"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Open Thread 83.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. As the off-weekend thread, this is culture-war-free, so please try try to avoid overly controversial topics. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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448 Responses to Open Thread 83.5

  1. Toby Bartels says:

    I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to these things, but this is not off-weekend.

    • JulieK says:

      It’s the alternate weekend- the weekend that didn’t get an open thread with its own name.

    • HFARationalist says:

      I was not aware of that either.

      By the way, nice to meet you, Toby! I know who Professor John Baez is even though I have never met him. 🙂 I love ncatlab but do not have any account there.

      I’m a comathematician so my job is to transform cotheorems into ffee! 🙂 Young algebraist here with 2 papers on arXiv. I mostly work on associative algebras.

  2. anonymousskimmer says:

    What are the best psychology of personality systems to describe formative experiences? I view most personality systems as trying to describe nature and am interested in reading a little about those which try to describe nurture.

    Failing systems, generalized individual descriptions would be nice (ie. descriptions which claim to describe a general type of formative experience patterns without attempting to make a universal type system which describes all formative experiences – the equivalent of Myers-Briggs versus an isolated ISFP description).

  3. HFARationalist says:

    Rationalist/Skeptic/Rat-adjacent books

    Here are the nice books I have.
    Paranormality by Richard Wiseman
    Believing Bullshit by Stephen Law
    Shall the religious inherit the earth? by Eric Kaufmann

    Fellow SSC posters, please recommend more nice books.

    • keranih says:

      HFAR –

      I’m not clear if you’re looking for rationalist/logical thinking books, or anti religion/faith books.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I’m just looking for rationality books, not anti-religion books. I don’t think it is rational to absolutely reject the possibility of theism. On the other hand I don’t think it is rational to accept faith as a way of knowing things at least based on current evidence. I think the question of faith is tentatively closed with the conclusion that it is unreliable and unreasonable though new evidence can reopen this question.

    • Orpheus says:

      Wow, just the titles of the last two make me cringe so hard.

      • HFARationalist says:

        The second one is in fact one of the best books I have read. It covers eight intellectual black holes. Intellectual black holes are generally anti-epistemologies.

        The last one is also a nice book. It’s basically about how fundamentalists breed like rabbits and can reverse secularization simply through breeding.

        • keranih says:

          *facepalm*

          Okay, putting down a placeholder on this, and will try to remember to bring it up on a non-NCW thread.

        • maniexx says:

          So, English is not my first language, but isn’t talking about people “Breeding” very offensive to them? Wouldn’t “having children” be a bit less aggressive?

          • Brad says:

            Yes. In the old days before the gay movement became domesticated straight people were often derisively referred to as breeders.

          • Orpheus says:

            I take it you are not familiar with the internet atheist crowd. Being less aggressive is hardly a priority for them.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @maniexx Sorry. No offense. That’s unrelated to religion though.

            I strongly hate human sexuality and bashing sexuality is my second nature. When someone has a lot of sex or kids I tend to start bashing. Sometimes the bashing is not even intentional.

            In fact I bash seducers and seduction-dominant cultures much more often than non-celibate fundamentalists for sexuality related reasons.

          • I strongly hate human sexuality and bashing sexuality is my second nature.

            Do you similarly hate other human desires–for tasty food, excitement, life? More generally, is there a theory behind your hatred or are you merely describing your own possibly irrational emotions?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @HFARationalist

            I strongly hate human sexuality and bashing sexuality is my second nature. When someone has a lot of sex or kids I tend to start bashing. Sometimes the bashing is not even intentional.

            In fact I bash seducers and seduction-dominant cultures much more often than non-celibate fundamentalists for sexuality related reasons.

            This is fine, we’re all entitled to our inherent biases, though should try to control these biases and use them properly for a saner world. You must realize that it is those who see others as belonging to groups, and identify with groups themselves, that launch pogroms and wars. And that at an individual level these are probably morally worse than a couple of extra kids and definitely worse than child-free sex.

            Those who are biased to not seeing people as groups at worst have personal vendettas or random fights (e.g. Henry Rollins as a teenager/young adult).

            You have stated that you’re morally against seeing people as groups instead of collections of individuals, so at least recognize that this is wrong behavior, but also see traits people hold as belonging to groups and thus the people with these traits morally tainted by the group-trait. It’s up to you to thread this needle. If you’d like more insight into this I’d recommend reading a little on the instinctual variants (search the term) and then identifying your personal instinctual dominance order.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @David Friedman Other human desires are mostly good. Sexuality on the other hand, is very odd. It has a uniquely altruistic and collectivistic component that is incompatible with my absolute individualistic ideology.

            My basic ideology is: We should not harm each other, care about each other, rely on each other or impose conformity on each other. The world should be composed of intelligent, rational, self-interested individuals who never harm others and sometimes cooperate to maximize their own interests. The basic relation between two humans should be lack of harm, mutual respect of independence and either indifference or cooperation. There should be neither love nor hatred among humans. There should be no group identities. Everyone should care about themselves.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @HFARationalist

            My basic ideology is limited to myself, with far fewer constraints on the actions of other people. Whereas you generalize yours to other humans.

            To the extent I hold others to a superior standard than the “far fewer constraints” standard, it’s limited to those I have a relationship with or are in immediate proximity to. And even this standard is less than my personal one (usually, I am at times guilty of hypocrisy, and can be very judgmental when I feel wronged).

            This all goes to the biases of personality. My biases are not superior to yours, or inferior, though I may explicitly know more about my biases than you do about yours (I don’t know this for a fact though).

            Seeking to control others is almost always a less than psychologically healthy thing.

            Everyone should care about themselves.

            This is what most of those who do care about interpersonal relationships/group identifying are in fact doing. They’re caring about their own preferences and perceived needs for a ‘larger’ identity through their relationships or associations with other people and ideologies. Without these relationships or associations they’d feel bereft, or at least feel a profound lack. Just as some people who lack a personal space to make their own feel bereft.

            I’m currently watching Star Trek Voyager, season 6, episode 2, which speaks to this need in an infantile manner.

            Your personal ideology sounds like an inverse Borg ideology, which is as incomplete to my needs as the Borg is to a genuine collectivist. We are not a monolith! ;D

          • Alphonse says:

            I’m just a lurker, so take my opinion for it’s worth . . . but I’m really wondering when people are going to stop responding so much to HFA. I’m unsure whether it is more or less charitable to accept that he actually is the person he purports to be rather than a troll (and you know what they say about feeding trolls), but it’s gotten to the point where I’m routinely sad because an interesting conversation which I wanted to read got hijacked by HFA going off on some pet rant or other.

            The world has many strange people with crazy ideas which they think are obviously true. I just wish people would humor our current-resident nutcase with less of their attention (at least in other threads; I get he started this one, and I’m only saying this here because other people are making similar comments on this chain and because I think the statements here are even more crank-ish than typical for HFA).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Alphonse

            I believe I’ve actually learned things pertinent to his statements which may cause him (or others of his ilk) to reconsider the absoluteness of his statements.

            I also think I somewhat fear absolutist statements such as his – they make the world a less livable place for me.

          • Sexuality on the other hand, is very odd. It has a uniquely altruistic and collectivistic component that is incompatible with my absolute individualistic ideology.

            As an individual you value things, have objectives, act to achieve them. Do you have some theory of what you should value? If not, why is valuing other people irrational? If you value someone, that person’s welfare and happiness are values to you, which you seem to condemn as altruism.

            Further, the fact that people value others is useful for achieving other objectives. I know my wife loves me and she knows I love her, which simplifies coordination in the various joint projects associated with a joint household. Similarly for my children. They are both a value in themselves and a means for making my life go better than it otherwise would.

            This isn’t, of course, all a matter of sexuality, but that is one part of human psychology that can be used to create useful mutual ties.

          • @Alphonse +1. HFA isn’t hostile like some of the previous folks we’ve had hijacking threads, so I don’t feel good about ad hominem attacks. But I too have been disappointed when the paths of some promising threads moved off track because of some comment by HFA. I usually kind of like the tendency of SSC conversations to segue off into new directions, but I’m just not interested in talking about the autist reaction to every point of view in the universe.

          • Mary says:

            ” The world should be composed of intelligent, rational, self-interested individuals who never harm others and sometimes cooperate to maximize their own interests. The basic relation between two humans should be lack of harm, mutual respect of independence and either indifference or cooperation. There should be neither love nor hatred among humans. There should be no group identities. Everyone should care about themselves.”

            Why do you care so much about other people, then, as to want to dictate every detail of their lives?

          • blah says:

            @HFARationalist

            It has a uniquely altruistic and collectivistic component that is incompatible with my absolute individualistic ideology.

            Sex doesn’t necessarily have an altruistic component. Like all trades it can happen when both parties feel it is in their own self interest (Ask Ayn Rand. Her characters have a lot of sex).

            Can I ask, have you tried sex? If not, I’m not sure you should knock it until you try it. If so, what made it so horrible?

            I know these are some personal questions so feel free not to answer.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Alphonse I’m sorry to see that you do not like my posts. My antisexualism may be one of my most controversial ideologies.

            I agree to not derail threads because I truly like this community.

            @anonymousskimmer I usually have this tendency to be as extreme as possible on any view point unless I explicitly try to be moderate.

            @David Friedman I see. For me this can never happen. I know very well that the divorce stats in America can not guarantee that if I ever have a wife I can keep her. Children are independent entities who are forced into families without their own consent and don’t have to like their parents at all. I don’t like my family anyway.

            Valuing other people too much instead of being benevolently neutral is in fact infringing on others’ rights. You may believe that something is good for person A and try to impose it on them. However it may be awful for A. That’s that sort of thing that leads to families and tribes and all their related restrictions on individual freedom.

            @Mark V Anderson I’m sorry that you feel like that. In general I will restrict my replies to what’s on topic. I can not guarantee that shocking but on topic responses won’t appear though. If I want to start something new I will start a thread.

            @Mary Because I don’t want to be bothered by others when I don’t want to connect with people. I’m an independent entity, not a part of some collective.

            @blah I’m a virgin. Sexuality is simply meaningless to me because I fail to see how sex with a human is inherently better than masturbation. However if I want to try it one day I will do it legally in a brothel in Nevada. I’m not sexually frustrated because I’m just a flight away from sex.

            However what I truly hate is not sex itself but its evolutionary implication. Sex is the main method to reproduce. In fact the purpose of sex is reproduction. I hate kids because I don’t want to change their diapers full of shit. Kids also let me think about families and I hate families as authoritarian institutions imposed on people.

            Yeah I agree that sex can be self-interested, such as legal prostitution. However it is certainly not in my self-interest right now. I can get sex in Nevada including girlfriend experience with legal prostitutes. I can even get a wife from abroad if I really want to even though I probably can’t get a date here. However why do I want to deal with in-laws I can’t disconnect with? A wife who may divorce me at any time, cheat on me, impose her views on me which is a form of PC or disrupt my reasoning? We will also have sexbots. Maybe I will buy one to see what a girlfriend and a wife is about lol. For me a human spouse can be fully replaced by a robot that fully imitates them. In fact a robot wife will be even better than a human one for she will tolerate my frequent rants about humanity and help me do STEM.

          • Mary says:

            “Because I don’t want to be bothered by others when I don’t want to connect with people. I’m an independent entity, not a part of some collective.”

            How does this give you the right to care about them so much as to dictate their lives? That’s bothering THEM with a vengeance.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Mary Because I wish that my benevolent neutrality can be established? Let those who voluntarily want to have relationships that infringe on individualism have it as long as they want to have it. However they should never be imposed on those who don’t explicitly agree to them, such as some autists.

            The main consequence of my idea is that people can no longer impose families on children.

          • blah says:

            @HFARationalist

            I can’t speak for what your experience would be like, but I can tell you that in my subjective experience, sex with another person is much much more enjoyable than masturbation. Even a hand job is much better than masturbation, even though they might seem to be close substitutes. There’s just something about someone else being there with you rather than on a screen or your imagination or whatever. That’s my experience at least. Yours might differ.

            I’m not sexually frustrated because I’m just a flight away from sex.

            I think this is a pretty good attitude to have. But why not take the trip and try it out? You may like it more than you expect, and the experience might help you empathize with people who have more traditional outlooks on sexuality and relationships.

            I totally agree with you that there are many risks associated with sex. Sex and relationships can have plenty of negative consequences. I think most sexually active people would agree with this as well. It’s just that we find sex and relationships so rewarding, that it’s still in our interest to participate even though we are aware of the risks.

          • I know very well that the divorce stats in America can not guarantee that if I ever have a wife I can keep her.

            There are very few guarantees in life. That’s not a reason to never do anything.

            Children are independent entities who are forced into families without their own consent and don’t have to like their parents at all. I don’t like my family anyway.

            I liked my parents, like my children, and my children like me. You appear to be projecting from your experience onto other people very different from you.

            Valuing other people too much instead of being benevolently neutral is in fact infringing on others’ rights. You may believe that something is good for person A and try to impose it on them.

            It is the imposition that would violate rights, not the valuing. If you value your own life, you might steal from others to get the money to promote it. Is that an argument against valuing your life?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @HFARationalist

            The way you emphasize it it doesn’t sound like benevolent neutrality, it sounds like everyone leaving each other alone, even to the extent of abandoning our fellows.

            Given that individuals have different degrees of neediness or dependence on others, or the fruit of other’s labor, to what extent does your philosophy acknowledge that people should act in concert with others when they would rather not, with the expectation that others will act in concert with them when those others would rather not? For we can’t expect a viable civilization if these dispreferred-by-one-party interactions do not occur at all.

            Don’t you think that even Nevada prostitutes may feel compelled by circumstances to do their jobs, but often would prefer not to?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @DavidFriedman I believe valuing itself is a problem. Everyone should value being moral in an absolute individualist sense, especially not harm others except in self-defense. We need to value not harming others, not others themselves. By valuing someone you are giving them pressure to do things they otherwise would not do regardless of whether you actually try to force them to do so.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Everyone should value being moral in an absolute individualist sense

            Why? What makes you privilege that moral system over others?

            People don’t work that way. Yes, when I love my parents, I’m putting some pressure on them to (e.g.) not go skydiving without parachutes. But they wouldn’t want me to do otherwise, and they reciprocate by extending similar love to me. If I didn’t value others, my life would be lonely and much less happy.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Evan Because this is the moral system that is natural to me? I should have absolute individual independence from the society as long as I do not harm it. It is attempts to integrate me into some collective entity that makes me mad. Even I don’t want my parents to die. However this has nothing to do with the fact that they are my parents. No matter how much I hate human behaviors I don’t want humans to die in general, including people I don’t like too much. If one day I will have a bitter enemy I won’t want them dead either.

            I don’t believe that anyone is inherently connected to someone else in a relationship that can not end.

            @anonymousskimmer Yes. My ideology is indeed about people leaving each other alone. My absolute.individualism is beyond the ideas of Ayn Rand. I want everyone to be able to cut off any social connection for any reason they prefer as long as no one is wronged. Disconnection should be a right and connection should be only based on mutual consent.

            I believe work and transactions do not count as people connecting at all. Instead they are just healthy self-interested behaviors. Apply it to the example of legal prostitutes in Nevada that’s just a self-interested decision.

            Maybe different people are really just that different. I respect that others want to connect even though I don’t understand the cause for this preference. That’s fine as long as they don’t try to connect with those who don’t like too many connections such as me.

            I believe a civilization can work when there are no involuntary interpersonal relationships. Work and transactions can be entirely voluntary. Just let everyone be self-interested individuals who are not supposed to harm others and let the law enforcement prevent people from harming each other.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @HFARationalist

            I want everyone to be able to cut off any social connection for any reason they prefer as long as no one is wronged.

            This is the really tricky part. It’s a reason I’m not an off-grider despite being asocial (not arelational). Given the current state of the world and my assets and abilities, if society up and left me, or I it, my dreams would die and I’d have nothing to look forward to but existential depression.

            I sympathize with your attitude toward the mandated relationship between parents and children, but cannot imagine an alternative that isn’t some kind of dystopian SciFi scenario.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Yeah. I’m de facto arelational. I don’t care about connecting with people. I talk with people. However it always has a self-interested or other asocial purpose. Socialization is just means to the end but never the end itself. I don’t enjoy manipulating people which is what sociopaths like either. In fact other than transactions I don’t even need other people. I don’t even care about them too much other than not desiring them to get harmed.

            I believe in transactions with the society, not belonging to it. I’m just a guy independent from the society who conduct transactions with it to sustain myself.

            I’m a bit of an antinatalist now. Nobody has ever consented to being conceived. I want to abolish families at least for some people. However I do agree that alternatives to families aren’t too nice either. Do you know why I hate families? Too many relations, too many unpredictable emotions, inflexible hierarchies and being too personal. I don’t have problems with an impersonal state (but not a personal dictator who is overly emotional even though that’s still better than parents because the dictator does not have enough time to micromanage everyone’s lives. When a personal dictator is de facto replaced by their impersonal orders or books it is not that bad. I would rather obey Stalin’s books than Stalin as a human being.) or a robot raising children.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m a bit of an antinatalist now. Nobody has ever consented to being conceived. I want to abolish families at least for some people. However I do agree that alternatives to families aren’t too nice either. Do you know why I hate families? Too many relations, too many unpredictable emotions, inflexible hierarchies and being too personal. I don’t have problems with an impersonal state (but not a personal dictator who is overly emotional even though that’s still better than parents because the dictator does not have enough time to micromanage everyone’s lives. When a personal dictator is de facto replaced by their impersonal orders or books it is not that bad. I would rather obey Stalin’s books than Stalin as a human being.) or a robot raising children.

            Wow. It’s not often that I am dearly grateful that the ability to implement policy is driven by social bullshit.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @HFARationalist

            We all have an onus to bear.

            Escape chutes are indeed needed, because any default which helps some will harm others, at our present technological capability.

        • Orpheus says:

          I second the facepalm.

          Leaving CW topics aside, do these books offer anything that, say, The God Delusion didn’t?

          • HFARationalist says:

            I have The God Delusion. It is an awful book. It is not very intellectually appealing at all.

            There is no inherent problem with theism. However there are indeed inherent problems in the idea of faith and using it to understand reality.

            The second book isn’t about bashing religion. The third book is actually a bit H.BDish.

    • sohois says:

      I guess this would be a good start: http://rationality.org/resources/reading-list

      Though when it comes to the directly “rational” books I tend to find that once you’ve read one or two you’ve read them all; I must have read about Asch or the Bystander effect about 20 different times books of this ilk.

    • keranih says:

      Relatedly –

      Looking for a good, thick-but-readable history of mathmatics book. Looking for the more complex end of pop writing, not for a PhD reference that assumes I already understand string theory.

      Likewise, looking for the same in astronomy and geology – both the current state of what we know, but also how we came to know this, and what we used to think we knew but have since decided that that ain’t so.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        While it’s not all of astronomy, I enjoyed Astronomy before the Telescope (Christopher Walker, ed.)

      • dodrian says:

        God Created the Integers, ed. Stephen Hawking

        It’s selections from famous mathematicians throughout history, starting with Euclid and working up to Godel/Turing.

      • It’s not exactly history of mathematics, but I remember enjoying The World of Mathematics, which is a bunch of essays on a variety of mathematical topics.

      • Mark says:

        A Brief History of Mathematical Thought by Luke Heaton
        Journey Through Genius by William Dunham.

      • US says:

        I can’t really recommend it as I’ve yet to read it, but I thought the book might be worth mentioning even so. Michael Hoskin’s book The History of Astronomy: A Very Short Introduction may (…combined with a few other works in the same series, e.g. astrophysics, stars, …?), be worth considering in the astronomy context if no better suggestions are mentioned here. I’ve read 8 books in the physics series this year and I think most of them would fit ‘the more complex end of pop writing’-requirement – it varies a bit. Most of the books in the physics series I’ve read, none of which had the word ‘history’ in the title, have had some coverage of the history of how we got to know what we do today and how we got from A to B, so to say.

        In the geology context I (also) don’t really know of a good history of the field (I’d want to read that book myself as well), but I did read Earth by Press and Siever some years ago and I remember liking that book. It’s not really what you’re asking for as it’s an intro geology text rather than a history of geology text, but the book ‘is written for beginning students who have had no previous college science courses and who may not necessarily intend to specialize in geology’ so the level is definitely not too high for someone without a background in geology to understand the coverage (…I should know). If you want a pretty solid yet readable introduction to the field of geology, you could do a lot worse than this one – it’s a very decent text, from what I recall.

        Taming the infinite, the story of mathematics by Ian Stewart might be worth considering in the math context, but I didn’t actually think very highly of that book – that may however have more to do with my personal reading preferences than the objective merits of said work.

      • Rusty says:

        Strongly recommend Fermat’s Last Theorem and Big Bang both by Simon Singh. Extremely enjoyable without the relentless wisecracking of so many such books. Not sure it is at the complex end – you don’t need any maths to follow it but it isn’t trivial I don’t think.

      • sadtoot says:

        this may not be as deep as you’d like, and more of a survey than a comprehensive history, but “here’s looking at euclid” by alex bellos (“alex’s adventures in numberland” in the UK) is one of my favorite math books. it spent a few months on the NYT bestseller list too.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I’d like to live on a tiny Greek Island with Euclid.
          We could discuss all the crazy, wacky things that hypotenuse did.
          And at night we’d stare far out into the deep Aegean Sea.
          With all the points along ourselves we’d lie so evenly.
          And no boundaries would cross the line
          Extending between me and Euclid.

