Category: Sexism

Dialogue: Thessaly by Jo Walton

[Warning on themes around sexual violence and consent]

Plato: Joy to you Camestros. I am pleased to see you in the Agora this morning.
Camestros: Ah! Plato! I seem to have instantiated into a 1960’s movie set about the Greek myths. I assume that in your day there weren’t quite so many ruined pillars or heavily armed skeletons?
Plato: I assume the setting is intended to convey to me a sense of ‘ancient’ by evoking the Age of Heroes.
Camestros: Well I suppose Mycenaean Greece was a thousand years before your time. As distant from you as the Dark Ages are from me. Still, I would have hoped that I could have dreamt up something a little more historically accurate.
Plato: I see you wish to continue our previous debate in which you claimed to be simply imagining a conversation with me and that you yourself were simply the product of yet another person’s imagination, an even more imperfect being you call a ‘meat robot’.
Camestros: It is more than just a claim Plato. The meat robot can see themselves typing this very dialogue in the TextEdit app on their Mac.
Plato: So you still deny that you are actually a god and that your creator is Zeus?
Camestros: Obviously! You would have a series of higher realms and greater degrees of perfection and abstraction. Whereas I can see that this is actually internal, we are contained within a non-abstract physical mind that is complex and messy and imperfect but which imagines perfection within it.
Plato: Back to your world of atoms where forms are mere fictions and mathematics is little better than a nursery tale.
Camestros. I don’t think there is anything ‘mere’ about fiction. Invention and the imagination are powerful forces.
Plato: Which reveals that you are in truth Apollo.
Camestros: I assure you that I am not. I look more like your mentor Socrates than fair Apollo and I can’t stand being in the sun.
Plato: Yet you can appear and disappear from here at will so you are clearly a god. You prize knowledge but you aren’t Athena, hence must be Apollo and you are teasing me for reasons that must make sense to the gods but which I cannot fathom.
Camestros: I can’t fault your reasoning Plato even though I know for a fact that you are wrong. I’ll concede defeat for the moment – perhaps in this tiny world of an essay I am its Apollo. I actually wanted to talk to you about a book.
Plato: A book? Not that dreadful tome by the Germanic barbarian in which he calls me the enemy of the ‘Open Society”.
Camestros: No, not Popper. I was wrong to start there and not with his distinction between Worlds 1, 2 and 3. No, this is a story, a fable about your Republic.
Plato: We’ve had this argument already. The Huxley fellow? You already conceded that the society he envisaged was more to do with the brutal mechanism of your era’s mercantile class than my model of a just city!
Camestros: No, not Brave New World, although in a similar genre. This is a series of three stories called “Thessaly” by a writer called Jo Walton. The books are called “The Just City”, “The Philosopher Kings” and “Necessity”.
Plato: Noble titles but I dislike your era’s idea of “fiction”.
Camestros: You are a man of contradictions, Plato! You scorn poetry and yet you are the most poetic of classical philosophers. You fear fiction but you literally include made-up stories in your model civilisation and call them noble lies! In Western history, you are arguably the first person to invent a story and overtly claim that you just made it up and that it wasn’t actually based on an existing myth or history!
Plato: But those myths are for the purpose of instruction and improvement of the mind. The fictions you tell me about, these “science fictions”, are untruths about knowledge! What was that last one with the Olympic gods and thinking machines and the works of your island’s Homer? This new book you have better not be like that one.
Camestros: That would be Olympus and Illium by Dan Simmons. Well, there are some similarities. There are some excellent robot characters, as well as the gods of Olympus and both books discuss arete. However, Walton’s book is genuinely concerned with examining your ideas, rather than just exploring the Greek pantheon.
Plato: Excellent!
Camestros: Exactly! Yet, Walton’s books couldn’t be more different than Dan Simmon’s book. I guess they both reflect the modern interest in the classical world and thought. It is both familiar to us all and yet often quite alien in thought.
Plato: Alien? If I recall correctly, in your own language the word has an extra connotation to mean beings from other worlds that are not gods? Does this book feature your ‘aliens’?
Camestros: There are aliens in the final book “Necessity” but in some ways that final book is more of a coda or appendix to the first two. It revisits many of the characters and events from the first book and also ties up some loose ends. It also considers some of the internal mythology created by the author, in particular on the nature of the gods that she features. I recommend it but it is the first two books that are most relevant to our discussion.
