You know what the problem with Jupiter Ascending was?

The plot and the dialogue? It looked nice and that was it. When I reviewed it I found there really wasn’t much to say but maybe it could have been more fun with either MORE wackiness or more jokes or in the other direction, a more serious plot or really anything to get it away from the point it landed that meant that it wasn’t serious enough or funny enough or quite enough enough.

So I was on the Castalia House blog – yes, yes, I shouldn’t do that to myself – and Jeffro apparently has discovered the answer:

“But the acting and the dialog is not what ultimately ruined this film. Structuring it around a female romantic lead did.” http://www.castaliahouse.com/spaceoperaweek-jupiter-ascendings-biggest-problem/

mmmmmm, nope I’m pretty sure it was the dialogue and the plot that ruined the film but do carry on Jeffro.

“This is an inherently anti-pulp premise that is being grafted onto an otherwise pitch perfect expression of classical space opera. Granted, Tarzan was Lord Greystoke. Arthur was the son of Uther. And Luke Skywalker turned out to be part of a space dynasty. “Who you are” does matter in these things. But what these characters do matters more. And these characters proving their worth and their mettle matters even more.

I don’t know why it is, but for some reason… the moment a male lead is swapped out with a female one, all of this stuff seems to go out the window. Men and women are not interchangeable. The stories that spring up around them are qualitatively different.”

But, in the film what the lead character DOES is meant to matter more than who she IS. Jeffro’s objection is based on the plot element that the lead character turns out to be (unknown to her) a space princess. In Jeffro’s defence, it is hard to tell because the plot is a mess but that all points to the plot being a mess rather than an issue with the lead’s gender.

Jeffro goes on to identify why the film falls flat at the end (I think it fell flat from the start but I’ll let Jeffro explain)

“And when you get to the ending where she is rollerblading in the sky with her space boyfriend, it’s pretty clear why: No one cares if a girl gets the guy in the end.
It’s no accomplishment to speak of, honestly. It’s normal. It’s reality’s default setting, and thus… conveys no drama to speak of. If a young girl is as cute as Mila Kunis wants a guy, she can have her pick. They will line up for her whether she is available or not. And the guy that Jupiter Jones gets…? The filmmakers worked overtime to establish that he was really more interested in getting his wings back than anything else. This is an anti-climax unworthy of space opera, pure and simple.”

The last time I discussed a piece from the Castalia House blog I was forced to wonder if the reviewer had ever seen any movies. This time I’m forced to wonder if the writer actually knows any women or people in general? Now, in Jeffro’s defence, I will note he has a point about the film: specifically in that the crappy dialogue and mess of a plot meant there really was no romantic tension – but that wasn’t due to some weird default reality in which stories about women finding love ‘conveys no drama to speak of’. I’m pretty sure that we could all name the odd story here or there or maybe THE BIGGEST SELLING GENRE IN FICTION which from time to time manages to somehow get drama out of women looking for love.

On the list of ‘things wrong with misogyny’, this kind of cluelessness is pretty low down but it aptly demonstrates a key element of it. If your understanding of 50%+ of humanity is so confused on such a basic level that you can’t even understand how there could possibly be drama in whether the ‘girls gets the guy in the end of not’ then your capacity to understand any human relationships are going to be seriously confused. It’s like trying to study mathematics while believing that numbers are a kind of gelatine desert – none of it will make sense and your kitchen will be a mess when you attempt calculus.

Return to Ignota: Volume the Second – Part the Fourth and Final

Further Notes on Ignota
A collection of notes and queries on ‘Seven Surrenders’ compiled by CAMESTROS FELAPTON, at the Request of Certain Parties, being a sequel of sorts to my previous notes.

Page numbers and text are from the 2017 Tor US hardback edition. Errors and typos are from me except where indicated. The notes are not authorised by the author or editorialised by the editor. I’m speculating people! Latin translations are often my best guess from Google translate or from the book itself – corrections welcome.

Notes are given in the order that I spotted something in a book. In some cases, a reference is later explained in the actual text of the book. In other cases, I’m guessing. In many cases, I have added further comments to an observation based on later information from the book. Note also, that my last set of notes contained some unwitting spoilers – i.e. unexplained references in the book which are then later explained by characters for plot purposes.

