help of a lot of the townsfolk in order to complete his mission.

4) In many of the stories that have been shot down as romantic elitist propoganda, the appeal of the story depends on a raising up of the ordinary human. Quite the opposite of a superhero, in many cases. LOTR is the textbook example here -- Frodo and Sam are the heros. There's nothing super about them. This runs strongly through the whole story. They are helped by their hobbit friends. They are, as it happens, also helped by some supermen, but those supermen are very much the sidekicks of the hero, not the other way around.

I'll admit, the LOTR movies leave something to be desired in this respect. But if you read the original text, the common townspeople are the heros, through-and-through. The supermen are just there to give the whole thing a mythic grandeur.

monkyboy said...

Sure I take Donald Rumsfeld's blood money, but I tell them what I think!

Official dissent is an important component of any dictatorship. If you're lucky, you can even provide it at nice places like Aspen:

http://www.aspendailynews.com/article_14867

Citizen James said...

Taking the advise of Stephan in one of your recent entries, I have been looking over some of the works of Ben Franklin. I ran across one in particular which seems to reflect the idea you mention here.

In a letter titled Brave men at fires


But how pleasing must it be to a thinking Man to observe, that not a Fire happens in this Town, but soon after it is seen and cry’d out, the Place is crowded by active Men of different Ages, Professions and Titles; who, as of one Mind and Rank, apply themselves with all Vigilance and Resolution, according to their Abilities, to the hard Work of conquering the increasing Fire. Some of the chiefest in Authority, and numbers of good Housekeepers, are ever ready, not only to direct but to labor, and are not seen to shun Parts or Places the most hazardous; and Others who having scarce a Coat in the World besides that on their Backs, will venture that, and their Limbs, in saving of Goods surrounded with Fire, and in rending off flaming Shingles. They do it not for Sake of Reward of Money or Fame: There is no Provision of either made for them. But they have a Reward in themselves, and they love one another. If it were prudent to mention Names, and could Virtue be prais’d without Danger of Envy or Calumny rising against her, I should rejoyce to know a skilful Pen employ’d, to distinguish, in lively Expressions and significant Language, Men so deserving.


Our nation was built on the premise that common men (and later adding to that women and men of all backgrounds) were capable of major contributions to society - or even just ordinary contributions which en masse make a huge difference. And at times even tip a perilous ballance. (Perhaps the first thing I thought of in the 2000 election mess was Franklin's famous poem - "for want of a nail". For want of a voter? For want of a clear ballot?...)

Doug S. said...

Where I hear the "public panic" nonsense the most is from conspiracy nuts who say things like "If the government revealed that there were aliens in Area 51, people would panic." This is, of course, nonsense. The reaction called "panic" generlly happens when there is an clear, present, and immediate danger (like, say, the building you are in just caught fire) and then only for a relatively short time; people calm down, stop panicking, and take actions that seem to be rational (like heading to the nearest exit).

Oh, and I can think of an even earlier example of "ordinary people helping the hero": The Seven Samurai. The samurai are the heroes and main characters, but the townspeople do plenty of fighting. One of the seven samurai isn't even a "real" samurai at all; he's a peasant who found some weapons and now impersonates a samurai, even though he's not a trained fighter like the others.

jbmoore said...

Nice essay and I concur that the solution to airline hijackings was shown by those passengers on Flight 93.

Possibly our current leaders think that they create reality by manipulating public opinion. This fallacy and other fallacies underpin their current policies. The GOP uses emotions instead of reason appeal to their base. They're destroying the CIA. The CIA is discovering peer review just as they're being maginalized. Meanwhile, the DIA will most likely tell their bosses what they wish to hear. Check out "The Fog of War" on DVD. Most illuminating documentary.

Frank said...

Didn't the movie "Three Amigos" have all the townsfolk actually dress up as the heroes? Now that movie got the message across, methinks.

oh, and I do believe there's an episode of "Fairly Odd Parents" where 'ordinary' people end up having to fight super villains....

Tangent said...

Thank you, David. Several years ago I created a story about a group of paranormal heroes (not superheroes... they didn't wear spandex and didn't go about saving the world every other week. No, these were just vigilantes who fought street crime for the most part, and eventually government attempts to regulate and control them and other paranormals). Unfortunately, I found I was still trapped in a familiar cycle. My characters were still "superheroes" even if not all that powerful. (Indeed, I even included mechanized power suits so that the "normal man" would be able to face down a paranormal.)

What I need to do is focus on these characters... and on the normal people in their lives. The vigilantes aren't the heroes. The people who help them are. The cops who pull someone out of harm's way. The firefighter who risks his or her life to save someone. These are the true heroes. It's people like that who end up helping the hero that truly stand out.

Superheroes shouldn't be about the hero. It should be about the people, and the fact they can rise to any occasion.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents
http://www.tangents.us

Francis said...

Being a contrarian myself, I'll stand up for superhero stories for two reasons.

The first is that with the exception of the Big Blue Boyscout (Superman), Superhero comics really do preach suspicion of authority. Firstly, the government (and random agencies of the government) is one of the most common enemies - at least in part because it is big enough to give the superheroes a fight and is recognisable. (This has become more apparent as the Comics Code has fallen apart). To give obvious examples, Lex Luthor was recently President, Superman gets mind controlled on a regular basis, the "Heroes" in DC have been mindwiping the villains (and Batman when he objected), and Marvel's history with government sponsored Mutant Genocide, Mutant Registration (for genocide) and their new registration bill.

And as for low level action, there is a loooong history (particularly in the DC universe) of individuals getting pissed off, and putting on a mask to do what they can about the situation they are pissed off about. Probably the textbook example here (I can think of lots of others) would be Barbara Gordon who IIRC (it's a while since I've read that story and there are several versions) first put on her costume as Batgirl as a teenager going to a fancy dress party. She arrived at the fancy dress party, and started to get changed. At which point some criminals started to rob it, so instead of going to the party in costume she foiled the robbery in costume and then said she hadn't brought her fancy dress. And she worked sometimes with sometimes ignoring Batman for quite a few years after that with no abilities other than brains, guts, a brown belt at Judo, and a photographic memory. Move on to 1988 (our time) and Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke". Barbara opens the door without checking who is on the other side - and it turns out to be The Joker, who shoots her in the spine, crippling her from the waist down as a further way of torturing her adoptive father (Commissioner Gordon). As she's now crippled and confined to a wheelchair, end of Batgirl. But did she give up despite being a cripple? No, once again she did what she could - this time with computers and is currently the best informed person on the planet (and gets contacted by everyone up to and including Batman when they want to know something). I could produce a fairly long list of such people - nothing out of the normal run of humanity about them, but doing what they can and this makes them superheroes within the genre.