Plato: You have yet to convince me that the book is even worth discussing. It seems to me that your era is more concerned with the gods of Olympus as magic beings than they are with the minds of Athens and when they do discuss me it is to disparage me. Now in Sparta…
Camestros: Let’s not discuss Sparta. I’d rather not get into how Sparta is colliding with popular culture these days.
Plato: Clearly you wish to discuss this fable you found. Is it edifying? is it good for the mind?
Camestros: Yes, I think so and it is fair to you also but not uncritical. Indeed, I think it is overly generous to your model of a fair government.
Plato: Then I shall listen for a while if I may ask questions as you go. How does this fable proceed?
Camestros: Apollo is pursuing the nymph Daphne but rather than being caught by him she asks Artemis to intervene who turns Daphne into a tree.
Plato: I’m not familiar with that myth.
Camestros: Well it is in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but I guess that’s after your time. I assumed it was an older story than that though. Never mind. The point being Apollo cannot understand why Daphne would take such extreme measures to escape him. Unable to make sense of what is going on he talks to Athena. Athena reveals that she has a project that might help him better understand the concept of ‘equal significance”. She is creating a version of Plato’s Republic and will populate it with mortals who have prayed to her at one time or another to live in the city that you described.
Plato: One time or another? What do you mean by that?
Camestros: Well the gods can travel in time and Athena has grabbed people in your fandom from all sorts of times but mainly ancient Greece, Rome and Renaissance Italy. There are also some people from other time periods, including many women from the nineteenth century.
Plato: Why women from that time I wonder?
Camestros: The fact that a major work in Western civilisation included that women would be taught alongside men and could become guardians of the city is remarkable. The author (Jo Walton) imagines that in more recent centuries when women where gaining greater access to education (at least wealthier women) but still denied access to universities or recognition of their cognitive powers, that many might read the Republic and find themselves wishing that they could live there instead of the stultifying societies they found themselves in. One key character, Maya (originally called Edith) is the daughter of a classically trained vicar who taught her in her childhood to read ancient Greek. Enamoured with your writing she finds herself visiting Italy and in the Pantheon, in Rome, she briefly prays to Athena that she could live in Plato’s Republic.
Plato: I see, a book about ‘women’ is it? You’ve attempted to explain ‘feminism’ to me before but the conversation always turns to issues around procreation and ‘consent’.
Camestros: I wouldn’t call this a feminist analysis of The Republic but it is a story that centres the perspective of women. Also, I must warn you that the books deal with sexual violence and non-consensual sex of varying kinds.
Plato: Why must you ‘warn’ me of this? Have you not read our myths? Have you not read any of the myths about Zeus?
Camestros: Of course but myths are one thing. A modern story is intended to evoke empathy towards and about the characters within it. This story uses first-person narratives to help you understand the particular perspectives of the characters. So the events described are particularly traumatic and disturbing.
Plato: Yet you say you read books for entertainment! You also told me this book is edifying! What you describe is neither edifying nor entertaining!
Camestros: As I said Apollo is a god and a character in the book. He is a god of the Homeric kind more than perhaps the Platonic kind and as you observed the gods of culture were not creatures who understood consent in any context. Walton is examining consent and equal significance as moral concepts, inviting the reader to think more deeply about them. In my era, there is much discussion of these subjects, specifically around sex and around how society treats women. It is a confronting topic but it makes sense for Walton to include it as a major theme of the book. In particular, because the Republic has important features around the care and upbringing of children that has deep implications for women in the imagined society.
Plato: So edifying because rapists are punished and their crimes are shown to be wrong?
Camestros: Well this is where I find the books weaker. Apollo becomes human and enters the city as a child, one of many slave ten-year-old children brought to the Just City to be brought up according to your teachings. His character arc is one about learning the error of his ways, going from the classic god Apollo intent on raping a nymph as if his actions were no more than a game to a more rounded person. It is a redemption arc. However, there is another character (who I shan’t name so as to not reveal a plot line for those who haven’t read it) who is also a rapist who later earns forgiveness from the person he raped and who is somewhat lionised in the final book.
