One of the most pleasant aspects of the Baltic Sea cruise was the chance it gave me to read; I've managed to hold to my resolution regarding Proust. In fact, I've progressed down Swann's Way with so much more alacrity than I expected that I've been dropping into various Norwegian bookstores (all of which well-stocked with English-language novels, in which might lie my problem, considering) looking for In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. I've only found one English copy of any volume of In Search Of Lost Time, and that was the redundant Swann's Way, moreover in the icky unhip Moncrieff translation, though I did see the whole set in Norwegian. And while sometimes while reading variously informative signs I get the impression that Norwegian is just English not even badly spelled but only badly typed, with the occasional manual typewriter strike-through on the o's, I don't think I'll get the full flavor of the Proustian language reading it in a language I only comprehend through bull-headedness and an inflated ego.

But while English-readers in Norway don't seem to be driving up the demand for Proust, I cannot say they are without taste. If popularity can be calculated by the sheer footage of shelf space, then two of the most popular authors in Norway are Paul Auster (ex-husband of Swann's Way translator Lydia Davis, apophenetically) and Haruki Murakami. Apparently there is a Norwegian appetite for existential, pulpish, experimental novels. Hoping to pass off synchronicity as miscomprehension, I bought Norwegian Wood.
On my return flight from Memphis to Cleveland, my napkin was this:

napkin-003

I took it as an omen and I have booked my Tahoe trip, though I resisted even the strict authority of the napkin and bought tickets neither with USAir or into Reno. I fly into SFO late at night on the 21st (I'll head up to Tahoe the next day) and leave SFO late at night on the 26th. I have no idea where I am staying or how I am getting there, but I do plan to eat at Zachary's going both directions. What is the transportation/lodging situation these days? Leaving at such an unusual time, I'd probably be better off renting a car, but I'd rather not sleep in it.
We scheduled the meet with [livejournal.com profile] atpolittlebit and [livejournal.com profile] ladyhelix for last Saturday without realizing that it would be the third game of the Cavaliers-Pistons series. As Cleveland had looked hapless against Detroit, getting blown out in the first game and being dominated in the second, I wasn't too put out about that, but I did resolve to keep an eye on the tv at PF Chang's. Well, the best laid plans and all that and I managed to drink much of a bottle of champagne and forget about the game until the next morning, when I was surprised to discover that Cleveland had won. Monday, before game four, we had packed and turned in the cable converters, and I had been too tired and dirty to feel up to go anywhere that might show the game. Again, the Cavs won. Wednesday was spent unpacking in Memphis, where my mother as yet does not have cable, and having been separated from the internet and television since Monday, I hadn't even known there was a game scheduled. Cleveland was again victorious. So that had been three straight games I hadn't watched, and three straight wins.

I'm not superstitious, but I still don't have cable, so I spent much of last night following the game on ESPN.com's live scoreboard. This was frustrating to say the least, especially when it their computer kept rolling the Cav's score between 59 and 61 between the third and fourth quarters, undecided as to whether or not Flip Murray's final shot had gone in. But it was involving enough that I could be heard vociferously swearing as action was reported to me in the style and at the speed of the telegram. Well, with the game tight and three and a half minutes to go in the fourth, I had had enough of that, and decided that I would walk up to this bar I'd seen earlier and see if they were showing the game. I arrived with 1.4 seconds: Cleveland was down two with LeBron on the foul line; he'd just made his first free throw and had to intentionally miss his second. Zydrunas Ilgauskas got the rebound but couldn't sink his shot for the tie. I managed to see just enough of the game for the Cavaliers to lose.

As I say, I'm not superstitious, but it's probably no coincidence that I'd planned to spend tomorrow between 3:30 and six Eastern time down at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Unfortunately, they have the temerity to be closed on Sundays, and I'm now in great danger of further testing my apophenia and dooming the Cavaliers.
Thanks to all for their kind comments. I'm too exhausted for coherency; I got fewer than six hours of sleep last night, and I've had a very full day. I won't claim it was a bad day -- I tend to do very well with specific problems. I rode the stationary bike for an hour first thing in the morning, then went over to the optometrist, who prescribed some eyedrops and said to lay off the contacts until the redness is fully cleared up. I like my optometrist -- there was no charge for the drop-in, and I managed to get two sets of five dailies gratis. Of course the eyedrops would be much more dear. I was then going to proceed straight to the J, but climbing the steps in the mall tired me out enough I decided I would get some protein first. An unreasonably heavy, fatty and carby lunch later and I needed a catnap. I talked to my mother for a little while, and then went to drop off my prescription, buy a liter bottle of water and some naproxen sodium. Then I worked out at the J for a couple of hours -- this energized me long enough to get a half-caf Mint Condition from Caribou. The caffiene hit me the wrong way and by the time I met up with my father and we went down to the hospital, I was ready to drop.

