Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ataraxia

Stuff you learn when you watch movies...

Ataraxia. A state of mind characterized by freedom from worry and preoccupation. A little like what Buddhists might call 'detachment', though it's more 'European, if you will, with a taste of hedonism thrown in.

In Lucky Number Slevin they make it sound like it's a syndrome of sorts. "I have ataraxia," says Slevin. Something you catch, like a disease? No matter. What's important is that I learned a new word here. Belonging into the 'classical' European tradition at that. If movies educate you at the same time as they entertain, how can you go wrong? Same goes for novels. Which is why I do not believe in dumbing down my vocabulary, for example; and why, despite an occasional comment from somebody or other, "but people don't use that kind of language" I ignore them—unless they're talking about what might be termed 'contemporary stories', set in the context and asking for the use of the vernacular of the present.

One day, in the future, near, medium and distant—for most of which I intend to be around, so that should be interesting—these novels will qualify as 'historical', since they will have been set 'in the past'. As such they constitute a record of the time, albeit filtered through the mind of a single individual. Much like any piece of past 'literature', high-brow or not. And if we write novels qualifying as 'historical'—that is, set in a period which we know existed—it behooves us to check up on what people said then and there; as much as we can actually check up on it. Historians, to me, appear to be amazingly ignorant of what actually went on in the days of yore from whence there is no such thing as, for example, an audio recording. The presumption of those who claim otherwise never ceases to amaze me. Truth is, nobody has the faintest clue of how, for example, Shakespeare actually talked, or what kinds of tone his plays were delivered in. How did the actors speak? In everyday voices? Did they project themselves at the audience or at their fellow actors? How did someone in those days actually direct a play?

Nobody knows. All conjecture is, at its heart, fiction; at best 'informed', and at worst utterly ignorant and very fictitious indeed.

Science fiction has the advantage of being exempt from these constraints, and historical science fiction, which is really a mild form of 'fantasy', is in the same fortunate position. And I, for one, like being able to use any damn vernacular that happens to tickle my fancy and which I may find suitable.

Back to ataraxia. Is there an antonym? What is it a hyponym of? What is hyponymous to its hypernymity? Just trying to encourage some searching here, folks. New words are good. New words at the very least hint at new vistas of cognition and verbal grasping of the world.

Ataraxia, of course, is less of a syndrome than a state of mind. Taken to excess, this one leads to indifference about the goings on in the world. But in the right dose it helps one to retain perspective. "Fear," say the Bene Gesserit, "is the mind killer." I say the mind-killer is pointless worry—a state of mind where you lose a sense of what matters and what doesn't.

I once read about a condition—forgot what it was called—in which people are unable to filter and classify in terms of their relevance, especially immediate, of impressions, sensations, perceptions of either external or internal 'events'. That must be a real bummer; worse I'd say than anything that's currently fashionable.

And yet, is a version of it not endemic right now? We live in a civilization/society/ambience where people are apparently totally unable to prioritize that's important to them. People live in a life-priority flatland. As a result they're swamped with 'important things'. Issues about life and death and responsibility mingle freely and without discrimination with those of work-trivia and meaning-of-life bullshit. And a mind swamped with 'important things', all of which appear also to compete for immediate attention—though a shitload of them can damn well wait their turn—is a prime candidate for, to make up a term, but not an unreasonable one of 'anataraxia'; that being the negation of ataraxia, and if it isn't I have just defined it as being so, using the prefix 'an-' (prefixing a word beginning with a vowel) to conform to a common way of negating that which follows the prefix.

So, are you living in an anataraxic cosmos of your own? If so, consider that all that creates is stress and really stupid decisions about your life.

Consider that.

And this is my last blog for the next 2+ weeks or so. My wife and I are going on a vacation to the Northern Territory, starting in Darwin and ending up in Alice Springs. No computers are coming, though a printout of an old screenplay of mine that I want to take a closer look at again, will. Plus books—to read. I'll probably visit the odd internet cafe, but will try—and I don't think it'll be difficult—to keep such visits down to a minimum. I have, however, found out that even in the very hearts of places like the Kakadu National Park, cellphone reception is perfectly adequate. So, not out of touch. Can't have that now, can we?

So, folks, until sometime after August 15, have a good time and try to work on your anataraxic issues.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Too damn busy to blog...

...because I'm trying to go on holidays and there's not enough time in the day for anything but...whatever. Grrrr....

Anyway, meanwhile, and for your amusement, here's this. I laughed and laughed...

And this here for those requiring a serious Cartman fix.

Friday, July 20, 2007

In good company

Friend of mine forwarded this link to me. Take heart, all ye authors with gazillions of rejection slips. It may not be about you but them. And, yes, I've got craploads of rejection slips and emails, from agents and publishers alike, collected over almost three decades. It a struggle, folks; but as they say, NEVER GIVE UP!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bodies - again

A few days ago, after over 2.5 years' service and intensive and very productive use—three novels, virtually all the books I publish designed and laid out, plus video work and website development, and, of course, email email email—my iBook G4 suddenly gave up its functionality. Meaning it stopped working. Symptoms: a blank screen, a pathetic beep when starting up, a disk drive waiting for someone to tell it what to do, but no someone there saying a damn thing. The fault diagnosed was a fatally faulty logic board—for PC users that's what's known as a 'motherboard', which I always considered a quaint term—which is very expensive to procure and install, and it really wasn't worth the effort. So I bought a MacBook, which I probably needed anyway for HD video processing, and so that was fate telling me "now's the time, boy", or something cheesy along those lines. Sometimes fate can be very chatty.

Anyway, last night I did some disassembling of the carcass of the iBook G4, to get out the bits that I'll try and sell on that great NZ eBay equivalent called TradeMe: 1 Gb RAM, AirportExtreme card, modem, Combo drive, hard-drive, various other bits and pieces. I also detached the LCD display, which works perfectly and might do for someone whose has packed up or shows too many missing pixels.

As I was doing this a few things occurred to me, not least because a laptop—and especially the Mac versions, which are tightly-packed machines with just about every cubic mm used up for something functional—isn't like your average PC box, or even the Mac 'Tower' style cases, whose innards you put together willy-nilly; a graphics adapter here, a drive there, an ethernet card in that slot and the motherboard can be just about anything suitable, manufactured in places that have no name, and possibly by people working as effective slaves. No, a laptop is a highly integrated entity in which everything is where it is because it has to be there and you can't exchange this and that or move it from that slot to the other. If you did things just wouldn't fit together anymore. The layout even takes into account the issues of airflow through such narrow confined spaces with no-space-to-spare. The things, mechanical as it is, has significant metaphorical correlations to a human body, and I'll leave it to you how you map the various components of an iBook G4 onto a human body.