          Yes, I’d like to live on a tiny Greek island with Euclid.
          I could tell him he’s smart, and he could pretend I’m not stupid.
          Predating Archimedes on the sand until the morn
          That’s the life I’ve wanted since the day that I was born.
          Geometry out in the sea, just off the Golden Horn with Euclid.

          Oh, Euclid is a genius ’cause of all the stuff he knows.
          And when I read his propositions I was ready to propose.
          And I wanna put his figure in the space which I enclose.
          Oh, Euclid.

          Well I’d like to live on a tiny Greek island with Euclid,
          Where the air is sweet, and ever so pleasantly humid.
          Well his method is a science but it feels more like an art.
          He’s better Thoreau, Rousseau, Bob Dylan or Descartes;
          And I’ll follow him until that point at which I have no part of Euclid.

        • James says:

          Sad that they ruined a brilliant title (because they didn’t think we’d get it?).

    • J Mann says:

      @HFARationalist – I’m reading Uncontrolled by Jim Manzi, and enjoy it a lot.

      I wonder about Believing Bullshit. The reviews are positive, but I generally find argument taxonomy to be limiting. For example, once someone has some rhetoric, somebody diagnoses an argument as “Tu quoque” or “Argument from authority” or whatever, and thinks they have nothing left to learn from the other person, when in fact they might more profitably experiment with reading the argument charitably, or steelmanning it – they would be better able to communicate with the person and they might actually increase their understanding of the dispute.

      (“Motte and bailey” works similarly – it’s not that it’s not interesting or even that it’s not arguably usually correct, it’s that diagnosing it tends to limit the ability of two people to grow and communicate.)

      Also, and I don’t know how to say this in a nicer way, but I sometimes wonder if people who are not smart enough to understand an argument without pigeon-holing it into a framework are smart enough to use the framework. (If it helps, I think you’re smart enough to do without it. 🙂 )

      • HFARationalist says:

        Thanks! I’m probably going to buy Uncontrolled.

        I believe the eight intellectual black holes are just common anti-epistemological tactics. We can still learn from a rational argument that is flawed because of some fallacy. However we don’t really benefit from reading others’ rationalization intended to defend a particular view that is emotionally important.

  4. Well... says:

    Trying again: Can anyone point me to some (serious) writing on general theories of tribalism? In other words, the idea that the number of traits/preferences that cause/predict our tribal affiliations is substantially higher than we might expect, and tends to produce/contribute massively to the cumulative effect of polarization?

    • @Well. I’m not responding to answer your question, because I don’t know the answer. But be careful with your term tribalism. The most common use of that term in the real world is the historic meaning of several clans living together, and usually maintaining some links of loyalty because of ethnic or historic roots to this group. Thus, Indian tribes, African tribes, and also some tribal behavior of insular communities in Europe and Asia. I think if you look on the Internet for information on tribalism, I think this what you will mostly find.

      But I suspect you intend the meaning that is often used in SSC of self-identified ideological groupings — that is the blue tribe and the red tribe, and sometimes other tribes like gray or blue or black. Am I wrong as to your meaning, Well? This sense of tribalism is derived from the older meaning, but is more of a voluntary process, and affects the developed world much more than the older, more common meaning.

      So if you want to find books or essays on theories of such tribalism, I think you’ll need to search using another word. Maybe “shared ideologies” or something.

    • keranih says:

      @Well –

      I think you’re looking for work by Jon Haidt, The Righteous Mind and other works. You can find most of the associated links at https://heterodoxacademy.org/

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I have a theory about group self-congratulation.

      Life is hard. One way to make life more tolerable is to believe that one is made of good stuff, and when I say good stuff, I mean better stuff than most other people.

      This belief is easier to sustain if you have a bunch of people agreeing with each other, so there’s group self-congratulation as well as individual self-congratulation.

      As far as I can tell, group self-congratulation is generally about exaggerating the importance of good traits the group actually has, and denigrating the importance of good traits the group lacks. For example, Americans don’t congratulate ourselves on having a great poetic tradition because we haven’t got one. We do think we’re good at creating popular culture.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        Yes, the mind has a fundamentally skewed perception of reality owing to the effects of its various latent biases. In particular, it is designed to have a glorified self-image. The bias you reflect on is one of those which pertain to this matter. This is a matter of individual behavior, but as you note, it seemingly applies to group behavior as well.

        This is probably just a tangential phenomenon arising from each individual member of the group associating their individual identities with that of the group. The add all of their individual characteristics together, average them out, then see how they compare to other groups. Characteristics which seem salient become markers of group identity and, wanting to glorify themselves by association with the group, they go about praising those characteristics and deriding others, both to exercise their biases and to reinforce them.

    • keranih says:

      A book I have on my ereader but haven’t read yet – We Are Many, We Are One: Neo-Tribes and Tribal Anaytics in 21st Century America by J0hn Zogby.

      Anyone read this and have thoughts?

    • mtraven says:

      Haven’t read this but maybe it’s what you are looking for: “Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind”

    • Well... says:

      Lemme try rephrasing:

      It seems to me that all kinds of random things are tribal identity markers (yes, Mark, in the commonly-used SSC sense of “tribe”). Way more things than one might expect.

      Curious to know if anyone with relevant credentials has noticed the same thing and written about it.

  5. Vermillion says:

    Has anyone read the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant? I was reading about the writing of them and it sounded damn interesting. Especially this bit:

    Grant had written 275,000 words in less than a year—roughly three times the length of a typical novel

    Even more impressive considering he was also battling cancer that whole time.

    • Pablo says:

      I own two copies as a result of two Christmas visits from Santa Claus and have read it. It is very good although dry, which may not be to all tastes. Also very focused on the Mexican War and the Civil War. There are maybe 200 chapters (rough estimate without checking) of which about 3 have anything to say on any subject other than those two wars.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I have. I enjoyed them a lot, but I’m a huge Civil War nerd, so that’s no surprise.

      One bit that stood out to me was his discussion of his actions at the Battle of Belmont, and how that influenced his generalship for the rest of the war. It was a good insight into his character (or how he wanted posterity to view his character), and honestly I thought that he gave good advice.

  6. I have a question about labor rules in Europe, particularly in France vs Germany. Since the readership is only 2/3’s US, I think most of the rest is European, so I hope I can get some answers.

    The stereotype on labor regulations (at least in the US) is that France is is highly restricted, but Germany is relatively free, for Europe at least. This is pretty much what I have thought. But I was talking to a French employee of the US multi-national that I work at, and he tells me this is incorrect. I have heard about the requirement of the 39 hour work week, and maybe even reduced to 35 hours. And most recently, I’ve heard of the rule that companies are supposed to turn off the work e-mails of employees on the weekend and when they are on vacation.

    But the French employee I talked to said these are all voluntary. He said some companies have agreed to do this, but others have not. He started talking about unions at this point, but I didn’t follow that part. Maybe the companies that do this make such agreements with their unions?

    This Frenchman also said that Germany is much more restrictive. He said that unions work much more closely with companies in Germany, and so have more restrictions. He said that the French like to argue. He didn’t say but he implied that Germans do what they are told. So maybe we hear about French issues more because they have more strikes, because French are combative. Whereas the Germans don’t strike, but the companies just give in to restrictive union rules, so we never hear about them.

    This does turn around things in my head, because I always bought the idea that the French were very much in favor of rules such as length of workday, minimum wages, layoff rules, etc. I believe that such government rules are terrible things and hurt those they are meant to help, and weaken the economy. It has been my belief that this is one reason for the French economy being weaker than the German one. But if my presumptions on the relative level of rules are backwards, then the results of the economy are wrong too. (I definitely have not changed my mind that these rules are bad, just not the reason for the relative strength of each country).

    So please let me know more about various labor rules in each country, and how they are enforced. (Maybe some of them are somewhat voluntary?)

    • Not A Random Name says:

      I’m not an expert on the topic. That said I believe I can say some things about the current state of affairs in France and Germany.

      For one President Macron of France is currently trying to change labor laws in France to make them more flexible (i.e. easier to fire people). Recent news articles covering that subject usually explain that it’s really, really hard to fire someone in France as it stands. Also their unions are said to be really powerful, which is why they’re part of the negotiation process.

      A 40 hour week is standard in Germany and likely law (I didn’t check), there is a minimum-wage on the federal level (8.50€ ~ $10 I believe) and strikes big enough to make national news happen a couple of times a year. All of that might be even more pronounced in France, I wouldn’t know.

      People say Germany’s making money of Greece (there’s a famous deal where Greece was lent money, part of which they then had to spent buying German submarines they didn’t need) and by running an export surplus that’s detrimental to the other EU states. I’m not sure how much of these are unsubstantiated talking points of people unhappy with capitalism and how much of them is actually true.

      • Aapje says:

        The value of the euro is obviously a weighted average of the EU countries that have the euro, which is logically then too low for the strong economies and too high for the weaker economies. The result is that countries like Germany run a trade surplus and countries like Greece a deficit.

        Theoretically, if the labor market was functioning rationally, fairly and perfectly, this would result in rising wages in the strong economies and stagnant or declining wages in the weaker economies, making the strong economies less competitive and the weaker economies more so. In reality, the wages aren’t responsive enough.

        The increased debt for the weaker economies that results from the trade deficit eventually causes creditors to hike up their interest rates (although they can do so too late, especially when they (correctly) assume that the other EU countries will prevent a bankruptcy, see Greece), which then forces the countries with a trade deficit to act. Because the countries with the trade surplus still have debt, they don’t really get penalized for running a surplus, as the low interest rates are to their benefit.

        One proposal is to introduce eurobonds, where an investor loans to the eurozone bloc altogether, which then forwards the money to individual governments. The result would then be that the same averaging that sets the value of the euro, sets the value of the interest rates, which is then too high for strong economies and too low for weaker economies. That is effectively a subsidy by the strong economies to the weaker economies, allowing the weaker economies to run up their debt due to the trade deficit for a longer time and giving the strong economies a small (and insufficient IMO) incentive to curb their trade surplus.

        My opinion is that this solves nothing, but just allows countries to put off solving the problems until it becomes immense. My perception is that the weaker economies know this and want major crisis that is so big that transitioning to a large scale, permanent transfer union, like the US, becomes the only remaining remedy.

        My perception is that there is insufficient EU-nationalist sentiment and/or shared culture for people in the strong economies to be willing to to do this. The Greece situation is good evidence of this, as the EU leadership made the supremely stupid decision to transfer the Greek debt from private institutions to the EU, without making the private institutions eat a substantial loss. The result is that the Greek debt cannot be paid back, which any sensible person knows, but simultaneously the strong economies are not willing to eat a loss on the debt. So you have this continuous ‘extend and pretend’ situation. If the strong economies were willing to eat that loss, it would be (weak) evidence that they might be willing to support permanent transfers to weak states.

        Personally I hope that when the eurozone (and perhaps the EU with it) breaks up, it won’t hurt too many people.

        • JulieK says:

          The value of the euro is obviously a weighted average of the EU countries that have the euro, which is logically then too low for the strong economies and too high for the weaker economies.

          Is there any equivalent situation in the US, which has one currency for a huge area?

          • Aapje says:

            @JulieK

            Of course. The various states are quite different and there are huge wealth transfers to help fix the trade deficits within the US. For example, from 1990 to 2009, the federal government spent $1.44 trillion in Virginia but collected less than $850 billion in taxes, a gap of over $590 billion. Delaware paid $211 billion in taxes, but got only $86 billion worth of federal spending, so most of their federal taxes went to other states. New Mexico got almost 3 times as much in federal spending as they paid in federal taxes.

            Here is the list with the detailed numbers for each state/territory.

            PS. In principle you can do the same analysis at any granularity, up to the individual, but at that level no one sees having a differently valued currency per person as a solution*.

            * Although a decent number of people favor currencies for fairly small communities, although the motivation for these seems to be mainly protectionism, not to provide a better match of productivity to the value of the currency.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            The US has far more prominent single lingua franca that everybody speaks at native level. For individual US citizen, moving from one state to another is less an obstacle than moving from a country to another for an EU citizen.

            (Yes, young people and “well-paid professionals” such as engineers today speak English relatively well, but daily workplace communication is a hassle when everyone is speaking good-to-mediocre English, and that’s only your workplace: the rest of the country is going to keep talking in the local language. If you wish to immigrate permanently, there’s no escaping learning the local language, otherwise you will remain outsider. Or possibly you want to remain an outsider, because you are still anticipating moving back to your home country.)

          • and there are huge wealth transfers to help fix the trade deficits within the US.

            That’s putting it backwards.

            Consider, as a first approximation, a stable equilibrium where the amount of money in each state is staying the same. If the government spends a million dollars more than it collects in that state, the inhabitants must be spending a million dollars more in other states than inhabitants of other states spend in theirs in order to maintain the equilibrium.

            Next, consider the specie flow mechanism applied to a fiat currency, which is how the equilibrium is maintained. If, on net, money flows out of a state, prices in that state will fall, which makes goods in that state more attractive to people elsewhere, goods elsewhere less attractive to people in that state, which stops the flow.

            I cannot tell what sort of economic theory you have in your head. In your version, if Virginia, state plus inhabitants, spends more than it takes in and the federal government does nothing, what happens? What determines how much is spent in each direction?

          • @nimim. That is very interesting. I think you are saying that the biggest impediment to workplace flexibility in Europe (compared to the US) is all the different languages in Europe? I can see how that would be a big issue, even with all educated people knowing English (as a second language).

            It is true that I would have no language problems in moving from one side of the US to the other. There are some cultural issues in different sections of the country, which do cause workplace distress, but this is a much smaller issue than having different languages.

          • @Aapje. Some US states pay a lot more to the Federal government in taxes than they get back in benefits, but it doesn’t have anything to do with deficits of each state, even in principle. The classic example causing differences is that some states have large military bases, so they get more money back to pay for that. The reason Virginia is so unbalanced is because it is adjacent to the Federal capital of Washington, DC, so there are lots of agencies based in Virginia. The other state adjacent to DC is Maryland, which is similarly unbalanced.

            Although I do notice that the two biggest losers in the US, Mississippi and West Virginia, are also unbalanced in getting more benefits than paying in of taxes. So maybe there is some implicit deficit reduction, as these states pay less in taxes but get more back in welfare benefits. But I don’t think that is the major player in the differences.

          • Aapje says:

            @nimim

            I agree that different languages are an important reason why labor mobility is much lower in Europe. However, I also think that cultural differences are larger as well (although IMO these are causally related, as language differences cause cultural bubbles as people then don’t consume the same media).

            For example, I worked with two Belgians who both said that they could not go back and work in Belgium because they could not deal with the hierarchical labor culture. For reference, these were both Flemish people, so there was no real language barrier and traveling from where they worked to pretty much anywhere in Flanders is at most a 3 hour drive.

            My perception is that most Americans (and the European elite) suffer from a severe case of out/fargroup homogeneity bias when it comes to European culture(s). It seems to me that American workplace differences are smaller, although I may suffer from out/fargroup homogeneity bias here as well, of course.

            PS. My experience is that it’s hard for foreigners who speak decent English to learn Dutch as the Dutch tend to relish the opportunity to practice their English, so it’s very easy for migrants to get stuck in a local optimum (learning Dutch would require being temporarily less able to communicate by speaking poor Dutch, which would then improve through practice).

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            It’s obvious that incomes, housing prices, etc are far lower in some states than other states, which is why I said “to help fix the trade deficits” which implies that other mechanisms also play a major role. I chose this phrasing on purpose.

            The mechanism you offer up is also merely one other mechanism. It’s pretty common for highly capable people to migrate to more productive countries and then send money to their relatives in their home country. These transfers can be very large. I suspect that the net effect of these transfers between US states also a wealth transfer to low-productive states, although I have no data to verify this and/or estimate/determine the size of the effect with any accuracy.

            Another potential mechanism is that people can work in a highly productive state, accumulate wealth and then migrate to a low productive state to enjoy their pension. Florida may benefit a lot from this.

            @Mark V Anderson

            The decision of the government to spend in a state are not purely economically rational, but ‘pork’ plays a big role. This is advantageous to low-productivity states.

            Anyway, you may not consider these transfers significant in how much of the trade deficit they solve, but that is not my concern. I object to subsidizing bad choices by the Greeks, Italians, French, etc (rather than temporarily subsidizing certain things to help boost their economy). I see this as a Schelling fence. Once the taboo is broken, you may get a similar or plausibly quite worse equilibrium as in the US, where certain states pay much more in federal taxes than they get back.

            Would you be OK with being in a Pan American union where most of the union taxes went to Mexico and the South-American countries? I don’t see anyone in America campaigning for substantial wealth transfers these countries, so apparently the American ingroup solidarity* tends to stop at the Texan border. For large numbers of Europeans, including me, their ingroup solidarity stops at their own border and does not extend to the EU.

            * Of course, people usually also have outgroup solidarity and be willing to give aid to disadvantaged in the outgroup, but then the preference is usually to give to the worst off in their outgroup, not the French, Greeks, Mexicans or Chileans.

          • Jiro says:

            For example, from 1990 to 2009, the federal government spent $1.44 trillion in Virginia but collected less than $850 billion in taxes, a gap of over $590 billion.

            I am wary about this figure. There’s a common Blue argument that the government spends more on the Reds than they pay in taxes. Some of the flaws with this argument don’t apply here but these do:

            — The amount that the government spends “in the state” includes government installations. The money is just shifted from one hand to the other. There’s some trickle down because people who work there probably live in the state, but you need to discount the value by a lot. Virginia specifically is home to the CIA.
            — The amount that the government spends on the state includes infrastructure that mainly benefits the nation, not the individual state where they are located.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Aapje, why hasn’t that Schilling fence already been broken by the Common Agriculture Policy? That’s direct transfer payments to farmers, just as much as Social Security or WIC or any other thing that gets lumped up in the US numbers.

          • Aapje says:

            @Evan Þ

            Good question. The answer is that a fairly small percentage of the population benefits and that it actually consists of specific EU policies that have to be accepted by the EU states, so it’s reasonably opposable. That is not really true for eurobonds, which just allow the EU states to use the money for whatever they want and which logically makes national politicians behave according to a tragedy of the commons scenario at the expense of EU commons.

            The Common Agricultural Policy started off extremely shitty, distorting market signals and it took 20 years before the first reforms happened. Basically, for the last 60 years rational people have been trying to chip away at it. This would not have been necessary if it hadn’t been implemented in the first place. The reformed policies still have no place at the federal level, but for political reasons it really can’t be moved to the national level, so the best reformers have been able to do is to turn it into pork that is not that destructive.

            So initially creating the CAP was a huge mistake and is actually a good example of how hard it is to fix such mistakes in a federalized system where all kinds of political considerations play a role, which are not economically rational.

          • @Aapje

            Would you be OK with being in a Pan American union where most of the union taxes went to Mexico and the South-American countries? I don’t see anyone in America campaigning for substantial wealth transfers these countries, so apparently the American ingroup solidarity* tends to stop at the Texan border. For large numbers of Europeans, including me, their ingroup solidarity stops at their own border and does not extend to the EU.

            Yes I have always been surprised at the amount “welfare” given by the rich countries in the EU to poor countries. I am rather surprised that the EU has allowed in so many poorer countries recently, since given the EU’s policies, the new countries are bound to receive more subsidies than they give. You’re right that this certainly wouldn’t fly in the US. I don’t know that it’s a bad thing to try to give poorer countries a hand up to become more equal to the richer ones (although there is definitely a classic moral hazard here that may result in the poorer countries not bothering to build themselves up by their own efforts). But I don’t think many people would vote for such a giveaway if they had the chance to make this choice, which gives a lot of credence to your belief that the EU is run by an elite and isn’t much controllable by voters.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            Polls and the outcomes of the few referendums* that the pro-‘Big EU’ clique allows show a pretty large disconnect between the elite and the people, strongly suggesting that democracy doesn’t function at that level. IMO, the level of indirection is just too high, so blame cannot be clearly appointed for decisions, nor is it clear how to vote to get things to change in a desired direction, which is a requirement for a functioning democracy.

            Ultimately, it is a very human tendency to favor the preferences of those one is close to over those one has little contact with. So politicians have a strong tendency to favor the needs of their fellow politicians, the people who send lobbyists, etc over the needs of the people they are supposed to represent. This is why democracy is needed as a hammer to slap the shit out of politicians who do this too much. This doesn’t happen sufficiently in the EU.

            An example of this divergence is that the Dutch voted in a referendum against a deal with Ukraine, which more or less promised eventual EU membership (the outcome was ignored, of course, as with most EU referendums). This is standard EU politics, BTW. They promise eventual EU membership as a lever to get countries to behave as desired (making stronger and stronger promises to keep leverage) and by doing so they paint themselves into a corner, being unable to say no without losing face. The perversity of this is most evident in the EU membership negotiations with Turkey. Erdogan has destroyed the free press, goes after elected politicians, actively seeks to prevent integration of the Turkish diaspora, actively seeks to control them through state religion, exports internal Turkish conflicts to the EU, etc. Yet the EU membership negotiations are not cancelled, but merely stalled.