Plato: I see but is this not part of your own confused sense of aesthetics and ethics. You want stories that are complex and avoid simple morals and outcomes. however, you also want stories that push norms that you feel need society needs to adopt. Authors cannot meet your competing standards!
Camestros: Not at all! You would argue that we should examine all things and strive for excellence. I can admire what Jo Walton attempts to do in her story and still consider where I feel she may have erred. I don’t fault her for attempting to discuss a confronting subject but a confronting subject is necessarily one that is difficult to attempt. Examining the ways something is ‘problematic’ as we like to say in my time helps us improve.
Plato: Inquiry is a means to achieve excellence.
Camestros: Which is the central theme of the books. Walton isn’t uncritical of the Republic. She knows it was essentially you just spitballing what sounds like a good plan for a city. She knows that the wacky mix of people she brings together from history (a great SF trope in itself whether it’s Riverworld or Bill & Ted) is full of flawed human beings. She also deals herself the best cards: robots brought from the future to get the city going, Athena to give the whole thing a divine shove and confirm souls exist, a site (pre-eruption Thera) to give a place for the city to be that will eventually be erased from history. That’s all fine. I think it is the author’s prerogative
Plato: Authors are gods of their own fictions is your claim, much as you claim that you are the god of this world that we are both inhabiting.
Camestros: I suppose so.
Plato: Our earlier point of disagreement is that you see this as an unreal world and I believe this is our normal world of the senses.
Camestros: I think my point is different than that. You already believed that you lived in a lesser world even when you were real and living in Greece. It’s just that you thought the higher reality was more perfect and more abstract. I’m saying the Plato I’m talking to now lives in a more abstract and in some ways more perfect world that is contained in a messier less abstract reality. The shadows on the cave wall are controlling the puppets.
Plato: So you choose a less fearsome debater to hold you dialogue with rather than Socrates.
Camestros: Well, Socrates is a good example. There was a really Socrates (at least I assume there was) and there was the character in your dialogues and then in Jo Walton’s books, there is a character called Socrates that is her take on Socrates whom she only knows about from your dialogues. Then in this dialogue, I’m casting you in the role that you cast Socrates so that I can talk about Walton’s take on Socrates.
Plato: Have you not cast yourself in the role of Socrates?
Camestros: Maybe Socrates was the people we met on the way?
Plato: I cannot see how Socrates could be included as a character. You have said there are gods, people who came after me who read The Republic and children. Socrates is none of those. He died long before I wrote the Republic and as much as my ‘fandom’ (as you call them) would love Socrates, it would not be the wisest course to let him loose in an experimental city!
Camestros: Which is exactly why he is there! Socrates is introduced in the first book to do what I’d call ‘stress testing’ of the republic they have created. Walton makes excellent use of him as a character. Provocative and charmingly annoying, he is a locus of change in the city. Having Socrates examine Plato’s ideas is a clever move and one reason why I think she makes the actual city depicted more robust than I think it would be. I think it would have collapsed within a couple of months but that’s just me or if not collapsed then rapidly become an authoritarian nightmare.
Plato: Oh, so you are going to discuss the Open Society and its Enemies?
Camestros: No, just helping people understand Walton’s take on things. I think she sees the magic sauce for the world she creates is that everyone in it (even the one nominal antagonist) as being committed to the philosophy and critical examination of ideas. Her cities (and more than one eventuates through the books) have flaws and aspects I don’t like but they survive because of a general good will. The longer that goes on, the less convinced I am i.e. that it implies this culture of inquiry continues which in turn implies that the mode of education is effective.
Plato: I would imagine that if the city she creates is truly founded by people who were scholars of my work. As we have discussed before the dialogue you call The Laws should be read alongside The Republic.
Camestros: The Laws isn’t mentioned but is present by its absence. You would know better than I how the more practical city of Magnesia that appears in the Laws relates to the city in the Republic. The evolution of the cities in Thessaly books (particularly in the final book Necessity in which the closest city to The Republic’s ideal is a city of benevolent sentient robots) mirrors what I imagine was your evolution of ideas when faced with the practicalities of politics in the Hellenic world. That works for both good and bad on issues such as private property or slavery (which, if I recall correctly is absent in the Republic but accepted in the Laws).