Nate said...

Hey, cool, I get to nerd it up about superheroes. This, I can handle.

One of the things about a lot of superheroes is they at least start out as regular folks. And that's what makes them heroes, rather than whatever cosmic powers they have. Spider-Man is just a high school kid who gets bit by a radioactive/engineered spider. Iron Man's a billionaire industrialist in a suit of sci-fi armor. Clark Kent's just this kid from Kansas, who happens to be able to fly and stuff. For an alternate take on how things could have turned out, check out Superman Red Son, where Kal-El's spaceship crashed in the Ukraine. There's a lot that AREN'T presented this way, but for a lot of superheroes, it's the human side that makes them interesting, rather than the demigod side. And like Brian Hoyt said, it's less about idolizing the elite and more power fantasies and that having the ability to fly is just cool.

And back onto the subject of Superman, one of the most interesting things for me, lately, is how they've been taking Lex Luthor from an insane and largely incompetent evil genius, and making him almost an anti-hero. He's opposing Superman not just out of personal vendetta and insanity, but because he doesn't trust Superman, the alien, and sees him as a threat to human free-will. And that he hoards all that Kryptonian technology and never shares it. Like the collection Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. Of course, every so often they have him put on a suit of green and purple power armor and fly out to punch it out with Superman, which kinda defeats the point.

Comics, even superhero comics, aren't one kind of cohesive literature. There's a lot of cliches and tropes that can be used for many purposes. A lot of the "romantic" portions can be explained by other methods, from conservation of characters to keeping the world familiar enough to let people identify with the characters and the dangers. Which is probably the real reason Superman doesn't give away all his Kryptonian tech, because it'd be too much work for the writers.

Blake Stacey said...

In the pomo tradition of arguing from authority, I would like to bring Quentin Tarantino into this discussion. (Actually, I do this because I haven't read enough comic books to have an informed opinion of my own --- but the Internet is all about the vocal expression of unfounded opinions!) Specifically, I'd like to cite Bill's speech to Black Mamba near the end of Kill Bill, Vol. 2, in which he draws a distinction between the Superman "mythology" and that of other superheroes: Bruce Wayne puts on a suit to become Batman. (Like Tom Swift, I would add, he has a technological empire to draw upon, but he does what he does for human reasons.) Superman puts on a suit to become Clark Kent.

"When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red S, that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears, the glasses, the business suit, that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He's weak, he's unsure of himself... he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race."

In line with all of this, I should say that I think one of the most important moments in V for Vendetta was when the little British girl said "Bollocks!" to the television set.

(Thoughts on V for Vendetta, blogger and fellow commenters? I have read only a vanishingly small part of the original graphic novel, but as Borges says, this deficiency has virtues of its own.)

Stefan Jones already mentioned Warren Ellis. Let me chime in and say that those who want a graphic antidote to superhero stupidity should please oh please check out Transmetropolitan.

P.T. Galt said...

So far, the best "competent civilization" story (actually, stories) I've encountered is Eric Flint's "1632" series. Dr. Brin, if you haven't read 1632, you *must.* Really. Drop everything and pick up a copy. :) The "1632" stories are, IMO, such an absolutely beautiful and perfect expression of "what you're getting at" when it comes to the "common man/woman," "IAAMOAC" "Us vs. the Lords and Demigods," etc. that you'll wish you wrote it yourself

For those who have not read any of the 1632 stories, they begin with demigods...incompetent, utterly uncaring ones. In this case, an alien supercivilization that likes to create 'art' out of the fabric of space, and don't give a tinker's cuss what havoc their trash wreaks.

In this case, one of their "tinkerings" causes a West Virginian coal-mining town to be ripped from its own time and deposited in Germany in the middle of the Thirty Years' War.

The heroes of the story are the people of the town, "common folk" every one. When the "event" happens, most of the town is gathered celebrating a wedding. Mike Stearns, leader of the local coal miners' union gets together with the local cop and a few of his fellow coal miners to go investigate.

Being good, red-blooded American hillbillies, they've all got guns. As they cross the boundary of the "effect" into Germany, they find a farmer, his wife and daughter being brutally attacked by "men in steel vests." As the cover puts it, "Mike and his friends don't have to ask who to shoot."

When they bring the news back to town at a meeting, the local wanna-be aristocrat--an out-of-towner CEO of the coal mine--calls for a War On Terra mode--seal off the borders, shoot the refugees pouring in, etc. Mike Stearns has a different idea that carries the day: Bring the refugees in, trusting in their competence (they can farm, work, etc. to "build up" the society instead of "downsize")and start the American Revolution 150 years ahead of schedule.

Again and again, American (including the new "Americans," the German refugees) competence, horse sense, the good aspects of American society is contrasted with the "lords and priests" who are bringing horrific ruin down on Europe. For bad guys, there are uber-aristocrats like Cardinal Richeleu. For good guys, a motley crew ranging from coal miners to war-gaming, D&D playing teenagers to a liberal "Boston Brahmin" schoolteacher, and a whole cast of German refugees who rise to the occasion in the free air of "the United States."

Even the "CITOKATE" theme is covered in the "messy-but-effective" democratic wranglings of the American leadership, as each person's opinion and approach to reality is proven to be valuable to the survival of their society. Even the pain-in-the-ass jerkwad CEO proves his worth in the second book.

There's an absolutely beautiful scene where the American Catholic parish priest and the main Protestant preacher are discussing the theological ramifications of what has happened to them. It's especially difficult for the Catholic, because he has no intention of going along with the Inquisition and such, though the doctrine of Papal Infallibility represents a problem for him. The protestant reminds him that the PI doctrine didn't get invented until the 1800's. "That's lawyering and you know it!" the Catholic says. "Could you pass me the wrench?" he adds, and accepts the practicality of the "lawyering." This, in contrast to the rampaging violence wrought by the Catholic and Protestant religious 'leaders' outside the little slice of America.

BTW, Dr. Brin, Eric Flint has chosen to collaborate with other authors for the rest of the series. Hint, hint...

P.T. Galt said...

Regarding "common people helping the superhero," I found the New Yorkers standing up to the supervillains in the Spider-Man movies emotionally moving on one level, except for the fact that the Supervillains swept them aside so easily. "Get back in your place as extras and helpless victims, peasants!"