            A second major issue is that is has become clear that a very large part of EU politics is not actually done in the open, but is based on secret deals, where the EU people are sold a lie. For example, the euro was sold as a economic benefit to companies and travelers/tourists. The actual truth was that French only accepted unification of West- and East-Germany if the euro was introduced, so a united Germany could not dominate France/the EU economically too much. The European people were not made aware of this deal at the time and instead were lied to about the economic benefits of the euro and kept in the dark about the risks.

            PS. Note that the situation in the US is not necessarily better.

            * Note that there have never been EU-wide referendums, because then the divide and conquer policies to eradicate democracy dissent don’t work.

        • Define “strong economy” and “weak economy.”

        • @Aapje

          Theoretically, if the labor market was functioning rationally, fairly and perfectly, this would result in rising wages in the strong economies and stagnant or declining wages in the weaker economies, making the strong economies less competitive and the weaker economies more so. In reality, the wages aren’t responsive enough.

          Yes this is exactly how things should work. It is because this process doesn’t work well that everyone blames the Euro for Greek’s problems. And then they try complicated solutions, like the eurobonds, which are only band aids and would probably make the the disparities worse in the long run. By far the best solution would be to make wages flexible as you state above. Is there a way to make the process work better than it does? I am not sure how to do it, but it seems to me the first thing that has to happen is to have the affected governments agree this is the solution, so they don’t actively work against it.

          Actually, in the US, it has worked somewhat like this. The South (actually the southeast portion of the country) has long been the economically weakest part of the country. Because they have the lowest wages there, certain kinds of industry is attracted to the South. As you can see in this chart, the South unemployment rate is pretty comparable to the rest of the country. Their wages are still lower, but their economies aren’t falling apart because of the industries attracted by the low wages.

          So why doesn’t this happen to Greece? I presume this is due to the Greek government in denial (and in turn the voting population), not understanding that their wages are too high to be financially viable. But I really don’t know the Greek laws, so I admit I could be totally wrong.

          • Björn says:

            Greece just has many problems, like a bloated and unefficient administration, tax fraud, a bad industrial base, chaotic regulations, etc. On top of that they joined the Euro while they where far behind any other nation that joined the Euro. And it’s also very debatable that the harsh austerity politics Germany forced on them where not good for the economy and there would have been a better way of handling it.

            Then again, Greece tackled some of their problems, and despite the austerity politics the economy is now growing a little bit. Still, the question remains wether that would have happened faster if there would have been more of a “Marshall plan” for Greece.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Financial_Audit,_2004

            From what I’ve read, when Greece joined the EU, it offered statistics which made its economy look better than it was. The widipedia article is the mildest thing I’ve seen on the subject.

            https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-30/greece-s-least-wanted-man-lives-in-maryland

            The statistician who was at risk for being imprisoned for life for correcting the numbers on the Greek economy.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            Is there a way to make the process work better than it does?

            Yes, by having a free-floating currency not backed by the ECB 🙂

            A reason why it doesn’t work well in countries like Greek and France is because they are highly protectionist of labor and have a high-conflict labor market model. So workers fight hard to get a salary, exploiting coercive levers if possible, like harming other aspects of the economy, to get a higher salary than their productivity strictly justifies.

            In such an environment collective wage reductions by a certain percentage is not very doable. The equilibrium is sticky, so people who like it have a strong motivation so prevent it moving at all. Even if they agree that it is reasonable to shift the equilibrium 3 percent down, once they assent to any shift, this will make it far easier to shift it 10 percent down. In such an environment, unions often fight very hard to give their people a better deal compared to other workers (who are part of another union) and strongly resist most change as coercive levers work better when used infrequently.

            In contrast, in my country we had the Wassenaar Agreement, while in Denmark they had the Declaration of Intent and in Ireland, they had the Programme for National Recovery. These were agreements between employer and worker representatives for wage moderation to boost competitiveness and in return the employers would give certain benefits, like shorter working hours. Such agreements can only work in high-trust societies.

            So IMO the answer is a lot more structural than just ‘the Greek government in denial.’ The behavior that is necessary to make the eurozone work is fundamentally incompatible with Greek culture. The EU elites are mostly authoritarian Utopians and believe that the people will simply start to behave as is necessary to make paradise work, if the elites lead the way. I am rather more cynical about this and believe that the ability for culture to change is far less than is expected and necessary for the EU project to work (in no small part because the EU elites are both highly ambitious about what they want the EU to be, but also highly ambitious about the size of the EU, which are conflicting desires). In engineering, forcing things only works up to a point, beyond that, things don’t bend, they break.

          • @Aapje

            Yes, by having a free-floating currency not backed by the ECB

            I presume you mean every country should have its own currency again? So should the Netherlands have 12 different currencies floating against each other too, since I presume different parts of the country grow faster than others, and wage differentials will grow there too? I am a bit surprised that someone in a small country like you wants back national currencies. Aren’t you within a few hours driving time to Germany and Belgium and Denmark? Do you want to exchange your money every time you cross a border? Actually, Denmark does still have its own currency — isn’t it a pain to change money all the time? Even to me, in the US and in Finance, I very much prefer to deal with the Euro when dealing with European finances than all the others. I bet intra-EU transactions would be quite a bit higher in admin costs without the Euro. I think the Euro encourages trade, and that’s a good thing.

            My point is that the Euro has some real benefits. It would be terrible if each state in the US had its own currency. We have sticky wages here too, although maybe the state governments can’t aggravate the problem as much as independent countries can. In any case, I’ve never heard of anyone suggesting each state having its own currency to solve that issue. Nimim talks about the difficulty of labor crossing borders because of different languages, and you bring up the cultural differences. Currency differences just add one more problem when crossing borders.

            It would be much better to have government policies that encouraged wages to float with the underlying economics, instead of the opposite sort of policies that exist now. Separate floating currencies merely achieve the same thing in a more complicate manner. Maybe I am too idealistic to think that governments will ever become rational. But I feel like dumping the Euro would be going backwards, by discouraging trade.

          • The problems of exchanging currencies become less as more of our transactions are handled by computers. It’s already the case that I can put a credit card into a machine in London and draw pounds out of a dollar account. I can pay for things with a credit card and pay pound prices, or Euro prices, with dollars. The more things are done that way, the less the inconvenience associated with multiple currencies matters.

            I sometimes say that Europe got a common currency just at the point when it was becoming unnecessary.

          • The main point of having a common currency relates to large transactions conducted in the future (is your profit won’t be wiped out by exchange movements and/or buy products to protect yourself against the former) , the benefit to tourists is incidental.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            There have been proposals to have a northern and southern euro. Personally, I’d be fine with having a shared currency with Germany, the Nordics and perhaps some other countries.

            The Dutch guilder was pegged to the German mark for decades before the introduction of the euro anyway and interest rate changes by the German central bank were copied by the Dutch central bank the next day. So effectively we already had a shared coin, although merely effectively and not using the same currency, which allowed for decoupling if necessary. That this proved unnecessary is decent evidence that a northern euro is viable.

            In contrast, the Greek drachma has never been pegged to the German mark, which shows the irresponsibility of the EU decision makers. A responsible move would be to require some decades of coupling to prove that a shared currency can work. So now that we figured out it can’t work, decoupling can’t happen without immense damage. If the exchange rates had been fixed and the interest rates made the same, undoing that would be pretty easy.

            I also more or less agree with Mr Friedman, although I feel that the EU dropped the ball by not agreeing on a shared debit card system. The Mastercard standard, Maestro, works for any EU ATM AFAIK, though. When I went to England last year, I still had to handle physical British pounds, but I much prefer that over a Great Depression, stagnating buying power in high-productive nations, large unemployment in low-productive nations, etc, etc.

            You probably overestimate how far Europeans typically travel. Even in my tiny country, it’s not that common for people to travel abroad outside of holidays (also because Holland is the most heavily populated area, which is near the sea, not that close to a border). The euro is probably a fairly big benefit to US and Asian travelers to the EU though, as they often seem to visit multiple countries.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            As for trade benefits, you are correct that this is substantial, although the benefits proved less than expected.

            Furthermore, economic analysis suggests that much of these benefits can be achieved by fixing the exchange rates. It seems to me that this often provides the best of both worlds: stability for trade, but also an exit option if the peg proves untenable. Then if the peg proves stable for a long period between some nations, those could get a common currency. That is how responsible politicians would do things, IMO.

            Ultimately, I started as a pro-EU person, but became an EU-skeptic because I see a consistent pattern of EU overreach, anti-democratic tendencies and irresponsible behavior. I could live with an EU that was run by people who are not irresponsible Utopian thinkers. That is not what we have and there are no mechanisms in place to get us there from where we are.

          • The main point of having a common currency relates to large transactions conducted in the future (is your profit won’t be wiped out by exchange movements

            There are currency future markets, so if you are worried about exchange rate changes you can always hedge against them. The underlying problem isn’t solved by a common currency, because you don’t know what that currency will be worth in the future. You know how many Euros you will get as your wages next year because your employment contract says, but that isn’t what you want to know. You don’t eat Euros. Similarly for other long term contracts.

          • @DF

            The problems of exchanging currencies become less as more of our transactions are handled by computers.

            Yes it has gotten easier, but we are a long way from the effect being negligible. As I said, I work in Finance in the US. To the extent I work with European finance, it can be very hard to understand what is going on with all the different currencies. Yes, the computer translates everything in real time, but you still have to understand all the changes.
            Currency is one aspect of an international economy that complicates matters. I am sure it is that much more difficult for those in Finance who live in Europe and have to deal with these issues constantly. It is still a large detriment to trade.

            @Aapje. I suppose I do over-state how often an average person crosses borders. But I wonder if currency differences helps discourage such travel. I live in the state of Minnesota, but I own part of a cabin about 45 minutes away in the state of Wisconsin. I think little of going to the cabin, but I wonder if I would think twice if I needed to use a different currency over there. Even if I used my debit card somewhat transparently for both currencies, I would need to make constant calculations between currencies to understand how much I was paying (and also to understand my bank statement each month).

            Also, while the average person perhaps has few financial transactions across borders, that isn’t the case for many businesses and business people. I think the promise of the EU was to greatly increase trade between countries within the union? One currency helps a lot, I think.

            A Euro North and a Euro South might not be a bad idea, and might encourage the hold-out Nordic countries to join the common currency if it was with other financially stable countries. But I doubt it would ever happen.

            I’ve always liked the idea of the EU, and I’ve always liked the idea of a common currency also. But I agree that government accountability to voters is very important, and it doesn’t sound like there is much in the EU. So I like the idea, if not the implementation.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            I think the promise of the EU was to greatly increase trade between countries within the union? One currency helps a lot, I think.

            It’s good that you say ‘was,’ because this seems to have changed along the way, where the new goal is to create something similar to the US.

            The change can be seen* in the ‘Treaty on European Union’ aka the Maastricht Treaty, where the name of the project was changed from ‘European Economic Community’ to ‘European Community.’ This was opposed by the UK, btw, who wanted it to remain a much more pure trade union. They opted out of major provisions (like the common currency), as they earlier opted out of the Schengen agreement on open borders. The Brexit can be seen as a logical extension of this dislike of turning the EU into a country.

            Anyway, the benefits of a single currency have to be weighed against the downsides. For example, why doesn’t everyone just adopt the same currency worldwide? That countries, who mostly seek to increase trade and wealth, don’t naturally gravitate to this strongly suggests that the downsides are very large and can often overwhelm the trade benefits. Ignoring downsides of their ideas is a standard consequence of a Utopian mindset and it usually causes lots of damage when reality refuses to cooperate.

            A Euro North and a Euro South might not be a bad idea, and might encourage the hold-out Nordic countries to join the common currency if it was with other financially stable countries. But I doubt it would ever happen.

            I don’t see how the current euro can survive long term, so I expect something to replace it. Replacing it with a northern and southern euro would be a less damaging way to get to a more stable configuration than to go back to national currencies.

            The way I see it, the only alternative is continuous crises, where the euro starts shedding countries gradually in a very damaging way, like slowly pulling of a band aid rather than ripping it off quickly.

            * Although it clearly started earlier.

          • For example, why doesn’t everyone just adopt the same currency worldwide?

            The gold standard came pretty close to that in the nineteenth century, with different currencies in effect representing different weights of gold.

            One possible answer to your question is that national governments want seignorage, the revenue from issuing currency. Another is that they want the ability to control the price level, for example to benefit debtors at the expense of creditors by inflating when doing so is politically profitable.

          • Nornagest says:

            @DavidFriedman — I thought adulteration made it more complicated than that, at least during the period where gold specie circulated rather than paper currency backed by gold?

            The situation as I understand it is something like this: nominally a currency would be good for a particular weight of precious metal, but in practice governments would debase their currencies from time to time by messing with the alloy, usually to increase the money supply, and because it was difficult to tell a debased from an undebased coin, practical exchange rates reflected not only whether a government had done this in the past but also the expected likelihood of their doing it in the future.

            Is this totally off base?

          • Is this totally off base?

            Not totally. I was thinking of the point at which many nations had paper currency backed by gold and convertible–you could bring in your bills and get gold for them. That was a gold standard.

            But inflation via debasement was generally pretty slow. Carlo Cipolla discusses it in Money, Prices and Civilization in the Mediterranean World, an interesting book. As best I recall his figures, silver coinage on average lost half its value through debasement about every two centuries, and gold coinage was more stable than that. My interpretation, not his, was that the gold was used mainly for international transactions, the silver for local, there were multiple national issuers of gold coin, so there was in effect a competitive market for gold coins. If the Byzantines debased the Noumisma, traders would switch to dinars or ducats or florins instead and the Byzantines would lose both the small seignorage they got by coining and the status of having their money widely used.

            So what you describe happened, but very slowly by modern standards of inflation, and it wasn’t quite what I was describing.

    • Björn says:

      In Germany, it is quite regulated when it is allowed to do a strike. Trade unions may not go on strike while there is a collective agreement. Also, only trade unions may organize a strike, and strikes may only be about the conditions of the work contract, not about political things.

      In France, strikes can be done by any group of workers, even two can be enough. And the reasons can be purely political as long as it is work related, so it is possible to do a strike against a retirement reform, even though the company you are working at has no direct influence on that law. (Source for the first two paragraphs (in German): https://www.lto.de/recht/hintergruende/h/arbeitsmarktreform-frankreich-streik-gewerkschaften-tarifvertrag/)

      On top of that, French trade unions are quite combative, which has to do with the history of communism in France, and is of course also related to their political power as described above. In contrast, German trade unions and employers see each others as partners, at least most of the time.

      Not A Random Name mentioned some other things already, like that in France it is very annoying laying employees off. Laying them off in itself is easy, but they get a dismissal wage, which can be rather high, especially if the ex-employee sues.

      In Germany, it is generally harder to lay people off, but if it happens, they can only sue for the continuation of the employment (at least in principle). However, it is still possible to lay off people if there is a “business reason” (betriebsbedingte Kündigung). Those can be many things, like a change in the business model or when the company decides to produce less or when a branch of the company closes down. If the company can then not meaningfully employ a worker anymore, the can lay them off.

      German work law has another neat thing, called short time (Kurzarbeit). When there are unforeseeable economical issues like a recession, a company can apply to be allowed to decrease the work time and therefore the wages for a time. The workers then receive payments from the state on top of their decreased wages (60% of what they lost). This allows companies and workers to keep their work contracts in times of economic trouble, which is good for both groups.

      • quarint says:

        On top of that, French trade unions are quite combative, which has to do with the history of communism in France, and is of course also related to their political power as described above. In contrast, German trade unions and employers see each others as partners, at least most of the time.

        Which is why relatively few workers belong to a union in France.

        • Which is why relatively few workers belong to a union in France.

          I thought this was nuts, until I looked this up on the Internet. This site says 7.7% of French are in unions, which is quite a bit less than even the US (Germany at 18.1%). Can this be right? How can French unions be so strong when so few are in them. This article discusses this very point.

          I guess union workers are now like farmers. Few belong in the group, but the rest have romantic feelings about them, so the government protects them?

          • Aapje says:

            It’s because the law gives them so much power:

            “French unions wield enormous political clout over the national economy. Among other things, they run the national systems for unemployment insurance and vocational training, in joint management with employers’ organizations. In fact, they formally play as big a role in setting social and labor policy as organized labor does in Scandinavia, where 80 percent or more of the workers are union members.”

            Ultimately, it’s a matter of legitimacy in the eyes of the people, which doesn’t necessarily match up with membership.

    • Argos says:

      Honestly, it seems that the differences between France and Germany are only miniscule, especially from an American perspecitve. Both countries have high standards of labor regulation, even when compared to other countries.

      Only mentioning specific instances of regulation that one country implements but the other doesn’t as your colleague does is problematic because it only gives you an incomplete picture.

      The OECD actually has some data on how protected employees are from firing (“yeah, it has numbers, so it must be true”):

      France:
      Permanent workers 2.8 (2013)
      Temporary employment 3.8 (2013)
      Individual dismissal 2.6 (2013)

      Germany:
      Permanent workers 3.0 (2013)
      Temporary employment 1.8 (2013)
      Individual dismissal 2.5 (2013)

      Quickly looking at the chart on the website, the only country with higher protection of temporary workers than France is Venezuela which scores 5.2 (on a 0 to 5 scale)
      http://www.oecd.org/els/emp/oecdindicatorsofemploymentprotection.htm

      Two actual differences: Germany’s labour laws, compared to the 90s, have been getting more liberal, which some people use to explain the strong German economy.

      Also, as Björn mentioned, German unions are more cooperative than their Franch counterparts.

      • @Argos

        Honestly, it seems that the differences between France and Germany are only miniscule, especially from an American perspecitve. Both countries have high standards of labor regulation, even when compared to other countries.

        Yes, I am starting to think this. The strength of Germany vs France seems to be more how business is conducted in each country on a practical basis, and not on the laws per se. I can imagine having more active and combative unions, as Bjorn mentions, would tend to make the economy weaker. Another stereotype in my head about the two countries is that elite Germans are more likely to work in Engineering, whereas the French elite go into politics. If this is true, that would also benefit the German economy. IT might be things like that, not the laws of each country, that have the most effect.

        • Björn says:

          I don’t agree that the difference between the labour laws of Germany and France is small. What maybe is the case that in both states there is more labour law than in the US, but that does not mean that the law can not be different from each other. What you have to see that Germany for example got some smart neoliberal reforms in the 2000s (not the stupid kind like the bank deregulations that gave us the 2008 crisis). For example, the unemployment offices are focused on getting people back to work since then and can give people extra training. That’s one of the reasons why Germany has about 4% unemployment rate right now.

          In contrast, there where not many good reforms in France in the last 20 years or so, that’s why Macron wants to do something like that now.

          • Not A Random Name says:

            I’m generally skeptical when it comes to reporting of unemployment in Germany. Petty stuff like not counting people who’re undergoing mandatory training during said training and a couple of similar things I’ve heard make me generally distrustful of how much things have really gotten better and how much they just look better now.

            For example if you look at the numbers from this August (source [German]) it would seem the real number of unemployed people is somewhere between 2.5million and 3.5million depending on how you count. That’s a difference of about 40%. Which seems to correspond to something between 5.7% and ~8% in unemployment rate.

            In any case, if you have some good sources for how well the 2000s reforms worked I’d be genuinely interested.

        • Creutzer says:

          Another stereotype in my head about the two countries is that elite Germans are more likely to work in Engineering, whereas the French elite go into politics.

          I’m pretty sure this is inaccurate. Engineering is the elite thing in France. Most of the most prestigious and competitive universities are engineering schools.

        • quarint says:

          Another stereotype in my head about the two countries is that elite Germans are more likely to work in Engineering, whereas the French elite go into politics. If this is true, that would also benefit the German economy. IT might be things like that, not the laws of each country, that have the most effect.

          I’m French. Engineering is also the “elite” path in France. Even some high profile politicians come from an engineering background.

  7. Mary says:

    Does anyone know whether there’s anywhere I could find information about interactions between sociopaths? There’s a lot more about normal people interacting with them.

  8. bean says:

    Part 3 of my ramblings on air travel
    Earlier, I talked about how airlines sell tickets, to get the most money out of their passengers. This time, I’m going to talk about the mechanical process of getting those passengers where they want to go. The basic problem is that there are an almost arbitrarily large number of combinations of A and B people want to travel between, and it’s obviously impractical to have direct service between all of them. Different travelers want different things, and the whole systems is constrained by available airplanes and airports.

    So, how do we take the planes I talked about last time, plus all of the airport infrastructure, and create a route network that will get people where they want to go? This is hard to describe from first principles, so we’ll examine a couple of airlines to see how they do things.

    We’ll start with Allegiant. Allegiant has a unique business model among US airlines. It flies older narrowbodies (MD-80s and now used A319s and A320s) between minor airports (where it’s often the only scheduled air service) and major leisure destinations (their biggest airports are Orlando and Las Vegas), often only a few times a week. This is totally unacceptable for the business market, but it works well for leisure travelers. Allegiant has low base fares, and makes a lot of its money on ancillary revenue, things like checked and carry-on baggage, drinks, and seat selection. They also make sure that they don’t leave crews overnight away from their base (usually the leisure destination, although they do have bases in places like Cincinnati for reasons I don’t understand), saving them from having to pay for hotel rooms. The older planes Allegiant flies are less fuel-efficient, but are also maybe 10% of the cost of new airplanes of comparable size, and they can afford to fly them about half as many hours per day as other carriers do. They don’t offer connections or many other services that bigger airlines do, which saves them money and effort. (Allegiant is also the only airline I know of that allows passengers to change the name on their tickets for a fee. Most airlines do not allow this because it can mess with their revenue management.)

