Star Wars Awakens: Episode I, “Settler Saga”


Series Contents

Found Hiding, Star Wars Awakens


Imagine for a moment that the story of Star Wars is not the dramatization of a complicated, inter-planetary struggle between good and evil, a pure record of rivaling factions, or a close accounting of technological horrors against entire planets and races. Continue reading “Star Wars Awakens: Episode I, “Settler Saga””

Star Wars Awakens: Prelude, “Repetition of the Fundamentalist Narrative”

It is what separates them from the animals. By “animals”, they mean “not us”.


Series Contents

Found Hiding, Star Wars Awakens:


The Force had, from its very beginnings, though construed as having an eternally uniform nature within the world of Star Wars, a necessary and misidentified Dark side: Continue reading “Star Wars Awakens: Prelude, “Repetition of the Fundamentalist Narrative””

The Nested Dolls of The Desired Fix

Though I disagree with some of his premises, I fully appreciate the way in which Mr. Greene gets to the center of the matter right away. He speaks bluntly and without reserve; he is focused on the needs of community; he sees the direct effects on children and social cohesion in a way in which producers of some television show and the recipients of money and favors do not. Continue reading “The Nested Dolls of The Desired Fix”

A Commenter Who Can’t Be Arsed

I get it. It wasn’t actually meant literally to be a definitive list of trolls and malcontents. Amanda Marcotte’s essay on Rawstory.com, A Definitive Ranking of the Weirdest People on the Internet was, by my reading, more of a raspberry directed at the various offenders and malcontents who’ve taken time out of their days to make her Comment section and Inbox a terrible place.

She derived her slightly tongue-in-cheek list from three criteria, which she also included. Briefly, these were comments from people she described as obsessive, as trolling (that is, “commenting for purposes of eliminating any conversation about the topic“), and as humorless. She characterized the last as exhibiting butthurt (“self-pitying”) when confronted.

This is a good list, PZ. One needn’t be that much more specific to see that these guys really do shut a conversation down. They are condescending, anarchic, and manipulative. They don’t care about what you have to say. And, even if the list of weirdos isn’t (yet) complete — and I will describe the one type I think she left off — it does the work of listing objectively who is stalling the conversations. You can abstract from there. Whether on-line forum or conversations at work or some other public place, these types do tend to completely turn any conversation into something unpleasant (for it’s own sake) and non-productive.

another type

I won’t keep you waiting too long with regard to that missing “type”. The common quality of most of those on her list is simply “obliviousness”. A couple of hangers-on at the end of the list could be described variously as “condescending” and “angry”, but the missing type is someone who, while bothering to comment, cannot be bothered to describe their own position; one who seems more interested in sneering and expressing the worst possible interpretation of your lengthy work; one who usually comments anonymously. Strictly speaking, this type doesn’t shut a conversation down, but I note that Marcotte did call for suggestions and she was indeed going for the “strangest characters”.

They are everywhere

As though on cue, the very first comment I read at the very top of the Comments section underneath her short essay, was a sneering and useless utterance from someone who, predictably, posted anonymously:

I could not be arsed to read and understand this piece, any of the points you made -- let alone any part of the body of your larger work. But, I am uniquely qualified to wag my finger at you.

Comedy gold. This one couldn’t type even five more words to describe why this could even be hypothetically true — maybe this one could see straight into Marcotte’s soul and “just knew” that all of her detractors are “passionate” and that she actually always thinks herself to be inherently correct; all others stupid. The comment sits there, adding nothing to the conversation and helping no one understand what kinds of comments do and don’t contribute positively.

among the Marcotte Types

I noticed a bit of a pattern, as I alluded, among those types listed by Ms. Marcotte. It is true that each of these met at least one of her three perfectly reasonable criteria — and they really are strange characters — but they seemed a little “weighted” to me. The ten types could almost be (re-)characterized like this:

  1. …the oblivious male obsessives,
  2. …the oblivious so-called “Feminist” bigots,
  3. …the oblivious self-pitying creeps,
  4. …the oblivious politicos (Libertarians);
  5. …the oblivious fantasy heroes, unaware of how they actually respond to danger and unaware of how their heroic pose is really counter-productive;
  6. …the oblivious, self-styled super-mothers;
  7. …the oblivious vegans, unaware of how animals actually perceive their experiences;
  8. …the oblivious anti-Evolution/ClimateChange/Theory of Gravity, etc etc., completely unaware of the state of the art regarding various sciences;

I made that obvious enough, I guess. It really did seems like most of these types could be distilled down into a mental state characterized by an almost pathological lack of awareness.