In the new Superman movie, the "mere" mortals actually save the Man-In-Tights' bacon. They're efficacious in the face of danger. OTOH, I didn't quite care enough about the demigod to be that moved by his rescue.

I do wish they hadn't plagiarized the New Testament *quite* so much in doing Superman's story. It's like they came *that* close to having the whole movie spoken in Kryptonian and Aramaic, with subtitles... :)

Regarding Star Wars, I'm not sure I agree it's as elitist as you say. As you point out, it's the "commoners" like Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca that actually defeat the Empire. All that Jedi fighting (those cats were fast as lighting...) ends up being just a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Well, I suppose Luke did keep Vader and the Emperor distracted while the commoners saved the day. Based on Episode IV, Vader would have been alot more dangerous to the Rebellion in the cockpit of his fighter than he was with his lightsaber in hand.

True, the Republic's democracy doesn't look too great at the point of its demise. It ends up looking alot like our Republic, now. On the other hand, the Republic was supposed to have lasted something like 25,000 years, which is a darn good run for a democracy. Would that the U.S. would endure so long as a free society.

Also, at the end of Episode VI, the Republic is ostensibly restored, so the Empire ends up being just a minor ugly blip in the Republic's long history. Like Ulysses S. Grant's Presidency.

Of course, the Republic doesn't appear to be the least bit inventive as a society (unlike on Star Trek, where the Engineer whips up a revolutionary new technological development in 20 minutes in almost every episode, just in time to save the day...)

OTOH, even in the dark days of the Evil Empire, Han Solo has heavy weapons mounted on his private ship and no one bats an eye. He goes through spaceports wearing a blaster openly on his hip, without even worrying that he might be searched for WMD's like nail files or toenail clippers.

From a freedom perspective, the Evil Empire is arguably better than Deepspace Nine under Odo's police state.

Folks in Lucas' Galaxy are so lousy at the arts of tyranny that "security" on the Death Star itself is laughable compared to that of the average American courthouse or airport. Would that our wanna-be Sith Lords and their minions were so utterly incompentent... :)

Funniest line in Star Wars:

"Those blast points are too accurate for Sand People. It must have been Imperial Stormtroopers."

--Obi Wan Kenobi (Episode IV, paraphrased from memory).

It's especially funny when we see in Episode I, Sand People picking off jet-propelled chariot racers moving at supersonic speed--with sniper rifles! I'd like to see Carlos Hathcock do that. Their marksmanship must have *totally* went *downhill* in fortysomething years! :)

grendelkhan said...

On superheroes: As smarter critics than I have stated, there's a word for demigods who believe that their powers place them far above the morality and accountability of mere mortals, who embrace a big Will-To-Power schtick. These people are called supervillians.

Also, I'm pretty surprised that no one's brought up the character of Jim Gordon as an exemplar of common-man heroism in the Batman mythos. Consider that Frank Miller's Batman: Year One originally centered around Gordon's arrival in Gotham, and how his refusal to participate in the endemic corruption mirror's Bruce Wayne's commitment to his own quest.

It formed the basis for Batman Begins, though they totally nerfed Gordon there. I was disappointed.

Or consider Alan Moore's wonderful Top Ten series, a cop drama set in a city entirely populated by superheroes. The ones in charge aren't the biggest or strongest; in that sense, they work like any civilian police force.

Or Concrete; aside from the title character, the protagonists are a writer and a biologist. But I suppose it's not really a superhero story, since there are no supervillains, and Concrete rarely if ever fights.

Or consider Preacher, a personal favorite of mine. Sure, one of the main characters is a vampire, but the hero's powers are mainly limited to brawling, shooting and not taking shit from fools. Heck, the main quest of the story is an effort to make God himself account for the misery in his Creation. Quintessentially American, and a great introduction to maltheism, to boot.

---

In utterly unrelated news, I am, again, stunned by how right the essays about anti-modernism I've read on this blog were right. It's been hard, realizing that these weren't strawman arguments, but that people really do think this way. An example:

For the last million years, minus the last few thousand, our ancestors have lived in tribes that were mostly peaceful and free. The nasty tribes were the minority, and even warlike tribes had rituals to minimize injury and death, and even hierarchical tribes took care of everyone. Living in balance with each other and the Earth is the human norm.

Stefan Jones said...

DB has enthusiastically plugged 1632 in the past!

I read the first installment and enjoyed it.

* * *

I'm about half-way through the collected Transmetropolitan series. Spider Jerusalem is an obnoxious jerk, but with a . . . well, maybe a prostate of gold. Or maybe a spleen.

I just finished Ellis's Ministry of Space, an alternate history in which Britain grabs Germany's rocket scientists and builds a space program. Based on imperial ambition rather than Cold War rivalry, it does all the cool stuff that Clarke and Ley and von Braun imagined.

Being an Ellis project, there's a terrible secret involved, and the final panel is a punch in the stomach.

Just Me said...

I liked the "V for Vendetta" movie poster. The motto at the bottom said: "People should not be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of its people."

As for the popularity of superheroes: When we were young, we didn't understand the laws of physics and chemistry. We didn't know gravity, air pressure, electricity, speed of light, vitamins, or even spontaneous combustion.

Then we learned what was and wasn't possible and felt downright limited. We longed for the magical possibilities of childhood.

Longing for a protector, longing for ignorance -- okay for entertainment but not good behavior for real-life grownups.

Adults want to learn how the world really works so that their actions have some effect.

monkyboy said...

I think the idea that ordinary citizens can defend themselves against terrorism is actually more dangerous than the idea that only "professionals" can.

Americans may not have panicked at the scene of the 9/11 attacks, but they sure panicked afterwards.

I don't think we can handle suicide attacks. We need to get revenge, or at least justice, and these types of attacks rob us of that.

So now, just like Israel attacking Gaza, we've decided that all Muslims are alike, and it doesn't really matter which Muslims we exact revenge on...

A concept that is far more dangerous than garden-variety "panic."

David Brin said...

PT... good stuff. Yes I have read 1632 + sequels. Eric Flint is now editor of "Jim Baen's Universe Magazine"... the online SF magazine I have been touting and that is running my serialized SF comedy. One more reason to subscribe! In fact, Flint is very sympatico with my views. Very much a liberal in the Adam Smith sense, approving wholeheartedly in competitive markets, suspicious of aristocracy, and believing that labor unions have a legit place in the world.