What occurred to me, above all, just how much the sudden demise of my iBook looked like the death a fellow martial artist some weeks back. Same absurd thing, really. Apparently fit and fighting, but there was that tiny but critical and fatal flaw that made things go terminally wrong. You can lose a leg and live. Hell, you can lose all limbs and live. You can lose even more and live. We have the technology. But one little f***up in the wrong place and it all ends. Could be a thing so tiny that nobody will ever fully understand it—like which one of the millions of transistors on that logic board crapped out?—but it's the one that puts you under. End of story. Remember that. Always. If the next heartbeat don't come, neither does anything else as far as you're concerned. Remember that.

And there I was, feeling like one of the corpse-slicer-uppers described in grisly detail in that article Who Owns Your Body Parts? I know, it makes no sense, because that's just a damn iBook G4, and I really don't have any sentimental affinity for anything that isn't alive and preferably human—though cats are right up there, too—but the metaphor was so glaring, and especially with the obvious similarities between the design of tightly packed laptops and living bodies. Talk about irony! Man!

The point is, of course—and this, when I get back to Bodies, is one of the important underlying 'messages', if you will—it's OK to take apart and cannibalize an iBook and think of the similarities between doing that and disassembling a human body...but it's not OK to disassemble a human body and think of it with nor more feeling as an engineer would who takes a computer apart for spare parts.

And it is not OK—and I wasn't going to talk about this, but suddenly I feel I have to—to subject the world to the spectacle which an Oprah show regaled us to. It was shown in NZ only a few weeks ago, and therefore at a time when I was in the middle of the beginning of Bodies, and it was like "looky-here, Till, this is yet another case..."

I didn't watch the show, because I was busy blogging, but someone else in our house did and I was in the same room, and despite earphones I caught the occasional visual impression. One sequence held me in horrified thrall and I still feel like puking every time I think of it. It was possibly the most revolting and revealing thing I've ever seen Oprah do—and she's produced quite a few doozies.

It was one of those medical shows. Her favorite doc—the one who last time I saw him was talking about the required number of bowl movements and farts for a healthy life, plus just exactly what consistency your feces should have, and then Oprah revealed things about herself, yet more things, that really neither the world nor anybody except her and her shrink really needs to know—this time was going on about why you eat too much and it was all about that grand obsession: diet. In the course of this he felt it necessary to exhibit a brain, which was duly taken out of the preserving fluid and placed into Oprah's latex-gloved hand; after the necessary "I don't know if I can do this!" and the usual crap; all, one would suspect, carefully scripted and rehearsed, at least by Oprah in her dressing room, and probably in front of a mirror and a gazillion variations with just Oprah-on-Oprah.

Actually that sounded crude. Yeah, well, why not?

So, here she was, holding that brain like it was some disease; of maybe some slimy mollusc threatening to crawl over her. And the doc was using the occasion—or so I would presume from the body language, because I didn't actually hear anything—to make soothing noises and "it's just a brain" and all that. And then he pointed out anatomical features and so it went as it had to.

Well, folks, in the throes of her self-indulgent revulsion and the scientific ponderings of the doc, did it occur to anybody to pause for a moment? Did anybody even allow for a few seconds' silence. Just everybody shutting their damn mouths, while they were looking at the brain and remembering that once upon a time whatever processes went on within that blob of matter constituted the reality, the sole and exclusive world of a complete human being? A unique creature like you and me and that stupid woman holding the brain with this expression of utter disgust and "eek!"?

People will go and stare at works of 'art' and "ohh" and "ahh", and they'll marvel at our technological products and go all mushy over some piece of gadgetry. And there's fashion, of course, the fatuosity of which makes me shudder sometimes—and, yes, I had a little dig at it in Tethys, and will make a point of poking and prodding and needling some more—and all the other things we're so proud of. And yet, what is all that, but the perceptible product and creation of brains—like the blob that woman held with an expression of utter disgust for all the world to see, as if it were something to be despised and gross and generally disgusting.

And yet it is all we are. Without it we would not be. Without the processes taking place inside it and connected with it, we would not be. And the moment these processes stop, we are not. Or maybe we are; for who knows, right? But even then we are not what we were when we were incorporated in our brain and our bodies.

Yes, I know the brain in that jar is without 'life'.

Now.

Once it was not. Once it was a 'he' or a 'she'. A person with a name. Probably a family. Conceivably friends, who grieved when s/he died. Whoever donated their body to 'science'—never anticipating, I bet, the disgusting spectacle it would become the focus of—deserves much better than s/he got. Knowing that this might happen to bits and pieces of you, would you consider 'donating' your leftovers to anything but a grave? I think I'd rather have my corpse feed worms than have it or pieces thereof displayed on Oprah in such a disrespectful manner.

Back top my dismembered and taken-apart iBook G4. I have its 'brain', if you will; wherein lies whatever constituted its 'identity'. The 'logic board' was really just the equivalent of the physical structure that is the brain. The 'contents' were somewhere else; in this instance on the hard-drive, where resides the software and what it 'is', if you will. Or 'was'.

Funny thing is—'funny' in an analogical kind of way, in the sense of what it might be taken to mean—I can, and will, put the hard-drive into an enclosure and boot my eMac from it; and I wouldn't know from its behavior that is wasn't actually my former iBook—except for the speed maybe. I can also transfer—this after all is a Mac and not some Winpuke abomination—just about all of the stuff on the disk, including applications, to my new MacBook, which therefore undergoes something resembling possession-by-reincarnation. Partial possession anyway. A mind imposed on a body that might otherwise have had another kind of mind. Different brain—sorry, 'logic board'—which will deal with all of this differently and make me do things differently because it's a new OS as well; but that's what you'd expect in reincarnation; or should that be 'reincircuitation' maybe?

A metaphor for something that may happen to human beings as well? Good question. In the Tethys series that possibility is left open for question—in the Caitlan-Ailin duality—though this does not constitute an endorsement of the concept; merely a suggestion that it may be possible. I really don't know. And that reminds me that the Caitlan-Ailin story-line is very much unresolved—at least as I see it. I know how I want to 'resolve' it, but I don't think Dance of Tigers, or whatever it'll be called, is the place. Which has certain implications...

What a tangled web...

And, by the way, gotta watch the new GetAMac ads, folks!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Second Purest Motivation of them All

Couple of nights ago I saw a flick on DVD which is probably best known under the title Lucky Number Slevin, though in the Australia/NZ region it is distributed under the title The Wrong Man. It has a cast that reads like a Who's Who of movies, ranging from Bruce Willis and Josh Harnett to Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley and the incomparable Lucy Liu.