We sat with my grandmother for an hour. Her pulse rate, pulsox, blood pressure are all still good. She seems less responsive tonight than last; last night she was opening her eyes seemingly in response to touch. Tonight her eyes were clamped shut the entire time we were there. It's tough for me to tell how much consciousness is behind her movements: only her left hand, which will grab a hold of yours if you put them together, seems to work volitionally. She keeps raising and lowering her left knee; my dad and I started timing it and it moved with a regular cycle of forty to fifty seconds. Her right side must be entirely paralyzed now -- she had been twitching her right leg last night, but not tonight, and her right arm's been motionless since the stroke. Yesterday, it seemed like she'd respond or try to respond to being touched or spoken to. Tonight, though, other than the hand there were not as many such signs on which to hang hopes of consciousness.

I keep slipping into euphemism. I was going to say "I hope she can achieve peace soon." But I'm a materialist; I mean that I hope she can achieve nothingness soon. My father and I are on the same page as to our belief that she'd prefer death to this. (Though, I don't know. No neurologist's been able to show me on the CAT scan that the stroke destroyed the center in the brain which prevents me from a callous disregard for her autonomy.) We think there's a living will somewhere. I've had some terrible thoughts such as the realization that Ohio's Attorney General is a Republican running for Governor, locked in a primary battle with our Secretary of State; they're competing to show which of them can be the most muscularly right-wing Fundamentalist Christian, so I'm hoping my uncle won't come in and countermand our no-heroic-measures stance or else I'm going to be the new Michael Schiavo.

I really need some sleep now.
Today, I ran ) for 28 minutes, being in the middle of the eighth week of the Couch-To-5K nine-week plan. Of course, as I've been following the designated times rather than the designated distances, and as I've been "pacing myself," I'm not quite on track for five kilometers next week, as, according to the Gmap Pedometer, I ran only 2.38 miles. All of it, I might add, was uphill. It amazes me, but until I started running I had no idea that I could leave my house and travel a complete circuit through the neighborhood without ever descending. Apparently I live on a moebius strip. Today's more linear route was my attempt to limit the amount of climbing I would have to do: I spent much of it following the watershed of one of the ancient creeks. And yet still my body sends the message: "THIS IS UPHILL" while my brain divides the route into treacherous hills, steep climbs, steady uphill grades, and the occasional short stretch of almost, but not quite, sheer cliff face.

One thing that running has taught me is that my brain, much as I have trusted it over the years, doesn't always have my best interests at heart. Given half an hour of leisure time while my body and I are off jogging, it does nothing but concoct reasons why we should just go back to bed. For example, on Thursday, after about nine minutes of running and the hill out of the creekbed that I'm now sure is, if not K2, then at least K-twenty or twenty-five, my right Achilles' tendon issued a sensation. Not pain, not even discomfort, just a sensation. My body relays this to me as, "Uh, your Achilles' tendon would like you to know that it's here, and, on the whole, it would rather be sitting in a jacuzzi." Well, my brain overhears this, and it starts screaming, "It's going to SNAP and you'll be CRIPPLED and in a WHEELCHAIR and they better find a DOUBLE-WIDE WHEELCHAIR 'cause you'll be FAT ANYWAY so you should GO HOME and read the internet but DON'T POST or COMMENT because NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOU . . . " Meanwhile, my Achilles' tendon has long ago messaged "kthxbye!" and my body is wrapped up in trying to get over what we had previously believed to be a nice rolling lane but which evidence now suggests is a seriously disoriented Himalaya.