(My favorite line in 1632? The first day of the shocking arrival, as Wallenstein's mercenaries are attacking a carriage with a damsel in distress, the head of UMW local 3459 is the only figure the traumatized americans (mostly coal workers) will rally quickly behind. After they turn the would be rapists into swiss cheese, Stearns says "Relax ma'am, you are under the protection of the United Mine Workers of America."

zing!)

Vader dangerous in a cockpit? Read STAR WARS ON TRIAL. There I hint at the solution THAT MIGHT HAVE MADE THE ENTIRE SW UNIVERSE MAKE AT LEAST A LITTLE SENSE. (Alas, since Lucas does not care a whit about that.) The clues are all there! e.g. (among many examples) the way Vader orders all the tie fighters away and all the anti aircraft guns shut down so that he can deal with Luke himself... and then kept missing. I mean duh?

Want horrific inconsistencies? Get the book to see the compilation of incredible lazy garbage that was completely unnecessary and could have been avoided so easily. Example: one of you wrote in about the COLOR of Anakin's light saber in epIII...

...a seemingly minor detail... that turns out to be one of the worst betrayals (symbolically) in the entire series! An attaboy to whoever figures out why something so minor means so much........

You comix fans, I speak at Comicon next week. Anyway, you want a comic? I mean a great graphic novel? Get THE LIFE EATERS. A Christian fundie at DC torpedoed it (for weird reasons). But in France, where they know graphic novels(!) it was runner up for the grand prize.

One problem with my complex postings. They get spread around less... AND you never know which parts will inspire commentary. In this case, mythology and not public policy? Ah well. ;-)

P.T. Galt said...

David Brin wrote:

After they turn the would be rapists into swiss cheese, Stearns says "Relax ma'am, you are under the protection of the United Mine Workers of America."

zing!)

^^^^^^^^
Yep, that's a good one. I also liked the sign they put over the mass grave. Then the Scottish cavalry show up. "Umwa? Sounds Polish. This guy sounds like a stupendous badass!" (paraphrased)


Vader dangerous in a cockpit? Read STAR WARS ON TRIAL.

^^^^^^^^^^
Yeah, I'll have to break down and get that one... :)

There I hint at the solution THAT MIGHT HAVE MADE THE ENTIRE SW UNIVERSE MAKE AT LEAST A LITTLE SENSE. (Alas, since Lucas does not care a whit about that.)

^^^^^^^^^
I think I read that "hint" in your "Salon" essays. "Beware Yoda the Evil Oven Mitt, nasty little gremlin he is, hmmm?"

The clues are all there! e.g. (among many examples) the way Vader orders all the tie fighters away and all the anti aircraft guns shut down so that he can deal with Luke himself... and then kept missing. I mean duh?

^^^^^^^^^^
Yeah, but I think we were supposed to believe that Luke was an awesome pilot. As I recall, Vader says "you are strong" "the Force is strong with this one" or some such. The flying wasn't really fancy enough to pull this off most likely IMO due to the way the movie was made. They basically had to drag the model fighters past blue screens on wires. Loop-de-loops, barrel rolls and such are hard to do under those circumstances, on a budget, and with time deadlines and such. So we just get Luke slewing back and forth.

However, as I recall (it's been some time since I've seen the movie) Vader pretty much trashes the rest of the Rebel assault force, just him and his two escorts.

Though something as big as the Death Star should have been able to launch massive *swarms* of fighters, enough to blacken the skies. Likewise, the Yavin was the Reb *headquarters.* They should have been able to field more than a couple squadrons of fighters for their most important battle.

Again, the huge mega-fighter battle that "ought" to have taken place was ruled out by the filmmaking tech of the time, budget/time constraints, etc., IMO.
Remember the battle over the second Death Star, right toward the beginning, where we *do* see massive swarms of fighters sweeping past the screen? As I recall from watching one of those "making of" documentaries, it took them months (or at least an absurdly long time) to make those 8 seconds.


Want horrific inconsistencies? Get the book to see the compilation of incredible lazy garbage that was completely unnecessary and could have been avoided so easily.

^^^^^^^^^^^
Yeah. For some reason, "screened" SF seems to attract those. Like the Klingons in Trek. In the Original Series (ToS) they were identical enough to humans to pass as them, except in the presence of Tribbles. Furthermore, their costumes and culture implied a culture like Borgia Italy--lots of treachery and other nastiness to go with their warlike nature.

Then, in The Motion Picture and afterwards, we've got these bumpy-headed guys with a Mongol/Samurai culture obsessed with "honor" and medieval edged weapons, the bigger and more awkward the better (the bat'leth).

ToS Klingons: Allied with the Romulans so closely they use the same *ships.*

Klingons afterward: *Hate* Romulans.

Easy solution: Two races of Klingons, like Cro Magnon and Neandertal humans. Cro Magnons with Borgia/Rennaissance culture conquer primitive "honorable" bumpy-heads in a replay of the Indian Wars. Then, between ToS and ST:TMP, Bumpy-heads revolt, succeed, and suddenly find themselves in charge of a starfleet and an Empire, but saddled with their primitive customs. New regime hates allies of old regime. Simple. Gives opportunities to showcase the "Borgia"-style Klingon culture in "Enterprise," use the culture clash for plots.

What do they do instead? Have bumpy-heads in "Enterprise," as if ToS doesn't exist.

It's easy as heck to find more. That salt-eating creature with the suction-cup hands that kills the "red-shirts" by sucking the salt out of them, and ends up dying itself? Why not just walk up and *ask* for some salt?

Etc.

Example: one of you wrote in about the COLOR of Anakin's light saber in epIII...

...a seemingly minor detail... that turns out to be one of the worst betrayals (symbolically) in the entire series! An attaboy to whoever figures out why something so minor means so much........

As I recall, Anakin's blade in EPIII was *green,* but the blade given to Luke in EPIV is *blue.* Hence, Obi-Wan is lying his ass off. That's made more explicit by the fact that Anakin/Vader never knows he *has* a son, and certainly never gives Obi-Wan a blade to pass down to his boy.

Then there's the weird fact that Leia remembered her mother as "beautiful, and sad" even though she died before Leia was born. Fetus-Leia could apparently tell quite a bit from the look of Padme's uterus lining. >;-)

Blake Stacey said...