Plato: if I may interrupt, I should warn you that the heavily armed skeletons have noticed us. I fear they are controlled by some god who wishes us ill.
Camestros: Indeed! A god who is known to me as ‘Ray Harryhausen’
Plato: I recall you telling me about him. Did you explain to him, as I asked, that the Kraken was not a figure of Greek myth and not any kind of titan?
Camestros: I think that is why he is cross with us and has sent those skeletons after me. We must depart!
Plato: Before we part company, can you tell me where I might find these books we have been discussing? It may be that you have at last brought me something worthy of my interest?
Camestros: Oh, you get them from Amazon!
Plato: The great warrior women are now booksellers! What wonders your era brings!
Camestros: Farewell Plato!
Plato: Farewell Camestros! Thank Timothy for helping me edit my final dialogue ‘Why Atlantis is Totally a Real Place and How to Find It: 12 Steps for Hellenic Happiness!’

 

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Why (some of the)* Right Hates Elsa

I’ll start with the only place this post can start – which is where it needs to finish also:

How much does the right of Science Fiction & Fantasy hate this movie and this song in particular? A *lot*, more than perhaps you may have noticed. Sure, the new Star Wars movies have received more high profile attacks, and modern superhero comics have had there own troll-fest ‘gate’ but ‘Frozen’? Frozen has worked its way like a tiny shard of ice under the skin.

To wit:

“As I’ve told my children, Let It Go is an expression of pure Crowleyian evil “http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/11/let-it-go-to-hell.html

“Do you remember hearing how Disney loved the song “Let It Go” so much that they created an entire movie to go around it? Did you ever ask yourself what it was they loved so much about it?…Disney is run by literal satanists preaching Alastair Crowley’s “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” to children.”  http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/10/the-devil-that-is-disney.html

” Women and girls learning how to throw off all rules and inhibition is core to our new morality.  The song isn’t loved as a guilty pleasure;  it is loved as a bold moral declaration.  Stop trying to be a good girl and learn to worship yourself is a moral exhortation. ” https://dalrock.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/children-understand/

“The gay agenda to normalize homosexuality is woven into Disney’s movie Frozen not just as an underlying message – it is the movie.” http://wellbehavedmormonwoman.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/movie-frozen-gay-homosexual-agenda.html

“So when it comes to Frozen: Elsa telling Anna that she couldn’t marry a man she just met is a funny observation of a trope that is kind of silly if you think about it.Having that man turn out to be a sociopath that tries to kill Elsa and steal the throne, because that trope was always secretly ‘problematic,’ is subversion and spits on Disney.” http://www.superversivesf.com/2018/02/15/enchanted-parody-frozen-subversion/

“I am puzzled why the writers of Frozen wanted Hans to be the villain, for as best I can tell, they already had someone who would make the perfect villain… Elsa.” http://www.superversivesf.com/2018/01/22/frozens-fatal-flaw-or-the-unplotted-plot-twist/

“So how are things fixed? Does Elsa admit he’s right and strive to do better in the future? Does she vow never to cut loose like that again and learn to control herself?

No. She Loves Her Sister. And that’s it. Now she can control her powers. She never says that letting it go was a mistake.” http://www.superversivesf.com/2018/01/26/no-elsa-not-learn-lesson/

Note that THREE of that sample were from 2018 – this isn’t a short-lived attempt to gain attention by a cynical attack on something popular. No, indeed the Superversive articles, in particular, are by people heavily engaged with the plot of the film who seem to be trying to wrestle with what is wrong with it.

Crowley? Normalizing homosexuality? Wrong villains? Fatal plot flaws? This all from people who often claim that popularity and commercial success are the true marks of artistic quality. By that measure Frozen is high art – a Disney musical powerhouse at a time when Disney musicals were long past their peak. A film that launched a thousand lunch boxes.