So my interest was piqued . . .  )
Why did no one tell me that Foucault's Pendulum name-checks the Abbé d'Herblay?
He sneers. "We met in other times, when you tried to pull me away from the deathbed of Postel, when under the name Abbé d'Herblay I led you to end one of your incarnations in the heart of the Bastille."
Coming as the reference did on page 502, I was exhilarated but not flabbergasted to see it; by that point I had come to expect that Umberto Eco would refer to every obscure esotericon he or I could think of (excluding only, strangely for a book set in Milan, any idea that Leonardo Da Vinci had encoded messages into The Last Supper); and indeed the book had been warming up to both the Jesuits and Dumas for a few previous chapters.

Someday I should make a chart of all the books I've read that take the impartation of trivia as a narrative device and match them to their respective arcana. There was once a strange period of synchronicity over about a week in which it seemed that every book I read -- Barcelona, by Robert Hughes; Martin Gardner's Science, Good, Bad and Bogus; and the Roderick cycle of John Sladek -- mentioned the Catalan scholastic Ramon Llull. I think each book had spelled his name differently, Ramon Llull in the Hughes and Raymond Lull in the Sladek with something in between in the Gardner. And, indeed, when Eco mentions him in passing it's as Lullus. Longitude and Mason & Dixon both concern themselves with the English resistance to converting from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, and, lo, it's a major plot point in Foucault's Pendulum as well. The Golem of Prague, previously encountered in Roderick and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, to take two just off the top of my head, also appears briefly.
Last night, I went downtown to see North By Northwest, preceeded by two of Chuck Jones's Merrie Melodies, at Cinema At The Square. I knew that the people behind me were trouble when, during "Little Beau Pepé," one of them loudly exclaimed "Oh my God!" when the black and white cat rubbed up against the freshly-painted ladder and ended up with a white streak down her back. I don't know what sort of cultural illiterate is surprised when, during a Pepé Le Pew cartoon, the cat ends up with white paint on her, but I hope that some sort of LiveJournal community exists to make her feel ignorant. These women continued to offer helpful commentary throughout the movie: when the bad guys have propped an intoxicated Cary Grant behind the wheel of a car on a precariously windy seacoast road, another woman said, "I think they're going to drive him off the cliff." And when the movie got to the establishing shot of the Indiana cornfield, and one of them said, "That's no man's land," I wanted to turn around and say, "For the next ten minutes, the movie will take place with practically no dialogue. Let's see if we can do the same." But I didn't, because I'm polite, genteel and cowardly.

North By Northwest is still one of my favorite movies; I was reminded last night that it, much more than the novels, set the framework for the James Bond movies. And there were some lines I didn't remember. Cary Grant saying to James Mason, Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau "The three of you together -- now, that's a picture only Charles Addams could draw," at least had the ring of familiarity, but I have absolutely no recollection of ever before seeing Mason, captured by Leo G. Carroll and watching as the park ranger shoots Landau, saying, "That wasn't very sporting, using real bullets."

On a completely unrelated subject, I was tickled to read today's New York Times Magazine and find that it contains an "On Language" column by William Grimes which mentions Chez Panisse but not Alice Waters and a Food column which mentions Alice Waters but not Chez Panisse. I don't imagine that the Times is running some sort of hidden contest where you're supposed to match obvious pairs, setting "Curtis Sliwa" with "Guardian Angels," or "The Bell Jar" with "Sylvia Plath," or "colossal embarrassment" with "U.S. Men's Basketball Olympic team," and then counting the pages in between the references for some sort of Kabbalistic frisson. Perhaps it should.

Basic math

May. 8th, 2004 07:30 pm
Two:
I might be getting transferred within the next week to anotehr post. At the very least, KBR is not allowing any private computers on their system for the next ninety days. There might be one other option, but if you don't hear from me for a while...God, I don't know what I'll do about the kitty.
Two:
Many of the incriminating photographs appear to have been taken on a digital camera by a soldier in the 372nd Military Police Company who is now facing a court-martial. From there, they appear to have circulated among military personnel in Iraq via e-mail and computer disks, and some may have found their way to family members in the United States.

[ . . . ]Digital cameras have become so ubiquitous in the military that many relatives of personnel in the 372nd and other units in Iraq said they routinely received photographs by e-mail.
Four.

Update: This may be overblown. [livejournal.com profile] ginmar explains.