Trust the Wikipedia to tell you about Star Trek, if nothing else. Star Trek: Enterprise did, in fact, address the issue of Klingon foreheads. I stopped watching the show long before they reached this point, but apparently it all ties in with the genetically engineered superhumans of the Eugenics Wars. I actually like p.t.'s solution better.

David Brin said...

PT you get the attaboy award. Yes, the color of the light saber means a LOT in this case.

Blake, yes, the possibilities of Enterprise were so horrifically booted that they screwed the whole franchise. I had meetings with them in which I kept offering to show them THE STORY ARC!!! The one leading to Christopher Pike's enterprise.

But there was so much sniff going around....

Patrick said...

Was watching the coverage of todays Chicago subway accident when I heard the comment by one of the witnesses who escaped from the subway tunnels.
[I quote from the news footage available at http://cbs2chicago.com/]

Announcer: "Why did it not appear that people were more panicked than they actually were?"

Witness: "Well . . There were quite a few individuals that were panicked, but there was more individuals that were telling people to stay calm. Telling people to hold on to the rail. Myself and a other people were helping eldery women out of the train."

Struck me as the perfect example of what we have been talking about.

Don Quijote said...

Totally unrelated to the subject at hand, but another gift from the pragmatist modernist who gave us the miracle of 1947:


Gutting Labor Rights for Nurses -- and Millions of Others



The core of the problem derives from the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act which denies labor rights to "supervisors", meaning that anyone deemed a supervisor can be fired at will if they say anything nice about unions or try to take action to support unions in their workplace.


Nurses to Protest from California to Maine This Week To Defend Their Rights to Unionize, Advocate for Patients

Anonymous said...

the Modernistis of '47 did allright its us who have betrayed them.

the NEXT paragraph reads.......

"Once upon a time, it was generally understood that a supervisor was someone who had some degree of power to hire and fire those below them, but the in a series of decisions, the courts and NLRB have expanded the meaning of supervisor to mean people who, because of their expertise, direct the actions of other employees in some way.......essentially since Registered Nurses often direct other hospital employees on what routine tasks need to happen for patients, the move is to strip RNs of their labor rights. "

Hawker Hurricane said...

The Star Wars geek in me (I saw the movie 6 times in as many weeks when it came out, not bad for a 13 year old with a $2 a week allowance...) makes me respond...

Irony? "Only Imperial Stormtroopers are this precise!" - Obi Wan Kenobi
Rest of first trilogy: Imperial Stormtroopers can't hit broad side of barn, tend to blaze away at random without hitting anywhere near targets.

According to the 'Death Star Technical Readout' the Death Star was equipped with 7200 T.I.E. fighters, but in the final battle only one squadron (Darth Vader's Own) of 16 was launched. It seems that the Grand Moff Tarkin, in spite of being a senior naval officer AND being warned about the danger NEVER ordered the fighters to launch... and no one under him did either (except Vader, who only ordered his own men out... hmmmm)

Pod Race in Episode 1: Supersonic? No boom. Subsonic, I say. And you're right, Sandpeople are better shots than Stormtroopers, taking one shot to knock out one pod... if it had been Stormtroopers, they'd still be shooting.

Anakin's Lightsaber: in most movies, there is a person who does nothing but check 'continuity' problems and prevent them from happening. Star Wars didn't. Knowing G. Lucas, how much you want to bet that the 'grand, final, DVD edition' due out later this decade solves the problem by editing the lightsaber in the original trilogy so it matches...

I made the mistake of reading the book for Episode III AND a interview of George Lucas that he did after E III was released... somehow "The Adventures of Luke Skywalker" was morphed into "The Rise, Fall and Redemption of Anakin Skywalker". Someone tell G. Lucas that I want my childhood memories of Star Wars back, he's managed to ruin the original trilogy for me.

Tony Fisk said...

@Patrick:
Announcer: "Why did it not appear that people were more panicked than they actually were?"

Was that *really* how the question was phrased??! (It's a conspiracy!)

I seem to recall Anakin kept losing his lightsabres in ep II, and Obi Wan had to keep remaking them. Maybe he gave Luke a spare?

Anyway, wasn't the colour of the saber somehow meant to indicate a jedi/sith's alignment with the Force? (red=dark side: tell that to a republican! As for Mace Windu's purple one... by actor's request!). Don't recall what colour Anakin's saber was when he finished the job at the academy...had it turned red? If so, wouldn't it turn blue/green under Luke's control?

I had a go at redeeming Vader a while back (see here, if interested), when we were last discussing the topic. I suggested that Obi Wan's original explanation to Luke about how his father died was more true than he realised. Not sure if it would have made the cut with the Trial book, but it missed the deadline anyway!

monkyboy said...

Interesting line in Iraq the Model's July 10 post:

"As a reaction to the escalating situation in Baghdad president Talabani addressed the people urging calm and warning them from being dragged into sectarian violence. I really don't know why would Talabani ask the people to remain calm and this message doesn't make sense because the ordinary people in their vast majority look for peace, they don't carry arms neither they take part in the violence."

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/

Tony Fisk said...

From that, and from Baghdad Burning, one does get the impression that Iraq is being frogmarched into a civil war by forces not of Iraq.

Tony Fisk said...

Meanwhile, both topical and on-topic: the advice given by clinical psychologist Varkha Chulani in the Mumbai Mirror in response to the train blasts there:

‘Don’t break mentally’
:
ACCEPT YOURSELF WHEN YOU ARE AFRAID
It’s that time of life when you will want to be tough and pull out all of your reserves to face this setback. ‘I must be strong’ you’ll repeat endlessly to yourself but on various occasions you’ll find yourself afraid and even panicking. And then what will you do? Put yourself down and kick yourself after you’ve fallen — which will just make things worse. Accept yourself even when you feel frightened and depressed. You’re human. Don’t try and be superhuman...

monkyboy said...

Perhaps, Tony...or it could be proof of our previous discussion of Hobbes.

Say what you want about Saddam, but the people of Iraq certainly were in awe of the power of his government.

Maybe after living under that, the people of Iraq can't help but be unimpressed with what replaced it and, as Hobbes predicted, they are doomed to live lives that are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Tony Fisk said...

Iraqis do not want civil war.

Read the aforementioned blogs. You can feel the pain in their writing as they are forced into being what they are not.
Read the comments of long term Middle East observers like Robert Fisk. Iraq is a tribal society, but it is not a walled society: tribes intermarry, and always have. Civil war is unknown in Iraq.

Even before Saddam.

monkyboy said...