The issue is not hard to diagnose. Frozen is mainly conventional Disney – in some ways even less than that. The plot is slight compared to other classic Disney films (e.g. the Lion King) and the songs (bar one) are unmemorable. Yet it does a few things and those things are interesting:

  • ‘Let It Go’ is a genuinely really good song, but it is also really well integrated into the story both emotionally, in its lyrics and in the character development of Elsa.
  • The story rejects romantic love as its central message and instead centres on the familial love of two sisters.

This being Disney, there really is zero implications about Elsa’s sexuality EXCEPT that at no point does she act out of desire for a romantic relationship with anybody of any gender. And with that we get to part of the multiple issues the right continue to have with the film.

  • Both Elsa and Anna reject a story line (and hence a role) of a princess finding the love of a prince. This element is strongest with Anna rather than Elsa. Anna does fall in love with a prince and while that helps drive the plot, this does not lead to the normal resolution because…
  • ..the prince is actually a shit bag. I’m surprised there are fewer rightwingers complaining that the film is ‘anti-man’. I guess because it is a reasonable point that at least some men are shitbags and it is a sibling’s duty to point that out.
  • Elsa overtly and very musically rejects not so much romantic love etc but ALL societal expectations of her and goes off and does her own thing. Now, the film’s ‘message’ is really quite reactionary in so far as it shows the CONSEQUENCE of this as throwing the whole kingdom into eternal winter but…
  • …instead of rejecting her descion to be independent, Elsa treats the whole eternal winter more as a technical problem to be solved.

Are the lyrics to ‘Let It Go’ amoral? Sure – the right ALMOST has a point there. Elsa, in frustration, rejects all of society so that she can act in anyway she likes. I mean, that does sound familiar – not so much ‘Crowley’ but the whole strain of ‘positive thinking’ self-help radical individualism that is peddled by multiple strands of the Alt-Right. The lyrics could *almost* be an anthem for some sections of the Alt-Right, except…

…except that it is a woman singing them and a woman rejecting not people expecting a basic level of decency & compassion but rather a mass of expectations that are literally crushing her ability to do what she is good at. And Elsa does ‘learn her lesson’ in this regard by realising that she SHOULD be allowed to be herself and make bridges and mountain top ice palaces but not at the expense of cutting herself off from her society and family.

Put another way – I think maybe ‘Let It Go’ struck a chord with these guys a bit. It caused a tiny twinge of recognition of their own feelings in a quite different character, to the extent that years later they still can’t (ahem) let it go. Yet, at the same time, the SAME message expressed their deepest fear – women following their own dreams for their own motives independent of societal expectations for the role of women.

To finish, here’s that song again but a version where Disney cut together all the multiple language versions:

*[I’ve had some concerned people on the right express concern for the sweeping headline. Not All Rightists hate Elsa and some find her quite charming 🙂 ]

Ockham, the neo-Thomist right and transgender rights

Micael Gustavsson asked a good question in the previous post and my reply got so long that I thought it should be a post instead. [A caveat – I’m not an expert on Medieval philosophy or Ockham but I have been to Surrey. Any philosophy professors or expert on the theology of the middle ages feel free to correct my errors – or anybody really 🙂 ]

//Why would it have been impossible to reach todaylevel technology based on the philosphical thinking of thinking of Thomas? Or is that maybe to big a question?//

Mainly because it doesn’t work – so assuming technological and scientific thought proceeded anyway then over time then Thomism would increasingly be in conflict with advances in knowledge. It’s not so much that William O had to invent nominalism for science to happen, just that the kind of reasoning & conceptual framework that will come about in response to engaging scientifically with the world won’t match Thomism.

In reality, the most famous divergence came with Galileo’s conflict with the Catholic church but that just highlights one spot where a central authority tried to hold onto one aspect of a broader model and picked a very silly spot to make their stand.

I don’t think Ockham set these changes in Western thought in motion – I think he was an astute thinker who spotted a whole set of flaws in the Thomist consensus. The only way for these flaws to STAY overlooked would have been for the Catholic Church to somehow prevent intellectual development in Western Europe at both a philosophical and practical level.