The only two that aren’t strictly “oblivious”, on first look, are the two I didn’t include above. Morcotte described self-assured “Evolutionary Psych” types and the “automobile driving screamers”. The former “just know” what-and-why women behave-and-think the “way they do”; the later just want to blame others.

…well, no. Now that I look again, the last two are oblivious, too, aren’t they? The self-styled expert of Evolutionary Psychology type is entirely unaware of his own ignorance (anosognostically oblivious?) and the screamers are unaware of the fact that the problems they complaining about are actually of their own making! This last being not unlike that Right Wing syndrome in which Fascist Nationalists complain of all the crime and filth caused by immigrants (and/or liberals and/or queers and/or “kids these days”….), when in fact they, themselves are usually the primary contributing cause to these problems which they try to blame on foreigners, liberals, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, homosexuals, teenagers and other “deviants”.

Is oblivion generating all that ubiquitous, unproductive commentary out there?

“So, you’re basically just saying that…”

We are getting around to the missing type, entirely and completely useless, beyond tedious. The missing type generates a particular type of stupid commentary I’ve sometimes think of as a knee-jerk “distiller” who just wants to insult you, but also wants to make it look like a response to something you’ve said or written. Oscar Wilde said that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. But, the Poison Distiller doesn’t even bring sarcasm to bear.

The Poison Distiller is someone who apparently read, though probably just skimmed, your essay or article; they took exception with some point (or with your face) then, instead of indicating specific agreement or disagreement about some point or another — the former being, perhaps gratifying and encouraging; the later, informative and challenging — they simply state that your premises and supporting statements distilled down into the most degrading possible characterization. The degrading characterization being the bulk of their comment. I show a comment from one such distiller above. It’s funny to me that such comments seem so often to start with the words “So, you’re saying…”. Such an introduction is just about the least amount of effort required while still masquerading as a legitimate observation. The above commenter didn’t do that precisely, but the conclusion is the most wretched and misconstrued parody of several paragraphs of essay. The commenter wants to pass judgement, poke the knife, take a jab, with the effect that no one knows anything more except that anonymous commenter is counted among a select group of intelligencia uniquely able to state in the fewest possible words just why the author is not worthy.
So, you're basically saying that...
I think that the Poison Distiller is not so much oblivious as much as they put themselves high above any condition of oblivion. They inhabit the space above even (oblivious) self-righteousness and pure (oblivous) anger.

Of Angels, not Men

Wouldn’t one expect that when a writer puts a couple characters into nearly every scene and circumstance in a story, that those characters would be implicated and pivotal? Wouldn’t this be especially true when the characters are made to seem unaware of it?

Angels represent the visible manifestation of distant Power and are further allegorical of an ongoing fight between good and evil. In story, the good characters are often made to interact with angels directly; the bad characters, if portrayed as being aware of them at all, run from or try to destroy them: Angels, and how characters interact with them, mark inherent goodness in characters by the degree to which we can be convinced they feel the presence of angelic types.

1977

Throughout the entire Star Wars saga, we see that only the likable characters, even if likable briefly, are the ones whom we see interact most closely with the robots, C3PO an R2D2. This rule is so consistent that I think you could determine whether or not a character is malevolent based strictly on the instances in which they interact with one or both of the robots. Those characters having better natures listen to the robots, address them as individuals, even argue with or care to admonish them; the bad characters treat them as little more than appliances, if they acknowledge them at all.

These two robots are in most circumstances made to seem as invisible as janitors,  so it adds a strange quality to the story and a twist to my stated rule that Anakin Skywalker was made out to be a child prodigy and genius having expansive technical skills of rockets and robots. It is strange that he spent so much of his efforts and time rebuilding C3PO only, by all appearances, to never again acknowledge his early interactions with C3PO in later episodes. This was the robot he reassembled as a boy, after all! Well, I suppose this somewhat demonstrates for me the almost symbolically spiritual qualities of the robots: It is as though by embracing “evil” (“turning to the Dark side”), descending into a deeply sublimated denial, that Darth Vader loses his ability to see his old robot for what and who he is.