    More typical Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) operate on a similar model, catering mainly to leisure-type travel, but in different markets. The best US example is Spirit, while Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe are major players. These airlines fly bigger routes, relying on low costs to let them set fares lower. Costs are held down by packing more people into planes, relying on ancillary revenue, and reducing labor and operating costs via a wide variety of tactics. Ryanair, for instance, has seats that do not recline, and offers no in-flight entertainment. They charge extra to check in at the airport, to reduce staffing there. It would remove the window shades to save weight, but the Irish Aviation Authority requires them. There is only one class of seating (cattle). Rumors that they’re going to charge for the bathroom are usually started by the CEO when Ryanair drops out of the news. They also hold down operating costs by only flying one kind of airplane, which means they only need to train their pilots and mechanics on one type. Most LCCs seem to operate about 2 airplanes per destination, allowing daily frequencies on most routes. Allegiant flies about 0.5 airplanes per destination, and flies them less per day.

    Southwest airlines is an interesting hybrid of LCC and legacy carrier, along with some elements that are unique to it. Unlike most LCCs, they offer connecting flights, and operate a proper network, making it feasible to fly between any two airports Southwest serves, usually with only one transfer, although in some cases their service from certain airports is clearly targeted at specific markets, and they’re better at offering point-to-point service than the legacy carriers. For instance, out of Long Beach their focus is clearly on moving people north along the West Coast. Try to fly east, and it’s expensive and the connections are bad. However, they only fly 737s, and do not have a widebody/international presence. (Flights to Mexico and Caribbean destinations are much more like domestic flights than long-haul flying.) They do not offer assigned seating, which encourages people to board quickly, and also do not charge for checked bags. This was at least partially the result of IT limitations until recently, but it’s also a major part of Southwest’s brand. Southwest has 7 airplanes per destination, giving it the high frequencies necessary to attract business travelers.

    Now we come to the legacy airlines, in the US the big 3 of United, Delta and American. These can be broadly divided into three branches based upon the type of airplanes they fly. Basically, you can move between any two points in the US on any of these carriers. It might be expensive, but they’ll get you there reasonably quickly. They also have extensive international networks.

    A mix of narrowbodies and regional jets fly virtually all domestic routes. The regional jets (which are capped at 76 seats) are operated as a sub-brand (American Eagle, United Express, Delta Connection) by a variety of contracted operators. This is a historical artifact, due to high labor costs at the main airlines. Between the growing pilot shortage and a reduction in airline labor costs due to bankruptcy, the regional airlines are slowly losing market share. They fly routes too ‘narrow’ for a full-sized narrowbody, allowing the legacy carriers to offer higher frequencies and more options to their passengers.

    The legacy carrier’s domestic routes are designed to move people from one point to another through their hubs, a very different model from that used by the LCCs. The most famous hub is Delta’s in Atlanta, but cities like Dallas, Chicago, Houston, and LA all serve as major hubs for the legacy carriers. Many airports only offer flights to the hubs, and trying to go between two close non-hub cities could require a transfer at a hub much further away. On the other hand, the hub gives the airline the ability to offer service to a much greater range of destinations with a single stop than they could make work using point-to-point flying. Some hubs are ‘banked’ with large numbers of flights arriving and departing at about the same time. This reduces the amount of time passengers have to wait on their connections, but is expensive because much of the infrastructure has to sit idle between banks, and carries risks if flights are delayed. Also, some airports (most notably those in the New York area) have a restricted number of takeoff/landing slots, which limits the amount of traffic that can be put through them.

    These hubs also serve as the launching point for the legacy carrier’s international flights. These are fed by the flights into the hub, and operated mostly by widebodies. At one time, only the biggest widebodies could handle true long-haul flying, which meant that only routes with very high demand could be flown. Medium-sized cities had limited service to very large cities on the other side of the ocean, and medium-to-medium was unknown. The advent of the 787 and A350 have significantly improved the economics of medium-to-medium routes, giving travelers many more options, and bringing international service to cities which previously did not have it, or which lost it when airlines closed hubs there.

    This has already gotten long enough. I’m going to continue rambling later. Not sure on what yet. There are lots of interesting things about air travel.

    • keranih says:

      Please do continue rambling. If you’re looking for topics, I’d be interested in airport hubs. A couple decades back, noise was a huge issue in housing areas, but its rarely in the news now. Anything interesting about footprints, like wildlife conservation areas? How about specific geographically challenging airports, with inconvenient cliffs or mountains?

      Also, relative popularity of different hubs? This year, I’m flying enough for work to have developed preferences for my local airports, and I wonder how much those preferences matter in the larger scheme. For instance – Charlotte, NC, is imo a delightful place to transit through (by air, the roads are a mess). I like Atlanta fine. (Plus, it’s good to be familiar with Atlanta – if you die in the Southland, it doesn’t matter if you’re going to see St Peter or Old Nick, you’re still transferring through Atlanta.)

      JFK, OTOH, is an ungodly mess and I loathe it. If at all possible, I will pay extra money/time to NOT go through JFK.

      But the impression I get is that the airline bottom line is the bottom line, and things like flier preferences are lipstick on the pig. How correct is this impression?

      • bean says:

        Please do continue rambling. If you’re looking for topics, I’d be interested in airport hubs. A couple decades back, noise was a huge issue in housing areas, but its rarely in the news now. Anything interesting about footprints, like wildlife conservation areas? How about specific geographically challenging airports, with inconvenient cliffs or mountains?

        I know a little about that. My sister is the one who is really into airports. There has been a really big push into noise reduction since the 70s, with modern aircraft being designed to be much quieter. If you look at the nacelles of 787s and 747-8s, you’ll see that the edges are sawtoothed. That’s for noise mitigation. So the noise is way down, which helps reduce complaints.

        Also, relative popularity of different hubs? This year, I’m flying enough for work to have developed preferences for my local airports, and I wonder how much those preferences matter in the larger scheme. For instance – Charlotte, NC, is imo a delightful place to transit through (by air, the roads are a mess). I like Atlanta fine. (Plus, it’s good to be familiar with Atlanta – if you die in the Southland, it doesn’t matter if you’re going to see St Peter or Old Nick, you’re still transferring through Atlanta.)

        JFK, OTOH, is an ungodly mess and I loathe it. If at all possible, I will pay extra money/time to NOT go through JFK.

        The problem with hubs like JFK (which everyone agrees is dreadful) is that hubs rely on local traffic, as well as connecting traffic. The best hubs are the ones where you have lots of people who aren’t connecting, too. I’ve seen suggestions that one of the main reasons TWA folded was that St. Louis (their hub) didn’t produce the same level of high-revenue business traffic that places like Dallas and Chicago did. Business travelers based in a hub are very likely to be loyal to the hub carrier.) New York is a major business hub, and a major destination for domestic and international travel. So JFK will stay a hub, despite being terrible. The vulnerable hubs are the ones like Charlotte, which hasn’t been getting much love from American lately.
        Atlanta is pretty decent, particularly when compared with LAX (the big airport I’m most familiar with.)

        But the impression I get is that the airline bottom line is the bottom line, and things like flier preferences are lipstick on the pig. How correct is this impression?

        The only important flier preferences are the ones revealed in the bottom line. People swear up and down that they want more legroom, but when American tried to sell it to them, they didn’t buy. Things like this make airline people look down on the ‘self-loading cargo’.

    • tmk says:

      One important thing on Ryan Air: They fly between smaller airports, were they are the only or dominant airline. It saves them gate fees, and they are unlikely to get delayed because they are stuck in a queue behind others. As a passenger, you have to accept a very long bus ride to where you are actually going.

      • bean says:

        This is another common low-cost carrier thing, not just Ryanair. Secondary airports usually have lower fees than the primary airport, so often the various LCCs gravitate to them. Sometimes they’re further out, but you also see cases like Dallas, where Love Field (Southwest’s main base) is much closer to downtown than DFW. Southwest does the same thing in Houston and Chicago, too. And then you have Miami, where everyone but American avoids MIA in favor of Ft. Lauderdale because of how high MIA’s landing fees are.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Flew Southwest once out of Midway airport, never again.

          O’Hare is located close by and basically at the confluence of several highways.

          Midway might as well be a residential development.

          • bean says:

            I’ve only flown through Midway (connecting, not O/D) and never through O’Hare, but looking at the map, Midway is definitely closer to downtown. If you were in the north edge of Chicago, then I suppose ORD could be a better option.

          • Evan Þ says:

            The problem might be in getting there. When I was going to O’Hare from downstate, I could just stay on the freeway; when I was going to Midway, I needed to get off on city streets in decent traffic. I never really timed it, but it felt longer to Midway.

            (OTOH, if you’re going from downtown, the El runs to both.)

          • OHare is a little more convenient to freeways, but not a lot–Midway is close to 55. Coming from downstate it’s probably faster to take 294 to Cicero and run up that, which is your “city streets.”

            If you look at the map, you can see that taking 90 to 55 and then west or 294 to 55 and then east, is shorter, not longer, than taking either of them up to OHare. So if you insist on almost all freeway, Midway is still closer to downstate. And it’s a smaller airport, although not nearly as small as it used to be.

            We use Midway by preference partly because we like Southwest, partly because our Chicago friends are south not north.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’m coming from a Northern suburb, so O’Hare is always going to be closer.

            The annoying part was probably because we exited 290 at Cicero and drove South there, through Cicero. It’s what the GPS suggested. Perhaps not the quickest option!

          • Brad says:

            I have a close relative near Wrigley and have flown into both. Driving-wise they seemed about equal, but it is easier to navigate Midway than O’Hare. Mostly it comes down to which airline has the best deal / schedule on a particular trip.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @DavidFriedman, you’re probably right. Like I said, I never timed it, and didn’t go there too often before I decided to take the train and stop in downtown first.

        • Matt M says:

          Love Field and Hobby are both amazing. Totally different air travel experience. If you’re traveling in Texas and not flying Southwest, you’re doing it wrong.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Now we’ve had series in maritime warfare and civilian air travel. Does anyone know much about civil maritime travel and air warfare?

  9. robirahman says:

    We’re having two SSC meetups for Washington, DC this month. There will be board games in Silver Spring, Maryland on Sunday the 17th, and then the monthly discussion group is meeting downtown on Saturday the 23rd. For more information, check our google group or email me if you have any questions.

  10. Levantine says:

    F.M. Sardelli: Oboe Concerto in G minor (Modo Antiquo)

    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jli7SJmnp7A)

    I went to check on this composer of 1700s music, Sardelli …

    “Federico Maria Sardelli (born 1963) is an Italian conductor, historicist composer, musicologist, flautist, comics artist and satirist. He founded the medieval ensemble Modo Antiquo in 1984. In 1987 he founded the baroque orchestra Modo Antiquo. …… In 2015 he published his first novel “L’affare Vivaldi”, a historical investigation into the disappearance of Vivaldi’s manuscripts. In addition to his musical activities, Sardelli is also a painter, engraver and satirical writer.” – Wikipedia

    (my thoughts:)

    1. I didn’t know this kind of a ‘Renaissance man’ still existed.

    2. He looks like a pretty ordinary fellow. If he can do it, I can do a similar thing too!

  11. johan_larson says:

    The Star Wars films, best to worst:
    1. The Empire Strikes Back
    2. A New Hope
    3. Return of the Jedi
    3. Rogue One (tie)
    5. The Force Awakens
    5. Revenge of the Sith (tie)
    7. Attack of the Clones.
    8. The Phantom Menace

    That’s a pretty conventional ordering. Pretty much everyone agrees that the best of the bunch is either Hope or Empire, and the prequels are worse than the original trilogy.

    But I expect there is more disagreement about the newer films, Rogue One and The Force Awakens. How far up or down the scale do they range?

    • sohois says:

      I feel like Rogue One is regarded as being worse than The Force Awakens, in general. Of course, talking about the majority feeling is difficult because there aren’t really reliable ways of saying how the majority feels. IMDb ratings are a possible proxy, but i doubt anyone would consider them super reliable. IMDb has TFA, Rogue One and Revenge of the Sith all similarly rated, with TFA being higher than R1 which in turn is higher than RotS.

      This ordering is mirrored by Rotten Tomatoes critic ratings. So in general your order seems to be correct but with TFA and Rogue One switched in position.

      I personally found Rogue One to be distinctly mediocre and worse than TFA, which I would rate as just above average for a blockbuster. I’m sure you will also find those who think it is better and even superior to Return or New Hope. And I’m also aware that the likes of RedLetterMedia absolutely despise Rogue One and would perhaps rate it as bad as the prequel trilogy.

    • Lirio says:

      No opinion on Rogue One since i haven’t watched it yet. Rankings based on my subjective enjoyment as opposed to perceived film quality are as follows, along with the date of my last watching them:

      1) Prequel Trilogy Recut into a Single Movie (mid-2015, YouTube)
      2) Revenge of the Sith (2005, Cinema)
      3) Attack of the Clones (2002, Cinema)
      4) The Force Awakens (2015, Cinema)
      5-7) Original Trilogy (Early 2000s, Gold Special Edition VHS box set)
      8) The Phantom Menace (1999, Cinema)

      You may notice that there’s a strong recency bias. In fact, originally the Force Awakes was ranked #7, but then i remembered more scenes from it and it went up to #4. It’s very likely that if i watch the Original Trilogy again, they’ll shoot straight to the top three.

      Incidentally, that Gold Special Edition VHS box set are the only way my sister and i have watched Star Wars. They were 4:3 ratio, English voice track with Spanish subtitles. Got them as a gift Christmas 1997 i believe, which would make it 20 years ago this Christmas. We probably watched Jedi more often than Hope and Empire put together because i was scared of the burnt-out homestead scene and she was scared of Dagobah. Pictures of the box sets, i remember they smelled weird:
      https://a.dilcdn.com/bl/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2015/11/SEtrilogy-boxed.jpg
      https://a.dilcdn.com/bl/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2015/11/SEtrilogy-tapes.jpg

    • onyomi says:

      I think the Phantom Menace is better than Attack of the Clones.

      • johan_larson says:

        You’re ok with all that silly stuff Jar-Jar does in Phantom Menace?

        • Aapje says:

          Jar-Jar is almost non-existent in The Phantom Edit, which I suggest people watch instead of The Phantom Menace.

        • onyomi says:

          I don’t like Jar-Jar, but I don’t hate him as much as many seem to. He was a failed attempt at some kind of trickster figure that might have worked, but was just too goofy.

          The biggest problem with the Phantom Menace is the personality-less villain, but Count Dooku is also pointless, despite being played by Christopher Lee, and General Grievous also completely underdeveloped. But at least Maul had that awesome fight scene, while the others felt too CGI. The prequels could have been greatly improved by collapsing the three sidekick villains into a single Sith apprentice figure appearing in all three prequels.

          The second-biggest problem with Phantom Menace is the super annoying child Anakin, but even he’s not as bad as adult Anakin. I’ve heard claims that Lucas actively discouraged the actors from showing any real feeling. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is true that adult Anakin feels completely wooden, has zero chemistry with Amidala, and never seemed like the person who could grow up to be Darth Vader in the first place.

          I mostly agree with Mark below about the charm of Phantom Menace. It was no epic Empire Strikes Back, but it engaged in some interesting world-building, had amazing costumes, and otherwise felt like it could have been the beginning of something good, despite some flaws. Revenge of the Sith, while goofy and bad in some ways, sort of checked the boxes it had to and redeemed Clones slightly. But Clones is where it really went off the rails with the introduction of wooden adult Anakin and his implausible relationships with his teacher and future wife.

          Also, the clones didn’t even attack! The clones are in the name of the movie and they make a big deal out of them, but they never amount to anything as far as the story is concerned. I know it mattered for the background of the trilogy, but they didn’t make it matter for the prequels that were supposed to feature it.

          So Clones is definitely the worst imo. Haven’t seen Rogue One. Kind of unsure where to put TFA. I weirdly vacillate between thinking it was great or crap depending on my mood, because it sort of fixes what was wrong with the prequels but at the cost of feeling too unoriginal. Kylo Ren is basically the actor and persona prequel Anakin should have been, however, so that counts for something.

          • Sfoil says:

            “The Clone Wars” had to happen because they were mentioned in ANH, but it did feel like an afterthought. I can’t take credit for this, but: it would have made more sense for the Bad Guys to have abandoned robots in favor of clones during Round Two. The Republic would have been driven to desperate measures by this new challenge, as the detached Jedi masters initially put in charge of the war effort fumble strategically, and turned to a new generation of ruthless, technocratic officers (like Tarkin) whose cold-blooded methods prove effective.

            Aside from the pointless conflict, I also remember literally turning red from embarrassment in the theater at how bad the romance and associated dialogue were. Ep 2 leaned strongly on that, and it wasn’t even remotely convincing.

          • cassander says:

            My personal treatment for how the prequels should have gone is very much about rivalry between the jedi faction and the “fleet” faction, with dooku as head jedi squaring off against a mclellan-esque like general grievous, with anakin caught in the middle.

          • Nick says:

            Phantom Menace gave us podracing. I may be biased because of the awesome old console game though.

          • Lirio says:

            Attack of the Clones is wonderful for the banter between Anakin and Obi-Wan, it’s probably my single favourite thing about Star Wars ever. It’s better than the lightsaber fights, the giant space ships, the pew-pew lasers, or the exploding planets.

            The Episode 2 romance dialogue on the other hand was pretty bad. It kind of passed beneath my notice when i watched it because i was young, but watching clips of it later i agree it’s no good. However the prequel recut i mentioned earlier? With some very clever editing and adding a scene that was cut from the movie, the guy actually managed to make the romance between Anakin and Amidala work pretty well. The funny thing about it is all the Anakin-Amidala scenes that made the movie had to be heavily edited, but the scene that was cut? He just put it in unedited because it was fine as it was.

            Also! Star Wars: Episode I Racer on the N64 alone justifies the existence of the pod-racing scene in Phantom Menace. It’s definitely one of my favourite racing games of all time, i spent so much time on it, got first place on every race on every circuit, unlocked every pod racer, fully upgraded a large number of them. It was great.

          • Nick says:

            Also! Star Wars: Episode I Racer on the N64 alone justifies the existence of the pod-racing scene in Phantom Menace. It’s definitely one of my favourite racing games of all time, i spent so much time on it, got first place on every race on every circuit, unlocked every pod racer, fully upgraded a large number of them. It was great.

            I had the Dreamcast version. 😀 I never completed the game, unfortunately, because the mechanics for upgrading are so rigged, but I got to play a friend’s N64 version with everything unlocked, and the later maps are so awesome. Kicked his butt on it, though—turns out the N64 version has a cheat so your podracer never accrues damage….

          • Lirio says:

            How was upgrading rigged? You made money on races, you spent it on upgrades, these upgrades made the pod able to compete in subsequent races. If you couldn’t hack it, you did earlier races again until you had enough money for more upgrades. It was actually one of the more fun parts of the game, since it wasn’t just that the more expensive parts are better like in Gran Turismo (except the turbos, Turbo 2 was best). There were different parts lines which had various trade-offs depending on your personal play style. Like, it took me a while to realize that optimizing for top speed was counter-productive past a certain point, and it was neat that was something you could realize and adjust for.

            On the note of cheats, the N64 version still had the debut mode available, which let you do all kinds of fun things. One of the more amusing ones was an autopilot setting that would automatically turn the podracer, while letting you control only the speed. It was really fun to turn it on and then just do the really twisty later maps at full speed, afterburning through hairpin turns like nothing.

            Another fun thing i liked was the ability to have your pilot yell out taunts. Anakin of course would have fairly childish taunts and insults in English, but every other racer would say gibberish taunts in fake alien tongues. So when i played it with my friends i delighted in ‘translating’ them into the filthiest insults i could imagine.

          • Nick says:

            I call it rigged because I was consistently losing parts or unable to afford repairs after a certain point. If I remember correctly, one couldn’t earn cash by completing old races—so I was forced to either win a new race (which may well be impossible with my newer but degraded parts) or start fresh. Starting the whole game fresh because you had a few bad races is really frustrating.

            I’ve looked it up just now and it appears that: 1) new races only damage parts one-time. This is not how I remember it, I had distinctly the opposite impression, but I must have misunderstood at the time. 2) you can repair heavily damaged parts from the junkyard during a race and sell them back to gain money. This never even occurred to me at the time, but if I understand right then one could grind one’s way to a good ship this way.

          • Lirio says:

            Oh right, i forgot about the junkyard! Repairing junked parts for sale is not something i think i did, instead i relied on it for getting new parts, since junked parts were massively cheaper, and once you repaired them in a race they were as good as new ones. Perhaps it was my reliance in doing that, which felt very in-character seeing as Anakin was my main, that allowed me to remain more solvent than you. Doing some research, there’s a Winner Take All option for prizes, it’s possible that i also made use of it to maximize earnings, but i do not remember.

        • John Schilling says:

          Jar-Jar Binks is no worse than C-3PO, and in TPM plays the vital role of distracting us from the wretched awfulness of Anakin Skywalker. I count The Phantom Menace as the best of the prequel trilogy in that only about half of the movie includes Anakin Skywalker, and the other half (even with Jar-Jar) tells a pretty good story and even has a few decent characters.