Put a different way: the neo-Thomist right really want things (i.e. everything) to exist to serve an underlying purpose and for categories of things to reflect that purpose and deviations of things FROM those categories & purposes are therefore immoral.

A current example is the right and its reaction to transgender people. Now let me be clear the basic issue of the right is simply bigotry and ignorant prejudice but the styles of rationalisations that the right applies neatly illustrates how the view on categories works as an epistemology and a view on ethics.

So an anti-transgender rights conservative (which isn’t all of them) might claim that:

  • there are only two sexes/gender
  • that God created those two sexes for distinct purposes
  • that when a person acts in a way contrary to the purposes of their sex that is sinful (because it is ‘unnatural’/against God’s purpose)
  • that therefore they should not be encouraged or enabled to do so

These ideas are really just bigotry but if you were casting around for a reputable philosophical scheme to rationalise them then a set of ideas that join Plato, Aristotle, St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas look attractive. This is the idea that the reason things are similar (and hence can be lumped together in categories) even though they are different (so we can tell them apart) is because the truer, deeper, more essential reality IS the category. All women are alike (in this idea) because womaness is the underlying truth. As a way of thinking it makes sense if you are classifying quadrilaterals (all square-like things are instances of the underlying deeper truth of the Platonic ideal of a square).

Now there is a whole bunch of stuff there: a metaphysics, a theory of science, a view of God and theological truth (i.e. we can reason about categories and discover ethical truths). Why do John C Wright and Vox Day like syllogisms? Because they were a medieval/classic way of reasoning about CATEGORIES.

Now Ockham called bullshit on aspects of this. Specifically he moved (reluctantly at times) towards a position called nominalism – essentially that categories are primarily convenient ways of thinking about stuff. Things are essentially different but humans can identify similarities and lump similar things together. But that lumping together isn’t the truer deeper reality. Nominalism has its problems also obviously. However, when we look at things scientifically what do we see:

  • There are not only two human biological sexes. It is not a biological fact that humans divide neatly into two simple groupings by sex. It’s not true physically and it isn’t true genetically.

Now, the existance of inter-sex people is NOT the cornerstone of transgender rights – those rights exist regardless but I’ll get back to that. I’m highlighting it because it illustrates how the neo-Thomist scheme falls apart on a contemporary issue once we engage with the actual facts of the world. Even quite strong natural/empirical categories that we encounter empirically (such as biological genetic sex in humans) that has fairly well-understood causal (in the modern sense) basis does not form categories with zero fuzziness in the boundary. If God set up this scheme then God set up a scheme in which categorical boundaries have a tendency to get fractal.

And that’s JUST sex! Gender brings in questions or societal roles, behaviour, attitudes, dress, personality etc shows no respect for neat natural categories. Of course, the empirical evidence for this is in the ‘softer’ sciences of psychology and sociology and hence easier for the right to dismiss but essentially we have a similar issue. The neo-Thomist is claiming that the categories are a TRUTH about the universe i.e. A QUESTION OF FACT and that from those facts THEOLOGICAL truths can be established (God’s intent) and from that an ETHICAL truth can be inferred (being transgender is supposedly against God’s purpose) – and they are plain wrong.

I doubt William of Ockham had and views or perspective on the issue of transgender rights and there isn’t a coherent way of saying what he would think if he was alive today because he’d be a different person BUT! Bill-O (as I feel I should call him now) was already pulling apart most of the pieces of that argument.

  • His nominalism points to categories as being empirical observational things that will have exceptions, complications, and non-neat boundaries. We live in a world in which there is a platypus and birds are tiny singing dinosaurs.
  • His fiedism separated theological truths from logical and empirical ones. I.e. if God exists then God transcends logic (God is more powerful than logic and isn’t constrained by it) but therefore you can’t logic God.

