Archive for May, 2002

Attack of the Clones

Monday, May 20th, 2002

Send in the Clones…

Lori links Salon’s review of Attack of the Clones, saying someone’s getting too deep about a shallow movie. I don’t know when demands for more on-screen rolls in the hay became intellectual - probably back when virginity became an unnatural affliction with which teens are “stricken” rather than born. Such revealing counterfactual preconceptions are scattered throughout the article. Anakin wasn’t “grim”, he was whiny. Padme wasn’t grim either; she played it cool until she decided she was going to die anyway and she might as well kiss the boy.

The reviewer gives away his ignorance when he talks about millions of cloned Boba Fetts being “gloated over” by the producer. They weren’t exactly the Ewoks, Mr. Thomson. He claims it’s never explained why the happy couple can’t just go roll in the hay, when it was actually made quite clear that Jedi don’t do the wild thing.

But what I find disturbing about this review is that it would fit any story in which two people fall in love on screen and manage to get married in the final scene, all without taking parts A and B out for a test drive. This is a criticism that could be made of Episode 2, or of Jane Austen for that matter, sight-unseen - which is to say, it’s not criticism at all. It is a statement of faith that it’s impossible to tell a love story; it is pure disbelief in romance.

Lori distracted me from what I was planning to say, so I have to back up a bit now, to Sunday night. I never meant to be trendy enough to see Episode 2 on it’s big premiere weekend. Dr. Deb and I had decided to watch the X-Files finale for old times’ sake. We used to watch XF when it was all about the fat-sucking vampires, sewer-dwelling fluke-men and UST. We went on strike when Mulder disappeared; in our minds it’s still the cult-classic of third season, when the occasional mytharc episode could be ignored as just so much inane prattle about smallpox and bees.

Imagine our disappointment when the finale turned out to be all mytharc, all the time, in a little locked room. Dr. Deb didn’t know about the Suddenly and Dramatically Resolved Sexual Tension, and I didn’t know Scully had given up Mulder’s spooky love-child - for adoption, I presume. That was the least of my problems with the new Puffy Scully. Who was that weepy woman, and what has she done with my calm and rational scientist-in-flats?

As for the episode itself, it was dreck on the level of the worst maudlin angstfic. Skinner and the prosecution posturing at each other with Scully telling-not-showing on the witness stand hardly makes for a plot, never mind a two-hour finale. So forty minutes into our abject horror and suffering, I suggested to Dr. Deb that we blow the joint and go catch Attack of the Clones instead. We made the 9:30 show, which was as man-heavy as a physics conference. “At least there are no children,” I said, little suspecting how the excess of males would contribute to later events.

After the tragedy of the mytharc, we were in the mood to be pleased. Dr. Deb made nominal protests against Jar-Jar, but when he brought an end to a thousand years of peace in the Republic, we were sufficiently avenged upon the animated pest. Jar-Jar didn’t start the trouble; Anakin Skywhiner, heir and forebear of Luke Skywhiner, did it when he confessed his undying (and extremely painful) love for Padme Clotheshorse. This was too much for the heavily-macho audience; they laughed. (Don’t tell George, eh?) I’ve seen audiences laugh at the wrong bits of movies before, but never with quite so much justification. Giggling continued on and off until the combined fashion show/love affair was interrupted by the Shmi incident and subsequent “rescue” of Obi Wan.

Let me pause to Be Like Liz here, and praise Obi Wan. He’s such the dashing hero - noble, intelligent, and forceful (sorry). I loved all his scenes, especially the ones bluffing his way through the clone factory. The poor dude was saddled with his Young Padwhine Anakin by his dying Jedi master in a massive guilt trip last movie, but does he bitch and moan about it all through this one? No. Does he complain that having a clueless idiot for an apprentice is holding him back? No. Obi Wan is a real Jedi.

Despite the audience’s impromptu laugh track, I enjoyed the follies of the One Fated to Restore Petulance to the Force. Just watching him bumble his way through the movie brought up rare questions of good and evil. When he stares at Padme that way, is he just moon-eyeing her, or is he manipulating her? Does he stop and think before his little starter-kit genocide, or was he only beserking when he killed not just the things, but their wo-things and child-things? And when he blames Obi-Wan afterwards, does he really mean it? (I think he does.)

