Friday, June 16, 2017

Random Thoughts V

A Good Quote

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

~ Bertrand Russell

Review of Logan


This was a good film. It wasn’t quite great because of some of the narrative choices in the third act. Yet it was still very good. Patrick Stewart is wonderful as a vulgar, senile Professor X. Hugh Jackman is in top form with his weathered, beaten down swan song performance as Wolverine. Few comic book movies have achieved this level of pathos. The scene where Wolverine buries the Professor was genuinely moving. I loved how unapoligetically bleak it all was. The X-Men are dead. The mutants are all gone – killed off by the machinations of human scientists. They’ve perfected mutant clones capable of easily besting the originals.

It’s over. The good guys lost. All that is left for these larger than life characters – Wolverine and the Professor, men who have saved the world countless times across the years – is to scratch out a meager living for the few days left to them and ultimately sacrifice it all for one last bout of heroism. It is indeed quite similar to The Last of Us in that way. The first two thirds of the film are almost perfect. I loved that they got their money’s worth with the ‘R’ rating as the action and language are a treat. For me the movie slipped in its final act with the children. That section felt like it belonged in another movie. I think Wolverine’s clone Laura should have remained mute. I would have preferred the ending focused on just the two of them instead of the formulaic big action set piece against a contrived final boss. These weaknesses aside, it’s still a great sendoff for the character.

The Conundrum of Miserable Women in Saudi Arabia


Frequently people will talk about women in Saudi Arabia to condemn Islam. They will point out that Saudi Arabian women suffer all manner of unfair treatment such as the fact that they are not even allowed to drive. This begs a very basic question: Are women in Saudi Arabia happy? The implications are interesting whether the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

If women in Saudi Arabia are generally happy, then it means that women can be happy living under the subjugation of men. It is not a universal truth that women must attain equality with men to be content. If women in Saudi Arabia are not happy, then it begs a follow up question: why don’t they do something about it? If they are really so oppressed and miserable, why do they not riot, or protest, or go on a sex strike, or fight back somehow? The logical conclusion is that they can’t. They are under the thumb of men, which leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that women’s rights only exist if men choose to let them.

Some might argue that Saudi Arabian women could successfully resist if they chose to, but the women are too indoctrinated and brainwashed to do this. Yet this does not change the conclusion, as now this implies men are so powerful that they can successfully collude to control the thoughts and desires of all women in a society.

So which is it? Are women in Saudi Arabia happy? Or are they unhappy? Which uncomfortable reality must we accept? That women may choose to live as the chattel of men? Or that women’s rights are conditional upon men’s preferences? Or perhaps both?

Body Positivity is Bullshit


I am overweight for my height. Through a combination of exercise and low calorie diets, over the last year and a half I lost about 40 pounds. I need to lose at least another 20. It has been a struggle. Some weeks I float up a few pounds. Some weeks I go back. It has focused my mind a lot and strengthened me. I feel overall much healthier than I did when I was severely overweight. I can run around a bit more with my friends and I enjoy long walks in the city. It is a delight to discover gradually what my body is capable of as it sheds excess fat and builds muscle.

So as you can imagine I don't have much patience for any social movement that would come along and try to say that I should have just accepted my unsightly overweight body and been "proud of my curves." In general this is only suggested to women I find. It seems to be part of a larger campaign to undermine beauty standards out of some misguided notion of egalitarianism and tolerance. This is a fool's errand. My parents are doctors. I have a very thorough understanding of the health risks of being fat. I understand well the burden obese people put on the healthcare system, on their friends, their family, their fellow travelers on an airplane, and in many other areas of society. Furthermore, obesity correlates with low IQ, thus it is unbecoming of a Mensan.

Body positivity should be about encouraging everyone to live healthy and discover the best version of their bodies.

Review of Injustice 2


This is a very fun fighting game if you do two things: 1. Ignore the story and 2. Do not take it seriously or try to play it competitively.

It plays fine for casual fighting game fans. I like the roster a lot. I love being able to play as Black Canary, Doctor Fate, Poison Ivy, and a host of other lesser appreciated DC characters. I don't love all of the designs and costumes, but with the massive character gear and enhancement system, you at least have a lot of room to customize. There is a massive roster of DLC characters and "premium skins" (different character but identical move set to someone on the roster) as well, though they aren't free of course. Still, my friends and I have had a lot of fun with the game. The supermoves are really cool and I love the unique character dialogues at the start of each fight.

The game has a number of balance issues that make it not suitable for competitive play, at least not until it gets a few patches. The super meter system gives zoning characters a significant advantage. Furthermore, the story is pretty awful. It's yet another Batman love letter with Superman again made the villain. It's honestly getting tired. We've been over this in The Dark Knight Returns, Batman vs. Superman, and even the first Injustice game. It isn't really that interesting anymore - this humanistic conceit that if a person is just really clever, he can defeat a nearly omnipotent Alien.