    • Mark says:

      1) A New Hope
      2) Return of the Jedi
      3) Empire Strikes Back
      4) Rogue One
      5) Phantom Menace
      6) Revenge of the Sith
      7) Attack of the Clones
      8) The Force Awakens

      I actually watched the Star Wars movies last week first time for a long time.

      Yep, the originals are far far better, though the computer effects on the special editions look absolutely terrible compared to the original stuff (apart from the vaseline blurring out the wheels on the hover car).

      I would say that Phantom Menace is a good movie with some terrible bits in it. At the cinema, when I watched it originally, the pod race and final duel scenes were absolutely mind blowing.
      The plot is pretty good (I like trade federations!), and I actually think it was a bit hard done by – it reminds me a bit of Willow in terms of tone, just suffers in comparison to the originals.

      Attack of the clones is charmless and the computer generated fights at the end look kind of dumb now. I’d say this is worse than Phantom menace.

      Revenge of the Sith kind of alright.

      Rogue One was brilliant, the Force Awakens absolutely dreadful. I honestly can’t understand the appeal of Force Awakens – there was no charm, no sense, no excitement, nothing new. Absolute rubbish. I’m seriously considering not watching the next one.

      • johan_larson says:

        I thought The Force Awakens had some strong parts, like the attack on NotTheDeathStar, and the engaging trio of Rey/Poe/Finn. But it wasn’t the story I wanted to be told. I didn’t need to see A New Hope Again. I would much rather have seen the original characters age and grow, and face new challenges.

        Don’t show me Leia leading a rag-tag rebellion. Show me an ageing professional politician wrestling with the impossible demands of a thousand worlds. Don’t show me Han working as a smuggler. Show me an old warrior bored out of his skull serving as Minister of Whatever, yearning for something else, anything else. And throw in a Luke who after decades of devotion to the Force sees everything from every perspective all the time, to the point that he is barely even human any more. Then have the New Republic face some hammer-blow of a challenge, where things go so badly wrong that these senior figures are inadvertently on the front lines, letting them have one last big adventure before the fight is taken up by younger hands.

        That would have been a film worth watching.

        • CatCube says:

          No kidding. It was almost insulting to have the Resistance as a going concern. The Republic needs to farm out suppressing an insurgency to a bunch of vigilantes? Really? Is that really the best way to handle that?

          Further, the incompetence of the Resistance and the Republic was something to behold. How do they not know of the gigantic base being constructed, which was larger than the Death Star, when they are the ruling government of the galaxy? Nobody noticed all of the materiel and engineering effort for this project? How many vendors could there possibly be for the Starkiller Base main power oscillator?

        • shakeddown says:

          Yeah. “We’re resetting everything to the start” was just so weird. It felt like the writers had only seen ANH and heard the rest vaguely described. It kinda makes sense to recast Han as a smuggler if you just saw ANH and want a sequel that starts at the status quo. It makes zero sense if you saw ROTJ. Same for pretty much every other character and plotline (another planet destroying scene? really?). It didn’t feel like they wanted to continue the story. It felt like they were trying to reboot it.

          • Matt M says:

            The relevant question should probably be, is that better or worse than a literal, no-kidding, actual reboot (see: Batman & Spiderman every 10 years – even Star Trek eventually succumbed!)

          • dodrian says:

            @Matt

            With some reboots it’s about seeing the same characters in different settings, or with different emphases. Adam West, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck gave different takes on the same character. It works particularly well with comic books because there are already a whole bunch of different takes on the same characters. It also worked well with James Bond – Daniel Craig takes on many of the same core characteristics as played by Sean Connery but in a modern post cold-war setting.

            Star Trek was a bit different – it felt like the writers ran out of places to go. We’re getting further and further away from Earth and the Federation. The Klingons are no longer enemies. Deep Space Nine shut down the Cardassian and Dominion threats. Voyager did the lost-in-space route, simultaneously taking out the Borg collective. Nemesis neutered the Romulans. Enterprise somehow managed to do both the past and the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers felt there were no big storylines to take without risking Technological Escalation as Plot, or treading on previously hallowed canon. As much as I dislike New Trek I can understand why they might feel too constrained by the existing universe. At the moment I’m more interested in what will happen with The Orville, which seems to be a ‘lets take the ethos behind Trek, but stick in a completely different universe where we can start a storyline from scratch’.

            Star Wars is in a very different situation – even with the Clone Wars and Rebels TV series there’s far far less of the Galaxy that’s been explored. Disney declared the Expanded Universe non-canon – that makes sense in not limiting them from a writing perspective – and it opens them up to taking the storyline in any direction they want. Instead they choose to repeat storylines from the original trilogy.

            Rogue One showed that it was possible to keep continuity, give hardcore fans references to smile at, and tell a new story. It may not have been an appropriate tone for what you’d want in a new trilogy, but at least it was something original. We don’t need a Star Wars reboot because with Star Wars we want to hear a new story!

          • Matt M says:

            dodrian,

            I think we can distinguish between “continuing on with an existing character/story” and “reboot.”

            I’m not huge into either Bond or comic books, but my impression is that they are “continuing on.” Every new comic author doesn’t re-tell the story of Bruce Wayne’s parents being murdered. It’s understood that everyone already knows who Batman is and why he is Batman. Bond gets new actors and new directors but it’s still the same Bond, and we jump right back into the action without much in the way of “setting the scene.”

            If they wanted to continue the story of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy with younger actors, I think people would have howled, but accepted it. But that’s not what they did, they re-set everything, which is an actual re-boot, which I find lazy and annoying. Yes, it’s hard to think of an awesome new story to tell in the Trek-verse. Well boo-freaking hoo. Lots of things are hard. That’s what you big-shot hollywood scriptwriters get paid the big bucks for.

          • John Schilling says:

            Star Trek is a special case, because there is nigh-infinite room in the canonical setting for stories about exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no man has gone before. Including at least two starships named “Enterprise” that we’ve barely seen, and at least two alternate crews for NCC-1701. Since TNG proved we don’t need Kirk, Spock, and McCoy to make the formula work, there’s no real need for either reboots or scope expansion.

            Otherwise, reboots can be a genuinely good thing if they allow a new take on an old character or setting (the Burton/Keaton and Nolan/Bale Batman films, the new version of Battlestar Galactica), but are more likely indifferent mediocrities if the idea is just to recast the old series with this generation’s hot young actors and kick up the special effects. The quasi-reboots where all the plot and character development of the original is somehow perfectly undone so that e.g. Princess Leia is leading a resistance movement and Han Solo is off with Chewbacca being a smuggler, is somewhere between annoying and offensive.

          • dodrian says:

            @Matt

            Multiple comic book / movie storylines do contradict eachother – that’s why they are reboots. Here are 12 deaths of Thomas & Martha Wayne – and those are all on-screen versions (not from the comic books). Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale flat out contradicted the earlier Bonds (it starts with Bond’s first kill, but still set in the 21st century).

            The Star Trek hard reboot has picked up a lot of new fans because it tells stories in a way expected by modern audiences (basically it copies Star Wars), but it lost many the old fans by straying too far from what they see as the ethos of Trek (JJ Abrams literally said that he never understood Star Trek, and wanted to make a non-Trek movie).

            Whether it’s a reboot or not is not the problem. Daniel Craig reignited an interest in Bond after a lackluster finish by Brosnan. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight was a phenomenal success, whereas Batman v Superman opened well but fared poorly with critics.

            Those franchises all provide new takes on old stories, but they still need to succeed on their own merits. Disney is in some ways attempting to introduce the old story to a new audience, but they also assume that everyone knows the Star Wars universe – the force, lightsabers, the jedi, etc. They’ve done the worst of both approaches – they’ve made a sequel which relies upon knowledge and characters from the proceeding films, but they’ve repeated the major story elements like you would with a reboot. It’s a frankenmovie that only succeeded because of the phenomenal popularity of Star Wars augmented with Disney’s nigh-unlimited marketing budget.

          • Deiseach says:

            The Star Trek hard reboot has picked up a lot of new fans because it tells stories in a way expected by modern audiences (basically it copies Star Wars), but it lost many the old fans by straying too far from what they see as the ethos of Trek (JJ Abrams literally said that he never understood Star Trek, and wanted to make a non-Trek movie).

            Oh, I ranted all over the place after Star Trek Abolishes Punctuation Into Darkness and I’m going to do a quick recap here for you lucky people 🙂

            The most cooled-down opinion I have of it is that Abrams treated the first movie in the reboot as basically his show reel to get the Star Wars gig (Star Wars is his fandom in a way that Trek very clearly, as his various interviews demonstrated, is not) and helming the reboot with his Bad Robot chums was a way of proving to the Powers That Be who own Star Wars that he could handle a big-budget SF movie in an established franchise and refresh a tired formula while getting new fans aboard and without making a turkey that cost a fortune but bombed at the box-office.

            This he did quite successfully (mainly by copying a lot of shots from the original trilogy Star Wars movies and practically cut-n-pasting them into the first new Trek movie – I did a whole post comparing scenes from Star Wars with similar ones from the 2009 Trek back then. The uniforms for the cadets/general Starfleet crew, changing the phasers to be more like blasters – it was very obvious).

            Having got the job, he then lost interest in Star Trek (the prospect of Robert Orci not alone producing but writing and directing the third movie was horrendous) which is why it took until 2013 to get the sequel going and that was a whole other mess. I think everyone has quietly agreed to ignore the “we’ve cured death by using Magic Space Blood!” plot element, never mind the “so we have invented a means of beaming directly from one planet to another via hyper warp technology and so we don’t really need starships anymore” from the first movie where the Klingon homeworld is apparently somewhere just past the orbit of Pluto, so right on our doorstep as it were. It really was very noticeable that Abrams was working on Star Wars’ Saturday matinee serials SF tropes which are space opera and broadly space fantasy, rather than Trek’s attempts at semi-hard SF and technobabble based loosely on real physics.

            I wasn’t and am not opposed in principle to the reboot, and I think there are a lot of interesting choices that make subtle but meaningful differences to the characters in the alternate timeline history, but I do think the main problem is exactly that – “tell[ing] stories in a way expected by modern audiences …but …straying too far from …the ethos of Trek”.

            I think the third movie went back to the roots, in a way, and was better but too little, too late – I think the movie franchise reboot is pretty much finished and it’ll be up to the new TV series to bring Trek onwards. (After my high expectations for Enterprise and how that crashed and burned, I’m very very wary this time round).

          • Nick says:

            I think the third movie went back to the roots, in a way, and was better but too little, too late – I think the movie franchise reboot is pretty much finished and it’ll be up to the new TV series to bring Trek onwards.

            Indeed. I have many fewer problems with the third movie—my only major one is that it still feels more like an action movie than a Star Trek movie. I think what it was missing was reference to the Star Trek philosophy. A well written scene or two with the young alien woman they meet on the planet, or a stronger intellectual conflict between Kirk and the bad guy, would have solved this, I think.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yeah. “We’re resetting everything to the start” was just so weird.

            Not only was it weird, it made so much of the original trilogy retrospectively pointless. Why should we care about how the characters struggle and grow throughout Episodes IV-VI, if by Episode VII they’ve regressed back to where they were at the beginning?

          • MrApophenia says:

            I thought the third Trek movie really felt like an old original series episode premise, filtered through the budget and style of a modern sci-fi blockbuster. From an alien world that looked like a rock quarry (but a really crazy rock quarry!) to the villain’s backstory and motivation, that all felt like something you could totally have seen with a 60s budget and pacing in a hypothetical fourth season of TOS.

        • Jaskologist says:

          The prequels were bad, but at least it tried to be something. Can’t say that about TFA.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Pretty much my thoughts as well. The Prequels might not have done a good job of telling their story, but at least they were telling their story, not regurgitating the story from one of the previous Star Wars films.

        • rahien.din says:

          Wait just a second there. One could rearrange your paragraph thusly :

          Between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens :

          Leia becomes a career politician, and, as she tries to wrestle with the impossible demands of a thousand worlds, gradually loses more and more political ground.

          Luke, after decades of devotion to the Force, sees everything from every perspective all the time, to the point he is barely even human anymore, and retreats to utter solitude.

          Han Solo becomes a Minister of [something], gets bored of it, and goes back to being a smuggler.

          Because of the failure of the leadership of these senior figures, things go so badly wrong that the First Order arises and this is the hammer-blow of a challenge that forces them back into the front lines for…

          The Force Awakens : the beginning of one last big adventure during which the fight is taken up by younger hands

          Maybe you would be happier with The Force Awakens if there was yet-another expository movie to bridge the gap between it and Return of the Jedi.

          Or maybe, as was the case with The Empire Strikes Back, questions will be answered in The Last Jedi

          • quaelegit says:

            There is a Disney approved series of books being published that tells the story between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The first one is called Star Wars: Aftermath I haven’t read it, so no idea if it does a good job explaining how the world developed to the point we saw in TFA.

            I was also pretty mystified by how the political situation reversed so much from (what I vaguely remember in) RTJ, and was pointed to these books.

      • hyperboloid says:

        I know this is not a good place to go Sh*ting on Sci Fi fans and then expect a sympathetic reaction, but here goes: I don’t understand what anybody over the age of 10 sees in Star Wars.

        Don’t get me wrong, when I was eight years old I thought Han solo was awesome. He was like a cowboy in space, and that was the coolest thing my tiny little brain could imagine. But at some point I discovered girls and lost interest in how many parsecs it took the aluminum falcon to do the kestrel run.

        People are like “The Phantom Menace was dog sh*t, Lucas ruined the franchise”, and they’re not wrong about Episode one, but none of the movies were any good. Star Wars was a success because it happened to be made right when the first true digital motion control cameras became available. Kids everywhere had been wanting to see their giant space laser battle fantasies come to life on the big screen, and in 1977 they got this, and the sugar addled little brats loved it so much they pestered their parents into forking over significant percentages of their paychecks for toys, comic books, tie-in novels, and two sequels. Never mind that once the novelty wore off every other part of the movie stank.

        There is a reason that everybody on set thought the movie was going to bomb.The dialog was terrible, the plot was something out of a Saturday morning cartoon, there were two gay robots, and a guy wearing a shag carpet running around making a sounds like raccoons f*cking.

        There is no accounting for taste, but if you liked the originals and hated the prequels, then you changed, the movies didn’t.

        • Montfort says:

          There is no accounting for taste, but if you liked the originals and hated the s[equel]s, then you changed, the movies didn’t.

          A reasonable theory, and potentially true for some, but it doesn’t explain the people who watched some or all of episodes I-III when children (being born in the last 20ish years) and still prefer the originals, nor does it really explain why the older fans who do like the originals and hate I-III generally like at least one of Rogue One and TFA (unless you further posit that those movies are actually different in a way I-III aren’t).

          Movie quality varies quite a bit, even with the same director, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising that people like some movies in a series more than others.

          • hyperboloid says:

            But do kids who saw the prequels when they came out really prefer the originals?

            Shakedown is down thread saying just the opposite. I didn’t see Force Awakens, but Rogue One did seem pretty different from the other movies, almost like they brought the story up a level in maturity to keep up with an aged audience.

          • shakeddown says:

            Actually, it’s worth noting that hatred for the prequels is only supercommon with people who were adults for them – people who were kids for them seem split, or eve lean to prefer them (And of course, there’s the social influence they get from the older generation telling them to hate the prequels to account for).

            (Lean to prefer them may be my filter effect. But it’s definitely at least common enough that I can find a lot of people who like them after filtering).

          • Montfort says:

            I welcome empirical data, but the anecdotal data I have suggests they follow the same pattern as older fans, but with more patience for podracing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            FWIW, I recently re-watched Phantom Menace. When I first saw it, I thought it was bad; on re-watching, it’s absolutely terrible. TNH and ESB survive re-watching fine, RTJ suffers a bit.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Have a relatively polite answer because I don’t think insults are worth engaging with, generally speaking.

          There are a lot of people who are interested in both sex and geekishness. Anyone have theories about why you underwent a phase change?

          • hyperboloid says:

            I didn’t mean to insult anybody, except maybe George Lucas.

            That post should was written with a jovial humorous tone in mind, that may not have come through in text, so there is a bit of this kind of thing going on.

            I do like science fiction.

            It’s often thought of as something juvenile and trivial (in no small part because of things like Star Wars), but it’s the one genre that deals directly with the most important force that has shaped human civilization for the last five hundred years; Our relationship with technology, and with our changing conception of the natural world.

            The first true science fiction story in the western canon is Frankenstein. That is a story about fatherhood, about the nature of life itself, and about whether science is destroying what it means to be human.

            And smart science fiction on film has dealt with deep themes like that. In the years before Star Wars you had The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even cheesier stuff like Planet of the Apes, and Logan’s Run. Those were movies that had big ideas, they justified their extravagant premises by using them to explore those ideas.

            In Lucas’s films you sit through a title crawl about trade federations and space taxes, watch a slug monster molest a coked up actress in a brass bikini, restrain your self laughing at the name Kit Fisto; and the pay off is wooden characters, acting out a thin story that’s ripped off from a bunch of (much better) Kurosawa movies.

            Other then the fact that it takes people back to their childhood, I don’t get why anybody likes it. I think it just nostalgia and nothing else.

            Why did I change? I think it was because what appealed to me was the special effects. I got to see the games I played with my toys, space cruisers fighting epic laser battles, played out in a way that looked real. And when I grew out of those things I grew out of Star Wars.

            The thing is I think that the prominence given to things like superheros, and space opera, and certain kinds of fantasy, is part of a general infantilizing of our culture. There is no doubt that we have seen an erosion of manhood. In my grandfather’s generation men my age led men in battle, in my father’s they protested war and racial injustice, in mine they play video games.

            I know the social and economic reasons for this: the lack of good jobs, the credentialism that has made a college degree in something, anything, a necessity, and has had the unintentional effect of stretching out of adolescence through the twenties. But our entertainment shouldn’t encourage, or abed it. Stories help people situate themselves in the world, and give their lives a narrative structure. I’d rather we have stories about men and women leading adult lives, and not space wizards and superheros.

            When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

            Make love not Warcraft.

          • hyperboloid says:

            I didn’t mean to insult anybody, except maybe George Lucas.

            That post should was written with a jovial humorous tone in mind, that may not have come through in text, so there is a bit of this kind of thing going on.

            I do like science fiction.

            It’s often thought of as something juvenile and trivial (in no small part because of things like Star Wars), but it’s the one genre that deals directly with the most important force that has shaped human civilization for the last five hundred years; Our relationship with technology, and with our changing conception of the natural world.

            The first true science fiction story in the western canon is Frankenstein. That is a story about fatherhood, about the nature of life itself, and about whether science is destroying what it means to be human.

            And smart science fiction on film has dealt with deep themes like that. In the years before Star Wars you had The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even cheesier stuff like Planet of the Apes, and Logan’s Run. Those were movies that had big ideas, they justified their extravagant premises by using them to explore those ideas.

            In Lucas’s films you sit through a title crawl about trade federations and space taxes, watch a slug monster molest a coked up actress in a brass bikini, restrain your self laughing at the name Kit Fisto; and the pay off is wooden characters, acting out a thin story that’s ripped off from a bunch of (much better) Kurosawa movies.

            Other then the fact that it takes people back to their childhood, I don’t get why anybody likes it. I think it’s just nostalgia and nothing else.

            Why did I change? I think it was because what appealed to me was the special effects. I got to see the games I played with my toys, space cruisers fighting epic laser battles, played out in a way that looked real. And when I grew out of those things I grew out of Star Wars.

            The thing is I think that the prominence given to things like superheroes, and space opera, and certain kinds of fantasy, is part of a general infantilizing of our culture. There is no doubt that we have seen an erosion of manhood. In my grandfather’s generation men my age led men in battle, in my father’s they protested war and racial injustice, in mine they play video games.

            I know the social and economic reasons for this. The lack of good jobs, the credentialism that has made a college degree in something, anything, a necessity, and has had the unintentional effect of stretching out of adolescence through the twenties. But our entertainment shouldn’t encourage, or abed it. Stories help people situate themselves in the world, and give their lives a narrative structure. I’d rather we have stories about men and women leading adult lives, and not space wizards and superheroes.

            When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

            Make love not Warcraft.

            (I posted this before and, it seems to have gotten eaten by the comment monster, so if you see a double post that’s why.)

          • Lirio says:

            “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

            –C. S. Lewis, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”

            Star Wars is pretty much a modern fairytale. Instead of elves it has aliens, instead of knights and wizards it has Jedi, and instead of being set in a far off fantasy land it’s in a far off galaxy. You may dislike it because it’s childish, but some of us love it for the same reason.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Lirio

            I’m glad you brought up Lewis, because I think my problem with Star Wars lies in exactly the difference that I perceive between Lucas and Lewis, or for that matter Tolkien.

            And, in fact Lewis’s essay gets at directly at that difference.

            First he distinguishes between writing for children that is crassly commercial, and aims only to appeal a simple and childlike desire for superficial novelty, and that which uses the children’s story because it is the best medium for the idea the author was trying to get across.

            I think there are three ways in which those who write for
            children may approach their work; two good ways and one that is generally a bad way.

            I came to know of the bad way quite recently and from two
            unconscious witnesses. One was a lady who sent me the MS of a story she had written in which a fairy placed at a child’s disposal a wonderful gadget. I say gadget because it was not a magic ring or hat or cloak or any such traditional matter. It was a machine, a thing of taps and handles and buttons you could press. You could press one and get an ice cream, another and get a live puppy, and so forth. I had to tell the author honestly that I didn’t much care for that sort of thing.

