Is Rey too good at everything in Star Wars?

There has been a lot of online discussion over the last six months on the question of whether Rey is a Mary Sue (a term for a–usually female–character for whom everything comes ludicrously easy) in Star Wars Episode VII.  Max Landis, a really great writer, director, and YouTuber, is the originator of this theory.  And there are accusations that this is a sexist charge, and it probably is for many individuals on the net.  Here’s Max’s point: all Rey does is succeed.  She never fails and beats everyone up and is an expert at everything and beats a more experienced Sith lord in a lightsaber fight.  Max thinks that this removes all the tension from Rey’s story, and to a certain extent I think he’s right.  We don’t ever worry about whether Rey can do it in any situation in the movie.  This makes the story not very compelling.

I’m not so sure.  I won’t talk about the in-universe explanations that make her being good at stuff make sense because this isn’t Max’s point.  Max doesn’t think the story doesn’t make sense, he just think that the story as written doesn’t contain enough tension.  He thinks it doesn’t get us invested in the action.

But I’m not sure that the action is supposed to be what gives rise to the tension in this movie.  Rey’s story is about emotional growth and acceptance of oneself.  We are fairly liberal with Rey’s abilities (relatively easily explainable in universe) so that the action doesn’t distract from Rey’s emotional journey.  Fundmentally, Star Wars Episode VII is a coming of age story that takes place in a world paying homage to the original Star Wars movies.  It’s a story of a girl who is having trouble coming to terms with being a magical space wizard.  And believe me, this is difficult to come to terms with.  She’s also struggling with letting go of ever seeing her family again.  There are two parts of Rey struggling within her.  There is the part of her that just wants to live an ordinary life, waiting on Jakku for her parents, but there is the other part of her that longs for something more than her ordinary scavenger’s existence.  The movie is about her finally coming to accept her power and her being extraordinary.

Now, there are other characters that some accuse of having too little to do in Episode VII, but we’ll discuss these at a later date.

Check back on WMFs for new content!

Peace be with you.
-JS

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Bug Out Bags: What Apocalypse is most plausible to prepare for?

So as a fun way to think about catch-all emergency-readiness, in our house we do some basic things “in case of zombie apocalypse.”  This is obviously silly.  A zombie apocalypse is not going to happen.  But apocalypses happen. And there are emergencies to be prepared for.

The most reasonable kind of emergency to prepare for involves evacuations.  Evacuations happen fairly often, as apocalypses go.  You will be subject to evacuation most often if you live in an area subject to hurricanes.  But you might have to evacuate an area due to almost any large-scale natural disaster.  You may be evacuated for a hurricane, for an earthquake, for flooding, and even for when the aliens from Independence Day come down and destroy all our most treasured monuments.

So in my house we’ve created Bug Out Bags.  Many people have these and you can find a number of great websites devoted to what you should put in your bugout bag.  But creating a bugout bag can be a fun thing to do.  Look through some of the lists on line, think about what you would need in a situation where you need to live away from home on short notice for a while, be frugal, and if you don’t have family nearby, maybe live in a camping or survival style mode for a while.  If all else fails, you’ll simply have prepared a backpack for some rugged super minimalist camping.

Good luck with your prepping. In future posts I’ll talk about some of the trials and tribulations of coming up with our bugout bag.  And maybe I’ll talk about our survival pack, which is like a mini, entry level bugout bag that is more portable.

Check in for more posts every MWF.

Peace be with you.
-JS

Why Do People Not Get Pokemon Go!?

It’s weird. Above a certain age, in all probability the only mention that will be made of Pokemon Go! is of people walking into the holocaust museum playing it, people getting injured playing it, people falling off a cliff playing it.  Even people that are seeing the benefits of it do so through gritted teeth.

I went to the Doctor today and was talking about how healthy I felt after playing Pokemon Go for a couple of weeks straight.  I was told that the doctor didn’t care what a person did as long as it got them active.  It’s the weirdest thing.

You should have been there. It was as if the very idea of Pokemon Go pissed him off, but he was having to admit that it has some few benefits.  I honestly don’t get it.

Do people hate texting because some people pay attention to  their texts instead of the road and got hit by a car crossing the street?  Do people hate gum because some people stop paying attention while putting in a stick and trip over their own feet?  Do you hate baseball caps because someone disrespectfully wears a baseball cap in church or at a funeral?

The answer to all these questions is no.  You may be unhappy with people’s behaviour, but you don’t dislike the vehicle of the person’s bad behavior.