It doesn't bear any scrutiny and in the end it creates a world where super powers don't matter. In every interaction Batman can turn on and off Superman's powers like a light switch with his infinite supply of red sun grenades and gold kryptonite. The plot even has him solo fight Wonder Woman and Black Adam with no special tricks, and win. Who cares that Wonder Woman is a goddess or that Black Adam can destroy cities with his lightning. This dude in a rubber batsuit can beat both of them hand to hand. The inconsistency is just jarring in a plot that takes itself so seriously.

Some Cool Songs

Here are some links to some cool songs I like:

(Old school hip hop) Camp Lo - Luchini: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXyFYNiV-9I
(Pop rock) Marvelous Things - Eisley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lci0pnWk7nM
(60's alt rock) Fire - Arthur Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en1uwIzI3SE
(old rock folk) Wimoweh - Karl Denver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09SXTH699xE
(classic rock) Apeman - The Kinks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEep67akIn4
(videogame music) Kuzunoha Detective Agency - Shoji Meguro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_kQqQvIsRQ

Separating Rhetoric from Reason

I read a blogpost a while ago about logical fallacies. It was framed as a reference to help people avoid making bad arguments. I found this interesting because I do not think it is accurate to describe logical fallacies as "bad" arguments. The quality of an argument is dependent on its ability to persuade people of something. The vast majority of people are readily convinced by logical fallacies. Even very intelligent people are easily swayed by emotional appeals, bandwagon arguments, and ad hominem tactics.

We need to make a distinction between rhetoric and reason. Logical fallacies are important to avoid when exercising pure reason. When engaging in scientific or philosophical investigation, one needs to rigorously apply reason to ensure that the conclusions they reach are logical. This is not the case when it comes to rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. It is about making statements that cause people to adopt your point of view.

Most people are not convinced by pure reason. They like to think that they are, but they aren't. Humans greatly overestimate their own rationality. In general they put far more energy into after-the-fact rationalization than into actual decision making. If you wish to change someone's opinion about something, pure logic, evidence, and reason are not likely to work. Any salesman will tell you that the real trick is to get the other person to feel good about adopting a specific opinion. You have to make them feel like changing their mind makes them a better, smarter, more compassionate human being.

Most people make important decisions with their emotions. This is why memes are so powerful and part of why Trump won. People did not support Trump out of logic. They supported him because it felt good. The memes made them feel like they were fighting an evil establishment. The slogans appealed to their sense of shared outrage and frustration.

If ever you want to change someone's mind, figure out how to make them feel good about changing. Better still; make them feel as though they are changing on their own terms - as if they are deciding everything on their own and not being manipulated by some other person.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Black Panther the Alt-Right Superhero



I recently saw the trailer for the new Black Panther movie. It looks fun as any other MCU movie. I have not actually read any of his comics (I don’t read a lot of Marvel actually) so I just did some research on his background. I was surprised to discover that he is an alt-right character.
 

Some things I discovered:
 

- He is an ardent nationalist who unapologetically puts his kingdom and his people first

- Wakanda, the nation he rules, is a hereditary monarchy. They do not believe in democracy.


- Wakanda is racially homogeneous and intentionally remains that way


- Black Panther goes out of his way to protect his nation from outsiders. Immigration is not only restricted; it is impossible.


- Black Panther refuses to help poorer African nations and even turns a blind eye to struggling refugees and migrants throughout the continent, believing it is not in his people’s interest to help them.



- Wakanda is an anti-globalist society with little interest in sharing its wealth and resources. In the trailer Klaw explains how the nation's supposed poverty is all a front.


- Wakanda is anti-multiculturalism and a traditionalist society. They have proudly retained numerous religious, ethnic, and gender-based traditions for centuries.


T’Challa, the Black Panther, would not have much interest in Black Lives Matter or contemporary progressive politics. Sure, he would support black nationalists and fight white racists (he fought the Ku Klux Klan in one comic). However he showed more interest in empowering his own people than in trying to win handouts from whites. In the Doomwar story arc he even went so far as to destroy all of the vibranium upon which his nation relied, forcing his people to become prosperous and independent without it.


I am certain there are some turbonerds out there that could contest my characterization by finding some comic panels where Black Panther demonstrates liberal beliefs and opinions. Much of the tension of his character arc is the struggle between tradition and modernity. Still I think my basic point stands.

There are other examples of very nationalist / traditionalist royal characters in comics. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are both very protective of their people and often cultural chauvinists. However since neither of them are even human, it is hard to apply contemporary political labels. Black Panther is human and he leads a nation on a real continent – Africa.


Alt-right people should support the Black Panther movie. They should meme it all over social media and attend screenings en masse. Proudly show solidarity with him. It would mess with a lot of people's heads.