Abu Ghraib

Apr. 30th, 2004 06:06 pm
I am saddened and sickened by the news from Abu Ghraib (scroll down to "Appalling" if the permalink isn't working). I realize that between the news from Virginia, Sinclair Broadcasting Group's craven show of disrespect for our troops, and some singularly awful news from one of the brightest and funniest people on my friends list, this has been lost in a tumult of crappiness over the last twenty-four hours. (I am slightly heartened that the comments threads at some stalwart warblogs have been universally condemnatory of the actions of our troops -- even to the point of awakening some sympathy within me for those young men and women who find themselves in a situation they are ill-prepared for.) It comes as no surprise to me (or to Henley and Silber) that the first casuality of war is the belief in a unitary humanity, but I crumble at the sight of it so clearly demonstrated.

My typical reaction to anything overwhelming is a quip, a humorous distraction, a mollifying jape. This really deserves better, but I am not capable of better, so I'm just going to take some really cheap shots at Glenn Reynolds. (Who does express a suitable outrage at the story.)

Unfortunate Juxtaposition At InstaPundit #1

PHOTOBLOGGING: Here's a gallery of beautiful photos from Vietnam.

Unfortunate Juxtaposition At InstaPundit #2

RYAN BOOTS has his weekly roundup of the Iraqi blogs, which he's calling the Carnival of the Liberated. It's a must-read.

Unfortunate Juxtaposition At InstaPundit #3

ARE WE GOING TOO SOFT IN IRAQ? Some people think so. It seems that way to me, too, though I'm reluctant to make a judgment at this distance. But in my lifetime, at least, the United States has generally erred by not being violent enough, rather than by being too brutal.
I currently have 4 books and one CD in my Amazon shopping cart, and I was looking at Amazon's blurb for "The Page You Made," when it struck me that the top two items were The Road To Disunion, based on [livejournal.com profile] rahael's recommendation, and Donald E. Westlake's new Dortmunder caper, The Road To Ruin. I thought that was an interesting synchronicity, though not powerful enough to make me go crazy or anything. Instead, I will have to overstate the relevance of Nick Montfort's Twisty Little Passages, which, in juxtaposition with the others, suggests that while we may be headed to some bad ends, we're going to take our own sweet time getting there.

The CD is Prince's new Musicology; my unfortunate tendency, if left alone with a word, to pronounce it in an atrocious mock-French accent has led me to wonder about the etymology of ponce. My Oxford Shorter gives the derivation as "perhaps POUNCE," which I find inconclusive. Citations date back to the late 19th Century, when, rumor has it, at least one Prince of Wales was associating with prostitutes. Other princes may have been, for all I know, slightly effeminate. It's a tempting induction, suggesting that ponce might derive from "prince," but folk etymologies are often tempting, and always wrong.
In honor of the Final Four, I thought I'd repeat a comment I discovered while trawling (which means the same thing as "trolling" in fishing but not in LiveJournal) through [livejournal.com profile] dlgood's archives.
During S5, Cordelia is either unconscious or dead. So she doesn't enter the office pool.

Way back in BtVS3, these are the schools she got into: USC, Colorado State, Duke, and Columbia.

Cordy, all incarnations of her, would have taken Duke. And would be fully convinced of how wonderful Duke and Coach K are.
I completely agree with this, though my perspective is 180 degrees askew from [livejournal.com profile] dlgood's -- I don't think he likes Cordelia much, and I know he hates Duke. I am reminded that during the first few seasons of Buffy, I thought that Cordelia's subconscious perceptiveness was so great that I had some hopes the spinoff would be called "Cordelia Chase, Psychic Fashion Detective." Cordy would be a Columbia undergraduate by day, and would solve crimes and fight against poorly attired demons on the catwalks and in the sweatshops of Manhattan at night. She would be assisted in this by Angel, who, having moved to the West Village and immersed himself in the galleries and boutiques south of Houston, was discovering his inner fabulousness -- which is about the only characterization in which my scenario did not diverge too greatly from David Greenwalt's.