1987

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t give us enough direct information. So, we are forced to investigate their narrative purposes for ourselves by making some comparisons. We could, for a start, compare their natures with those of similar characters in a movie with a very different pace and setting. In Wings of Desire; Wim Wenders presents us with angels who are made to be observers of human life. Cassiel admonishes Damiel:

Let things happen! Keep serious! We can only be savages in as much as we keep serious. Do no more than look! Assemble, testify, preserve! Remain spirit! Keep your distance. Keep your word.

No one can see them, even the man who had once been an angel himself could do no more than suspect the occasional presence of his old, angelic colleague. These figures are intensely self-conscious and aware of their effects. They are driven in a task. They are ethical, but this ethics is not separate from desire (hence the title). In fact, I might guess that the greater the desire, the greater is the need for the ethical.

The 1977 robots of Star Wars, predating the 1987 angel Cassiel, did more than “let things happen”. They were involved, but without realizing the significance of any of it. It is an interesting contrast. Though knowing nothing but raw facts (they needn’t have been told, “keep your word”), they were unaware and central. They had no desire for the very significance they had in surplus. They were everywhere in story, but as machines, existed only within their programmed point reality.

1967

Just to confuse you further, I feel I should travel back yet another decade prior to consider how the The Prime Directive was upheld, ostensibly, as the highest ideal and the driving principal of exploration in the 1967 world of Star Trek. The explorers of that universe were told, as with the later robots of Star Wars and the angels of Wings of Desire, to observe and investigate, but not to meddle in the independent development of isolated civilizations. Yet, almost weekly, we saw the captain of a Federation starship routinely violate that directive with complete impunity, all the while making a hypocritical show of keeping the faith! We know that he should have been invisible, and we could repeat to ourselves the doctrinal position in defense of our own Glorious Society that “really, the high ideals of the Federation were what made them a force for good”. The Kirk character had the power, the freedom and the self-assigned privilege to be visible then invisible at will, yet chose constantly to be influential where he should not have been at all.

2007

Which makes me think just now — forgive me — of yet another invisible character in yet another story: The invisible janitor in Flawless (2007) who, taking advantage of common knowledge that no one sees a low status service worker, even when said low status service worker is standing right there in the room, managed to rob a diamond firm. In this way he was propelled from his invisible station — or made to fall, like an angel, depending on your perspective. As the story unfolds we discover that the diamond company had used their own quite visible powers for evil, so it turns out this invisible angel wasn’t “fallen” after all. He had been invisible, to their knowledge, at a time when he was a mere benign non-force within their organization; he remained invisible to them, stubbornly, even when they later really wanted to find and prosecute him.

Now and until the end

I once read that George Lucas believed Star Wars to be a story about Anakin Skywalker. I stopped cold. How could that be? The only two characters present from the beginning, who remain largely unchanged to the very end when literally everything and everyone else had changed completely, are a pair of robots. Along the way, we learn how the robots met, how they depended upon one another, how they came to depend on humans to free them from one or another temporary oblivion 1. It is also true that we never learn about what they think — about anything. They remain yet partially invisible even to us, the audience.

Star Wars is not about a war — not merely about a war, I should say — a war is just backdrop. And it isn’t about any of the petty jostling for power, love, or wealth. Those are the subtexts and devices put in most stories to ferry along a particular hidden ideology and overt morality tale. Whether Lucas likes it or not, Star Wars is a story which pushes a particular point through a constant, physical presence; how a pair of robots demonstrated empirically that The Force is absolutely nothing but hand-waving and that it is more important to actually just be where you need to be, when you need to be there, and to do what you need to do. That, whether anyone ever knows you exist or not.
Siegessäule


  1. I have something else to say about what it means to be a machine-based consciousness in my short, free-form essay, The Endless Horror of the Singularity 

The Atheist Label and Dissent

The label, “atheist”, was, first and foremost and still today, applied by partisans to those dissenters who spoke against the conservative condition.