As many things in this book explain references in the previous book, there are fewer notes overall. I have also included some stray observations as things occur to me. ’TLtL’ will refer to ’Too Like the Lightning’

Character and author intent. Most of the book is narrated by Mycroft Canner, who is obsessed with Voltaire and the Enlightenment. To what extent are his references the intent of the character or that of the author? Obviously it is both, but in general, I’ll assume that it is Mycroft trying to say something if the reference is Mycroft and Palmer is trying to say something when it is a reference outside of Mycroft’s control. Likewise, with possible errors, I’ll assume these come from Mycroft as a character.

These notes take us to the end of the book. Events move rapidly and much is explained in the book. Spoliers follow but some majo ones are not mentioned.

Continue reading “Return to Ignota: Volume the Second – Part the Fourth and Final”

Return to Ignota: Volume the Second – Part the Third

Further Notes on Ignota
A collection of notes and queries on ‘Seven Surrenders’ compiled by CAMESTROS FELAPTON, at the Request of Certain Parties, being a sequel of sorts to my previous notes.

Page numbers and text are from the 2017 Tor US hardback edition. Errors and typos are from me except where indicated. The notes are not authorised by the author or editorialised by the editor. I’m speculating people! Latin translations are often my best guess from Google translate or from the book itself – corrections welcome.

Notes are given in the order that I spotted something in a book. In some cases, a reference is later explained in the actual text of the book. In other cases, I’m guessing. In many cases, I have added further comments to an observation based on later information from the book. Note also, that my last set of notes contained some unwitting spoilers – i.e. unexplained references in the book which are then later explained by characters for plot purposes.

As many things in this book explain references in the previous book, there are fewer notes overall. I have also included some stray observations as things occur to me. ’TLtL’ will refer to ’Too Like the Lightning’

Character and author intent. Most of the book is narrated by Mycroft Canner, who is obsessed with Voltaire and the Enlightenment. To what extent are his references the intent of the character or that of the author? Obviously it is both, but in general, I’ll assume that it is Mycroft trying to say something if the reference is Mycroft and Palmer is trying to say something when it is a reference outside of Mycroft’s control. Likewise, with possible errors, I’ll assume these come from Mycroft as a character.

These notes take us to the end of the sixth day. Events move rapidly and references are fewer.

Continue reading “Return to Ignota: Volume the Second – Part the Third”

Don’t read the John C. Wright story in the Hugo Packet

I appreciate that is rather like saying ‘don’t stick beans up your nose’ but I am seriously suggesting people don’t read it. It is (I assume unintentionally) a nasty violent sexual assault fantasy with overtones of child abuse. I doubt that is what John C. Wright intended, indeed I imagine he may think of it as morally uplifting but the finished product is bad both morally and as a piece of writing and even by the standards of John C. Wright. I’d say it is easily the most repugnant piece of writing of his I’ve read.

A summary and discussion below the fold.

Continue reading “Don’t read the John C. Wright story in the Hugo Packet”

Weird Internet Ideas: A case of Scott Adams

I’ve not the skill or insight for a full discussion of Scott Adams, the lite-alt-right wannabe of Dilbert fame, but this piece crossed my path http://blog.dilbert.com/post/160696999931/how-to-know-you-won-a-political-debate-on-the and informal reasoning and rhetoric are on my list of required blog topics.

It is far from the worst things Adams has ever written but it does exemplify the profound shallows of his style of analysis. The piece is a guide to knowing when you have won an argument on the internet. I should put a mandatory statement about arguments not being about the winning but, well honestly sometimes they can be about the winning rather than the journey. Having said that…any time spent talking to people on the net should be judged against an informal cost-benefit otherwise you can waste your days trying to convince a Twitter bot that it’s wrong about pi being ‘fake news’. So this opening section from Adams is not terrible advice:

“Do you remember the time you changed a stranger’s political opinion on the Internet by using your logic and your accurate data?