[livejournal.com profile] dlgood's comment also reminds me that Cordelia's list of acceptances was my strongest piece of evidence that Mutant Enemy was stalking me: I attended Columbia, my parents met at Duke, I once spent a week at Colorado State for an Order of the Arrow conference, and USC are letters I use almost every day.
Recently, I was involved in a discussion on the board concerning the shared realities created when television shows crossover. It is surprising, and a little scary, to see how many shows actually can be linked in this way. For example, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. can be linked to The X-Files: Gomer Pyle is a spin-off of The Andy Griffith Show; Andy Griffith's character on that show was created on The Danny Thomas Show, which, in another episode, featured Morey Amsterdam as Buddy Sorrell, his character from The Dick Van Dyke Show. Mad About You brought back some characters from The Dick Van Dyke Show as an homage; Lisa Kudrow played the same character on Mad About You and Friends; Friends crossed over with Caroline In The City which crossed over with Frasier which was a spin-off from Cheers. An episode of St. Elsewhere featured two doctors drinking at the bar from Cheers; various other St. Elsewhere characters have recurred on Homicide; and Homicide is linked to The X-Files through the ubiquitous Detective John Munch.

It is my contention that when our children will talk about the archetypical characters of mythology, they will mention The Hero, The Shadow, The Trickster and John Munch. Richard Belzer has now appeared on five different shows on three different networks as the character. Apparently, he's in line to add another.
Sunday: 22:26/15:32 (acrostic); Monday: 4:02; Tuesday: 4:41; Wednesday: 7:47; Thursday: 11:14. I'm quite backed up on these things, being pleasantly diverted.

My birthday has been very successful; my thanks to all those who extended their best wishes, with a special thank you going out to [livejournal.com profile] aliera9916 for the gift. It is greatly appreciated! I was well-gifted this February 14th: [livejournal.com profile] rahael gave me the third season of Homicide (I may force her to watch the Steve Buscemi episode before she goes). My mother presented me with Angel Season Three, the Vh1 (Inside)Out documentary on Warren Zevon, and Rashomon. I thought I'd seen Rashomon before, but I read the description on the back of the DVD and it sounds nothing like what I remember! (Rim shot.) My father got me the new Elmore Leonard novel and, proving that if he reads my friends list, he doesn't delve into the comments, The Da Vinci Code. I'm looking forward to indulging myself with all of these -- I have the feeling that Dan Brown's novel is going to be a guilty pleasure (or at least guilty).

But before I get to those, I have to finish Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I just reached December 7, 1941, on which a ton of stuff happens, the least of it being the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Is that a spoiler?) Chabon seems to have a better grasp of the comics world than I do (check out his treatment for the X-Men movie); there are lots of little in-jokes capable of producing chuckles in people who can recognize that twenty years after the novel takes place, there would be a comics character named "Wolverine," etc. There are probably in-jokes too obscure for the likes of me, too; I'm rather desperately seeking a site with annotations. I'd start in on it myself (I picked up rather quickly that Sammy Clay's extremely goyishe friend would introduce him to rather more forbidden foods from the fact that his name is "Tracy Bacon"), but as the only portrait of the obsessive annotating fan Chabon presents is of a Nazi sympathizer, I'm not sure the job would do me credit! I'm quite enjoying the novel, but I am reminded of [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk's theory of the spatchcocked woman. I never really got the impression that Sammy would be homosexual, but being that the novel contains two young male protagonists with healthy sexual desires, and only one female character of any personality whatsoever, it seems like simple supply and demand. It's like all those hobbits running around with no sexual outlet other than each other and occasionally Boromir.

Speaking of perpetual bachelor hobbits and their "nephews," [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk also recently asked about movies that change public consciousness. I've been wondering of late whether or not the recent rise in support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military can be attributed to the success of the Lord of the Rings movies: it's hard to deny to homosexuals the right to defend their country when they've been shown to do so well carrying rings to Mt. Doom. I wonder if The Return of the King, in which Pippin catches a bouquet, for christ's sake, will have a similar effect on support for gay marriage.

Of course, not every viewing of The Lord of the Rings will produce more progressive politics; [livejournal.com profile] londonkds points to John Rhys-Davies's thoughts on the effects on Britain of the prodigious reproduction of Muslim immigrants. I wonder, though, whether I cannot blame this all on Steven Spielberg. Rhys-Davies did make his name in Raiders of the Lost Ark playing Sallah, the best digger in Egypt, whose fourteen children save Indiana Jones from the massed submachine guns of Belloq's German handlers. How different his prejudices might be had Spielberg bothered to rewrite his script to include lines such as:

JONES:
We're going to need shovels, pry-bars and ropes.
SALLAH:
And condoms, Indy. One should never be without a condom!
I don't usually gakk stuff -- but then, when you come right down to it, I don't usually post -- but this bit of [livejournal.com profile] ponygirl2000's is too good to pass up. Though I tend to denigrate the conspiratorial mindset, I have to admit that the possibilities of historical figures having met under strange circumstances sends my mind to some interesting spaces. The fact that Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and Sly Stone were all in London soon after the 1970 Isle of Wight festival makes me wonder about secret recordings of late-night jam sessions. (In fact, Jimi had made tentative plans to jam with Sly on the night of September 17, but he didn't feel like going and instead died.) That the Unabomber studied math at Harvard at around the same time as Tom Lehrer was teaching there makes me reflect on the different manners in which one can release one's cynical and anti-social impulses.

Indeed, I'm not sure that Alan Moore has done anything that exotic in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series takes a similar idea of a group of figures from history and literature banding together for adventures. From various television cartoons, I remember Al Gore's Action Rangers and Leonardo Da Vinci's Fightin' Genius Time Commandos (all good things ultimately spring from The Tick). In any case, this game of Moore and ponygirl is one I have played before. I remember wandering among the tombs in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence thinking to myself, "Those interred here would, should the resurrection occur, make a kick-ass A-Team." Galileo would be the MacGuyver of the team; Michaelangelo (whom all the women go crazy for but he has his eyes squarely on the mission) would be the artful one; Dante (admittedly buried in Ravenna despite having one of the largest tombs in the church) would have the inside track to the post-apocalyptic landscape; and the conniving Macchiavelli (who has a bit of a complex over everyone else having such wonderful monuments while he got chucked into the floor) would be the team's wheeler and dealer. But this is not the team I want to outline today.

I once had the idea of writing a novel based on the idea that Francis Bacon, still seeking a return to royal favor, faked his death in 1626 so to be available to serve on missions for the British Crown, which he undertook with the assistance of his recent secretary, Thomas Hobbes. This would be its sequel, sort of its Forty Years After. I have decided to eschew the parameter that I can choose figures from anywhere along the space-time continuum and have focussed on Restoration Britain, though I have fudged some ages. In any case, I present the Order of the Squared Circle, Defenders of the Crown and Anti-Papist League!

The Leader: Thomas Hobbes, philosopher, traveller, garrulous arguer, suspected atheist, possibly the worst mathematician ever known. His loyalties to both the crown and to the Cromwellians were suspect; his loyalties to himself never needed any such scrutiny.

The Team: Aphra Behn, playwright and actual spy in the service of Charles II. In another age, one might say that anything a man could do she could do better, but considering the men with which I've surrounded her, one can see that that is faint praise indeed.

Peter Blood, physician and swordsman. A fictional creation of Rafael Sabatini's, made famous as the debut starring role of Errol Flynn. Might be, technically, a little young for inclusion. He distrusts the Catholic tendencies of Charles II, but is willing to defend the rights of free Englishmen up to slavery and death.

John Wilmot, The Earl of Rochester, poet, nobleman, favorite of the King. Famously dissolute. Not afraid to wield his blade, but is more cutting with his verse. Might be considered a little young for inclusion, but Dumas includes a young but clearly adult Rochester in Charles's court in 1660 in Le Vicomte.

The Recruiter: Oh, I don't know, Monk or Clarendon or someone.

Minor Villain: Christopher Wren, whose dastardly and insane plan to put London to the torch so that he can have the space to erect large buildings must be averted at great peril to our heroes.

Subsidiary Villain: Marco da Cola, from An Instance of the Fingerpost, an Italian gentleman and adventurer, curious about all things scientific. Or, just maybe, a Jesuit agent secretly trying to suborn Charles into the Catholic faith. Not easily disposed of, but really just a front for the true villain of the age, the General of the Jesuits, a man with the determination and the resources to rechart the course of history itself.

Major Villain: do I really have to say?