Is the soul of evil, then, blaming others for what is your own or no one’s fault? Or is it wanting to force people to be good, or wanting the power to do so? Is it wanting to be a Jedi and get the girl, too? (Padme deserves some share of the blame for getting involved with Jedi-boy, but who can help kissing the boy when your timeline is about to dead-end gladiator-style?)

Yes, I’m reading all this into the movie because I know Jedi-boy is scheduled to do an interstellar Evil Willow in the next ep, but if I’d lived under a rock for the past few decades and walked into the movie blind, I would still have loved it. You see, I’m constitutionally unable to resist a secret wedding - I’ve written at least six of them, and I have a bad habit of keeping the wedding secret from the bride and groom themselves. It’s more than just the wedding, though; the whole self-destructive, “we’ll be living a lie and it will destroy us,” star-crossed romance is just lovely in a live-fast, rule-Naboo-young kind of way. It doesn’t matter that Lucas wrote it badly enough that the audience laughed, because he still wrote it and it’s still floating around in my head teasing the muse with ideas of love as suicide, love as greed, love as irresistible as the dark side, and the fundamental tragedy of the good.

Which brings us to the last deep theme of this laughable piece of fluff: that the Evil Overlords have a plan that’s coming together, while the Jedi Knights are falling apart. They are blind to the Sith they’ve elected provisional Emperor, blind to the clone plant cranking out Boba Fetts for the past ten years, blind to the fact that “balance” is the last thing they should want restored to the Force after a thousand years of peace, blind to their pretty-boy messiah practicing genocide and marrying a Senator, blind to the truth of the war, which is both sides against the Jedi - blind and self-defeating.

There’s nothing in the world like a good old-fashioned tragedy, unless it’s good old-fashioned badly-written science fiction into the gaps of which you unconsciously read the story you would have written, if you had millions to blow on your own personal space opera. Fanfiction, by the by, is the act of writing the shadow-story down.

Quizzes Gone Commercial

Monday, May 20th, 2002

Apparently there’s a company out there that does these quiz things now, with some nasty weighting stuff and a full list of results to help you cheat. (The following commercial link has been corrected for spelling and style.)

Which Buffy villain are you? (by calophi)

I think we need a “Which Fandom are You?” quiz, or maybe a “Which Hated and Despised Pairing are You?”

Yes, do you mind?

Monday, May 20th, 2002

“Are you Dorothy Parker?” a guest at a party inquired.
“Yes, do you mind?”

Stolen Dorothy
You are Dorothy Parker
You are cynical, bitter, and bitchy! Too bad you are so preoccupied with love and unhappy with life. It’s okay, your wit has made you very popular. By the way, aren’t all men pigs?

Take the Which Poet are You? Quiz
Brought to you out of boredom and pretention!

Dorothy Parker in a book review:
“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly.
It should be thrown aside with great force.”

Another book review:
“He is beyond question a writer of power; and his power lies in his ability to make sex so thoroughly, graphically and aggressively unattractive that one is fairly shaken to ponder how little one has been missing.”

Quotes and image stolen from:

The Quest for Good Trek

Sunday, May 19th, 2002

I’m heading off to CraftBoston - I’ll be the one whom crowds are following like sheep - but first a few words on my recent Quest for Trek:

I tried to watch Insurrection last night, but the basketball game ran over and Channel 7 cancelled it. Channel 38 has likewise cancelled all Voyager reruns. There is no Trek in Boston, unless you’re of the opinion that Enterprise is Trek. I am not.

At least there’s fiction, right? In a moment of moral weakness, I got a pay-per-fic Trek book out of the library (one of the new Khan ones, if you must know) because it sounded marginally interesting. I slogged through a few pages, but the prose was too wooden to bear straight after a Walter Jon Williams book. You could see it as Shatner’s acting immortalized in print, or you could just walk away.

I wish I didn’t have to keep walking away.