Probably not. Because that rarely happens. If you were paying attention during the past year, you learned facts don’t matter to our decisions. We think they do, but they don’t. At least not for topics in which we are emotionally invested, such as politics.  (Obviously facts do matter to the outcomes. But not to decisions.)”

Of course, Adams is missing that in any net discussion there are rarely just two people. Bystanders and other people commenting play a role and sound arguments do help shape their thoughts. Also, not every internet argument is between people with entrenched immutable viewpoints. Nor is a change of mind necessarily immediate – people shift positions in their life, sometimes radically and exposure to alternate ideas can play a part in that. Additionally, strong arguments can shape the behaviour of people whose core opinion doesn’t change – they may avoid advancing a particular argument in that space again or they may adapt their argument over time. There is no simple test of whether continuing with an argument is worthwhile. My own criteria usually amount to “am I bored yet” or “are people I like distressed by this argument continuing”, rarely is it “I’ve won” although I can think of some occasions…

Adam’s continues:

“I propose the Cognitive Dissonance test. If you can trigger your opponent into cognitive dissonance, you win. “

I’ll not get into his use of the term “cognitive dissonance”, I’m not sure it is important but the general gist of Adams use is along the lines of: if your opponent is discombobulated then you’ve won. Yeah, maybe not.

‘You can detect cognitive dissonance by the following tells:

Absurd Absolute

An absurd absolute is a restatement of the other person’s reasonable position as an absurd absolute. For example, if your point is there is high crime in Detroit, the absurd absolute would be your debate opponent saying something such as “So, you’re saying every person in Detroit is a criminal.” ‘

This is not terrible advice in terms of identifying a weak counter-response but it is not a particularly good indication that the person you are arguing with is discombobulated. It may even be present as an idea when the argument starts and it is also a revealing argument – it shows where a misunderstanding (intentional or otherwise) exists in the opposing position. It may well reflect what a person has been told about your generic position. More maliciously, it is an argument that may be offered to intentionally wind you up. Of course, if somebody is just trying to push your buttons then it is worth considering whether your time is being well spent.

In addition, arguments may often turn to broader absolutes even when two parties are arguing with open minds and in good faith. The process of argument can lead you to a better understanding of what assumed & unspoken principles you are appealing to. On occassion, this may help clarify other issues inadvertently. Consider the use of some ‘absurd absolutes’ by defenders of “Obamacare” repeal when responding to the notion that people have the right to free-at-source healthcare – US conservatives have parodied the notion with spurious strawmen claims that this would be like demanding a right to food or a job or housing or…oh wait…, those really are being advanced as strawmen by the right but I agree, people should expect the government to try and ensure people have those things along with healthcare! The absurdity is not what they think it is. Extrapolation and generalisations of arguments and ideas is a productive process in thinking.

Analogy

Analogies are good for explaining concepts for the first time. But they have no value in debate. Analogies are not logic, and they are not relevant facts.”

This is an ignorant point. Analogies are deeply baked into nearly all aspects of our thinking. It is nigh on impossible to avoid them, as Adams then immediately demonstrates by resorting to an analogy about a plumber. Yes, analogies are unreliable, have limitations and are hard to formalise but thinking without analogies is like swimming without water when you are a cake or something else that can’t swim or think or use analogies.

Analogies are not logic? Yeah, sort of – I’ll give it a pass. What I’d say is that the main role of mathematics and logic in human thought has been to find ways of codifying/formalising analogies. It’s why we use the concept of ‘models’ i.e. formalised analogies with known limitations.

So what is Adams actually thinking of? Well, probably forced or spurious analogies. But what do they indicate? They can arise at any point in a discussion and I’d generally take them to be firstly an interesting insight into what the other person is thinking that may be more revealing than they realise and secondly an indication that the other person might still be making some effort to argue in something at least vaguely like good faith,

“Attack the Messenger

When people realize their arguments are not irrational, they attack the messenger on the other side. If you have been well-behaved in a debate, and you trigger an oversized personal attack, it means you won.”