The summary from IMDb reads:

A case of mistaken identity lands Slevin (Josh Hartnett) into the middle of a war being plotted by two of the city's most rival crime bosses: The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). Slevin is under constant surveillance by relentless Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) as well as the infamous assassin Goodkat (Bruce Willis) and finds himself having to hatch his own ingenious plot to get them before they get him.

It's one of those flicks where nothing is as it seems, and I'm definitely going to give it a second viewing, because in the end I realized how everything was just so nicely wrapped up and the tangled web untangled itself in that second most pure of motivating emotions: REVENGE. You think 'The Bride' in Kill Bill is pissed off? Kiddo, you ain't seen nothing yet. Just about everybody in The Wrong Man—I like that title better; less tongue-in-cheek and more to the point, or off-the-point, as the case may be—dies by bullets, projected from silenced semi-automatics—not swords—but it works just as well. Lots of brains and gore spattering across the place, plus a neat twist at the end in a tale of a gazillion tangles and twists and quick non-linear time warps to explain what the hell was actually going on. And, yes, the IMDb summary is accurate, but it's just what you're supposed to think, but things—as we all know, right?—ain't what they seem. Nothing ever is.

Ahh, yes, sweet revenge. In Dance of Tigers also, at the very end, someone's going to get their revenge, which in this case is several hundred years overdue, but shall be executed with a flair for inexorable and fitting justice, with lots and lots of compound interest. I have, so far, avoided motivating anybody in the Tethys series by revenge. If anything, revenge was held back, as in the case of 'Mac', who also had a score to settle, but never did and had it done for him by default. Can't tell you by whom, of course. You're supposed to read the damn story!

It occurred to me that 'Falcon', Mac's friend and brother-in-arms, who is a much less complicated character—note that I wrote 'less complicated'; not 'simple'!—should get an opportunity to exorcise some serious old demons. It also makes the story very personal, rather than just being a complicated plot of schemes within schemes and tangled webs woven—and, of course, Tigers dancing.

I also noticed right now that I have never written a novel in which revenge figured as a definite and major motivator. Of course, 'Sam' in Seladiënna was partially motivated by what might have been a 'revenge' kind of motive; but it still wasn't central, and when the issue was resolved, it turned out to be another one of those almost casual resolutions, full of bathos, whose purpose was to show that plans are made by man and adjusted by contingency—and never mind the satisfaction-factor.

As it is developing and the story starts fitting together in my head, Dance of Tigers is rapidly becoming what may be the most complex of the Tethys series—and possibly the longest by a wide margin. I'm trying to figure out how to keep everything I want to put in there in a single volume. I've always tried to keep the pace crisp and the books of manageable size, but I can see how, if I did that, we'd end up with a Kill Bill kind of situation, where you basically just cut something in half because there's just too much of it for one showing. And if that happens I will need to change the title. Can't have Dance of Tigers I and Dance of Tigers II. Too tacky. So, my thinking is that I'll just write the thing—which will take the rest of the year, I suppose—with and eye on story-structure to account for the potential need to divide the story in two for publication.

Back to revenge.

A lot has been said about it and written and armchair-philosophized and blah-blah-moralized. Fact is that, next to the considerably more difficult-to-analyze complex of emotions usually labeled 'love'—and I'm not touching that one, except in fiction!—revenge (or maybe it should really be Revenge, just like it should be Love) is probably the most potent of motivations conceivable. Which is, of course, the main reason why the moralizers, spiritual and legal, of the world insist that it's not a good thing to let run loose. Potent emotions tend to scare those who want to impose order upon other human beings. And, yes, it is true, that you've got to watch that this kind of thing is under a tight reign; channeled, as it were, by a goodly dose of personal control, which requires a measure of 'reason' as I explained in another blog, quite a while back.

Robert Solomon, in his book In Defense of Sentimentality discusses the role of 'revenge' in legal systems, and anybody interested should have a look at the relevant chapter—but when it comes to individual talion everybody, from your average pious asshole to Shakespeare seem to think that it isn't such a good idea; something that will, in some way, consume the person harboring the emotion. Of course, the Klingons have it all worked out, with revenge being a dish best served cold and all that. I'm all for that, because it's another way of stating that metaphor I used here; only, as fiction often does, it may actually be a much better way of saying it.

But, as far as motivations go, Revenge is about a good as you can get. Search me why. I suspect the reasons are manifold, ranging from an innate sense of the need for Cosmic Equipoise, to use a Vancean bit of terminology, to a need for an individual to right a terrible wrong or maybe to perform a perceived correction of an inadequacy, such as that of one's helplessness to protect loved ones when it was necessary and now there's only this left to, if not make things right, but at least expurgate the demons of one's failure. Since I'm not one much inclined to wallow in desires for forgiveness, or forgetting for that matter, I have a large measure of sympathy for all of those emotions—as, I think, secretly also do many, if not most, of those who would condemn talion. And revenge upon the perpetrators responsible for the death of a loved one; what could be more pure and understandable? Screw either turning the other cheek or forgive-and-forget. Some things simply need doing to make sure everything is, if not 'all right', at least as 'right', or 'adjusted' if you will, as it can be, given the bad things that have gone before, and given that you can't fix the past, even if you wanted to—for things are as they are only because they were as they were and not any different.

By the way, Revenge in The Wrong Man was not a dish eaten completely cold. In the final act, when the worst offender of them all gets his brains spattered across the inside of his car, the purity of the emotion and its raw darkness—and at the same time it's utter inevitability and sheer rightness—is beautifully portrayed by an actor, for whom I have acquired a new respect; for he evidences both, a subtle comic timing that needs to be seen to be believed, as well as a capacity to look like an almost-evil implacable dispenser of justice that had been far too long in coming. Very nicely done. Highly recommended for those of my disposition—though those of more tender sensibilities might find the blood and gore somewhat off-putting.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Infatuation: compulsion or choice?

Still on that subject, as I was here.

Here's a definition, which is representative:

infatuate
verb
    infatuated, infatuating
    1. To inspire someone with, or make them feel, passionate, foolish, intense, etc love or admiration.
Derivative: infatuated
adj
    Filled with passion for them or it; besotted with them or it.
      Thesaurus: enamored, enraptured, smitten, captivated, bewitched, beguiled, fascinated, spellbound, obsessed, fixated; Antonym: indifferent, disenchanted.
Derivative: infatuation
    The state of being inspired with passionate love, admiration or enthusiasm.
      Thesaurus: fascination, obsession, passion, love, devotion, fondness, intoxication.
    Something or someone that inspires one's passionate love, admiration or enthusiasm.
      Example: DIY is an infatuation with him
      Thesaurus: fascination, obsession, passion, love, fixation, crush (slang).
Etymology: 16c: from Latin infatuare, infatuatum to make a fool of.