Hmmm. I'd have to read Pepys to really pull this off. Is it any wonder that I started dating someone whose speciality is 17th-Century English History? Saves me all that research.
Over at ATPo, there's a discussion about a possible season 5 scenario wherein Connor retains the powers he has as the product of a mystical union between two vampires, but not his memories of his time in LA, and then returns to AI seeking his true identity. Vash the Stampeder and Masq have independently arrived at the same basic plot (I'm claiming that I thought of a similar plot, but because I never wrote up my thoughts on "Home" like an interesting LJer and instead blathered witlessly about my icon, I can't prove this and you can safely ignore my bandwagon-jumping). While I was typing up a different scenario, one that is unfortunately more final, Vash posted another idea (wherein Connor just replaced another young man, who is going to want to get back to his family and out this imposter). I don't wish to discuss this scenario, or, really, the body of the post or anything about the earlier thread. I want to concentrate on one tiny little parenthetical. Vash writes, "Also, if Connor still possesses his powers (which I believe he does) [ . . . ]"

Less than 48 hours since we got a glimpse of new Connor in which his actions were basically passing the biscuits, and already people had beliefs as to what his powers are? It's not as if we've seen him leap over tall buildings in a single bound; there is not only no evidence with which to assess Connor's current powers, there haven't been any hints! And yet people are starting to believe things about him? I find this hard to comprehend.

Vash seems like a reasonable person, so I doubt he holds this belief so dearly as to declare a crusade against the infidels, but I have seen on the board at least several vicious debates between posters who knew in their hearts with absolute conviction that after Spike had been vamped, he went back to the party shown in "Fool For Love" and killed the people who had made fun of him (these posters swore he did it with a railroad spike, those providing the story Giles repeats in "School Hard"), posters who firmly believed that it was all part of Spike's blustery self-created mythos, and posters who repeated again and again that no evidence existed either way.

Ok, two points don't provide a stable foundation for a structured argument, but I wonder about this sort of belief. I think what Vash is saying is that he would, for dramatic reasons, prefer that Connor retain his powers (insofar as it would mean Kartheiser would return to the show, I share this preference). It makes for an interesting story, it brings a charismatic character back, and it dulls the knife that "Home" stuck in our hearts. By extension, I guess, this means that the people who argued that Spike went back and slaughtered the partygoers would somehow prefer the gruesome deaths of a whole bunch of innocent people to their survival. (In their defense, it should be pointed out that the partygoers were upper-class British twits, so those who believe Spike killed them can be excused. Ok, I should add that they were fictional upper-class British twits, so it's not like bad boy Spike fans are all deeply disturbed bloodthirsty homicidal maniacs. On a related note, I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome [livejournal.com profile] deadsoul820 to my friends list!) Indeed this sort of strongly held preference supports a hell of a lot of LiveJournals, as it is (as Masq is discovering) the root of fanfickery. I am sure that there exist fanfics in which Spike does go back and cold-bloodedly exact revenge on the people who belittled his poetry. (I am also sure that there exist fanfics in which Spike engages each and every one of them in hot sex, but that's another discussion.)

How much does preference affect belief? Many people of the Book, at least on paper, seem to prefer a world with some sort of ultimate meaning, or where mercy is the ruling consideration, to one without meaning, without mercy; I can't blame them. I, on the other hand, call myself a skeptic, an agnostic, and an atheist. (These are overlapping but not identical categories: I am a skeptic because I do not like to accept notions until I believe that someone trustworthy has empirically investigated and verified them; I am an agnostic because I believe that the existence of God is not verifiable through empirical investigation; I am an atheist because, when you come down to it, I just don't believe in higher powers.) I suppose I do prefer a universe where humans have to accept all responsibility for their actions. I wonder about Gnostics and their spiritual relatives, though. Do they really prefer to live in a world that has been corrupted, to live among a poor, deluded mass of humanity? I suppose they prefer to be the few specially enlightened ones. I can understand that -- it is admittedly similar to why I call myself a skeptic; it gives me a vantage point from which to look down on the poor deluded mass of humanity. Still, I wonder if while I'm sneering at those faces I'm really just looking into a mirror.

I don't suppose a fanfic theory of religious studies will get anywhere, but what is Talmudic scholarship but fanwanking the Torah? And some Biblical fanfics are of Halo award-quality. There's been Jesus/Mary Magdalen het; for those who like their 'ships twisted and angsty, like Wes/Lilah and CLex, Jesus/Judas has to be the greatest slash ever told.

[My sincere apologies to Vash, Masq, dead soul, Spike fans, Christians, Muslims, atheists, Gnostics, anyone who has ever believed anything, anyone who enjoys good writing and serious thought, and my mother.]

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andrew_jorgensen

April 2009

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