So what is it that people hate about Pokemon Go?  Maybe it’s the connected to those old trashy MTV dating shows. Do you remember those shows?  There were these shows where a person would be set up to go on a blind date with a person, and at any point in the date, they could end it and bring in another person, rejecting the first date.  Invariably the person who got rejected would change their attitude upon being rejected.  They would invariably turn to the camera and say that they never even wanted to go out with that jerk.

Maybe this is the problem people have with Pokemon Go.  They see a thing that other people are enjoying and they can’t enjoy it, so in order to convince themselves that this is the right case, they decide instead to think of this thing that clearly looks fun as something to be hated.  This makes them feel better about not understanding the really cool new thing that everyone loves.

What do you think? Is this why a lot of older people hate Pokemon Go?  Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Tune in MWF for more content.

Peace be with you.
-JS

Pokemon Go: Some basic rules for safe and courteous Pokemon hunting.

Pokemon Go is a great game.  It gets people active and walking around their communities.  It gets people talking to new people.  It helps people get in shape and it even helps people with mental illnesses to get out and get social.  But there are ways to be a bad Pokemon trainer.

Usually in video games anything that you can physically do with your own body to win is fine and shouldn’t be considered bad or below the dignity of the game.  It’s a game, and games usually don’t allow you to play them in ways that they don’t want you to play them.  But Pokemon Go! will bring you out into the real world and that’s different (although, it’s also cheating to break a game, like when you spoof gps coordinates to not have to walk to play the game).

In the real world there are rules to play by, because your interaction with the video game involves you interacting with people in the world and their property.  So here are some rules I think are important to follow when you are playing Pokemon Go!

  1. Only hunt Pokemon in public spaces unless you have permission from the owner.

Seriously.  Don’t go wandering onto people’s property finding Pokemon.  This is wrong, and possibly illegal.  The whole world isn’t your Poke-park.

2. Step briefly out of the walkway and onto the grass beside it when pausing to catch a Pokemon.

This will minimize the number of times you have to deal with people riding or running past you while you hunt Pokemon.

3. Always cross the street at designated cross walks.  It may mean some extra walking to catch your Poke-stops, but it will be worth that cost in safety.
4. Never hunt Pokemon while driving!
5. I mean it! Never hunt Pokemon while driving.
6. If you would like to hunt Pokemon in a car, there are some rules:
6a. Have a designated driver, and the passenger should hunt for the driver as much as he/she can.
6b. Don’t alter your driving for the passenger to catch Pokemon.
6c. If you would like to use a Poke-stop while someone is driving, politely ask them to safely park nearby.

When hunting at night:

  1. Only hunt Pokemon in well lit areas.
  2. Only hunt Pokemon in places where there are others hunting Pokemon.
  3. If possible, only go Pokemon hunting at night with a group of friends.

These are rules of thumb that will help you stay safe when out at night.  But there is another rule you should follow if you want to refrain from creeping people out at night.  And that is this:

4. Don’t be a car creep.

When you’re out Pokemon hunting at night, it can be tempting to just sit in your car while hunting, even when there are a large number of people hunting outside.  The people who do this are called car creeps, because they make hunting much more scary for anyone hunting Pokemon at night.  Imagine going for a walk with 5-10 people just lurking in their cars without the lights on while you walk around.  It’s terrifying.  You are a car creep if you do this.  Don’t be a car creep.

Check back every MWF for new posts!

 

Peace be with you.
-JS

Video Rental Review: Daybreakers

I love Ethan Hawke.  I love him so much.  Ethan Hawke is so dreamy.  He also picks some of the most interesting genre films to star in.  He began to build his status as a genre legend with Gattaca.  But lately he’s just been hitting it out of the park in genre film.  There’s Predestination, to be discussed in a later podcast, and then there is Daybreakers.  I love Daybreakers.  It takes the concept of a vampire and turns it into a conceit for a dystopic scifi film.  It’s a film about decadent western society.  It’s a film about our dependence on coffee.  It’s a film about oil.  But most importantly, it’s a film about one individual’s search for redemption.

Daybreakers follows Ethan Hawke’s character, a conflicted vampire who never drinks human blood and is searching for a cure to vampirism 0r a formula for fake blood that will keep vampires from deteriorating into their more horrific form in the wake of a dwindling supply of real blood.

His brother is in the military, whose primary task is to go out and hunt down humans in order to be brought back and bled dry by the multinational corporation in charge of both the military and the blood supply.