The Wikipedia entry is more elaborate.

Back to John, Jane and Liz, with the latter having a husband as well, whom we shall call Jack. A plethora of 'J' names. Search me.

The notion that John and Liz are in the throes of 'infatuation' may be dragged into the discussion as an exculpatory explanation for the mess that's been created. Emotions running rampant, passions running high and out of control, co-dependence reigning supreme—look up the paragraphs in Wikipedia; save me a whole lot of words. However, back to the notion of 100% responsibility, it looks to me like it's all about excuses for what is commonly known as 'infidelity', which basically means a breach of faith relating to some form of contract entered upon, be it quasi-legal or emotional. In the context of monogamous, or maybe even polygamous, marriage the 'faith' usually relates to an agreement of sexual relationship with those not in the marriage being a no-no. It can go further than that. For example, in terms of the emotional context, there may be an expectation of an emotional non-involvement outside the marriage, even if this doesn't lead to actual adultery. The involvement need not even be sexual, but might involve any element which a spouse might expect/consider to be confined to the context of the monogamous relationship.

As an aside, for someone like me, who writes stories--and, let's face it, infidelity is a bottomless spring of material for conflict and ruminations about the complexities of human relationships--all of this is fascinating, though one must, of course, not allow it to degenerate into soap and melodrama. Well, actually a bit of both is cool, but there's a definite danger zone that one must not enter into, lest one opens oneself to victimization by one's own schemes and clever tricks. However, what I find most interesting are the wide range of implicit and explicit notions of what is expected of 'relationship fidelity' and how crucially dependent their exercise is on there existing a mutually well-communicated understanding between the partners--and how, as the expectations change , this understanding must change as with them and communication needs to be maintained in order to synch, as it were, the people involved.

Back to responsibility though. We surely can see how very useful in this everyday and ubiquitous relationship context exculpatory attribution of concepts is for those requiring excuses and wanting to claim diminished responsibility for their actions. And 'infatuation' definitely is one of those; and it gets even more so as people find some glory in that aspect of 'infatuation' that has to do with being made a fool of; either by others, or by oneself, or maybe by some emotion that has overwhelmed one's better judgment. While I'm all on the side of Epictetus when he writes, 'if you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid', I'd like to point out that there's a difference between be thought foolish and actually being a fool.

Infatuation is not 'love'; it's just something that looks like love and which exhibits certain aspects of it; but which, with its less savory aspects, denies and denigrates love. The Chinese character for love (愛) consists of a heart (心, in the middle) inside of "accept", "feel", or "perceive". Quite different to the syrupy, cloying foolishness of infatuation.

In particular--and I have tried to express this in fictional form, and I'm still trying because it is complicated and all-too-easily misunderstood--love requires a significant element of good faith. And good faith is a matter of choice. Maybe said choice is made by imperfect human beings. Maybe it is made by human beings who, like we all do, do not read each others' minds and therefore always in a state of at least partial ignorance about the expectations of even those closest to us. But that is 'ordinary' human limitation. And there will be flawed judgments. And for each of those we will be entirely responsible.

Should one therefore blame people for their actions? Well, that is not an existential choice, but a moral and ethical one. Which makes it essentially arbitrary--or does it? When we do something from entirely monomaniacal motivations--and especially if we know that we do, denial or not--that will inflict suffering on those who have a right to expect better of us... I don't think it is arbitrary. How can it be?

Last, here's part of a definition of 'responsibility' I found: Ability to meet obligations or to act without superior authority or guidance. I like that one very much.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Things you just got to know about (more)

There's this. Words fail me.

Ultimate Force vs. The Unit - Parte Tertia

Afterthoughts to this and this.

Some more indicators on the completely different 'takes' on the topic of elite 'soldiers', and who they are and why they do what they do and how:

Consider for one the names of the two series: The Unit vs. Ultimate Force. What someone is, as opposed to what he does or represents. Also, the word 'unit' itself carries implications of who these people are; how they relate to each other. In The Unit this relationship is stronger than that these people have to the nation-state these people serve. They know that sooner or later there is a definite possibility that they will be right royally screwed by very people whom they serve, or who are at least above them in the chain of command. Hence they take care of their own first—their comrades and their families—even if that involves criminal-appearing activities; which ultimately are getting them into strife with the bad guys from the CIA, who would rather that they were the only ones doing illegal things.

In Ultimate Force, even in the initial series, 'family' always figured mainly as a device to show how screwed up people can get when they do the kind of stuff these guys do, and how that mucks up their families and their lives, and just how horrible it is that we have to have soldiers who kill at all and all that. In later series that aspect was toned down, and anybody in a 'relationship' with anybody was either killed off or else simply disappeared into life outside the 'Regiment'. In The Unit, by contrast, the families aren't just 'there', but form an integral part of the stories. The families actually are a part of The Unit, and the series name includes them implicitly. We are constantly reminded what—apart from playing soldiers and, as is pointed out repeatedly by various characters, "jumping from airplanes"—these men are actually doing what they're doing for, and maybe also why.

The strange lack of motivation and—dare I call it that?—'depth' in the Ultimate Force crew is further revealed by a subplot in Episode 0402, where one of the team takes on a small 'protection' job for a cash payment; a job that ultimately leads him into trouble, though he manages to get himself out of it.

I suppose the point, if there was one, was to show how resourceful the guy could be. What it really revealed though was either negligence and a lack of direction in the show's writing, or else the whole thing was more than a filler and meant to show...well, what? Some element of human fallibility and weakness in the person concerned? Trying to take the super-soldiers down a notch, maybe, as one might expect from a British show requiring some PC-conformance; while David Mamet could basically go out and put his own stamp and vision onto it, together with his co-producer Eric Haney, who used to be a Delta Force operative. After all, it was Mamet who wrote, in the introduction to Inside Delta Force:

"The great military novels have about them an ineffable air of sadness. [They] seem, both in scenes of combat and in the scenes of rest, depictions of a life heightened to the plateau of regret, longing, and loss. The great military memoirs, similarly, are a record of loss and its transmutation into compassion. [...] in Eric Haney's Inside Delta Force, we are welcomed into the curious, moving and persuasive philosophy of the soldier trying to find wisdom in defeat and humility in victory."

That pretty much sets the tone for The Unit. Nothing comparable is on offer for Ultimate Force. More's the pity, for it could be so much more than it is. Point is also, in the episode I mentioned, that a Unit member would never have taken that job-on-the-side; not in a month of Sundays; not unless it was part of whatever had to be done to do the job they came there for. Definitely not to earn an extra buck on the side.