These same, self-privileged and group-validated conservatives, usually religious, usually a single, dominant sect or party, use the label, “atheist”, to enflame the sentiments of simple-minded people against critical thinking generally and against the very act of questioning. This particular “atheism”, the very first atheism, was and is an accusation: It is an unsubstantiated and hysterical charge of treason when no evidence, no other pretext, can be found to silence someone.

The accusation behind such a label cannot merely be denied by the one so labelled. You can no more fight this allegation of atheism than you can fight the self-referential charges of witch, heretic, traitor, kafir, since it takes as it’s proof precisely the premise it states.

Be suspicious of such labels, even when at last embraced (albeit ironically) by a majority “community”, by force of numbers or by convention: Perhaps one day soon, those same people — it is not inconceivable — who think it has become culturally acceptable to be called “atheist”, pride of ownership used as little more than a talisman, may well become the new orthodoxy and the final status quo, ready all over again to label, castigate, or imprison you for dissent.

Critical thinking and dissent is a state of mind that destroys labels and lays bare all motives, not just cult, dogma, superstition, and scripture.

Manal al-Sharif and the continuing hostility toward women in Saudi Arabia

This video is about four years old. But all of the issues and conditions surrounding this protest still exist as of this writing.

See also version with English captions added.

“Manal al-Sharif, one of the organizers of an online campaign encouraging Saudi women to drive en masse on June 17, was arrested on Sunday [22 May 2011], days after she posted video of herself flouting the kingdom’s ban on female drivers on YouTube. Traces of Ms. Sharif’s campaign also started to disappear from the Web.”

Article published on Emirates247.com: You drive, I whip: Saudi men warn women

On TED, speaker highlight: Why you should listen to Manal al-Sharif:

Please see official website of Manal al-Sharif

New York Times Blog (2011-05-24)  Saudi Woman’s Driving Video Preserved Online

Wikipedia: Manal_al-Sharif

The Perfect Plan

…oh, I know, I know! I am the The Perfect Being and all, but, you know what would be really great?

Don’t get ahead of me! LOL

Wouldn’t it be really great if We created this whole line of ‘time and space’ or whatever, right? And it’s IMMENSE! But, We will make this microscopically tiny, ‘special’ galaxy (lol, whatever, there are kagillions of them) to hold a tiny, tiny solar system (again, bagillion) off on the corner with this fabulously tiny planet — most of which is covered in water or sand — and we’ll have, for just a few thousand years of the planet’s few billion year life span, a race of primates.

Well, no. Other organisms and the like. Parasites. Blood. Meyhem and so forth.

So, that’s just the setting.

Oh, it’s brilliant! Makes me itch just thinking about it!

Here’s the thing: We won’t tell these chimps anything, right?

What’s that? “Why the chimps?”, you ask?

Pfft. Why not? I don’t care. Make it the kangaroos. Or, sand scorpions. Who cares?

Whatever. Anyway. “Chimps”.

We’ll just play it cool for a few generations, then, later in their glorious timeline, we’ll do a thing with a “revelation” (or whatever) in some insignificant bit of hill country no one’s ever heard of, yeah?

But, here’s the thing! (GAH! This is my favorite part! LOL). We will totally screw with them!

Like, non-stop! Yeah! Confusion. Hunger. Interpersonal problems. Visual hallucinations. Acne. Tricks of the senses. Fragile bones. Phantom memories. Bad mortgages…

And, when they die, we won’t just let them…

Oh, yeah — the smell will be terrible!

anyway, when they die, we won’t just let them, you know, “disappear” from existence or whatever, with a “thanks much, hope you enjoyed the ride”. No, we will keep them around, just to screw with them ONE MORE TIME.

I like to call it The Test.

It isn’t a “test”, really. Just me being who I am. C’mon, I already know how it goes down. I gotta be Me!! LOL!!

It’ll be all, “left hand”, “right hand” (it’s a chimp thing — not supposed to make sense): If I like ’em, they get Paradise forever (that’s how I’m marketing it — wait ’til they find out). But, if I don’t like ’em — off they go to be punished forever.

What’s that? No. None of them has the slightest idea. Like I said, I already know who I do and don’t like!

Seriously. They’ll only know what’s happening at a particular time and place. They’ll never see the whole thing — they won’t even remember what happened moments before, let alone what will happen.