Through a series of unfortunate events, these brothers are pitted against each other in Hawke’s search for answers and for healing.  The movie largely plays as an allegory for abuse of the environment, but it also can be seen as a vehicle for the discussion of the ethics of eating animals.

Ethan Hawke’s journey alone is worth the price of admission here, let alone the really interesting performance by Willem Defoe.

Tune in every Monday Wednesday and Friday for more posts.  This Wednesday I will be talking about how to play Pokemon Go safely and ethically.

Video Rental Reviews: The Europa Report

This is part of a continuing feature where I rent old or out of the way movies from Family Video or watch them on Netflix and then review them for you.  This will be a curated list.  Few of these films will be movies I didn’t enjoy, but I look forwad to your feedback on these reviews.

A movie that I enjoyed (perhaps quite a bit more than its 2-star netflix rating gives it) on Netflix is the Europa Report.  It’s another one of these scifi films that’s cheap enough to make on an indie budget because it all takes place inside a capsule.  Now, I’ll say this.  Don’t watch The Europa Report unless you’re in the mood for something a little bleak.

The movie opens showing that we are seeing mission footage from a disastrous mission, the first mission of its kind, in which humanity was sent to investigate one of Jupiter’s moons for evidence of life.  The tone of this movie is very understated.  You don’t fall into the issue that some movies have that put a bunch of actors in a box, where their whole lives are melodramatic and they’re always shouting at each other and on the brink of a fist fight.  These are professionals who are on a mission.  You get an understated sadness after a valuable crew member dies and an air of depression comes from the crew.  They argue about the mission from time to time, but reasonably and like scientists.

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But there are some really interesting acting choices throughout the film.  There is a point in which a character (pictured above) is in grave danger and the performance is perfectly given to be ambiguous.  In an earlier scene you get terror and sadness, but at a later reveal it turns out to be something else.

I was surprised how much I liked this movie.  If you have the attention span to watch a movie that’s a little slow developing, it will pay off.  The characters are believable, and the journey is worth the watch.  There are a few plot issues, moments where you would think a team of astronauts wouldn’t do the thing that furthers the plot.

But if you’re in the mood for something sad and depressing, or you just like scifi, this movie is definitely worth a watch.

Science Standards, Philosophy Education, and Cross-Cutting Concepts

The next generation science standards are out.  These standards include a number of things besides mere knowledge of scientific facts.  These are called cross-cutting concepts.  Cross-cutting concepts are the things related to the practice of science that are not strictly science facts to learn.

The thing is, many of these cross-cutting concepts don’t end up being especially scientific.  The cross-cutting concepts involve things like “engage in argument from evidence” and “critically read a text,” etc.  They also involve teaching the students a particular philosophy of science.  One is to be taught a realist interpretation of the findings of science, among other things.

It is my contention that, if the things recommended in the next generation science standards are real goals we should have for high school students, then we should teach philosophy courses at the high school level.

Teaching students how to reason and reason well from evidence is something that is primarily and ideally the office of a philosopher.  This is why logic and basic reasoning classes are taught in philosophy departments.  Philosophers are familiar with the kinds of reasoning that need to be taught and the problems people encounter in reasoning.  Further, philosophy instruction in high school would uniquely position the philosophy teachers to teach the aspects of the philosophy of science that science teachers might simply give uncritically or teach without knowing the significant debates in the area.

High school education should include philosophical education.

Peace be with you.
-JS

Roman Reigns Vs. John Cena: The Death of Superman

I’ve only recently gotten back into wrestling.  It’s a super fun serial melodrama that includes death defying stunts.  It’s often a morality tale with good struggling against evil with good finally winning in the end.

This all brings us to John Cena and Roman Reigns.  John Cena, in the wrestling world, is basically superman.  And everyone hates him.  A lot of people kind of hate him (less so now), for the same reason that they hate superman.  As explained by Max Landis:

People hate John Cena because he’s a squeaky clean good guy that always wins. There’s never any tension.  This is where Roman Reigns comes in.  Roman Reigns, in some ways, has been booked in much the same way.  That is, Roman Reigns has been booked as an unbeatable guy where his matches have almost no tension because he always wins.  However, the difference with Roman Reigns is that Roman Reigns’ character isn’t that much of a good guy.  The character is morphing into this pure destructive force that isn’t good or evil but is just a monster that destroys WWE wrestlers.