Finally, as for sheer lethality, here's a nice one. In Episode 0402 again, which is set in a Central American country where the troop goes to ostensibly act as advisers and trainers, Henno tells his men that they should wear their sidearms at all times. What a hoot! You've got to tell these fellows to go around armed? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Wouldn't catch the Unit guys naked! The Unit Episode 0113, The Wall, ends in a blood bath. Some bad guys try to invade a Unit celebration at the end and kill everybody there. Revenge stuff by some Balkanese homi- and geno-cidal maniac, whose ass even the French were unable to save—though not for lack of trying, and did I mention that the French aren't Mamet's favorite people?—and whose family ended up in the crossfire. All the fault of the French and the UN of course, but it looked like it had been Jonas and his mates. So, Genocido and his buddies track them down and now want some serious payback. The celebration-invaders are armed with nice HK submachine guns—German quality products; favored around Europe for the use of unfriendly people—and start shooting up the place of celebration.

But, oops, bad luck, chaps. Jonas and the boys, including their Colonel, don't even go to happy-go-lucky celebrations without the appropriate toys tucked away discreetly under their dinner jackets. And these boys know how to shoot. Several thousand rounds every week on the range, just to keep in practice. And so...

...the good guys are left standing.

Yudan Nashi.

A 'warrior' worthy of the appellation shouldn't have to be told to be on guard. Shit always happens when it's furthest from your mind. That's like a law of nature.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things people do when they have too much time

Like making another adding machine (opens in new window/tab). Real cool though!

 

Things that make no sense

OK, so I know the world is full of those, but here's one that needs some comments.

Today's topic of choice: philandering. A term usually applied to men, but let's include women here as well, if for no other reason but that there isn't a special term for a female misbehaving in this manner.

Let's suppose this is a story, or maybe some idle thoughts on what might or might not be a story, and has been the subject of stories forever—for all practical purposes anyway. Meaning it's almost a given among humans. Its reasons are manifold, but here are a couple of things that philanderers and those being philandered upon might wish to consider.

Suppose then that John cheats on his spouse, Jane, with another woman, Liz. Suppose John and Liz are actually infatuated with each other, and that this really isn't all about—as John might claim, and probably will—something that could well be partially attributed to Jane's flaws/behavior/whatever. Suppose that John intends on ditching Jane and, right now anyway, hitching up permanently with Liz in the near to medium term future.

How, I ask myself, can John, excepting if he's a retard, expect this to be workable? I mean, right now John and Liz are in the throes of sexual and otherwise bonding. Both know that John is cheating on Jane, and Liz might well be cheating on a current spouse of her own. Both are cheating, lying, sneaking around. Secret meetings under the cover of lies. But to John and Liz it seems unimportant and fades into insignificance in comparison to whatever they derive from their affair.

But John surely must realize—again, unless he's a pathetic retard in the 'human relationships' area—that one of the reasons why he is cheating, given that he once had similar hots for Jane, is that said hots have become 'warms' at best, and probably have reached fridge-temperature levels. That's what happens in human relationships. Sexual 'hotness' is as much subject to habituation as any other psychological factor. Therefore it is highly likely that, in due course, sexual habituation will also appear in his relationship with Liz.

John probably tells himself that that won't be a problem—because he's a retard, as I may have suggested before, and also living in paroxysms of denial of the obvious—but even a retard, and especially a retard with a significant university education and degree, should be able to consider what will happen in the inside of Liz's head once she has undergone habituation; as she must, because she is, after all, human. And even someone living in denial might be expected, in occasional moments of lucidity, that in order for the pair-bonding to continue after habituation has set in, something else needs to take the place of the initial-stages-bonding mechanisms—and that something probably is a little thing called 'trust'.

But John isn't thinking of that, because if you think with the little head you don't think of things like that. And so, one day—and many more days following—Liz is going to wake up in the middle of the night, woken up by John's snoring, and she won't be able to get back to sleep again for a while. And, as people do, she will end up thinking about stuff—and on that night she's going to ruminate over the landscape of the relationship she's in, and suddenly she'll understand the full import of what had happened, back there, when she and John first got together. What it actually means that, with her complicity, John betrayed the trust of a person who deserved said trust, who was faithful in turn to him, who bore him two children, who shared a bed night after night just as Liz is doing now, whom John once probably had loved...

So, I ask you: how much denial does John think—if 'think' he does—Liz is capable of...lying there, in the dark, beside his snoring self, thinking...

Second thing; and this is an 'existentialist' one, if you will.

People make a lot about all the 'deception' that happens when these things go on. 'Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,' and all that. But it's pointless and distracting from what really matters, if one expends energy and effort bemoaning said 'deception'; if for no other reason but that deception is not only common, but a basic element of human existence. The kind you find in the furtive sneaking around of philanderers is just one version of something that is a built-in. Without deceiving ourselves about what's 'truly' going on—through denial, ignoring, or outright inversion of the 'truth'—we could not function in everyday life; and without social deception, 'society' as we know it would be impossible.

So, no, 'deception' is not the issue at all, but it's purpose is. And that purpose becomes established through the decision of the philanderer preceding all these 'deceptions' and 'lies' and 'pretenses': to betray the trust of someone who trusts him and to whom he has vowed that he would be 'faithful'.

Said decision is a prime example of the 100%-responsibility thing I discussed here. And we also have to understand where the 'responsibility' issues actually lies. For, let's face it, there are things outside our control. John, to go back to our example, has no control over any purely biological 'attraction' factors relating to Liz. That includes everything from appearance to smell. There are physiological reactions that just 'are'. Many things labeled 'psychological' are really purely physiological, with the 'mental' or 'emotional' dimensions, just being expressions of underlying physical processes that must be seen as causative. I'm avoiding being graphic about it here, but I'm sure you get the drift.

There may be more definitely 'psychological' factors. Common activities, interests, social context, taste. The possible connections are myriad. Over these as well one has no control. Things are as they are. There's also the distinct possibility that John and Liz simply just genuinely like each other and that no matter what happens, there's no way they could be made—unless it is through some fatidic contrivance—to dislike each other. Some things you can't turn off and on. You can sublimate them, or dismiss them to a locked corner of your mind, but that doesn't mean they are not any less real.

Blaming someone for feeling attractions he or she has no control over is not only unfair: it is utterly pointless; especially since, for example, John really liking Liz need not preclude John truly and completely loving Jane—though Jane would probably be suspicious, and in John's case, rightly so. Indeed, the two attractions qualify as 'orthogonal', in a psychological sense; though I may be stretching the applicability of the term here. But I think I can usefully apply this to a screenplay I have sitting somewhere as a first draft, and which would be the ideal vessel for a discussion of these issues. Everything's grist for the mill and all that.