Tony,

It's not like Civil Wars are a frequent event. America's had one in 230 years and Britain's had one in 800? years?

America seems to keep giving birth to crack baby democracies...not surprising considering we are the world's largest consumers of drugs, oil and other people's savings.

Kevin said...

The Power of People in Mumbai
Like 9/11 Not Katrina

(From NY Times)
Mumbai, India

MY Tuesday morning began with a flashback of the tragedy that “buried Lower Manhattan in a cloud of toxic dust that for a moment blotted out the sun.” That’s how a former colleague of mine from The Wall Street Journal had ended the first chapter of her memoir about her experiences on 9/11, which she had just e-mailed me from New York.

Twelve hours later, Indian news channels reported an explosion on a rush-hour train just past Bandra, the suburban stop where I’d gotten off an hour before. Our commuter rail’s western line carries three million of us back from work every evening, so almost everybody I know was a potential victim. Just as I was absorbing the enormity of the blast, there was news of another — and then some more. As the evening wore on, we learned that there’d been eight blasts, all timed within a few minutes.

Many of us had seen this before. On March 12, 1993, at least 10 bombs shattered the spine of our city, then called Bombay, in two hours, tearing their way northward in short, deadly bursts. That attack left 257 dead. Since then, the city has been the target of several other vicious bombings, most recently in 2003, when car bombs went off at the city’s most recognizable symbol, the Gateway of India.

The last few years have been difficult for overcrowded Mumbai, but this fortnight has left nerves especially taut. Moderate monsoon rains caused such enormous flooding that the whole city was shut down for three days. Those floods evoked memories of the cloudburst last July 26, when more than 400 people were drowned, electrocuted and crushed after their homes collapsed on top of them.

It was a tragedy that brought into focus how years of willful neglect and breathtaking corruption by municipal officials, working in tandem with avaricious politicians and real estate developers, have brought India’s financial capital to its knees. After “26/7,” as the press immediately labeled the day, our politicians and administrators fell over themselves to assure us that they’d set things right. Last week’s rains showed that their promises were as empty as our drains were full of rubbish.

Then, when the rain stopped last week, we found hooligans rampaging through our streets. As we settled down to brunch on Sunday, our TV sets brought us the chilling sight of buses being ransacked and burnt across Mumbai by cadres of the Hindu nativist Shiv Sena party. They claimed that a statue of their leader’s late wife had been vandalized, and they were protesting in the only way they knew how.

Despite the long history of sporadic violence, Mumbai has always picked itself up by its bootstraps and marched off to work as soon as the trains started working again. Our ability to jeer at misfortune is attributed in the Indian press to the “spirit of Bombay,” which is variously described as “indomitable,” “never say die” and “undying.” But our spirit has been saluted so frequently of late, all the praise was beginning to annoy me.

Before I left the office Tuesday evening, I finished a magazine article complaining that this illogical faith in Bombay’s innate resilience had the unfortunate consequence of absolving the city’s administrators of the responsibility of actually fixing our problems. No matter how bad things get, they seem to suggest, we have an infinite capacity to cope.

Soon after hearing about the blasts, I made my way to the local hospital to see if they needed blood donations. It had been less than an hour since the first explosion, but I’d been beaten to it by nearly 200 people.

When the volunteers found that the authorities had adequate supplies of blood, they waited patiently to help carry victims into the wards. Others stood over shocked survivors, fanning them with newspapers and helping them contact relatives.

Stories of exceptional selflessness have flooded in all evening. One came from my friend Aarti, who was in one of the trains on which a bomb went off. As she jumped out of her compartment, she saw streams of slum dwellers from the bleak shanties along the tracks rushing toward the train with bed sheets. They knew that there would be no stretchers to be found and were offering their threadbare cottons to be used as hammocks to carry victims away.

Perhaps the newspapers have it right after all. An anguished night has fallen over Mumbai, but when the city eventually sleeps it will do so secure in the knowledge that its spirit is unbroken, that it is, exactly like the myth has it, indomitable and undying.

Naresh Fernandes is the editor of Time Out Mumbai.

Anonymous said...

Tony -

"Civil war is unknown in Iraq."

Was...

"Iraqis do not want civil war."

Which Iraquis?
Answers to poll question "Do you think that Iraq today is generally headed in the right direction or wrong direction?" by ethnic group.
The chart shows the percentage who answered "right direction".


From The Stability of Iraq
Original source Brookings Institution

Francis said...

Don:
The objections you are raising to the Pragmatic Modernists seem to have very little to do with the Pragmatic Modernists themselves. As here, they are usually because the perfectly good agreements the Pragmatic Modernists reached have been warped and twisted by the kleptocrats (and everyone else - I could mention twisting of the rules done by those on the Left).

grendelkhan:
I brought up his adopted daughter rather than Jim Gordon himself. I personally think that she is an even better example (at least in part because she has been broadened to outside just the Batclan) - but both are good ones.

Monkeyboy:
It's not like Civil Wars are a frequent event. America's had one in 230 years and Britain's had one in 800? years?

I'm afraid they've been a bit more common than that.

The most recent British Civil War started in the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland. Before that, the Irish had considered themselves British to the point that an order of magnitude more Irish volunteered for WWI than took part in the Easter Uprising. Unfortunately it was then suppressed vigorously enough to really (and justifiably) upset the Irish (which was the idea behind the Uprising) and shifted Irish sentiment towards independence.

Arguably, the one before that was 1776. 'Nuff said.

Before that was the Glorious Revolution and a succession of Jacobite Uprisings in response.

I'm now dropping Scotland from Britain as the Act of Union was in 1707. Scotland was not exactly short of civil wars - in particular because just about every invasion from England had a significant Scottish contingent as they usually hated each other more than they hated us. (Something simmilar happened in Ireland, with the petty kings being ready and eager to sell each other out, making conquering them much easier).

Before that was the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwell & Co. (And Scotland was a significant part of it - as was the overhyped 6 months Cromwell spent in Ireland). Probably the one you were thinking of.

Before that was the Wars of the Roses. Don't know why they are called that and not a Civil War - but they were 30 years of civil war.

Before that (and just fitting in under the 200 year mark) was King John and the Magna Carta. Yes, that was a civil war - Barons vs King.

That's about one evey 200 years. And that's amazing by world standards. (For America, it's been two rather than one - the Revolutionary War was a civil war...)

Hawker Hurricane said...

Francis...