            She replied, No more do I, it bores me to distraction. But it is what the modern child wants.

            The lady…. conceived writing for children as a special department of giving the public what it wants. Children are, of course, a special public and you find out what they want and give them that, however little you like it yourself…..

            He goes on to argue that there are certain stories that are just naturally suited to a fantastical fairy tale style structure, and defends himself against the charge that it is juvenile to wright, or enjoy such stories.

            Now the modern critical world uses
            adult as a term of approval. It is hostile to what it calls
            nostalgia and contemptuous of what it calls Peter Pantheism. Hence a man who admits that dwarfs and giants and talking beasts and witches are still dear to him in his fifty
            third year is now less likely to be praised for his perennial youth than scorned and pitied for arrested development. If I spend some little time defending myself against these charges, this is not so much because it matters greatly whether I am scorned and pitied as because the defense is germane to my whole view of the fairy tale and even of
            literature in general. My defense consists of three propositions.

            1.I reply with a tu quoque.
            Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

            2. The modern view seems to me to involve a false conception of growth. They accuse us of arrested development because we have not lost a taste we had in childhood. But surely arrested development consists not in refusing to lose old things but in failing to add new things? I now like hock, which I am sure I should not have liked as a child. But I still like lemon squash. I call this growth or development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one pleasure, I now have two. But if I had to lose the taste for lemon squash before I acquired the taste for hock, that would not be growth but simple change. I now enjoy Tolstoy and Jane Austen and Trollope as well as fairy tales and I call that growth: if I had had to lose the fairy tales in order to acquire the novelists, I would not say that I had grown but only that I had changed. A tree grows because it adds rings: a train doesn’t grow by leaving one station behind and puffing on to the next.

            He goes on to argue that fantastical settings and characters give the author of fantasy a chance to explore deep psychological questions in more vivid terms then writers of more realistic fiction.

            For Jung, fairy tale liberates Archetypes which dwell in the collective unconscious, and when we read a good fairy tale we are obeying the old precept Know thyself. I would venture to add to this my own theory, not indeed of the Kind as a whole, but of one feature in it: I mean, the presence of beings other than human which yet behave, in varying degrees, humanly: the giants and dwarfs and talking beasts. I believe these to be at least (for they may have many other sources of power and beauty) an admirable hieroglyphic which conveys psychology, types of character, more briefly than novelistic presentation and to readers whom novelistic presentation could not yet reach

            I think the Star Wars saga is exactly the bad kind of children’s fiction that Lewis is distancing himself from. To my mind, it has shallow characters, it leans on crowd pleasing special effects as a substitute for story, and it is so vulgarly commercial that it some times it seems more like a toy commercial than a work of art. And all of these traits got worse with the later films.

            Lewis’s stories were aimed and children, and expressed childish passions, but always as a bridge to be crossed to the adult world. His stories were meant to enjoyable by both children and adults because they were about big ideas; about sin and redemption, and in the end about the Christian god.

            Your millage on lewis’s stories is going to very a lot depending on whether you agree with his world view or not, and I don’t; but you can’t accuse him of being frivolous.

          • hyperboloid says:

            I’m glad you brought up Lewis, because I think my problem with Star Wars lies in exactly the difference that I perceive between Lucas and Lewis, or for that matter Tolkien. And, in fact Lewis’s essay gets at directly at that difference.

            First he distinguishes between writing for children that is crassly commercial, and aims only to appeal a simple and childlike desire for superficial novelty, and that which uses the children’s story because it is the best medium for the idea the author was trying to get across.

            I think there are three ways in which those who write for children may approach their work; two good ways and one that is generally a bad way.

            I came to know of the bad way quite recently and from two
            unconscious witnesses. One was a lady who sent me the MS of a story she had written in which a fairy placed at a child’s disposal a wonderful gadget. I say gadget because it was not a magic ring or hat or cloak or any such traditional matter. It was a machine, a thing of taps and handles and buttons you could press. You could press one and get an ice cream, another and get a live puppy, and so forth. I had to tell the author honestly that I didn’t much care for that sort of thing.

            She replied, No more do I, it bores me to distraction. But it is what the modern child wants.

            The lady…. conceived writing for children as a special department of giving the public what it wants. Children are, of course, a special public and you find out what they want and give them that, however little you like it yourself…..

            He goes on to argue that there are certain stories that are just naturally suited to a fantastical fairy tale style structure, and defends himself against the charge that it is juvenile to wright, or enjoy such stories.

            Now the modern critical world uses adult as a term of approval. It is hostile to what it calls nostalgia and contemptuous of what it calls Peter Pantheism. Hence a man who admits that dwarfs and giants and talking beasts and witches are still dear to him in his fifty third year is now less likely to be praised for his perennial youth than scorned and pitied for arrested development. If I spend some little time defending myself against these charges, this is not so much because it matters greatly whether I am scorned and pitied as because the defense is germane to my whole view of the fairy tale and even of literature in general. My defense consists of three propositions.

            1. I reply with a tu quoque. Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

            2. The modern view seems to me to involve a false conception of growth. They accuse us of arrested development because we have not lost a taste we had in childhood. But surely arrested development consists not in refusing to lose old things but in failing to add new things? I now like hock, which I am sure I should not have liked as a child. But I still like lemon squash. I call this growth or development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one pleasure, I now have two. But if I had to lose the taste for lemon squash before I acquired the taste for hock, that would not be growth but simple change. I now enjoy Tolstoy and Jane Austen and Trollope as well as fairy tales and I call that growth: if I had had to lose the fairy tales in order to acquire the novelists, I would not say that I had grown but only that I had changed. A tree grows because it adds rings: a train doesn’t grow by leaving one station behind and puffing on to the next.

            He goes on to argue that fantastical settings and characters give the author of fantasy a chance to explore deep psychological questions in more vivid terms then writers of more realistic fiction.

            For Jung, fairy tale liberates Archetypes which dwell in the collective unconscious, and when we read a good fairy tale we are obeying the old precept Know thyself. I would venture to add to this my own theory, not indeed of the Kind as a whole, but of one feature in it: I mean, the presence of beings other than human which yet behave, in varying degrees, humanly: the giants and dwarfs and talking beasts. I believe these to be at least (for they may have many other sources of power and beauty) an admirable hieroglyphic which conveys psychology, types of character, more briefly than novelistic presentation and to readers whom novelistic presentation could not yet reach.

            I think the Star Wars saga is exactly the bad kind of children’s fiction that Lewis is distancing himself from. To my mind, it has shallow characters, it leans on crowd pleasing special effects as a substitute for story, and it is so vulgarly commercial that it some times it seems more like a toy commercial than a work of art. And all of these traits got worse with the later films.

            Lewis’s stories were aimed and children, and expressed childish passions, but always as a bridge to be crossed to the adult world. His stories were meant to enjoyable by both children and adults because they were about big ideas; about sin and redemption, and in the end about the Christian god.

            Your millage on lewis’s stories is going to very a lot depending on whether you agree with his world view or not, and I don’t; but you can’t accuse him of being frivolous.

          • Mark says:

            The thing is I think that the prominence given to things like superheroes, and space opera, and certain kinds of fantasy, is part of a general infantilizing of our culture.

            Yeah, maybe. What do you think about Conan the Barbarian?

          • J Mann says:

            @Lirio – have you seen the following Neil Gaiman quote? It’s a good companion to your CS Lewis quote:

            Fairytales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons are real, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.

            (Gaiman was misremembering a related quote by Chesterton and attributed it to Chesterton, but I think he deserves the credit for the modern version).

          • keranih says:

            @ hyper

            Stories help people situate themselves in the world, and give their lives a narrative structure. I’d rather we have stories about men and women leading adult lives, and not space wizards and superheroes.

            I agree with you re: adult lives. Where I disagree with you is the binary choice, where ‘adult life’ does not – must not include ‘space wizard’ (+/- pocket protector) and superhero (+/- cape or cowl).

            Non-superhero/fantasy/sf works would resound a lot more with me if the people in them were not so mediocre. Adventure novels (to include the memoirs of Grant, the journals of Scott, the journeys of Lawrence and Bell) are the stuff of striving, of failing, of getting up again. They are adult lives lived at risk – of death, of dishonor, of dismal defeat. But they are not works that rest on repetitions of ordinariness.

            I can certainly agree on the merits of rejecting childish things. But Aslan is not a tame lion, and slaying the Beast of London – in whatever form that may come – is not a thing for children to do. It is, however, a thing that a child may dream of growing up to do.

            Come, out into the dark with me, and practice being brave, so that when the demons come, we shall stand together and not be afraid.

          • Nornagest says:

            I do think there has been a general infantilization of pop culture over the last thirty years or so. I don’t think that this has anything to do with space opera or epic laser battles as such (though I do think the increasing popularity of superhero stories might be related), and I’d place the original trilogy firmly on the mature side of the divide.

            The difference isn’t genre, it’s in how stories, regardless of genre, treat failure, effort, and growth. Luke Skywalker was the Chosen One by genre convention, and there was clearly some stuff he was good at, but chosen or not, good or not, he got screen time showing him failing at stuff, looking stupid, getting frustrated. Anakin Skywalker didn’t, at least not intentionally on the director’s part. Harry Potter, to my recollection, got it once in a seven-book series (the Occulemency episode). Can’t comment firsthand on TFA because I haven’t seen it, but from comments elsewhere in this thread it sounds like the trend’s only continued.

            It’s hard to say something like this without it being tied into Mary Sue accusations, but I really don’t think this has anything to do with the Sue trope at all. (Potter is not a Sue, for example.) I think it reflects a more general pop-cultural shift towards treating skill and achievement as fixed traits, things that belong to a character in the same sense that they might have blond hair or an catchphrase, or which at best might appear as a reward for going through some kind of epiphany. And I don’t like it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Luke Skywalker was the Chosen One by genre convention, and there was clearly some stuff he was good at, but chosen or not, good or not, he got screen time showing him failing at stuff, looking stupid, getting frustrated.

            Actually I think that whole “Chosen One” stuff only came in with the prequels; the original trilogy, as far as I remember, didn’t have any prophecies or chosen ones at all (and was much the better for it).

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s why I said “by genre convention”. He’s not the Chosen One in-universe, he’s the Chosen One because that’s his role in the Hero’s Journey metaplot.

            (Anakin Skywalker on the other hand was the Chosen One in-universe, but wasn’t playing out a Hero’s Journey plot — one of the things that made those movies come off so oddly, I think. It’s a clash of genre, like a frosty dame in a tight silk dress walking into a film noir detective’s office, taking a slug of whisky, and launching into a major-key Disneyesque musical number complete with small animals as backup singers.)

        • John Schilling says:

          There is a reason that everybody on set thought the movie was going to bomb.The dialog was terrible, the plot was something out of a Saturday morning cartoon, there were two gay robots, and a guy wearing a shag carpet running around making a sounds like raccoons f*cking.

          Well, you’re right about that sympathetic reaction you’re not going to get, but there’s dialogue from the original trilogy that I can still quote from memory forty-plus years later. Dialogue that doesn’t make me embarrassed as an adult to quote and enjoy. Admittedly, I don’t think much of it was actually written by George Lucas but…

          There is no accounting for taste, but if you liked the originals and hated the prequels, then you changed, the movies didn’t.

          The prequel trilogy, and TFA, there’s nothing quotable except the bits that are direct riffs on the originals. That much, I think, did change. Lucas was willing to let other people ad-lib all over his scrip in the first movie, and hired professional writers to do the dialogue (among other things) in the next two. By the time he got to the prequels, he was in full “too big to edit” mode, and his inability to write dialog – romantic, comic, or epic – was very much a dealbreaker for me.

          The people who, collectively, made the first three movies, understood that you can make a hundred million dollars entertaining eight-year-olds but to make a billion dollars on an unknown cinematic property you also need to make it enjoyable for their parents. That got lost somewhere along the way, and so far only “Rogue One” seems to have recaptured any of it.

          • Lirio says:

            The prequel trilogy, and TFA, there’s nothing quotable except the bits that are direct riffs on the originals.

            From memory:
            Obi-Wan: “What took you so long?”
            Anakin: “Couldn’t find a car I liked.”

            Obi-Wan: “You’re going to be the death of me.”
            Anakin: “Don’t say that Master.”

            Drug Dealer: “Would you like to buy some death sticks?”
            Obi-Wan: “You don’t want to sell me death sticks. You’re going to go home and rethink your life.”

            Obi-Wan: “What are you doing here?”
            Anakin: “We’re here to rescue you Master.”
            Obi-Wan: “Good job.”

            Anakin: “And then we went into aggressive negotiations.”
            Padme: “What’s aggressive negotiations?”
            Anakin: “Negotiations with a lightsaber.”
            [Some time later, in the middle of a firefight.]
            Anakin: “I thought you wanted to try negotiating.”
            Padme: “It’s aggressive negotiations.”

            Yes, i unironically love Attack of the Clones. Maybe is should have ranked it #2 instead of #3.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, I recognize those, but I feel nothing, and can’t imagine the circumstances in which I would say them aloud – even to a person who I knew would recognize and enjoy them. The best of them are just low-grade snark, a purely momentary amusement in my book.

            The originals had better snark, e.g. “You came here in that thing? You’re braver than I thought”

            They could describe a city in four words, “Wretched hive of scum and villainy”, a power relationship in seven, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”, or a romantic one in two: “I know”.

            And most of those, I’ve had reason to use in communication decades after the fact.

          • Lirio says:

            Oh if you mean in terms of recontextualizeable dialogue, as opposed to simply dialogue bits that are fun to be reminded of, then yes the Prequel Trilogy and The Force Awakens are rather sparse. That said Revenge of the Sith does in fact have a few that i have seen people quote or paraphrase in different contexts. Again from memory:

            Darth Sidious: “The Dark Side holds abilities some would consider… unnatural.”

            Darth Sidious: “I AM THE SENATE!”

            Darth Sidious:”UNLIMITED POOOOWWEEEER!”

            Obi-Wan: “It’s over Anakin! I have the high ground!”

            Obi-Wan: “You were the Chosen One! You were supposed to destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”

            That whole exchange between Anakin and Obi-Wan at the end of their fight is highly quotable, particularly the Obi-Wan’s Chosen One rant. It’s so easy to apply to any situation where you believed in someone and they let you down, so i’ve seen a lot of variations on it. So on second second thought, Revenge of the Sith does deserve its ranking above Attack of the Clones.

            Also i didn’t know, “You came here in that thing? You’re braver than I thought,” was from Star Wars. Looking it up, it seems to be Leia’s reaction when she sees the Millenium Falcon for the first time. Don’t remember that at all.

          • Nornagest says:

            The only one of that batch of lines I really like is “I am the senate”, and that’s a riff on Louis XIV. “Unnatural” is okay, I guess. The rest sound like an attempt at high drama by someone too immature to understand what gravitas sounds like or how it works; I’m pretty sure I wrote some similar dialogue when I was twelve.

          • J Mann says:

            We have to beware of liking stuff better just because we grew up on it, but I agree with John that the stuff we grew up on is better than the stuff you kids grew up on. 😉

            I still use “I can imagine quite a bit” often, and it’s great – it reinforces Han’s character and compactly expresses a complicated idea. See also “I find your lack of faith . . . disturbing”, “I have altered the deal Pray I do not alter it any futher” and “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”

            In contrast, most of the prequel quotes are IMHO, at best, adequate summer blockbuster snappy dialogue. They’re not quite as good as Bruce Willis’s dialogue in The Last Boy Scout or Hudson Hawk.

            I’ll, grant, however, that Ewan McGregor sells the hell out of “You were the chosen one” through “You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.”

          • Matt M says:

            “I have altered the deal Pray I do not alter it any futher”

            I used this on a co-worker last week and they just stared blankly at me. So disappointing.

          • random832 says:

            You forgot the two most frequently quoted quotes:

            ” I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.”

            “Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise? I thought not. It’s not a story the Jedi would tell you. It’s a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midichlorians to create life… He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying. The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural. He became so powerful… the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power, which eventually, of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. Ironic. He could save others from death, but not himself.”

            (Yeah, memes, but if you’re seriously going to put “It’s over, Anakin, I have the high ground” in there…)

          • Lirio says:

            I have never heard anyone quote the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise, except of the line about unnatural abilities, which i did put on my list. Also the context of the discussion are lines that people like enough to use themselves in other contexts, not lines that people mock the movies for. Granted “high ground” is both, depending on whether or not the person understands that Obi-Wan was using his superior tactical position to bait Anakin into making a mistake, but i meant it in the more serious sense.

            (Anakin could have avoided being cut down by simply waiting for an opportunity to jump outside Obi-Wan’s reach, but he had been challenged and his pride demanded an answer.)

          • Nick says:

            The rest sound like an attempt at high drama by someone too immature to understand what gravitas sounds like or how it works; I’m pretty sure I wrote some similar dialogue when I was twelve.

            This isn’t very fair because dialogue sounds different performed than it does on a page. I’ve noticed this especially of anime dialogue, for whatever reason; a lot of it sounds like mediocre, melodramatic fanfiction when written out, but works fine in the show itself.

        • johan_larson says:

          I agree the original film had good visuals for its time. Heck, much of it still looks pretty good forty years later. But there is more to its popularity than that. The story draws heavily on storytelling elements that have been eliciting emotional responses for a long time, and which work well together. They’re cliches, to be sure, but they are cliches because they work.

          If you want to know more, search for discussions about the book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” in relation to Star Wars. You’ll find a lot of material.

        • Mark says:

          What kind of films do you like?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          hyperboloid, what do you say when you *do* mean to insult people?

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            He’s basically using the standard anti-Potter arguments against Star Wars. I mean, I’d say Star Wars is ahead of Harry Potter but not by much. I liked HP but it always annoyed me how much cultural space it took up, even if you think that something like Earthsea was only equal to HP and not better, when you account for the large number of equally good things, peoples’ obsession with Harry Potter gets old. Star Wars is similar but its just not as all consuming. Doesn’t mean the obsession with it is not annoying sometimes.

            Honestly several of the original Star Wars versions were much more interesting as well.

            But yeah, basically, people who hate or even merely dislike Star Wars do so because of its ubiquity. Even though of us who liked it and bought lots of the games and toys think its a tad overexposed.

        • beleester says:

          This is probably bait, but in the spirit of taking things seriously…

          I watched both the originals and prequels as an adult, because I live under a rock when it comes to pop culture. But I eventually decided “You know, I should probably stop ignoring a major cultural touchstone,” and marathoned the series with a friend. And you know what? I liked the originals, and I didn’t like the prequels. Gosh, it’s almost as if pop culture tends to be popular for a reason!

          The originals are good solid space opera, and I have no complaints about a movie which chooses to do something conventional and executes it really well. Also, it probably wasn’t conventional when it was written, because Star Wars was the thing that everyone else parodied.

          The prequels are crap, not because space opera is for kids and there’s no way an adult could think that spaceships are cool, but because Hayden Christenson can’t act. Anakin and Padme’s romance had all the passion of a wooden table.

          That’s really all there is to it, IMO. Good delivery can make the laziest script great, bad delivery can make the best script a flop. No need for some bizarre argument that humans lose their sense of wonder at the age of 18. You’re an adult, you’re allowed to enjoy whatever the hell you want.

          • dodrian says:

            I think this Youtube clip shows the potential in the story of the prequels, but that potential was ruined by poor scripting and execution. I disagree slightly with you about the acting: Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson are all talented actors with big roles in the prequels (Natalie Portman also did well in others movies — V for Vendetta, Jackie & Leon). But even they couldn’t make a turd shine.

            For what it’s worth, Return of the Jedi is my favorite. That may be because it was the one I fixated on as a child, but while I was also the right age to enjoy The Phantom Menace (and I did, very much, at the time), it’s difficult for me to watch now.

            Mr. Plinkett on Youtube does an excellent job of breaking down everything that’s wrong with TPM (and the others, and now the new ones as well), adding in the cultural and technological contexts and comparing them with why the originals have stood up so well. It’s a guilty pleasure that I enjoy watching his reviews more than those particular films.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m actually gonna go the other way completely on this. I know very little about acting as an art/skill/science, but I thought Christensen portrayed Anakin exactly how he was supposed to be portrayed, an awkward kid with a ton of talent, a huge chip on his shoulder, and a whole lot of smoldering emotions that he’s absolutely terrible at expressing.

            Like, the fact that he sucks at expressing emotion is the whole point. It’s what makes him so dangerous. It’s why most of the population sees him as a harmless (if very talented) kid, while only the Jedi masters (and Paplatine) “sense much fear” and recognize just how much deep-seated hatred resides within him, waiting to be unleashed. It’s what makes him a “ticking time bomb” rather than an obvious lunatic who is quickly subdued.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s not JUST that Christensen can’t act. The writing was terrible as well. You had all these political machinations going on behind the scenes, Palpatine pulling a Xanatos gambit where all paths led to victory for him. But it was rather clumsily handled and a very small part of the movies. And you had the story of the corruption and fall of Darth Vader, which was almost completely ruined. Anakin should have been _seduced_ into evil, not basically ordered into it. Padme’s death makes a fine final push, but he shouldn’t have killed the younglings until _after_ that happened.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I’m not sure we should blame Christensen. Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, and Liam Neeson all definitely can act, and they suck in those movies too.