Back to John. What he can be blamed for—and should, pathetic creep that he is—is any decision of his, deriving from his attraction to Liz, that destroys his relationship with Jane; or, just as bad and maybe even worse, negates and/or abrogates his responsibility to their children; who will be—not 'might', but 'will'!—psychologically screwed up by what their father has done. That is where things are done that may rightly be judged 'wrong'. It's not about facts that simply 'are' and cannot be changed and are of no actual 'value' in and of themselves—but about the things one does and decides given that these facts are what they are.

It is never about the loaded gun, but about what the person holding it chooses to do with it. He might try to rob a convenience store and kill the owner—or me might save said owner from someone else doing the same.

For the philanderer it is not about being 'attracted' to another person, but about using that as a rationale for betrayal.

As far as 'John' is concerned, I sincerely hope that one day not only will the Law of Cosmic Equipoise catch up with him, but that he will reap repayment with compound interest.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fables 9: Sons of Empire


It is here!

It is very cool.

It will get an Amazon review by me when I'm done with it.

Ultimate Force vs. The Unit - Parte Secunda


Back to this topic, here are the questions I asked:
  1. Given the choice of inviting any of these people into my house and having dinner with them, which of these guys would I invite?
  2. Suppose the two teams in question were set up against each other in whatever might qualify as a 'fair' confrontation—that is, one in which it would indeed depend on the teams themselves, rather than their support systems, who would have an advantage—who would I bet on as winning this thing?
  3. Given the nature of these people—after all they have to be a certain dispositions, which wouldn't exactly qualify as 'pacifist'—whom would I rather entrust my life and that of those people I care about?
Remember, we're talking about the fictional people here, OK? And, yes, this blog is probably only of interest to those who have seen both series at some stage, or parts thereof.

(1) is easy. The Unit folks any day. As human beings, I'd qualify each of them as 'interesting'. Likable, too. The Ultimate Force gang has become more like 'strangers', if that makes any sense, as the series has gone on.

(2) depends on the circumstances. I'd say if it's a straight in-the-jungle-shootout, chances are probably even. If it involves more than strictly military matters, the Unit guys would probably kick the shits out of and/or outwit the Ultimate Force without breaking into a sweat.

Interestingly the next Ultimate Force episode deals with a 'joint mission'. I'm making bets with myself as to how this British drama is going to represent the Americans this time. They have a pretty bad record. Still, I admit that, when it comes to nation-bashing, The Unit pulls few punches when taking swipes at the French, which happened in several episodes. Methinks David Mamet doesn't much like them. The Unit is also highly political in that it is openly supportive of Israel—which, in some quarters, is not considered particularly PC. Ultimate Force on the other hand, tries for political evenhandedness; which, in the final analysis makes it have less depth, because that way it becomes almost completely a 'military drama'. This is also the case, because the extra-military dimensions of the characters are toned-down and have indeed become almost non-existent in this season.

(3) sounds like it's connected to (2), but also to (1), because 'entrust' is a term with more than just the 'military competence' dimension. And when you come to think about it, the guys from The Unit are a lot like Mac and the boys of 'Phantom Strike' team, from Fontaine and Tethys. So it should not come as a shattering surprise to anyone that here, too, I'd rather know that Jonas 'Snake Doctor' Blane stands between mine and harm than Henry 'Henno' Garvie.

There are warriors and there are warriors.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Standoff S0116: Ex-Factor

Summary:

Cheryl becomes personally involved in the case after the key witness in a federal money-laundering case and his wife are kidnapped and held hostage.

The 'Ex'-factor has to do with a co-worker Cheryl once dated and then, as we find out, was promoted over and also proposed to, since that was the solution to the FBI's rules about members of different levels of the command structure 'dating'. Married is OK, but please, no 'dating'. Anyway, the guy declined the marriage proposal. Couldn't handle the notion of being married to someone 'above' him in the hierarchy.

As Matt tells Emily when she wants to know what the deal is: "He's the reason Cheryl doesn't want us to date."

In other words, the episode wasn't about Cheryl, but about the flipside of the Matt-Emily thing; which made it 'personal'. I like the way these things are never just procedural, but always manage a personal subtext of some significance.

I also think that in due course Frank would have had the hots for Cheryl. You can see them setting it up. Pity it won't go anywhere, what with the series close to the end.

It also occurs to me that, after seeing Gina Torres in yet another series—the other was Firefly—it is clear to me that, while she has a strong presence, she isn't 'lead' material. Sorry, Gina Torres fans, but that's what it looks like to me. It's an apparent paradox, this thing about actors who stand out and yet somehow aren't 'lead' material. It just shows that the one doesn't necessarily follow from the other—just like other actors simply can't make the TV<->big-screen transition (either way). Funny thing, that.

In the 0-10 rating stakes, this one's somewhere in the 9.x.

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Always go too far, because that's where you'll find the truth."

A quote attributed to Albert Camus, and doesn't it remind you of this?

The notion that we are 'responsible' for our decisions—possibly, as most existentialists and absurdists would claim, 100%, and no exceptions—is troubling. The basic argument for it being true is that ultimately nobody else but me can be held responsible for my decisions...and their consequences, intended or not.

A critical term in that concept is the notion of 'responsibility', of course. The etymology of 'responsibility' is basically the same as that of 'to respond'.

[Middle English responden, from Old French respondre, from Latin respondre : re-, re- + spondre, to promise; see spend- in Indo-European roots.]

So, we're talking about answerability, possibly accountability, not necessarily for an action itself, but for whatever consequences that action has. Because an action per se is neutral; its consequences, immediate and distant, in whatever context(s) might apply, are not.

So, what the radical existentialist, or radical absurdist, is saying is that all of us are, always and 100%, responsible for the consequences, intended or unintended, of our actions. This is equivalent to saying that we are similarly responsible for our choices, because all actions are choices and all choices are actions—meaning, of course, that they are one and the same. And, following the above, what it really means is that we are entirely responsible for all the consequences of our choices, no matter what they are, how or when they happen, good or bad, intended or not, influenced by apparently malignant contingency...whatever. No exceptions, no 'but's, no 'why's.

But, but but... What about...? "When I decided this I didn't know that was going to happen, which totally screwed up my best intentions with this."

Well, tough. And nobody says that 'responsibility' is equivalent to 'blame'—well, at least not I. All it says is that when I—standing in for everyone of the collective of individuals called 'we'—make a decision to do this or that, I make that decision. I initiate a series of events that might or might not come out as I want them to come out; and which most certainly will, because at best those narrow aspects I was capable of intending just might come out as I would like them to, but there's always a gazillion unintended consequences, some of which happen right now, and others which will happen in the cascade of causes-and-effect sequences I've set into motion and which will propagate into the future in some way and expand into legion.