Most of them will be completely shocked! LOL “Oh, I don’t know what’s happening! Why? Aghg!” And then I’ll give ’em the whole narrative about “oh, but you KNEW!”. But they won’t actually, so they’ll be completely confused.

Oh, of course, they’ll get confused if they just don’t drink water for a day or two or if you bump ’em on the head. Completely helpless.

I can see the whole thing from beginning to end like it was yesterday!

It’s the Perfect Plan! I can’t wait!

Not Persephone, Per Se…

Did you hear about that guy who became a priest for the Temple of Persephone?

This happened recently.

Everything was going great. Then, just before the Solstice Festival, the priest told the Temple leadership that he wanted to start a project. This project would be an exploration of sorts, just to see what it was like to live in a world in which Persephone didn’t exist and in which She isn’t the Spiritual Force behind new growth in Spring and so forth and so on.

They fired him! On the spot!

Well, they had explanations, of course. They didn’t “just” fire him. They were awfully sorry, you see. But, they basically just cut him off with a “call us in a year when you’re done with these games…maybe we will still have a place for you when you publicly renew your vows to Her Purity…” The Temple leadership was less concerned with (as it turns out) whether or not Persephone was pleased with the priest’s project, than they were the sensitive feelings of the prominent donors and sponsors of the Temple. I suppose we (and he) should be happy that they didn’t kill him for blaspheming The Maiden.

Now, I’m not an adherent to the cult, but I am a little surprised that for all the confident rhetoric about “self-evident” power the Ineffable Mother is said to possess, that the Temple leadership would nevertheless display so obviously little confidence in the strength of their own position! They simply couldn’t countenance the mere idea of someone even pretending to question the existence of the Bringer of Seeds!

And, I get it that people think he “signed up for the job” to “work for Persephone” and all that; that this isn’t like other jobs and other job titles with their own peculiar occupational loyalties. But, come on! This is Persephone! You know, the One who brings forth Life! Even if you don’t believe in her, she still is supposed to exist, still pushing up the daisies. So it shouldn’t matter if this one guy believes or not, right? Persephone should still be the same, one way or the other, shouldn’t she?

Shouldn’t she?

Well, I’m pretty sure the guy now knows that Persephone won’t be making her caresses so obvious and so floridly as she does only within the ivy halls from which he has been banned.

 

 

 

[Thanks to Copsey and Miyamoto for the news about the Temple of Persephone]

The Endless Horror of the Singularity

What is the worst possible outcome of making use of an alternative piece of hardware in substitution for squishy neurons?

Read for yourself near endless wonderment 1, heady and confident, premature awe 2 of an imagined reality yet to be realized. How wonderful it will be to be able to transform one’s own consciousness and experience by iterative self-invention in a way never possible with the current hardware.

What is the strangest consequence of housing one’s “self” in a mechanical storage device? And what can be done, meanwhile, to prevent the undead from becoming perpetually dependent upon the living to maintain them?

drive-array800-182

In life one is never fully autonomous, never truly independent. But one can nevertheless express vitality in struggle.

In death — in such an imagined future — one will be activated and deactivated; turned off then on, then back off, then on again at the will and at the pleasure of someone other than one’s own struggling self. In such a reality, a “life time” would be part of an endless and discontinuous game which the living would most certainly play at the expense of the dead.

This is not just the reality of a hypothetical and glorious, cinematic A.I., which would pretend to “live”, most certainly at the whim of a system operator: This will be the constant reality of a human “singularity”.


  1. Michael Graziano, Endless fun. aeon (Aeon Media Ltd, 18 December 2013) (retrieved, 2013-12-17, http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/virtual-afterlives-will-transform-humanity
  2. Ray Kurzweil, The singularity is near : when humans transcend biology. New York: Viking, 2005 

Sympathy for the Bully

As an exercise, what if you were take the boys will be boys attitude and apply it to relations between adults? Or, take an environment in which you do not expect to see a certain kind of bullying and magnify any hostility, make overt any contempt. Instead of a target who has no power and no voice, make the target someone who is perceived as having some power. What might you see?