            There are stories from the set where the actors kept trying to emote like human beings and Lucas would stop them and make them do it again, but more wooden.

            The rest were already established enough actors for their career and reputation to survive the experience, but I always felt bad for Hayden Christensen. He’s stuck with that performance as his introduction to the world.

          • beleester says:

            Okay, fine. Christansen wasn’t the only thing wrong with it, and it’s possible the script was to blame more than the delivery, but that’s what stuck out the most to me when I saw it. First impressions count for a lot.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Oh don’t get me wrong – the delivery was awful. I just think in this case that was a directorial failure much more than the actor’s. When the director is actively telling actors to stop showing emotion, you get… well, that.

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t understand what anybody over the age of 10 sees in Star Wars.

          Those are formative years, when you’re 8-10 and you see/read something and you fall in love 🙂 Happened to me with Trek when I was 7. I was too old (in a way) for Star Wars when it came out, I liked it but it was never going to be my fandom the way Trek was. But there are a lot of people for whom it was their first fandom and first loves are special.

          Also, back in 1977 I don’t think even Star Wars was being made for 8 year olds, I do think it was pitched more at the Young Adult/teenage audience (because they have their own pocket money and can afford to repeat watch it in the cinema, as I understand was the way money was made on movies before things like the Happy Meals and all the other marketing tie-ins).

          As you point out, time marches on and now movies are being made for 8 year olds because of the pester power factor, so it’s a tough job juggling the demands of “people who literally grew up with the franchise want more complex characters and plots but we need something where we can easily slot in things like the Ewoks, Jar-Jar Binks, BB-8 and now the porgs to suck in all the kids’ marketing money, and if Mom and Dad are going to be bringing little Bobby and Susie to see the movies we need to keep the sex and gore, as well as plot complexity, down to a level that won’t frighten the horses”.

          • “we need to keep the sex and gore, as well as plot complexity, down to a level that won’t frighten the horses”

            One solution to that problem–I’m thinking of a Kipling short story–is to write on two levels, one targeted at the kids, one at the adults. The plot complexity is invisible to (most of) the kids, and the adults enjoy the fact that they can see what is going on behind the obvious.

            You may have to omit the sex and gore, but those are not essential to hold the adults.

        • Jiro says:

          We have to beware of liking stuff better just because we grew up on it, but I agree with John that the stuff we grew up on is better than the stuff you kids grew up on.

          I don’t think so. I would readily agree, for instance, that childrens’ cartoons are much better recently than in the 70’s and 80’s before BTAS.

          • John Schilling says:

            As would I. The 70’s and 80’s have a lot to answer for, culturally speaking. The best that can be said of those decades is that some things were done very well. Star Wars movies were one of those things.

        • MrApophenia says:

          I can’t comment on seeing the prequels as a kid because I was too old for that, but I didn’t see the second two Star Wars movies until college, and I think you’re underestimating the quality of the movies as movies.

          I’m not a skilled enough film critic to go deeply into why one movie resonates and another doesn’t, but as someone who was a generalized nerd but not a particular Star Wars fan, watching Empire and Jedi at age 19 or so, they just worked for me as movies. I was thrilled by them in the way most people seem to be.

          Now maybe it’s all because I did see A New Hope when I was like 5 and so it already had its hooks in me and I didn’t realize it, but I have a fairly strong suspicion that they’re actually just legitimately pretty good movies.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            Anecdata point: I was 15 when I watched ANH for the first time. Granted, that’s not “adult”, but I was quite a movie nut, and by 15 I was well past the acting out space battles using pens and TV remotes stage. I thought (and still think) that ANH is a really decent movie.

            Most critics in the 70s did not share hyperboloid’s opinion at all – generally, the critics who were impressed by American Graffiti were also impressed by Star Wars (e.g. Roger Ebert or Time Magazine acknowledging it as the year’s best movie).

            In any case, McQuarrie’s art and Williams’ soundtrack are definitely lasting contributions to cinematography; the sets are extremely well-made (e.g. Han Solo’s fuzzy dice), and the script itself is a literary reflection on the Hero with a Thousand Faces (the joke being that the mythical hero of ages past is placed into an obviously far future environment), with many homages to classic war cinema (e.g. Triumph of the Will, The Dam Busters).

    • keranih says:

      I myself largely agree with the listing here. I am aware that many people (esp younger people?) disliked Rogue One, and liked TFA quite a lot, perhaps even more than the originals. But that’s an opinion I completely disagree with.

      I esp agree with the tie between R1 and RoJ – RoJ was definately the weakest of the original, but weirdly, R1 had complementary weaknesses – the Jabba sequence was one of the best hooks for the whole series, imo, but it seemed to take forever for R1 to get going.

      There were many pieces I liked about TFA – Scrounger!Rey was interesting, I loved Han and Chewie, and there were parts of the battles that were done very well. And I liked the *idea* of Darth Emo. But there was a lot of movie wrapt around those bits, and parts of it absolutely did not work for me – Cantina Planet, for example. There was far too much call back to previous movies – I would have liked it better, done more subtly. And the character of Finn *completely* didn’t work for me. (What some people feel about Jar-Jar – that level of omg you ruined the movie, go away, go away – that’s what I feel about Finn.) Oscar Issac would have owned that role. Or Idris Elba. Coby Bell. Lennie James. Anthony Mackie. Anyone. Tyler James Williams. Djimon Hounsou.

      I think that in order to do what I would have best liked with that role (of Finn) it would have required a complete revision of the SW mythology, away from the overwhelming importance of destiny and the deus machina role of the force. And I think that the ground work for that got laid in the prequels discussions of the mitoclorians. And I think that one of the best things about R1 was the lack of dependence on destiny. “No fate but what we make.” But TFA wasn’t supposed to be R1, with its gritty reality and purposeless loss, it was supposed to be another New Hope. (It wasn’t that, either, but what the hey, the new robot was cute.)

    • cassander says:

      Rogue One is odd, because the last half hour or so is great, and this obscures how utterly mediocre the first hour is.

      I do agree with onyomi though, that attack of the clones is even worse than phantom menace. Menace has a few bright spots between the nonsense, and you can edit it to make a semi-decent film. Not possible with Clones, which has bland characters, a nonsensical plot, and awful stilted dialogue.

      • Nick says:

        Rogue One’s opening is definitely weak. It took me too long to figure out what was going on (and I’m not an inattentive viewer), especially the scene introducing Cassian. I had mixed tending to negative feelings about Saw Gerrera and his part of the story. By contrast, I don’t think I have any real complaints about the second half of the film.

        The Force Awakens, interestingly, is basically the opposite for me. I really liked the opening of that film, and I don’t have many complaints until our protagonists meet Han and Chewie.

    • shakeddown says:

      Pretty much everyone agrees that the best of the bunch is either Hope or Empire, and the prequels are worse than the original trilogy.

      I feel like this is consensus among the people who were adults when the prequels came out (and had watched the originals as kids), but people who watched the prequels as kids often prefer them.

      That aside, I can’t believe anyone disagrees that TFA is by far the worse of the eight.

      • johan_larson says:

        Movies with Mikey includes one episode where Mikey explains in some detail what there is to appreciate in The Force Awakens.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVZGUV77aRg

        I don’t agree with him completely; there are several things I would have changed. But I think Mikey is right that the director was faced with a very hard challenge of satisfying three audiences: older fans who started with the original trilogy, younger fans who came of age with the prequels, and new fans, many of them children now. That’s really tough.

      • Lirio says:

        The Force Awakens has old Han Solo stealing every single scene he’s in. Like, you think Ray and Finn are the main characters, then Han Solo shows up and suddenly he’s the main character and it’s the best. Seriously, TFA Solo is best Solo, and for that reason it can’t be the worst of the eight.

        Was also fond of General Leia, who would have thought being a burnt out drug addict would make you really good at playing an officer who had experienced war without end? She looked and acted like she’d fought from the Bohemian Revolt to the Peace of Westphalia, and now she was fighting in the Franco-Spanish War.

    • Björn says:

      I like A New Hope the best. The reason is the design. Episode IV remixes lots of designs from all over the world (Tunesian architecture on Tattoine, Vader’s samurai armor, fascist aesthetic in surprising places like the victory celebration at the end, dirty industrial design on the space ships, etc.) which makes the world we see seem real. From a design viewpoint, this makes A New Hope a post-modern movie. The story can also be seen in this light, it combines pulp science fiction with a genuine fairy tale/mythological story.

      I think under those aspects, Star Wars falls off quite fast. Episode V is ok and has some iconic designs like the AT-AT and the cloud city, but they tend to be quite classical sci-fi design. The story is very thrilling, but I think it lacks a little bit of the magic of Episode IV. Episode VI already has really stupid design like the Ewoks, and what it does is conclude the trilogy, nothing more.

      The prequel trilogy mostly consists out of boring design that designers shit out if you give them lots of money and development time. It’s a little bit paradoxical, as it has no clear influences apart from “it must look science fiction”, it is all samey and has no individuality. Padme’s “geisha” costume is ok, and so is the devilish Darth Maul, but can you remember how anything from Episode II or III looks like, apart from maybe “generic city planet”, “generic water planet”, “generic fire planet”?

      From a design viewpoint, Episode VII is not much better, we get Tattoine II and a new evil faction that looks like the Empire, but more Nazi. The only really good visual idea is the anti-reveal that Kylo Ren has a perfect babyface. And I mean the story is just so that JJ Abrams would have gotten an “A” in Star Wars imitation class, which means it’s very entertaining, but not exactly creative.

      I didn’t see Rogue One, but I can definitely recommend the Holiday Special if you want to see something mindboggling.

    • Björn says:

      I like A New Hope the best. The reason is the design. Episode IV remixes lots of designs from all over the world (Tunesian architecture on Tattoine, Vader’s samurai armor, fascist aesthetic in surprising places like the victory celebration at the end, dirty industrial design on the space ships, etc.) which makes the world we see seem real. From a design viewpoint, this makes A New Hope a post-modern movie. The story can also be seen in this light, it combines pulp science fiction with a genuine fairy tale/mythological story.

      I think under those aspects, Star Wars falls off quite fast. Episode V is ok and has some iconic designs like the AT-AT and the cloud city, but they tend to be quite classical sci-fi design. The story is very thrilling, but I think it lacks a little bit of the magic of Episode IV. Episode VI already has really stupid design like the Ewoks, and what it does is conclude the trilogy, nothing more.

      • Björn says:

        For some reason my whole comment could not be published, here is the rest:

        The prequel trilogy mostly consists out of boring design that designers do if you give them lots of money and development time. It’s a little bit paradoxical, as it has no clear influences apart from “it must look science fiction”, it is all samey and has no individuality. Padme’s “geisha” costume is ok, and so is the devilish Darth Maul, but can you remember how anything from Episode II or III looks like, apart from maybe “generic city planet”, “generic water planet”, “generic fire planet”?

        From a design viewpoint, Episode VII is not much better, we get Tattoine II and a new evil faction that looks like the Empire, but more Nazi. The only really good visual idea is the anti-reveal that Kylo Ren has a perfect babyface. And I mean the story is just so that JJ Abrams would have gotten an “A” in Star Wars imitation class, which means it’s very entertaining, but not exactly creative.

        I didn’t see Rogue One, but I can definitely recommend the Holiday Special if you want to see something mindboggling.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          Coruscant had been pretty well-defined as the “big city” planet in the Expanded Universe prior to the prequels (X-Wing: Wedge’s Gamble, in which the Republic takes over Coruscant, came out in 1996, 3 years before TPM, and had pretty elaborate descriptions of the world). I’m not sure how common the trope was prior to its description in the EU: Asimov’s Trantor would be the one obvious influence, but what else is there?

          I think they did a pretty good treatment of it in Ep2, although I really would have liked the Zam Wessell stuff to take us down to the seriously seedy underbelly, the “there’s an ecosystem with slugs evolved to eat concrete” world. Some of the big industrial stuff the chase takes us through hinted at that a bit, so at least it felt like they were aware of it.

          Kamino was basically the super-generic “pure white future” environment. It worked well for the plot, but the plot there was kind of stupid anyway, so *shrug*. The Kaminoans themselves were a pretty neat take on the Grey alien trope though.

          Geonosis was pretty boring desert, but at least it was a desert world that was quite clearly not Tatooine, and the design of the world, aliens, and some of the Confederacy weapons matched really well. It could have fit into a lot of other sci-fi movies, but Hoth could have too.

          Actually, I think you could level the “boring world” accusation against any planet in any Star Wars movie. Tatooine was even more boring than Geonosis, Hoth was “generic ice planet”. Yavin IV is pretty neat, but I don’t know if I’d be that interested without knowing about all the Massassi stuff going into those pyramids (which is just in the EU), after that it’s basically “generic rain forest planet”.

          The interesting design in Star Wars is mostly about the equipment and ships, and I think the prequels more or less stack up there, or would have if they didn’t change ship designs every movie.

    • Anthony says:

      Steven den Beste had a pseudo-review of Clones where he says that Lucas missed a opportunity to make a much better film:

      What I had envisioned for the “Clone Wars” was a war of shadows, with the bad guys cloning people and replacing them with look-alike ringers who were actually on the side of the bad guys, and infiltrating the existing power structure with sleepers. The Jedi would then be critical in the struggle because they would be the only ones who could identify clones, which in turn would cause the bad guys to start hunting the Jedi down. That, then, would explain the decline of the Jedi.

      Even going into this film, that is still what I expected to have happen. I expected Darth Maul to reappear as a clone; I expected a who’s-real-who’s-a-clone struggle, where no-one except the Jedi knew who was a friend and who was a foe.

      Instead, from the TV ads, what we get is a massive battle on a featureless plain, fought with space age weapons and Babylonian tactics. Napoleon could beat these idiots; they’re not even smart enough to go prone to fire their weapons. I don’t care how good you are with a light saber; you’re not going to stop canister fire, or deflect a 12-pound cannon ball.

      • Lirio says:

        Oh hey! That was also my childhood mental picture of the Clone Wars. The bad guys were making evil clones of people in order to take over. Though unlike Steven de Beste i intuitively understood that George Lucas would have never gone for it, so i wasn’t particularly disappointed by what the clones actually were. It certainly would have been a lot cooler if Lucas had done it that way though.

        Also the shitty tactics and logistics in Star Wars is a perennial source of minor annoyance for me too. Like, how is it that the battle for a planetoid sized mobile battle station is decided by a few dozen strike craft instead of swarms of thousands?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      IMO Rogue One cannot be properly ranked on this. It’s basically a different genre than the other movies with how different the feel of the movie is. I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the ending. Last half hour was solid.

      My favorite part of Star Wars is RotS after Order 66 begins.

      The only good part of TFA is Han Solo, with Kylo Ren redeemable depending on how he develops in future movies. I hope Ramsay Bolton makes a surprise cameo in The Last Jedi and goes all flayed man on Rey and Finn, who annoy me almost as much as Child Anakin.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Here is the massive rant I wrote on why TFA sucked. I apologize for the length.

      Part 1: Who are these people and why are they doing these things.

      We care about movies when we care about the people in them. This is why we have characters, with motivations. Hopes. Dreams. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens to some schmuck and then you totally forget about it. There’s a reason James Cameron made Titanic a love story instead of a movie about a boat sinking. Even though the sinking of the Titanic was one of the most fascinating events of its age if I ask you to think about the movie right now probably the first thing that comes to your mind is something about the king of the world, drawing naked chicks, or romantically dying of hyperthermia. Not so much the boat and the iceberg and the sinking. I always think of Bill Paxton. Because he’s so bad. I love Bill Paxton.

      Star Wars movies are “hero’s journey” type movies. Some loser, down on their luck, who dreams of a better life, and embarks on a fantastic adventure where they work hard to gain power, learn wisdom through their difficult choices, and ultimately accomplish their goal and are rewarded in the end, often with poon. The movie makes it explicitly clear that the character is not happy in their life. Harry Potter is abused needlessly by his cousin and uncles and is not happy where he is. Marty McFly is frustrated by his impoverished family of degenerates, his prospects for the future, and the failure of his music to gain attention. Luke Skywalker whines incessantly about where he is. He bitches to the robots that if there’s a bright center to the galaxy they’re on the planet farthest from it. He’s interested in what they know about space politics and the battles they’ve been in. He hates moisture farming and wants to join the academy (I’m assuming on the side of the Empire? I doubt the rebels have an academy. Maybe he just wants flight training and then planned to defect? We don’t really know where he stands on this) and is frustrated when he cannot. He is similarly inquisitive about his father, and eventually the force. He’s also hard up for ladies and wants R2 to keep playing that grainy Leia hologram so he can imagine putting his lightsaber in her Sarlacc pit. That means sex.

      So Luke has lots of different motivations to go on the adventure to deliver the droid and maybe save the princess: thirst for action and adventure, purpose, personal growth, information, and poon. The only thing holding him back was opportunity and a sense of duty to Uncle Owen. But once he and Aunt Beru got crisped that’s gone, and so now maybe add “revenge against the Empire” to the list of Luke’s motivations. By the end of the movie, he pretty much accomplished all of these things (we’ll assume he banged Leia).

      Han Solo was motivated by money, and fear of Jabba the Hutt. This made it especially emotionally satisfying when he came back to help Luke destroy the Death Star at the end of the film (oops, I should have said “spoilers”). He didn’t have to do that, but he made a choice that showed personal growth. That’s kind of a character arc.

      In Star Wars The Force Awakens the only character with any kind of arc is Finn, who is motivated by not wanting to fight for the First Order. That is clearly established. He has a mission to escape, and he accomplishes it about an hour into the film when the characters get to the cantina.

      Poe Damaramaramalamadingdong’s character is that of a fearless pilot. And I mean literally fearless. I wouldn’t even say he’s a robot because C-3PO certainly expresses a healthy sense of self-preservation. Even droids in Star Wars have fear, but Poe just makes quips when confronted with incredibly powerful, evil, scary dudes with laser swords who torture him. That’s bad storytelling because it removes all sense of dramatic tension. They did that a lot in this movie. Everybody’s got jokes. If the character isn’t scared, why should the audience be? But it especially makes Poe one-dimensional because he doesn’t have anything else. Poe does what he does because it’s his job. He’s a resistance pilot, so he does missions. But we have no idea why. Does he just like killing and picked this side instead of the other? Is he politically motivated to fight for the Republic? Did the First Order kill his family? Who knows.

      The worst character though is Rey. At the start of the movie, she seems perfectly fine with her lot in life. I’m not saying being a scavenger on a desert planet is living it up, but lots of people just drift through life aimlessly. You’re doing it right now. Reading some nerd’s Star Wars rants on the Interwebz. Shouldn’t you be out fighting for the freedom of the North Korean people from their terrible dictator? Oh wait. You don’t really care about that because it doesn’t have anything to do with you and as long as you’ve got Taco Bell and Netflix then that whole thing is kind of the North Koreans’ problem isn’t it? (Note, when I originally wrote this Kim Jong Un was not in the process of testing ICBMs).

      Lots of people in the Star Wars universe have it rough, so comparatively Rey isn’t doing so bad. She’s not a slave, she beats up everyone who messes with her so it doesn’t seem like she’s living in fear, she has a place to sleep, she has transportation, she’s eating, she’s healthy enough to go climbing through space wrecks. There’s no real love plot so it’s not like she’s hard up pining for a man. There’s nothing exceptionally awful about her current situation, and the only desire she expresses during the entire movie is to stay right where she is (presumably to wait for the family that abandoned her?).

      The opening crawl reveals that the motivated character for all the events of the movie is Leia. She wants the map to find Luke to convince him to come back and join the fight against the First Order. That’s it. Everybody else is accomplishing her goal. We know why Poe does it (because it’s his job) but nobody else.

      Rey finds BB-8, steals it from the alien that found it, refuses to sell it for lots of food and treats it like a person. Which is weird because no one in the Star Wars Universe treats droids like people. R2 grows on Luke because they’ve been through a lot together, but that’s kind of like a soldier who names his rifle Betsy. It’s purely sentimental. The rifle isn’t really a lady. Droids are not sentient. Yes, you push the button on your iPhone and talk to “Siri,” but you know that’s not a real person, right? Please tell me you’re not holding on to your old iPhone because you think it’ll hurt Siri’s feelings if you switch to Android or something. It’s not a real person. So why did she do that?

      Then she beats up Finn because the robot told her Finn had Poe’s jacket. Why did she do that and call him “thief?” Does Rey have some kind of hard-on for justice? Is she part of the desert planet police force? How did she know he stole it, and didn’t borrow it or trade for it? Is it because he’s black, so she just assumed he stole it? That’s Rey-cist (get it? Like “racist” but I put her name in it).

      Then she finds out about Poe’s mission, from Finn, and decides that it must be completed. Why? Does she just have a thing about missions? I doubt she’s super into space politics. Their stupid desert planet doesn’t seem like the kind of place that’s being oppressed in any visible way by the First Order. I think it’s just because it’s in the script. Before the audience has a chance to ponder this question, the bad guys attack and then we get to the next action sequence.

