The Only Argument That Matters is Performance

This may sounds like the typical lament of social media, but I got into an argument yesterday that bored me. It was about history, and it involved an alternative history theory I’ve communicated in a number of ways. And I don’t mind the fact that people disputed it. Good points were made.

What bothers me was the ones who missed the point, and made unjustified claims to argue irrelevant points. Yes, Allzu Menslich, but do I need to expend the energy on refuting it? What am I losing be engaging in it? Will my refutation change anyone’s mind. To ask is to answer.

What changes people’s minds is their perceptions of reality, not argument. Argument, however carefully constructed, is just words, and they won’t get through someone’s fundamental worldview. Natural skepticism of being led down the primrose path via sophistry comes to bear whenever worldview is challenged. That’s simply how human brains work.

What changes people’s minds is what they can see happening in front of their faces. Doing changes minds, talking doesn’t. The Generals of the Prussian Army resisted hard against the introduction of breech-loading steel cannon. Then the Franco-Prussian War happened.

What I’m getting at is a general distrust of gabbing as opposed to an embrace of action. That doesn’t mean I’m planning on shutting up, just that I’m done trying to persuade people. You won’t see the Truth until you see it.

The Discreet Charms of the DVD

Since we’ve been locked in, I have taken it upon myself to rely a bit yes on the internet for the evenings entertainment, and to tuck into my ancient collecton of DVD’s and Blu-Rays. No chance of a failure of Net Neutrality (*snicker*) to deprive me of a viewing. Here’s what I’ve watched over the past week:

  • Waiting for Guffman
  • This is Spinal Tap
  • Ed Wood
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Lost in Translation
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

All of these, except perhaps the last one, are old favorites, all things I know I like, but all things I haven’t watched in forever. It’s always easier to crumple down into the couch and be served up some New Hotness by our content providers.

I mean, I watched Tiger King like everyone else, and thoroughly enjoyed the madness of it. That was a delightfully Marlovian tale: vengeance and hatred and conspiracy, with a dangerous doomed animals in the mis-en-scene (If there are any tigers left alive in the wild when this century is half-over, my old eyes will be surprised to see them). Also, fundamentally American: puritanism vs. license. All sinners in the hands of an angry God.

But it’s been fun to kick it old-school, to appreciate the collection that I was long told would be obsolete. Not so, my lovelies. I’ve taken it as another opportunity to unplug from the Matrix.

Blogging in the Time of Coronavirus

Is there anything more modern, and stupider, then arguing over the name of a virus? I try to get into the mindset of someone who hears someone say “Coronavirus” and says “No, it’s  COVID-19”. Because all “COVID-19” means is “This particular kind of Coronavirus.”

And I know those who have been conditioned so are apt to “cringe” (that useful word getting anthimeria’d into a noun is a supreme internet weariness) upon hearing “Wuhan Virus”, but honestly, there’s no shortage of bugs getting named for places. Ebola is an obvious example, being named for a river, but there’s no shortage of diseases similarly monickered. It’s simply a human habit to associate a disease with a place, because we can’t see the little beastiess.

So get the hell over yourselves. As far as I’m concerned, everyone who stamped their feet upon hearing “Wuhan Virus” is responsible for people suddenly wanting to call it “Kung Flu.” Fussiness invites reaction.

Anyway, these past few weeks have been me adjusting to the new daily routine. I’ve been out of the house seldom, and I can count the number of times I’ve been in another facility on one hand. I am content to stay home and work and amuse myself. The other surprising ease has been largely withdrawing from social media, especially Twitter. A thousand screaming voices casting everything in varying doom terms is enough to give anyone agita.

And really, every single one of them is right. This isn’t just a regular seasona flu. It’s not Black Plague, but it’s not the sniffles, either. I don’t know if shutting everyone down is an overreaction or not. I do know the decision is out of my hands, and so, therefore, is the responsibility. I’m able to work from home, though, so it’s easy for me to say that.

The economic impact has yet to be felt. Everyone who is panicking about that isn’t wrong to, either. This will have diverse impacts across the board. Just when we’re moving past the pandemic, the depression/recession will kick in. And again, that’s simply baked into the cake at this point. We cannot undo what we have done. So sit back, have a drink, and watch the world spasm.

 

John C. Wright on the Canon of Fiction

An Essay in the form of series. Part 1 and Part 2, and a footnote.

The question is, can fanfiction – sub-writings in a fictional universe, by fans – become Canon, i.e. officially a part of the story?

I myself would err on the side of “no, not really”, without making a categorical claim on it. But more important than the answer to that question is whether a story, any kind of story, follows its own structure consistently.

My last podcast was a discussion of sequels that did not respect established lore. Not fanfiction, mind, but canonical sequels. When people talk of “respecting the fans”, they really mean “respecting the lore” – i.e., not ignoring what has been previously established in order to Subvert Expectations. You can’t just give Bran and Sansa crowns because that feels good and completely ignore the political realities in the published Song of Ice and Fire canon, for example. So for me, the greater question than “can fanfiction become canon/” is “can sequels become canon?” or even “can the later series of a TV show avoid destroying its own canon?”