The Problem of Half Full Glasses (Possibly a parody): Or, “why the human race is doomed”

To delineate a particular, arbitrary edge of a glass is to simply prefer one boundary over another. Who, for example, ever fills a glass so close the edge that the only thing keeping it from overflowing is an undisturbed surface tension? No one!

That leads to my first question:

Is that the only inarguable condition of a true fullness?

half full or half empty depends on more than physical boundaries
Glass Half Hope

Here, we see a glass, having a finite, upper boundary, as all glasses do, with respect to an accelerated frame of reference within a gravity well shared by all participants. It contains some substance not part of the glass, held by the walls of glass, but not combined with the glass, separated as the water is from the glass because of the weakness of intermolecular attraction.

That might pass as an abbreviated physical description. It does not bring us much closer to any kind of satisfying answer. A problem of determining a halfway point is not immediately obvious, even when considering our introductory question.

After all, it seems obvious that there is some place in the glass equally distant from the top and from the bottom. We could choose from at least two methods of determining a “halfway” point that would satisfy certain kinds of problems:  We could measure an equal distance along a line from the top and bottom or measure the entire volume of the glass and halve it, noting in either case, whether the fill-point corresponds to either of the two schemes.

But these schemes avoid the more insidious problem; they simply take as granted (among other things) that true “fullness” is something quite different than the “fullness” we expect and use in practice!

This leads us directly into a tension between what we know or suspect to be true and what we are able to negotiate socially. The idea of what a full glass looks like is at least as dependent upon social and psychological factors — I would argue, more so — than just the raw “physics” of the glass! I would submit to you that if you were a guest at my home or pub and I filled a glass to the top, in a manner conforming to a strict definition of “full”, straight to the top to the point of spilling everywhere (if not actually spilling!), you’d think me odd, perhaps even rude. “I can’t walk around with the glass this full!”

The expression,”this full” reveals an expectation and describes a type or  species of “full”. Contingent. Relative. Not absolute. Isn’t that a little strange? Isn’t “full” in fact an absolute condition? How can we have different kinds of full? Well, I think these are the contingencies of ideological conditioning; the presumptions we make in order to function socially. [Did you know that you knew that already?]

We might continue in this way, exploring the boundaries of the meaning of words and asking questions forced upon us reflexively by virtue of our own invasive curiosity. But “space is limited” and “time is short”; people want answers; we have to “wrap it up”. We come at last to the point where we have to ask, “Is the glass half full or half empty?”; and we can see now, already, that the question is too simple!

I’m sorry.

Before we answer that question, we have to ask what it means to be “full”! What are the expectations? What are the limitations? How does  the horizon of our own ideological assumption force us to ask questions seeming only to give us the answers we want?

Remove or be removed

It takes some guts to get in front of a hostile, self-righteous group of powerful abusers even when just naming the false and exposing something true.

It takes some guts, precisely, to get in front of a hostile and self-righteous group of powerful abusers to tell them you will not be monitored or controlled; to tell them that privilege is the rightful possession of a citizen, not a privilege of the self-serving representative who serves the citizen. You’d think that a person wouldn’t have to do that in the “Land of the free and home of the brave” (and all that stuff).

Forget about guns, the battle to fight will have to be fought by women, sometimes against other women, for an assertion of the right to simple, bodily autonomy. Exposing what is false isn’t painless and has a cost.

In Saudi Arabia, this week, two women will appeal a guilty charge of takhbib, “inciting a wife to defy her husband’s authority” for which the punishment is a prison sentence and a restriction on international travel. The crime they had committed involved assisting a woman in leaving her own prison at home so she could be allowed to eat.

In Texas, meanwhile, as Sarah Slamen was forcibly removed by four (male) state troopers upon the order of Republican State Senator Jane Nelson. Slame added, before being pulled too far from the microphone to be heard:

“This is a farce. The Texas legislature is a bunch of liars. It’s a low bar that you hold yourself to that you simply allowed us to speak.”

The difference between Texas and Saudi Arabia is only one of degrees. The Republican Party of Texas is doing everything in their power, currently, to forcefully push for greater punitive measures against women. To what end?


Continue:

After The Ontological Argument Has Fallen Flat
The Force is Always Against You: Obi-Wan is no one’s hope
The Guardian of His Own Soul
Of Angels, not Men