There’s always fanfic, great, immortal, BNF fanfic, right? I could go fishing in the Trekiverse archives for winners of years past. (After just twenty months, my first three stories posted to ASC have been archived: Assimilation, One Line, Two Dimples and the filk Chakotay. It’s a sign that I’m almost two years old.) But to tell the truth (somebody’s got to), I still haven’t finished Talking Stick/Circle. And honestly, now, how many people do you know who’ve actually read Talking Stick/Circle? Sure, pick any fan off the street and she’ll have heard of Talking Stick/Circle; she’ll confess that she ought to read it one of these days. Lori, in order to do her zendom review of TS/C, had to go read the thing herself, more power to her. The point being, that a Big Name is just a name and is no guarantee that anyone’s reading your fic anymore a week after it was posted, never mind once it’s faded into legend.

By Any Other Name

Saturday, May 18th, 2002

In response to Lori’s blog on BNF’s

Trekdom is the oldest show fandom, dating back to the successful drive to keep the show on the air for a third season, and the unsuccessful one for a fourth. I don’t know that it’s IDIC that keeps Trek fans more polite than the newer, more rabid fandoms. I’d guess it was science fiction itself. In my experience, S’s have little patience for sci-fi of any sort, not even with Seven of Nine parading around in a catsuit, so the Trek population is heavily slanted towards the N’s, which cuts down on personality conflicts. Sometimes BNF is a matter of personality, too.

It’s dangerous, with non-Trekkers lurking nearby, to talk of BNF’s-by-merit. Let us say that all BNF’s deserve their big names, but that it is not always for fic that they’ve gotten them. Consider the idea that Big Fame can result merely from participation in fandom as a social activity, rather than from the stories themselves. It is, for people like myself, a very strange concept, but one which I’ve heard more than once and must take into account. I think Lori touches on this phenomenon when she talks of BNF’s by PR, of the effect of Big Names in author’s notes, and of Big Fans acting important and authorative, but she seems to believe it still has something to do with advertising your fic. I disagree - it’s not the fic that spreads by these means, but the Big Name itself.

Of course, all BNF’s write, or have at some point written, fanfic. It’s a rite of passage, but it’s not necessarily the source of their fame. Like a presidential candidate who was, technically, in the armed forces for the last relevant war but spent his tour of duty behind a desk somewhere or reporting for a military newspaper, the BNF’s actual fic may be merely nominal. Or she may still be cranking out the fic, but in a forum which will never be critical thereof. (One cannot overestimate the importance of quantity in fandom.) Thus, someone who has produced quality stories at a steady rate for years can be thrown over by voracious fans for a newbie with the energy to flood the market with average fic. To see a BNF-by-fic lose, say, a fanfic contest to a BNF-by-potlatch can be a disheartening thing to those who still think fandom ought to be all about the fic.

Archivists, blogs and rec sites aren’t common in Trekdom, so the idea that fame can derive from something that isn’t even there comes hard to geeky old-school fans who grew up on TOS, such as yours truly. One sees more of fame by social factors in the pairing lists, but I think that in order to find persona trumping oeuvre on a large scale, you’d have to look to other fandoms. If you’d rather not see that sort of thing, it’s best to stick to Trek. There are far stranger things in out there in fandom than our little sock puppets.

The Bicameral Muse, Part II

Wednesday, May 15th, 2002

I promised several entries ago to discuss the line between muse and man, and it’s high time to whip out Origins and get to it. So, with malice toward none; with charity for all; more on the muse:

Some moderns write without benefit of muse. For example, I’ve never felt that the muse was involved in writing non-fiction, not even when a column of mine all comes together in an unexpected way. Perhaps it is the lifetime of use that blinds me to the muse in such situations, but, there being no general talk of a muse for non-fiction, I’ll assume not. So writing without the muse is possible.

Once upon a time, some muses wrote without the man. To Plato, for example, complete possession by the muse was the sine qua non of artistic merit:

… all good poets, epic as well as lyric, composed their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed … there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses and the mind is no longer in him.