Um, no. OK, yes, yes we can all think of personal examples where this was the case. You engaged in an argument and the other person flips out. Yet even a basic understanding of human behaviour tells us that people can lose their temper for many reasons beyond “cognitive dissonance”, discombobulation or the humiliation of having their argument pulled apart by a keyboard warrior.

What’s really toxic about this point from Adams is how you see it working with some species of troll. If you get to ‘trigger an oversized personal attack’ from your opponent then ‘it means you won’ is a trollish strategy based on following some shallow conventions of civility while finding buttons to push. That would be taking Adams’s point the wrong way as far as causality goes but it is easy for people to convince themselves that they are being reasonable and that their opponent is being emotional.

It is rather like winning a chess game by being so annoying that your opponent refuses to play anymore and walks away, thus forefit the game to you. That does not make you a canny chess player.

Put another way “winning an argument” is arguably one way of being so annoying that a person insults you gratuitously but it is just one way and is also comorbid with “being a smug pedantic git” which can often overlap with “arsehole”. I try to stay out of the last circle of that Venn diagram but not always with success. [Of course if it is Vox Day et al insulting you then yes, you won 😉 ]

More generally there are many ways of annoying people whilst simultaneously following the superficial formalities of polite debate and not making a “winning” argument, not least of which is treating some other kind of social interaction as if it were a debate.

“The Psychic Psychiatrist Illusion

The Psychic Psychiatrist Illusion involves imagining you can discern the inner thoughts and motives of strangers. I’m talking about the unspoken thoughts and feelings of strangers, not the things they have actually said.”

Maybe. It’s the least weak of Adams’s points and I’d broadly agree with it with exceptions.

Millenials are Terrible

From the desk of Timothy the Talking Cat.

timeforopinions

I think it is important that I share some of my hard-earned wisdom. This week’s topic:

Millenials! Don’t you just hate them! It wasn’t like this when I was their age*. A young cat about town knew that he had to knuckle under, suck it up, shoulder their responsibilities and greet each new day as a promise of opportunity.

‘Boo hoo. I can’t afford a house or anywhere to live!’ oh you poor dear. Have you tried, oh I don’t know, saving up money for a house? If I can manage it* then SO CAN YOU. Here is how t get your own house the TRADITIONAL hard working way:

  • Don’t drink your fancy coffees.
  • Don’t buy your fancy iPads and other gadgets. I just borrow them from Camestros* and so can you.
  • No more armadillo on toasts.*

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I got where I was today by positive thinking, clear goals, hard work, clear thinking, positive goals and possibly the lingering effects of a brain-altering virus. These are values the modern generation have lost.

Here is my 10-point plan* to becoming a big successful science-fiction publisher with a big home and all the kibble I can eat and a robot butler:

  1. Be a cat.
  2. Exploit the human emotional weakness for small furry animals.
  3. Miaow a lot for food.
  4. Basically just take over the place.
  5. Don’t leave.

So boo-hoo millennials. College debt? Do you see that holding me back despite my doctorates in astrophysics, medicine and gun-collecting*? Get a part time job. For example being on the board of a major multinational corporation not only pays well but has few time-commitments enabling you to study. Have you even LOOKED for that kind of work? No? Well then don’t moan that “those kinds” of “jobs” aren’t available. Did Donald Trump just wait for some random guy to give him millions of dollars*?

So enough with your man-buns, your single-origin coffee beans, your retro-vinyl retro whatevers, your segmented bodies and multitude of legs*, time to man-up and gird-your-loins and seize the day Millenials!

Yours,

Timothy the Talking Cat

*[Timothy’s exact age is unknown but given the average longevity of a cat he must have been born this century and hence is technically younger than the average millennial -CF]
*[Timothy does not actually own a house -CF]
*[Please don’t actually borrow my stuff -CF]
*[I really don’t know -CF]
*[It is five points -CF]
*[Courtesy of InfoWars University – Class of March 2015, thesis “Chemtrails are the real reason why the Illuminati are tainting our vaccines with fake global warming data – maybe it is Aliens, I don’t know” T.t.T. Cat]
*[Timothy is correct – it wasn’t a random guy it was his dad -CF]
*[He is thinking of millipedes – CF]