So, 'responsibility' not necessarily equal to 'blame'; merely to "I decide, I act, I choose." No matter how 'connected' to the world I am, no matter how un-autonomous that thing I label as 'I' may be, there's still an existential blob of something here, identified as 'I' and decisions are taken within the context of that blob—and if you need to identify it with 'my brain', that's cool, too.

But, but, but... "How can you say that about a child?" Or someone judged to be 'mentally subnormal' or generally 'mentally deviant'?

Well, it still holds true. And if we see a difference here between, say, a 'responsible adult'—who? what?—and a child still learning what 'responsibility' entails, that is not something 'existential' if you will, but 'social'. The term 'responsibility' becomes attached with values by the social context in which said 'responsibility' is exercised. As such, the term 'irresponsible' really has nothing to do with the kind of 'responsibility' I'm talking about, but with the socially valued attributes and consequences of some action, actions, behaviors, choices, etc, that are labeled as 'irresponsible'—or 'responsible', of course. And many of these values vary from one social context to another.

When we say today, and I'm talking here of what's commonly called 'Western' societies, that someone is or is not 'responsible' for this or that—a major issue in our systems of 'justice', which are systems of social conventions and rules—we do not make an existential judgment but a social one. The question is as to whether we punish—another social act—this person for what s/he has done, or do we declare that s/he acted under 'influences'—internal and/or external—which would give us cause to excuse what s/he have done and exempt him or her from punishment; though s/he may, of course, end up for a while or forever in a 'mental institution' for appropriate social adjustment. Think Clockwork Orange.

So, if we talk about existential '100% responsibility for all our actions/choices/decisions' this is different from talking about the varying social aspects of the same thing. The social versions are variable; the existential ones aren't. And the existential ones are with us all of the time. It doesn't matter if the choices we make are profound and far-reaching, concerning life-and-death matters, or if they are small, like those we make every day, for example with regards to how we spend our time; whether we waste the moments we have doing things that are truly a 'waste' and which we would come to recognize as a 'waste' if only we allowed ourselves to become aware of them, or whether we choose to let the little time we have count for something or someone.

So, 100%? For everybody. Even a newborn baby—and maybe a pre-born? For where, we must ask, does this begin? And where does it end? What about someone suffering from Alzheimer's; or bipolar syndromes?

I guess, most people will opt for what amounts to a sliding scale, where some individuals definitely are in the 'fully responsible' region, while others are, at the very least in some nebulous area that might or might not qualify. But the moment we have a sliding scale, we have a scale that can be adjusted by anybody to suit their whim—and indeed this is being done all the time and everywhere; in the name, of course, of social standards. The 'existential' ones on the other hand are generally considered to be, at best, academic—for how could something asserting that 'it it 100% so and not any other way', be anything more than abstract, academic, idealistic and, not to put too fine a point on it, absurdly radical? Especially if it deals with people and psychology.

The answer is, of course, that muddling up 'social' and 'existential' assertions amounts to a kind of category error, even though both are assertions about properties associated with or ascribed to human beings.

OK, so I'll let you think about that...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ultimate Force vs. The Unit - Parte Prima

It's probable that you, who read this blog, are at least a passing-affection aficionado of the SF/F genre and things related to it. As such you may be familiar with the thought-game played by by some fans, where they go "So, whatcha think, in a fight between the USS Enterprise and a Star Destroyer, who's gonna win?" That, for those not in the 'know' is a question comparing two completely different universes and realities. Apart from a serious suspension of disbelief to begin with—you've got to accept the credibility of the premise(s), but why not; in fiction you do it all the time, so that's cool—you've got to perform another leap of imagination and actually accept two of these fictitious worlds at once, and then you've got to compare them.

But it's fiction, and people who play this game are probably considerably saner than governmental think-tanks who imagine much more insane things—and who take themselves seriously. So let's keep that in mind. I'd rather listen to the screwy things going on at your average sci-fi convention than to think-tank wallys. The former, apart from anything else, aren't a gazillionth as scary.

Anyway, suspend your disbelief for the following discussion. I'm talking about fiction here, even though that fiction is derived from fact, namely the existence, in the US and the UK, as well as most other nations who can afford it, of 'Special Forces'. In this case, in the US, those known as 'Delta Force' and in the UK as the 'SAS' (Special Air Services). Now, let's not draw any conclusions from the two series 'based on characters' from said Special Forces units—The Unit from Delta Force (one of the producers is Eric L Haney, former Delta Force member and author of a fascinating account called Inside Delta Force) and Ultimate Force from the SAS (based on which, according to its founder's Delta Force, it was modeled)—to what the real people are like. The representations may be accurate in some respects and not in others; in fact this is almost certainly the case. But the issue isn't how 'real' things are, but let's take this as complete fiction, similar to the Star Trek and Star Wars universe scenarios mentioned earlier.

The Unit is not being shown at the moment, but Ultimate Force, Season 4, has just started. There will only be five episodes, though they're all double-length ones, but seeing the series again I asked myself a few questions, that go a tad deeper than your usual USS Enterprise vs Star Cruiser scenario, which is a purely military one, since Jean-Luc Picard usually doesn't factor into this and the captain of the Star Cruiser is completely anonymous and might as well not exist. These questions have as much to do, I guess, with the nature and character of the real-life models for the two groups, the national spirits and personas of the nations that gave birth to them, as well as the character and context of those who write, direct and produce the two series.

Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy both series, but I definitely enjoy one of them more than the other. So, I wondered:
  • Given the choice of inviting any of these people into my house and having dinner with them, which of these guys would I invite?
  • Suppose the two teams in question were set up against each other in whatever might qualify as a 'fair' confrontation—that is, one in which it would indeed depend on the teams themselves, rather than their support systems, who would have an advantage—who would I bet on as winning this thing?
  • Given the nature of these people—after all they have to be a certain dispositions, which wouldn't exactly qualify as 'pacifist'—whom would I rather entrust my life and that of those people I care about?
These questions, relating as they do to purely fictional characters—remember that, please; for this isn't a Reality Show—are pertinent, if for no other reason that they relate to a whole host of issues I'm wanting to tackle in Dance of Tigers. Having these two examples placed before me is extremely helpful, as fiction often is, for other fiction writers. Also being very helpful at the moment is a little book called The Existential Joss Whedon, which ponders, at length, the existentialist dimensions of Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Serenity. Having it laid out like this is fascinating, because I realize just how much of one's philosophy does indeed creep into one's fiction, written or cinematographic—intentionally or not.