(All quotes are taken from Jaynes’ book, including the ellipses.) Art in this context means artifice - that is, craft or talent as opposed to inspiration or the muse. Jaynes claims that the muse’s possessiveness in Plato’s day was her last hurrah, yet he goes on to give more recent examples of the muse in action. Milton took dictation from his Celestial Patroness, and even Shelley risked the wrath of fellow poets with blanket statements like the following:

A man cannot say, “I will compose poetry.” The greatest poet even cannot say it; for the mind in creation is as a fading coal, which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness … and the conscious portions of our natures are unprophetic either of its approach or its departure.

Ellipsis again thanks to Jaynes, but I’ve found the original on-line: A Defense of Poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley. The quote above starts at section 284, but the whole thing looks so interesting that I’ll put off any more muse musing until I’ve read it through.

Earthy Crunchy

Wednesday, May 15th, 2002

find your element at

Go figure.

To the Unknown Minion

Wednesday, May 15th, 2002

I’ve always wanted minions. Lori seems displeased with her alleged role as Sockpuppet to the Queen, but I wonder if she’s really the sole target of the most recent bout of unreason. After all, there was a plural in there. (Not that I’ve read the original - I’m taking my libel filtered through Lori’s blog these days. If I want crap from strangers, I can get it by answering the help line at work. I don’t need it on my free time, or in my blog.)

I suspect the Unknown Minion - that is, some fan I don’t know who’s snuck into the source blog’s comments to defend me. Maybe she’s young and still thinks she can save fandom from itself. To the Unknown Minion, thank you, but I think it’s well past time to walk away. How about sending me some nice fanmail instead? Don’t worry if you’ve sent some before - if double-jeopardy feedback is good enough for ASC, it’s good enough for me.

Usenet as Society

Tuesday, May 14th, 2002

I stumbled across this quote while doing research on newsgroups for an article. While it’s not appropriate for the article, it seems quite timely for the blog.

From the “What is Usenet?” FAQ, Part 1

Those who have never tried electronic communication may not be aware
of what a “social skill” really is. One social skill that must be
learned, is that other people have points of view that are not only
different, but *threatening*, to your own. In turn, your opinions may
be threatening to others. There is nothing wrong with this. Your
beliefs need not be hidden behind a facade, as happens with
face-to-face conversation. Not everybody in the world is a bosom
buddy, but you can still have a meaningful conversation with them.
The person who cannot do this lacks in social skills. — Nick Szabo

True Tales of the T

Tuesday, May 14th, 2002

A story of life in the real world

I ran into someone on the way to the bus stop this morning. Let’s call her Dr. Deb, because that was her name. We sat together on the bus and chatted about our weekends. Dr. Deb and her boyfriend had gone on a Quest for Piglets in western Massachusetts. (I’m not making this up - he’s into pigs.) It seems there were no piglets, because the pigs still don’t know what season it is. If it’s spring, what happened to winter?

Dr. Deb also mentioned that she’d read 120 pages of a Catherine Asaro novel I’d lent her, and I told her I’d just reread The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Did Dr. Deb react by saying, “You only mention that in order to prove that you’re better than everyone else on the bus”? No, dear reader, she didn’t. She said, “What does ‘bicameral’ mean?” You see, Dr. Deb is my friend. She knows that if I bring something up, it’s because I find it an interesting topic of conversation. My friends give me the benefit of the doubt.

So I told her, “two-chambered.” Did she accuse me of hobbling the English language with my etymological definitions of words? No. Strangely enough, Dr. Deb was interested in discussing left and right hemispheres, not in psychoanalyzing me. The thirty other people on the bus were not my friends, yet none of them started their own conversations about how full of myself I must be to talk about other people’s brains that way. Bostonians have other things on their minds at 8:30 in the morning. Some of them were even reading thick books, but that’s considered normal here. I saw someone reading The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind on the T a few weeks back - that’s probably what got me thinking about it again after nine years. But back to today:

It is highly unlikely that some random med student on his way to Longwood overheard Dr. Deb and felt that her words oppressed him in his day-to-day use of his left hemisphere - but of course, anything’s possible. If he did, I hope he was relieved when she got off the bus. I stayed on to the T stop at the end of the line, and when I got on the subway, funny, but the other passengers failed to crowd around me. I was just another commuter headed inbound.

But then, I never claimed to be anything else.