Most of the examples you give (American Revolution and Civil War, Easter Rebellion in Ireland, etc.) were NOT 'civil wars'. A civil war is what happens when two (or more) groups claim to be the rightful rulers of the same country. Your examples are 'wars of secession', where a group claims that thier piece of the country doesn't belong to the rest any more. The American revolutionaries never claimed that they were the rightful rulers of England, they claimed that they were no longer part of England...

England's 'War of the Roses' got its name because the symbols of the two noble houses (Lancaster and York) fighting over the throne were both a rose, one red and one white.

So, the United States has never had a Civil War... just a war we mistakenly called a Civil War. England's had a few...

I'm not sure what to call the violence in Iraq... It doesn't seem like anyone is claiming to be the rightful government, they're just killing each other (and us, alas).

Francis said...

Hawker:
A civil war is what happens when two (or more) groups claim to be the rightful rulers of the same country.

Ah. I take a civil war to be one which pits members of families against each other within a country along highly contentious lines.

The American revolutionaries never claimed that they were the rightful rulers of England, they claimed that they were no longer part of England.

Many of them still claimed to be English - they just objected to the current status quo.

England's 'War of the Roses' got its name because the symbols of the two noble houses (Lancaster and York) fighting over the throne were both a rose, one red and one white.

A reasonable basic summary. The roses were used very little IIRC in the Wars of the Roses. However, the Wars of the Roses were finished by Henry Tudor who wanted a symbol of national unity and so took the Red and White roses to make the Tudor Rose when he married Elizabeth of York - thus having an emblem which was the union of two of the symbols. - which made a good symbol of national unity. Step forward to a superb Tudor propogandist - William Shakespeare who focussed a lot on the roses in his histories. But the reason I said I wasn't sure is that the wars in question only came into common usage in the 19th Century.

And I'd call Iraq a sectarian conflict - it more or less divides on ethnic lines.

Patrick said...

@Tony Fisk

Honest to Pete, thats what the announcer asked.

The bad english stems from the fact that he was in the field and trying to relay a question from the studio to the witness.

The studio workers were so surprised by the lack of panic they had trouble asking about the lack of panic.

Anonymous said...

Off topic on this thread but right on some previous one...
Enron witness found dead in park

Don Quijote said...

Don:
The objections you are raising to the Pragmatic Modernists seem to have very little to do with the Pragmatic Modernists themselves.


My objection to the Pragmatic Modernists is that they stab their base in the back on a regular basis.

And then amusingly they wonder why they keep losing elections...

As here, they are usually because the perfectly good agreements the Pragmatic Modernists reached have been warped and twisted by the kleptocrats (and everyone else - I could mention twisting of the rules done by those on the Left).

A) It was a crappy agreement whose sole purpose was that of defanging Unions.
B) The Pragmatic Modernists will do what they ussually do, roll over for the Kleptocrats. (see Welfare Reform, Bankrupcy bill,etc...)

Andrew Love said...

Somewhat off topic: an article about science journalism

http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/2006/07/journalism_advocacy_and_distru.php

Quote: "The other day I was chatting with one of my contacts within the world of journalism, who told me about attending a conference aimed at getting reporters more access to scientists. The conference actually collected a good number of working scientists who came to speak with the reporters (not just to present them information, but to answer questions at length). And, the reporters got the opportunity to see research as it was being conducted (e.g., to be in the field with scientists to watch their data collection, rather than just to hear the conclusions drawn at the end of the process). It all sounded promising to me.

"But," said my informant, "lots of the reporters who were there would listen to the scientists with this reflexive attitude of 'You're lying to us.'"

What's going on here?"

palliard said...

Superheroes are as old as story-telling, every culture has its larger-than-life characters with supernatural powers. But it's the nature of the heroes that are being worshipped that's more telling; egalitarian societies tend to venerate their trickster-gods more than their warrior-heroes.

Superman's a good example, a christ-like infinitely-patient indefatiguable warrior who's the symbol for DC... but everyone REALLY likes Batman better, an underpowered psychotic who has to out-clever his adversaries. This is very similar to the difference Dr. Brin drew between Star Wars and Star Trek.

Looked at in that light, is the cultural landscape shifting? If it is, I don't really see it, but that could just be me being shortsighted.

***

And on the topic of People Power and Public Panic... as with most political questions, the answer lies in "The Prince": the ruling class requires it's subjects to NEED it for something, or it ceases to be the ruling class. Self-actualized citizens capable of defending themselves don't NEED the government to save them from terrorists... therefore they must panic, or what would the government be good for?

The irony is that's exactly what the Republicans accuse the Democrats of when the latter set up a social safety net.

Call me selfish if you will, but I think I, personally, get more out of the social safety net.

monkyboy said...

palliard,

Just because the government can't protect us from terrorist attacks doesn't mean us citizens can protect ourselves.

Everybody on Flight 93 died, remember?

David Brin said...

Feh! Life is dangerous and hard. The people on UA93 prioritized and stood up, as our ancestors did, and fought for their tribe and families and nation.

In one act, they ended an entire phase of this so-called "war".

monkyboy said...

An entire "phase," super!

What phase is today's invasion of Lebanon by Israel?

Phase #6782?

Fhydra said...

monkyboy, I see that Brin just said what I was about to say, but I'll expand. The people on Flight 93 were willing to sacrifice themselves so that others could live. Flight 93 isn't the failure you think it is. It showed us that we CAN handle suicide attacks. And we haven't had airline hijackings or suicide attacks here since then.

In more recent news, the army just ended its exclusive contract with
Halliburton.

monkyboy said...

From the 1964 movie "The Americanization of Emily" written by the great Paddy Chayefsky:

Mrs. Barham: ...They're going to put up a monument on his grave.

Emily Barham: What on earth for? All he did was die. Dear me, we shall be celebrating cancer and automobile smash-ups next.

Lt. Cmdr. 'Bus' Cummings: [fervently] He didn't just die, Emily. He sacrificed his life.

Mrs. Barham: That was very pagan of him.

Lt. Cmdr. 'Bus' Cummings: He was the first American to die on Omaha Beach.

Emily Barham: Was there a contest?

David Brin said...

Very glib. So, it would have been fine by you for them to sit in their seats, screaming, instead, while watching the US Capitol, filled with thousands of tourists, rushing at them.

Left wing cynicism is EXACTLY the same as right wing cynicism, boys and girls. They just worship different elites and choose different symbols to hate.

And they will never, ever, ever remotely grok that their playground cynicism is what it is.

monkyboy said...