Now, as I said I don’t want to overstate the fact that biological sex is not a neat category as a reason for transgender rights being important. That isn’t the actual positive reasoning. Rather, it is the fact that biological sex is not a neat category that demonstrates that the neo-Thomist argument CANNOT be correct. It is a metaphysical scheme that falls apart when brought into contact with OBSERVATION – which is what happened repeatedly since Plato first came up with the idea. Ironically it was Aristotle (who Thomas Aquinas venerated) who began chipping away at the scheme. It wasn’t a bad idea as such and Platonism had a good run in mathematics until at least the 19th century.

To move away from biology and sociology, you can see how this divergence works in chemistry. Neat categories of four elements gives way to a plethora of elements. The periodic table itself isn’t a fatal wound because there are lots of natural groupings but the inherent fuzziness (e.g. elements that are nearly but not quite metals) pushes against it. Atomic theory kills it dead – the commonalities between elements arise not from them all being in the same category but rather similarities at an atomic level lead to common properties. Having the quality of a metal becomes something that can be described without recourse to the quality of being a metal.

Anyway, this article on William of Ockham is a good read: http://www.iep.utm.edu/ockham/

Also Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, which is a great read regardless is very much tied up in the times and ideas of William of Ockham as prototype for modern rationalism. The protagonist, William of Baskerville, shares the same first name with the addition of the allusion to Sherlock Holmes but is also an English Fransciscan and contemporary of William of Ockham. The background to the story involves a political dispute between the Pope and the real life Michael of Cesena head of the Franciscans in which William of Ockham was involved.

 