Wright discusses the points of internal consistency in Part 2 of the essay.

Birds of Prey Eats the Seed Corn

What does it mean when a movie doesn’t do well?

It means it didn’t “find an audience” it didn’t appeal to enough people. Not that it doesn’t appeal to anyone. How much is “enough”?

To make money.

Now, I suppose that Christian Toto is right enough in his overall explanation for why Birds of Prey didn’t find its audience. Get Woke, Go Broke and all that. You can’t build an audience by deconstructing it.

But I’ve got a more direct explanation for why no one went to see Birds of Prey:

Nobody Cares.

Real quick, what’s the difference between Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn?

Wonder Woman is a hero. Harley Quinn is nuts.

Harley Quinn is not a character to build a movie around. She will not stay put in a protagonist’s role. Like the Joker she serves, she is at her best when protean and chaotic, performing cunning tricks for dastardly purposes. She’s not the Good Guy.

Now, you can make a story for how people become Not Good Guys. Joker had a big success with that. It can be done. People like Harley Quinn because she’s murderous and silly, an entertaining package in a Rogue.

But she’s not a hero.

So you end up putting a bunch of secondary characters around her, to give it that Avengers vibe that everyone loves. But The Avengers works because everyone knows Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, etc. They are top-tier Marvel characters. Who the hell is Cassandra Cain? How niche is Black Canary? These are not box-office draws.

If Suicide Squad had left people with good feelings, there would have been a bigger audience for Birds of Prey. But even though Suicide Squad made money, it was a disappointment. So as much fun as Margot Robbie is in the Harley Quinn suit, the audience for her movie among fans is not as big as it could have been. Throw some sMaSH tHe pATriARchY on there, and you’ve got a recipe for “nah…”.

Godard is a Godless, Worshipful Communist

Was, whatever. Any perusal of his filmography — especially from the Era of ’68 — could have led me to that conclusion. But reading Godard on Godard, his collection of film criticism I earlier linked to, has rather shoved my nose in it, to a distasteful degree.

In his obscure five-run magazine Gazette du Cinema, Godard wrote a piece called “Towards a Political Cinema” sometime in 1950. It begins thusly:

One afternoon towards the end of a Gaumont newsreel, my eyes widened with pleasure: the young German Communists were parading on the occasion of the May Day Rally. Space was suddenly lines of lips and bodies, time the rising of fists in the air. On the faces of these young Saint Sebastians one saw the smile which has hunted the faces of happiness from the archaic Kores down to the Soviet cinema. One felt for Siegfried the same love as that which bound him to Limoges. Purely through the force of propaganda which animated them, these young people were beautiful. “The beautiful bodies of twenty-year-olds which should go naked”

Yes, the great Soviet actors speak in the name of the Party, but like Hermione of her longings and Lear of his madness. their gestures are meaningful only in so far as they repeat some primordial action. Like Kierkegaard’s ethician, a political cinema is always rooted in repetition: of history. The actor infallibly becomes what he once was, the priest. The Fall of Berlin and The Battle of Stalingrad are Masses for a consummation.

He at least has the honesty to acknowledge propaganda as propaganda, and to absolve it, as everyone does, by its intentions. Communists always get their alibi.

One wonders if it occurs to Godard that the little Saint Sebastian’s has little choice in whether they were there or not. Under communism, everything not forbidden is compulsory, and everything compulsory is to be embraced with the enthusiasm of addicts. After a while, this simply becomes conditioning. One also wonders if this did occur to him, and this is precisely the reason he likes it. By the effacing of the individual alone can New Soviet Man be built. That’s why the gulags and the trials and the mass starvation were not accidental, not unintended aberrations of Communism. They were precisely the point. By terror are the little virgins sacrificed to appease the great God History.

There is nothing about this philosophy that is not Satanic.

 

Criterion Collection Lust and Other Class Settings

I haven’t watched a single thing on my art-house bucket list, but I’ve subscribed to the Criterion Collection subreddit, because displays of aesthetic approval from an institutional source matter more in the Matrix than actually developing aesthetic sense.

Which is fine, as most people have no idea what aesthetic sense even is. I include philosophers in that number. Among other things, I’m moseying through Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, and he makes flash statements about unmusical people liking opera, but he never says what he means by “unmusical”. If Nietzsche had an ounce of Aristotle in him, he wouldn’t be so beholden to Hegel and Schopenhauer as pre-reading.

As it happens, reading German philosophy and watching New Wave Cinéma is mentally demanding, and as you can’t disprove the notion that any of them aren’t just jacking off, it rarely feels like a good time investment. But in small doses, it can be of use, if only as variety and challenge. Which was part of the point, if I recall correctly.