I mean, I know it does, of course, because how could it be different. But how openly it does is another thing altogether. I mean, I do try to keep this stuff underground and the story on the top, so that it doesn't sound like I'm preaching or using my characters as mouthpieces, as some real bad fiction writers did, do and will continue to do. But then again, everything a character, protagonist or antagonist, says, is a construct of the author's mind, so I guess you can't win here. Still, one can try to be subtle and keep the messages and meta-messages subterranean. Having just read through both Fontaine and Tethys, I notice just how woefully I have failed to do this. Comes as a bit of a shock, really.

The other thing that comes as a bit of a surprise is the 'existentialist' thing. I never really had a lot of time for Sartre, the arch-existentialist, because I found and find him by and large too damn depressing. I read some of his stuff during various university courses I did years ago, but it was like "how about you get a bit of a life here, man!" What a humorless philosophical downer. Camus was a considerably more to my liking and less morbid, but when it comes to existentialism I'm really all on the side of Colin Wilson, who probably has the best take on it, if you will. And, yes, I deliberately ignore that Kierkegaard even existed, because he blinked. 'Religious existentialism' is an oxymoron; at least in my book.

Still, I share a lot of philosophical ground with Sartre, and reading The Existential Joss Whedon is reminding me of that. Doesn't mean I disagree with even more, and the book reminds me of that, too. Because existentialism, like all systems of thought, has what I think of its 'silly nooks', where stupid ideas live, that are by no means consistent with the rest of the system of thought in which they appear and are more the result of the philosopher's laziness and, to use a Sartrean term, 'bad faith'—something Sartre was guilty of himself aplenty.

Anyway, all the things you notice when you look more carefully at something you thought you'd sorted out a long time ago—only to find that very little has been 'sorted'....

(And, yes, I'll get back to The Unit and Ultimate Force soon. We still have to sort out those questions up there, right?)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A wealth of stickers

So, this is what my recent proofing adventures produced. Each sticker represents a typo, punctuation issue, typesetto, surplus/leftover/misplaced word, et cetera. Makes you feel humble—especially since you know there's more. Still, these books have to go out there and this will probably be my last proofing run...

Meanwhile I've put a new front-page face on my website. Also, as so happens, with reading Fontaine and Tethys again while proofing them, I kind of got back into the story, and I'm thinking that maybe Dance of Tigers will take precedence over Bodies after all. Damn it, I like the sci-fi/fantasy medium. There's so much stuff you can do!

Also meanwhile, feel free to buy the books, from Amazon or Lulu. With Lulu's new content rating system, Fontaine and Tethys will only be accessible if you go to my website and click on the link provided on the cover images. Definitely too much sex and violence in them to qualify for 'general' access. Once they're available from Amazon, of course, all that becomes nuncupatory.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Standoff S0115: Lie to Me

Summary:

When a young boy is abducted from the Santa Monica Pier, Emily is thrown into the middle of the crisis. The situation becomes volatile when her personal life is brought into the public eye and she must confront her demons in order to save the child.

So Emily does have some deep and dark secrets. Cool. People without deep and dark-ish secrets, by and large, tend to be dull. It's the Dark Side that makes things interesting! And Emily, by keeping the secret—which is grubby family laundry—from the FBI has pretty much nuked her ability to rise high in the ranks of the organization. "Tha glass ceiling has just become bullet-proof," Cheryl tells her, even while covering for her and the public embarrassment Emily is not only suffering herself, but also creating for her employers.

Matt, of course, despite being peeved at Emily not sharing her dark family secret when she had the chance, is Mr. Stand-by-your-mate. The two have become a definite couple, and Matt takes it very seriously. Emily is just beginning to realize that. I get the impression she likes it, though she's being reluctant to admit it.

[Sidebar: Speaking about 'established couples'. Yet again someone I know and kinda respected has walked out not only on his wife, but also on two very lovely and adorable young kids. While I try not to sit in judgment, it is hard. And, since I'm just reading The Existential Joss Whedon, let me just say that I agree 100% and without reservation that, when we make decisions abut this and that, there is none but ourselves to blame or praise. I know this is a problematic notion, because how can anything be '100%'? Still, I stand by it, and I will get back to this soon. End of sidebar.]

Lie to Me is twisted and deals with a compulsive child molester—another good candidate for a 'are we really 100% responsible for our actions?' discussion—plus Emily's screwed-up criminal sister. I didn't see Matt's final action coming. Nicely done. And I guess Emily knew what he was going to do. So, even nicerly done.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Making stuff up

"In darkness we are born; in darkness we die."
"The past is the past. We need to know it; but we don't have to live there."

I have a big file full quotes and wise or not-so-wise saying. The two lines above aren't from that file. The first is something I muttered in the darkness of a flight of stairs leading to the street from our dojo one night. The second is from Tethys, uttered by 'Naela' in a conversation with 'Mac'.

The first went as it went because I started muttering something, almost to myself, though half-ways to someone else there. That was the "in darkness we are born" part—and don't ask me why I said it. Sometimes one just says stuff. The second part came naturally. It just kind of fit.

The person who heard me say it asked me where that 'came from'. I claimed that the point of origin was my head, which said person duly disbelieved. Surely, somebody must have said something like that before. It sounds so...wise? Profound?

Well, it's crap, let's face it. For while we are born out of darkness, in the sense that we emerge from a womb that is mostly light-shielded into what is usually the light of day or fluorescents or candles or something, we certainly do not, by any compulsion, die in darkness. We may die into darkness, but that's the 'correct' way of saying this—if say something one must.

The second saying is just another version of the much more terse and pithy "look back, but don't stare", but it was much more fitting to the context for Naela to say it as she did.

The point of all this?

Several:

One, just because something sounds profound or cool, doesn't mean it's not crap.

Two, people do make up things that sound profound or cool at the spur of the moment, and it doesn't mean they read it somewhere.

Three, everything profound has already been said or written down by someone. The question is, when you say it or think it, is that because you've read/heard it somewhere or because you actually thought of it? That is the measure of what is known as 'originality'.

Four—and this is just for the person who thought I'd plagiarized that line—just because a lot of people quote stuff, possibly mangled and deliberately paraphrased, and pretend or actually believe that it's original to them, that doesn't mean that everybody is thus inclined or disposed. Live with it. It happens.

And that's all for today. The new Standoff review (Episode 0115: Lie to Me) is coming up—once I've had a chance to actually watch it. And with the good news from the last blog, I also suddenly felt compelled to do another proof-read of at least two books that I knew needed proofing. Much to my dismay I found them riddled with typos. I am incredibly grateful to the reviewer for not having commented on that. Or else s/he didn't spot them and/or found the story so fascinating that the imperfections didn't matter. Now I would regard that as a truly great compliment indeed.