Review: Ghostbusters Versus Timothy

holtzmannspecs

CF: So Ghostbusters, what did you think?
Timothy: Overall I felt the  duffel bag could have been larger.
CF: Seriously, it was the only way to get you into the cinema.
Timothy: Ah, the ‘No Cats’ rule again.
CF: Specifically the ‘No cats called Timothy because he keeps shouting at the characters in the movie’ rule again.
Timothy: I believe my fellow patrons enjoy my ad-hoc commentary.
CF: Well, unfortunately, some less appreciative patrons have complained sufficiently often that you’re are permanently banned.
Timothy: Phillip Steins
CF: I think you mean ‘Philistines’
Timothy: No, that’s the manager’s name: Phillip Stein.
CF: Back to the film?
Timothy: Well all I can say is that I’m glad you took me to see the original movie and not the horrid all-girl version.
CF: This was the “all-girl” version.
Timothy: I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. I would have hated the all-girl version.
CF: We’ve been through this Timothy, remember? The lesson on how to tell human males and females apart?
Timothy: It’s a bit hazy and I think it involved beards.
CF: Well I wish I hadn’t mentioned facial hair at all as it got quite complicated.
Timothy: Frankly, you are all disgusting.
CF: But seriously, I don’t get how you can push your anti-feminist nonsense when you can’t actually tell men from women. Do your views extend to the cat world?
Timothy: Don’t be absurd. For starters we ascribe gender by scent and the complexities of cat social dynamics are far superior to humans.
CF: So you confine your prejudice solely to human women, who you can’t actually tell apart from human men?
Timothy: My ‘prejudices’ as you but it are derived by sheer force of logical reasoning.
CF: Actually from sheer force of you reading too many right wing websites.
Timothy: Brietbart understands where the young cat about town is coming from.
CF: I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you are a thoroughly incompetent misogynist.
Timothy: Back to the classic movie? I feel we may have drifted from the topic at hand and into the field of verbally abusing cats.
CF: This was the remake.
Timothy: Oh you poor deluded soul.
CF: You’ve never seen the original.
Timothy: I did today, although it was from tiny holes cut in a canvas duffel bag. What is a duffel anyway? Duffel bags, duffel coats, can you duffel anything?
CF: I think it is a nautical term but we digress again. Best character?
Timothy: Holtzmann.
CF: I concur.
Timothy: Holtzmann was everything a manly cat looks for in a hero. Smart, sound engineering skills, cat-like reflexes and inventive in choice of weaponry.
CF: Personally I liked her mix of oddball personality and sense of humour. She combined aspects of both Egon and Venkman.
Timothy: I’m assuming those people are Communists.
CF: No, those are two of the original Ghostbusters.
Timothy: Absurd. Manifestly Holtzmann is an inherently original character and not some chimeric blending of two Communist writers who probably looked like hipster baristas.
CF: Well I agree that Holtzmann was quite a distinctive character and funny too.
Timothy: I also liked the tall one.
CF: ‘Patty’ played by Leslie Jones.
Timothy: Didn’t like the Australian.
CF: Again I concur. Hemsworth didn’t quite carry off the reverse stereotype of the ditzy receptionist.
Timothy: The others were fine. I particularly liked the misunderstood central character who was really only trying to assert himself in a troubled world.
CF: You’ve lost me again.
Timothy: The nice chap who worked in the hotel.
CF: The main villain?
Timothy: I thought he made some good points.
CF: But you do get that he was the bad guy?
Timothy: Sure, but he was a tragic figure of misunderstood genius. I’m sure they must have cut a scene where the heroic Holtzmann grieved at having to eliminate him.
CF: mmm I’m pretty sure they didn’t.
Timothy: Oh, maybe it was in the end credits! We should have stayed till the end of the credits!
CF: Yeah, well I would have liked to but *somebody* wanted to use the ‘bathroom’.
Timothy: Would it have killed you to put a litter tray in that duffel bag?
CF: Aside from Hemsworth, other faults? I thought there were some odd discontinuities. The stuff about the mayor warning the Ghostbusters off never really went anywhere. One moment he was basically shutting them down and the next moment they are back at base saying everything is fine and trying out new weapons. Also, the stuff with the grey hair didn’t go anywhere either.
Timothy: Again, probably in the end credits which you wouldn’t let us watch.
CF: Faults from your perspective?
Timothy: Insufficient Holtzmann screen time. Also, the film should have been called ‘Holtzmann’ and really should have just been Holtzmann building and then testing proton guns.
CF: Oddly, I would watch that. Did you find it funny?
Timothy: Funny? A film about the restless souls of the dead? Are you some kind of unfeeling monster?
CF: Let’s just assume the answer is ‘yes’ to that question because I thought it kept the laughs up quite well. There were a few flat bits of dialogue, though. I don’t think Kristen Wigg and Melissa McCarthy had quite the same repartee as Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd.
Timothy: The scary bits were scary at the start.
CF: Yes, it had a good creepy vibe. The cameos weren’t great.
Timothy: Camo? They didn’t wear camo. OK the soldiers near the end wore camo…
CF: Cameos. Appearance by the original cast in minor roles. Having said that the best one was the last one appropriately.
Timothy: OK, bored now. Sum it all up.
CF: For a remake, pretty good. A nice mix of comedy, spooky elements and action.
Timothy: Certainly better than that terrible movie with girl Ghostbusters that nobody is watching at all.
CF: Can we agree one one thing? HOLTZMANN!
Timothy: HOLTZMANN!
CF: HOLTZMANN!!!!
Timothy: HOLTZMAANNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!
CF: You win.
Timothy: Naturally. Now excuse me while I fashion some goggles.

An insight into video game sexism? I’m in two minds…

A graph - go and read the paper.

A graph – go and read the paper.

There is an interesting paper (with an odd flaw) on sexism in online video games. It was published the other day on PLOS ONE and can be read in full here: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0131613 Hoorah for open access! [You can even download their data and their R scripts]

Two researchers (Kasumovic from UNSW in Sydney and Kuznekoff from Miami University Middletown in Miami) used Xbox Live to play Halo 3 and recorded audio and video of their team games. They also created three special accounts: one nominated as male, one nominated as female and one nominated as a control. The control account was used to play the game without any verbal input. The other two accounts used a set of pre-recorded audio phrase which were identical between the two accounts but one recorded with a male voice and the other with a female voice.

These prerecorded phrases were identical in the male and female condition, harmless in nature, and designed to be inoffensive. Phrases included: ‘I like this map’, ‘nice shot there’, ‘I had fun playing that game’, ‘I think I just saw a couple of them heading this way’, and ‘that was a good game everyone’.

Having collected audio files from a bunch of games they then transcribed the comments of the other (real) players assigned to them by the game and then they coded those transcripts to identify sexism in the comments. In addition that they had a range of performance values for each of the players (number of kills etc).

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