This is why my ultimate fantasy booking is Roman Reigns Vs. John Cena at (maybe the next? Maybe in another year?) Wrestlemania.  Roman Reigns and John Cena should do the Death of Superman.  John Cena comes back and does the Open U.S. title challenge on Smackdown and beats everyone.  This keeps John Cena occupied and away from the drama with Roman Reigns.

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We keep Roman Reigns a quasi-heel (after the wellness policy violation we can now make him a full heal).  Roman Reigns continues to be an unstoppable force in WWE.  This can take as long as you like.  Roman Reign will go up against every babyface in the company.  He already beat A.J. Styles (and literally everyone else he’s gone in a feud with).  Over the next year (or even 2) we let Roman Reigns destroy everything.  We let (and you an skip a few sentences if these names mean nothing to you) Roman Reigns get into a feud with Seth Rollins and beat him.  We let Roman Reigns get into a feud with Dean Ambrose.  We give Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins together a chance to get into a triple threat match for the title.  Roman Reigns always comes out on top.

Roman Reigns can get into a feud with Kevin Owens, with Cesaro, and with Sammy Zayn.  We let Sammy Zayn go last and let them have an epic fight where Zayn comes so near to defeating Reigns that Reigns’ win is the most devastating of all.

This parallels the run up to the Death of Superman in the comics.  In the comics, Superman got too powerful, so the comics created doomsday.  Doomsday is just an instrument of destruction.  He tears through the justice league.  He goes up against them, and all that’s left in the end is Superman.  It’s up to Superman to stop Doomsday.  Superman goes up against Doomsday in an epic fight and they simultaneously land killing blows on each other.

So I think that the WWE should do Superman vs. Doomsday with John Cena and Roman Reigns.  Leading up to a Wrestlemania we call attention to the unbeatable Roman Reigns.  Reigns is put in the Royal Rumble at slot 1 and wins the whole thing.  Shane McMahon, or some other babyface, calls attention to the way Roman Reigns has been and how bad it is and makes the match between John Cena and Roman Reigns.  Maybe Shane fights Reigns and loses which leads to the making of the match.

John Cena and Roman Reigns fight a number of times leading up to Wrestlemania, with John Cena losing each match.  We’ve built the tension for the lead up to Wrestlemania, where John Cena will fight Roman Reigns.  The WWE’s Superman will fight WWE’s Doomsday at Wrestlemania for the WWE world heavyweight title.  The end of the match is a simultaneous superman punch and some other move by Cena and Wrestlemania ends with Cena and Reigns lying on the ground, perhaps being brought out of the stadium on stretchers.

Now, there are a couple problems with this pitch.  There is the problem of setting the right stakes and there is the problem of getting an ending where John Cena wins but he also “dies.”  Maybe there is a stipulation on the match.  Maybe there is a stipulation where Roman Reigns forfeits the title if he doesn’t win the match cleanly and the character John Cena can’t come back to Raw if he loses (or maybe John Cena makes it an I quit match, or maybe we go crazy and make John Cena “die” in the match, I’m not sure here).

Maybe I can be really self-indulgent and let John Cena “die” on Wrestlemania and do Reign of the John Cenas: John Cena Returns after this run.  But that’s another blog post.

But let me explain why this is a great idea.  This will allow John Cena and Roman Reigns to have some real drama in their lives.  This will also, if played right, come in at just the right time in Roman Reigns story to allow his defeat to be received really well.  This will also allow the WWE to weaken Reigns after this fight.  This will finally give John Cena a really deep storyline with something real to overcome.  This will also allow the WWE to say that the overpowered booking of Roman Reigns was on purpose and leading up to this amazing moment.

But anyway, I should get back to the ending of this match.  John Cena will fight Roman Reigns and it will be a great match.  The match will end with some kind of simultaneous move which will result in two (storyline) unconscious wrestlers.  Maybe carry them both out on stretchers.  The stipulations prior to the match will mean that Reigns has given up the belt, but John Cena doesn’t get the belt.  Preferably, somehow “John Cena” will not be able to move forward in the WWE for at least a long while, but also this will remove Reigns from the title picture for a good long while.  It’s a great way to end the Reigns storyline and perhaps a great way to give John Cena a break to go out and make movies and be away from the company.

Maybe in the future I’ll make a suggestion for something more self-indulgent and ridiculous.  After John Cena V. Roman Reigns: the Death of Superman, we can book John Cena in his heal turn: Reign of the John Cenas.

Tune back in every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for new stuff!

Peace be with you.
-JS

Are we Afraid of Reproducing?