As opposed to the playgroud bully mentality running America and Israel these days?

About 150,000 souls depart this world every single day. If it helps you to label a few of them as heroes and villians, go right ahead...they won't mind, I'm sure.

But remember, we could save the lives of about 75,000 of these departed souls each day for less than 1% of the money we are spending to conduct our phony little war...

Mark said...

Wow, I've mostly given up on this blog. Today I return to find 3(!) entries. Very cool.

A good writer spends a great deal of time and thought into making his or her characters real and the story believable and emotionally tangible. The end result is anything good ends up with elements from both camps: even DB can't help but invoke some Romantic notions for their emotional power and even Tolkien can't help but invoke Enlightened notions to add realism to characters and events.

My favorite example is Aragorn, the ultimate of romantic characters. Here is a guy who is heir to a throne that has sat vacant for thousands of years. We are lead to believe that those that resist his 'natural' role of king are not only wrong, but perhaps a bit evil as well.

And yet... from Aragorn's perspective the lesson to be learned is exactly the opposite. He fears he is "Isildur's Heir", fated to failure. Aragorn must learn for himself that his ancestry does not matter, that there is no fate and his only destiny is one he chooses for himself.

Not that anyone notices the irony in this dichotomy, least of all Aragorn himself. He must reject his heritage in order to obtain his birthright.

This is a good example of why the principles of Enlightenment actually work. When ever you are forced to look at things through the eyes of another, truth tends to emerge. An author does this while writing a character.

Rik said...

Superheroes are as old as civ, because they're idealizations. They can only work backed up by a common culture, preferably religion. Current superheroes mirror our society exactly. Take Superman, Batman & Spiderman: all single, childless and stuck. For them there is no such thing as redemption.
[There wasn't any for Darth Vader either (the real hero of the Star Wars films), because George Lucas was so kind to inform us that if you take off the mask, DV dies. Thus there never could have been a separate Anakin Skywalker.]
What the passengers of Flight 93 did was affirm their membership of society, which is denied to them by presentday political culture.

Francis said...

Take Superman, Batman & Spiderman: all single, childless and stuck.

I don't know just what you've been reading. Spiderman's married in the comics to Mary Jane, Superman and Lois Lane are in a long term relationship, and Batman has a possible baby (paternity hasn't been confirmed) by way of Catwoman and two surrogate children (Dick Grayson/Robin 1/Nightwing and Tim Drake/Robin 3).

Rik said...

Thank you, Francis! But the point still stands. To rephrase: are the acts of marriage/fatherhood rites of passage for Superman, Batman & Spiderman? No, they're not! Superman simply can't marry (He could be in a "manege a trois" with LL and Hecate), Batman might as well be in a relationship with Robin (whichever) and the moment Spiderman marries MJ, he stops becomes either Peter Parker or Spiderman fulltime. It's fine to make their lives resemble something more realistic/mundane, but these attempts fail since it doesn't affect them, leaves them totally untransformed. So in reality giving them more private life amounts to playing "house". Superheroes are idealizations of the Noble, Heroic and they defend varations of The Sacred.
Don't you think that if you get married, have kids and become a 24/7 member of the League of Bald & Bearded Gentlemen, you remain the same? I think that, say Spiderman can not find redemption, atonement. When he does, with MJ or not, he becomes someone else. And the same applies to Batman and Superman.

Francis said...

rik:
Thank you, Francis! But the point still stands. To rephrase: are the acts of marriage/fatherhood rites of passage for Superman, Batman & Spiderman? No, they're not! Superman simply can't marry (He could be in a "manege a trois" with LL and Hecate), Batman might as well be in a relationship with Robin (whichever) and the moment Spiderman marries MJ, he stops becomes either Peter Parker or Spiderman fulltime.

Batman, I'll grant. Although I would call the adoption of Tim Drake (if it goes ahead) (and the adoption and death of Jason Todd/Robin 2) a right of passage. Superman is ... odd, I'll grant. Peter, the damn fool, married Mary-Jane a while ago, revealed himself to Aunt May (and partially gained atonement) a few years ago, and has just gone public with his identity under the influence of Tony Stark (Iron Man). And is still Spiderman and Peter Parker.

And I see absolutely no reason that a superhero with a vocation can't marry - we have married priests and the like.

Anonymous said...

Yeah!
We need a superhero, quick!

Good news from Iraq, the "power of people" at its best.
Courageous citizens don't panic, they act, just a pity that they are hindered by other courageous citizens.
As for the poor schmoos who are not willing to participate and just flee they are really despicable.

It is the SAME gut reaction which drove "the heroes of UA 93" as as well as this.

This is not part of the solution, this is part of the problem with the monkeys.

Sketchy said...

About Anakin's/Luke's lightsaber:
The only place this saber appears GREEN is in part of the scene with the remote in the DVD for Episode IV. This can be chalked up to an oversight in the DVD mastering, DUE TO THE FACT THAT LUCAS ONLY GAVE LOWRY DIGITAL 30 DAYS TO REMASTER THE MOST FAMOUS TRILOGY IN FILM HISTORY.
(That's the dark side for ya!)

The saber in Jedi is a different one, which I guess some people have forgotten, or else there's a color-blindness thing going on.
(Even that excuse doesn't work, since they have totally different hilts!) Did you guys forget a certain, uh, "incident" at a place called "Cloud City"?

Sketchy said...

To clarify:
There are inconsistencies in the SW saga, but the color of Anakin's saber is NOT one of them. The rabid Star Wars haters need to tone it down a notch -- you're finding problems that AREN'T THERE.

If you're thinking of the saber used at the end of AOTC, that wasn't his. It was CHUCKED to him by a nameless Jedi after his AOTC saber had been destroyed. By the time of the Clone Wars cartoon he's already using the saber that will be given to Luke ( that's why it doesn't get destroyed in the battle with Ventress ).

If you want ACTUAL examples of dubious continuity ( on the level of "if they had that back then, why didn't they have it later" ), I suggest looking at the issues of droid troops and (especially) small-size deflector shields. Have at it!

John Bartley K7AAY said...

The only superhero worth a tinker's dam... THE SHOVELLER from MYSTERY MEN.

Asher said...

Take Superman, Batman & Spiderman: all single, childless and stuck.
I don't know just what you've been reading.

relationship advice said...

This, in contrast to the rampaging violence wrought by the Catholic and Protestant religious 'leaders' outside the little slice of America.