It’s interesting how horror movies reflect the mores and fears of a society.  In the last several years, I’ve noticed a trend in horror movies that may point to some disturbing trends in our society.  The 80’s saw the slasher films in which students engaged in illicit sexual activity were brutally murdered, which showed a societal fear of the consequences of promiscuity and non-monogamous sex (especially understandable in the era in which AIDs arose).

But we also have a different fear that has actually been present since the 60’s.  This is the fear of children.  Have you ever been freaked out by scary babies or children in movies?  Have you noticed the creepy scenes where a zombie baby is the scariest part? This, I think reflects a fear that our society has of having children.  And its understandable to some extent, for us to be afraid in this way.  Before modern medicine, having a baby was one of the most dangerous things a woman could do.  Countless lives were saved just by the invention of forceps.

Maybe baby horror is tapping into this basic fear.  But I’m not sure this is the case with modern baby horror.  First of all, it seems that pregnancy would be the object of fear and this would manifest in our horror in some way.  But the scary thing is babies.  The scary part is actually successfully delivering the baby in scenes like this:

The baby itself is scary.  But the unrealistic nature of a zombie baby threat (or of any baby being any kind of real threat) makes me think this is something like when we decided to have evil slashers represent the dangers of promiscuity in the age of AIDS.

But there’s other things that baby horror could be.  Baby horror might just represent that babies are something which represents innocence to us, and that the thought of a possessed or zombified baby is that much more horrifying to us.  But it might also be the more scary to us because we have a latent fear of reproducing.  This would fit nicely with the change that happened as a result of the sexual revolution.  After the sexual revolution we stopped conceiving of children as a goal of sexual activity but as a dire consequence.  Perhaps our baby horror reflects this cultural shift.  I’m not sure, but this at least seems to be are reasonable interpretation of the existence of baby horror.

It’s even weirder that there is a lot of horror coming out lately that has to do with being happily married.  Anyway, what do you think is the reason we find baby horror so scary?
Let me know in the comments.

Peace be with you.
-JS

Pseudo-Dionysius’ Divine Names: Ch.4, 1-2; A Consequentialist Account Divine Goodness?

In chapter 4, Pseudo-Dionysius finally gets to considering specific divine attributes.  All of Chapter 4 is devoted to making sense of the various ways in which God is called “good.” The first reason to think God is good is given in the first section of this chapter.  Pseudo-Dionysius compares the divine to the sun again:

<blockquote>Think of how it is with our sun.  It exercises no rational process, no act of choice, and by the very fact of its eistence it gives light to whatever is able to partake of its light, in its own way.  So it is with God.  Existing far above the sun, an archetype far superior to its dull  image, it sends the rays of its undivided goodness to everything with the capacity, such as this may be, to receive it.–Pseudo-Dionysius,DN4,1</blockquote>

Today I will point out two different ways to interpret Pseudo-Dinonysius’, both of which will have issues to address.  The first, and most strikingly problematic, is the suggestion that this passage gives a Consequentialist argument  for Gods goodness.  God is the cause of all the goodness in the world, and thus, by definition, God is good.  That is, on this interpretation, God is good, simply in virtue of being the cause of all of the good in the world.  That is, what is meant by goodness when it applies to God is just that he causes all of the goodness in the world.

This is deeply dissatisfying, and seems at least somewhat inconsistent with the general attitude toward our knowledge of the attributes of God expressed earlier in the divine names.  If all that goodness, on the part of the deity, amounts to is his causing good things, then we can have full and unproblematic knowledge of what P-D calls one of the most important divine attributes.  This doesn’t seem to be what Pseudo-Dionysius wants to be getting at in his text.  Further, if we are taking a consequentialist approach to justifying belief in divine goodness, P-D will have to take head-on the issue of God’s involvement with evil.  Evil exists, and presumably (on most theistic views), God has some kind of indirect causal responsibility for this evil (or at the very least allows it).  If divine goodness is going to amount to some consequentialist calculation, then we need to factor this in such a calculation.

This issue may come up eventually anyway, but it will be quite a bit worse on this view of divine goodness.  Luckily, if we take a look at the passage, we will see that the beginning of section 2 of chapter 4 we will be able see a strategy taking shape.  Pseudo-Dionysius immediately starts talking about the goodness of the angels.  I think the strategy here is to take a look at the highest goods that God is responsible for, and use these as part of an argumentative strategy to show just how good God is.  But tune in next time for further discussion of the Divine Names.

Peace be with you.
-JS