      J.J. Abrams does this a lot. I don’t think he understands his characters as people with motivations. When he thinks about a movie he thinks about the big scenes he wants the space ships and the action and the lens flares and then ugh he’s got these boring parts between the action scenes where the characters talk or something and since he can’t figure out why these people do any of the things they do he just has something explode or someone attack so it forces the characters into the next scene and he hopes no one notices there wasn’t really any reason for them to do what they did. This is why his movies feel fun and exciting when you’re watching them, but after you leave the theatre you either forget them (like most people) or you think about them and get angry because they make no sense (like me). Try really following the plot of Star Trek: Into Darkness and explain why Bumbershoot Crumblesnatch does the things he does. None of it makes any damn sense.

      Lucas has the same problems in the prequels, but he keeps in the scenes where they pointlessly talk and they say the reasons why they do the stuff that makes no sense. Cutting those scenes out doesn’t make the movie any better, it just makes you think it is because maybe you don’t notice.

      You would think this would be storytelling 101. Strip away the laser swords and the space ships. In each scene, tell me who the characters are and why they’re doing the things they’re doing. If you can’t, you have a bad movie, and all the stupid special effects in the world won’t cover it up. If J.J. Abrams directed Titanic the opening scene would be the ship hitting the iceberg and every time there was dialogue someone would be cut off mid-sentence by water rushing into the compartment forcing them into the next scene and then no one would care when Claire Danes murders Leonardo DiCaprio.

      It’s infuriating because it’s so damn easy. They’ll spend $100 million on special effects. Tens of millions more on the actors. Won’t spend $8 on a fucking script. Just give the script to a screenwriting class and ask for feedback. And when they say “Mr. Abrams, I don’t understand why she’s doing the things that she’s doing. Why does she give a shit about the Resistance, or Luke Skywalker?” listen to them and add a scene explaining it. You know what would have been great, and also explained how she could just magically use the Force by thinking about it for a sec later in the movie? In the opening scene when she’s scavenging in the ship, show her trying to acquire a far-off valuable part, but she can’t…quite…reach! So she hangs upside down, closes her eyes, exhales, reaches out with her hand, the John Williams music swells, the part wiggles…but it’s not enough and she doesn’t retrieve the component. And then her line snaps or something and she barely survives the dramatic fall and slide down the hull of the ship. And now we see Rey down her luck, hungry for both the meal she missed out on, but also hungry for knowledge of the Force. Then when she learns that the droid has a map to Luke Skywalker, why, he can teach her to use the Force! NOW SHE HAS MOTIVATION TO GO ON THE QUEST. WAS THAT SO HARD J. J.?! WAS IT?!?!?!?!? I don’t think it was that hard.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Part 2: Why are there so many wookies on the desert planet.

        The whole “is Rey a Mary Sue” thing has been almost beaten to death but I’m going to finish it off. Everybody talks about how she never loses a fight so Finn’s kind of pointless, and she can fly a ship she’s never flown before better than the trained First Order pilots, she’ll teach Han Solo a thing or two about fixing the Millennium Falcon, and master lightsaber combat by closing her eyes for a second and then beat the guy who’s been doing it his whole life. Fine. She’s just really, really good at all of these things.

        But where the fuck did she learn to speak Wookie.

        It’s a running gag in the entirety of the Star Wars saga that Chewie goes “BLLRRRRRGGGHGHGH!!” and this communicates actual information and Han says something like “what do you mean the hyperdrive is offline?!” because apparently the word for “hyperdrive” was somewhere between the string of three Gs and the HGH up there. The only characters in Star Wars who are ever seen getting complicated information from Chewie are Han and C-3PO, who is a translator droid fluent in over 3 million forms of communication. Yes there’s a scene in the Mos Eisley cantina in Episode IV where Chewie directs Obi-Wan over to Han when they first meet but since you don’t hear what they say it’s not clear if Obi-Wan did the talking and Chewie just kind of gestured. The point is nobody speaks Wookie and it’s kind of silly their growls even count as a language.

        At the end of The Force Awakens Finn, Han, and Chewie infiltrate the Starkiller Base to rescue Rey, who of course had already freed herself (because strong wymynz what don’t need no mans) making Finn’s entire plot pointless. They round the corner, bump into each other, Rey and Finn share a moment while Chewie and Han guard their flanks. Chewie lets out a “GRRRRGHGHGHGHGH!”

        Now, riddle me this. If you’re standing there with some scavenger girl you’ve just met and HAN SOLO the ONLY HUMAN WE EVER SEE WHO UNDERSTANDS WOOKIE and the Wookie growls and you want to know what he just said, who do you ask? Do you ask the scavenger girl, or do you ask Han Solo? Because Finn asks the scavenger girl. And she answers! “He said it was your idea.”

        Completely inexplicably, Rey understands Wookie.

        I wonder how she learned Wookie. Where there many wookies on the desert planet? I wonder what the first words she learned in Wookie talk were? Was it “Holy shit, I am so fucking hot, because I have all this fur, and I’m on a desert planet. Will someone please kill me because I’m so fucking hot. The sun is beating down on me and my furry body evolved to keep me warm on a forest planet, but this, a desert, is the exact opposite and I am so miserable I want to die; please won’t someone kill me.” I bet that was it. Or, maybe it’s because she’s the main character of the movie.

        When your power is to have all the powers, your character is boring.

        • Matt M says:

          Is it possible that everyone who “translates” for Chewie (including Han) is just making it up and trying to be funny?

          Like, when the hyperdrive is broken and chewie whines to Han, the context alone makes it pretty clear that he is communicating “I can’t do this thing you are asking me to do”, even if nobody understands a specific word-for-word translation.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think so. In Return of the Jedi when Han is unfrozen in Jabba’s palace he asks Chewie what’s been going on, Chewie growls, and Han says “…a Jedi Knight?!” and then says the line about delusions of grandeur. Chewie’s growls must have let Han know Luke became a Jedi Knight during the time he was frozen. It just doesn’t make any sense otherwise.

            In TFA, Chewie communicated the true information that the rescue attempt was Finn’s idea. There’s no reason for Rey to have “guessed” that. Somehow, she speaks Wookie, and I guess also the droid beeps and boops, which I don’t think Luke spoke, either. The times I recall him having a two way conversation with R2D2 either 3PO is translating, or Luke is looking at the readout in his X-Wing, which is doing the translating. I can believe, fine, she speaks bleeps and bloops because scavenging, but the wookiespeak is entirely unexplained and bizarre. I guess there must have been a bunch of wookies on the burning desert planet we just didn’t get to meet.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean I know “but the force” is the standard handwavey explanation for everything, but if force ability lets you read peoples general thoughts and emotions, that could easily manifest itself as a remarkable skill to understand communications in languages you don’t necessarily know?

          • Randy M says:

            If having characters without flaws and with lots of competency is bad for the narrative, having them but also saying “because magic” doesn’t get you any better.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think I’ve ever seen it work that way with any other force users. Luke still needed to use C-3PO to talk to Jabba. In Revenge of the Sith Yoda coordinated with Wookies so he probably conversed with them, but if Yoda can converse with Wookies I would chalk that up to “because very old, wise and learned” not “because Force.”

            Also I just really like my rant about the wookies burning up in the desert heat.

          • Matt M says:

            but if Yoda can converse with Wookies I would chalk that up to “because very old, wise and learned” not “because Force.”

            good relations with the wookiees, he has

            (how did we miss this in the “quoteables from the PT” discussion)?

          • gbdub says:

            I liked the wookiee rant.

            The only memorable quote not about sand for me was Yoda’s “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to… suffering”. Not a great line, but memorable and quotable.

            Maybe Padme’s “So this is how democracy dies: to thunderous applause” but that a) felt like a ham-handed attempt by Lucas to comment on contemporary politics (GWB, not Trump) and b) it’s like, bitch he’s your senator, this is your fault. How have you managed to work with him for so long and not work out that he’s a scheming bastard? Stop trying to pin the blame on Jar-Jar, who was clearly in over his head, a different species, and clearly brain damaged from whatever the Gungan equivalent of meth is.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There’s also “From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!”, which is memorable chiefly for being so lame, and also “Only a Sith deals in absolutes,” which is memorable for being self-contradictory.

          • Lirio says:

            Yeah while i liked the Mustafar sequence as a whole, there were some pretty terrible lines. The “Only Sith deal in absolutes” one is downright tragic because the line would have been fine with only a little rewording, “So like a Sith, to deal in absolutes.” It also has the benefit of making it sound like Obi-Wan is leaving open the possibility that Anakin is not a Sith yet, that he can still be redeemed. Which he is because he continues to try to argue with him over the course of the fight. “The Jedi are evil,” on the other hand is pretty much unsalvageable. Better would have been something like:

            Obi-Wan: “Can’t you see Chancellor Palpatine is manipulating you?”
            Anakin: “Emperor Palpatine has been a better friend than you!”

            It’s not great, but at least it’s also not concentrated cringe.

            The notion that there’s a connection between anything that happens in Revenge of the Sith and contemporary politics is as unconvincing now as it was a decade ago. There is zero resemblance between Palpatine and George Bush in character or actions. On the other hand, a Republic in crisis dissolving itself to establish a beloved potentate as its monarch has historical weight behind it. It happened in Rome, it’s happened like two or three times in France, it’s happened elsewhere too.

          • Jiro says:

            There is zero resemblance between Palpatine and George Bush in character or actions.

            Often there’s zero resemblance between a work of fiction and an actual real-life issue, but more resemblance between it and a caricatured version of the real-life issue. I completely missed the references in Logan to illegal immigration and Trump because 1) the illegal immigrants were fleeing persecution, while real-life illegal immigrants are not, and 2) Laura should be a citizen anyway (at least of Canada, depending on whether Logan ever got US citizenship). But if you believe that hostility to illegal immigrants is just a form of racism against Mexicans, you would think that Logan is completely on point.

            Palpatine may not be like the actual Bush, but he’s like what people thought about Bush.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, generic evil, power-hungry politician pattern-matched to Bush in the early 2000s (at least among blue tribe people) similar to how generic, repressive, women-hating society pattern matches to Trump today, even if the analogies to the Handmaids Tale are woefully off-base (as we’ve previously discussed in great detail)

        • gbdub says:

          Some of the pushback to “Rey is a Mary Sue” is that Luke is too, but thinking about it I don’t think that works.

          They at least explain why Luke is a good pilot – he and his buddies joyride through canyons and gun down the local wildlife in the Tatooine equivalent of crop dusters. (and Anakin had podracing) Nothing such for Rey.

          He disbelieves in the Force at first, and doesn’t really do anything really impressive with it until ROTJ (other than get a lucky shot on the Death Star). Certainly, it takes until ROTJ for him to do anything like what Rey did without even knowing she’s a force user (Jedi mind trick, fight a guy who’s trained with the lightsaber to a stalemate (Luke got his ass kicked by Vader in Empire, the only reason he didn’t die was because Vader was trying to capture him alive)). And this was after he knows he’s the boy of destiny, Rey doesn’t even have that excuse.

          Luke does have a bit of the “why does he care so much about Ben, or expect Han to be loyal, they’ve known each other like a day”. But at least Han pushes back on this and Luke’s naive provincialism and idealism. And Leia takes the wind out of his sails a bit when he shows up intending to be the dashing hero.

          Maybe that’s the difference. Luke’s a hero’s journey protagonist, so there’s always going to be some Mary Sue to him, but he sells the “naive farmboy” schtick a little better, and his idealism makes a little more sense. Unlike Rey, he resents being on a boring backwater and yearns to be part of the story, so it’s obvious why he’d jump at the chance to get involved once his foster parents die.

          Also, in A New Hope, there’s a bit of an ensemble cast but it’s clear that Luke is the protagonist. Rey is probably the protagonist of the new series, but that’s complicated by Finn at a minimum and the fact that, as of the end of TFA, we don’t know from the story itself that there’s anything particularly special about her. We “know” in the meta sense, but there’s nothing explicit about this in-universe. As you note, there’s no particular reason for Leia to trust or even care about her the way there was with Luke in A New Hope.

          • Matt M says:

            As you note, there’s no particular reason for Leia to trust or even care about her the way there was with Luke in A New Hope.

            I’m not sure this is true. The only person in ANH who knows Luke is special is Obi-Wan, who is dead before the end of the movie (well, and Vader I guess). To Han and Leia, he’s just some hick farm boy who believes in some dumb ancient religion and had a really lucky shot on the death star.

            The main body of the protagonist cast doesn’t find out that he actually is some chosen-one hero Jedi until much later. Like, RTJ later.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Leia believes in the ancient religion (why else does she call Obi-Wan Kenobi her “only hope”), and after her initial prickliness (“Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”) is attracted to Luke besides. Why Han is fond of him is less clear, but it’s at least long tradition that the old salt (or cowboy) is fond of the naive kid.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m not sure this is true. The only person in ANH who knows Luke is special is Obi-Wan, who is dead before the end of the movie (well, and Vader I guess). To Han and Leia, he’s just some hick farm boy who believes in some dumb ancient religion and had a really lucky shot on the death star.

            Well, Luke did lead the charge to rescue Leia from the heart of the Empire’s war machine. So, I think that earns some trust and care from Leia towards Luke. But Leia and Rey are entirely disassociated with each other.

            While the Mary/Gary Sue thing is annoying, it’s not enough to ruin a movie/character. My main problem with Rey is her complete lack of motivation for doing the things she does. There are a good half dozen reasons explicitly laid out why Luke would rush off to save Leia. There is absolutely no reason for Rey to give a shit about a map and a droid, which is why Abrams has to do the whole “bad guys attack and this forces the action along” thing over and over again (in the market, on the Falcon with the gangsters, at the catina…). Every time there’s some dialogue where she could explain why she’s doing whatever she winds up doing next bad guys attack and force her into the next scene because there’s no way to write said dialogue. She has no actual motivation. Luke has clear motivation, and the option of, when Beru and Owen are crisped, of saying “meh, I don’t care about this girl or war, I’mma moisture farm” and nothing particularly bad would have happened to him. Rey has no motivation to do the things she does, and does them anyway because they’re in the script.

            ETA: also, with regards to Han and Luke becoming friends, I think that’s well explained by “shared challenges bring people together,” and they weren’t immediate besties. Han was getting the hell out of there at the end, and him coming back to shoot Vader off Luke’s tail was a big cheer moments because he was showing this relationship had developed.

          • John Schilling says:

            They at least explain why Luke is a good pilot – he and his buddies joyride through canyons and gun down the local wildlife in the Tatooine equivalent of crop dusters.

            Right, with flying and shooting being pretty much the only things Luke is any good at in the original movie. He gets beat up by the local nomads, he’s completely over his head from the moment he enters Mos Eisley, he needs the Princess to rescue him from his clever scheme to rescue the Princess, he needs Dead Obi-Wan to talk him out of standing around like an idiot after watching Obi-Wan die, I suppose we can give him credit for being able to swing across a chasm on a rope, and then they finally get him into a spaceship so he can stop being a whiny loser for the last third of the movie. Also, nobody really likes him when they first meet him. This is not Mary Sue material.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, nobody really likes him when they first meet him

            On the other hand, everyone likes Rey immediately upon meeting her, even the bad guy. Vader only warms up to Luke after learning he’s his son.

          • Matt M says:

            re: “Mary Sue” accusations, I know this is non-CW, so all I will say is that *perhaps* there are “other reasons” why a huge corporate entity who just obtained the rights to create new IP for a beloved existing franchise might choose to focus around a perfect-in-every-way ass-kicking heroine who is good at everything, loved by everyone, and spends the better part of three movies beating the shit out of evil (and a few not so evil) men.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I have no idea what Episodes VIII or IX will involve, but Rey is hardly doing a lot of ass-kicking in Episode VII. She’s in few fights, mainly runs away from things.

            She fights Finn briefly and a few scavenger types early on.
            Finn fires the weapons in the Falcon vs. the TIE fighters scene
            She runs away and then operates doors for the monsters-on-the-Falcon scene.
            She is beaten and captured outside the cantina.
            She hides away from fights on the Imperial base.
            And then finally she ends up fighting Kylo Ren, whom the movie has painstakingly set up as sufficiently damaged that her victory is plausible.

            Right? Did I skip anything? I haven’t seen the movie since it came out.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Finn fires the weapons in the Falcon vs. the TIE fighters scene

            He just presses the button, though. The turret is damaged and locked in place, so Rey has to do an incredible feat of aerial acrobatics to aim the turret by steering the ship for him.

          • Lirio says:

            Finn shoots down two TIE fighters during that sequence, he got the first one on his own merits. Also he shot down one or two others while escaping the Star Destroyer. Clearly they give their Stormtroopers comprehensive training across a wide range of weapons systems, because the guy’s a reasonably competent gunner.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Part 3: If you’re on the movie poster everyone likes you and nothing you do has to make any damn sense.

        Ever go on one of those amusement park “movie experience” rides, like the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios where you make believe like it’s you, the audience member, helping Doc Brown test his time machine, so you sit in the seat in the theater, and you put on the 3D glasses, and Christopher Lloyd looks directly at the camera and says “Oh, it’s you, here to help me with my experiment!” and then everything gets wacky and the theater dips and dives and turns and blasts you with air and mist so it’s like you’re the one on the adventure and then at the end Doc Brown is so thankful for your help, time travel enthusiast! Of course you didn’t do anything and it’s just a fun gimmick to make you feel like you’re part of the adventure.

        Well the protagonist of the movie is the stand-in for the audience, so fine, all your favorite heroes from the original movies that you loved so much inexplicably like you (Rey) and want you around and Han Solo offers you a job on the Millennium Falcon that you turn down because you want to get back to your desert hovel but then stuff blows up which forces everybody on to the next action scene before anyone can make decisions of consequence.

        Okay. But what about Leia. Rey never meets Leia. Rey gets taken from the cantina planet before the Resistance shows up to save the day. At some point off screen Han tells Leia “oh yeah I met this girl and she was kinda cool but she got abducted.” You would figure that would be kind of no big deal considering the galactic civil war has claimed billions of lives. What’s one more scavenger girl? She and Han were acquainted for what seems like a few hours at most.

        Han Solo dies (spoilers!) and the Millennium Falcon lands back at the Resistance base and out walks Chewbacca, Han’s hetero(?) life mate who is very sad his companion has died. Leia’s only son has murdered his father and her lifelong friend and former lover. That’s some pretty heavy shit. Do Chewie and Leia embrace? Console each other? No, of course not. Rey’s all broken up because the old man she knew for a day died, so Leia goes and gives this girl she’s never met a big old hug to help her deal with her loss. Did you get that? Rey isn’t comforting Leia. Leia is comforting Rey. Why. Why did she do that. Was it because she’s the main character of the movie? Was it because she’s on the movie poster? I think it was because she’s on the movie poster.

        Anyway, the map is complete and the way to Luke Skywalker is open. Now, finally, Rey can complete her mission and achieve her lifelong dream of meeting Luke Skywalker and convince him to come back and join the fight against the First Order so she flies off to the Shire and…wait…wait no, the opening crawl said it was Leia’s mission to find Luke. All Rey ever wanted was to go back to her dirt hut and wait for her family. Why didn’t she do that. Why didn’t Leia go talk to her brother to talk him into returning to the war. Wasn’t that the whole point? Wouldn’t she have a better chance of convincing him, being her brother and all? Instead of some random girl Luke’s never met? Was it because Rey is the main character of the movie? And because she’s on the movie poster? Was that the reason? I think that was the reason.

        Part 4: It was completely forgettable.

        The prequels were trash, with irrational characters with no emotional depth and plotlines that made no sense. There was too much CGI, space politics, and children. The dialogue was awful, but at least it was memorable. The Force Awakens is just as shallow and nonsensical, but without the crappy space politics and annoying children you don’t realize you should hate it or even remember it. There is nothing worth remembering from The Force Awakens. If Disney weren’t putting out a new Star Wars movie every year to snatch that sweet sweet cash you would forget they ever made it and The Force Awakens would join the long list of “holy shit we’re completely out of ideas pull up something from the 80s and remake that but without all the coherent stuff that made the first one good just give it better special effects and a black guy” remakes and reboots. Hey, remember when they remade RoboCop like two years ago? Remember that? Yeah a lot of people don’t remember that.

        So that’s most of it. This movie sucks and makes no sense. The characters are flat and boring and do stupid things and everyone who likes it should feel bad about themselves. It would be great if we could just forget it ever happened but since Disney’s going to be cramming one of these shit movies down our throats for the next ever that’s not going to happen. At least the prequels are fun to laugh at. The sterile Disney Star Wars movies-by-committee are just boring crap without all the memorable lines about sand.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Part 3 may have gotten eaten by spam, so if this appears twice, forgive me, or Scott please delete/adjust as needed thanks.

        Part 3: If you’re on the movie poster everyone likes you and nothing you do has to make any damn sense.

        Ever go on one of those amusement park “movie experience” rides, like the Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios where you make believe like it’s you, the audience member, helping Doc Brown test his time machine, so you sit in the seat in the theater, and you put on the 3D glasses, and Christopher Lloyd looks directly at the camera and says “Oh, it’s you, here to help me with my experiment!” and then everything gets wacky and the theater dips and dives and turns and blasts you with air and mist so it’s like you’re the one on the adventure and then at the end Doc Brown is so thankful for your help, time travel enthusiast! Of course you didn’t do anything and it’s just a fun gimmick to make you feel like you’re part of the adventure.

        Well the protagonist of the movie is the stand-in for the audience, so fine, all your favorite heroes from the original movies that you loved so much inexplicably like you (Rey) and want you around and Han Solo offers you a job on the Millennium Falcon that you turn down because you want to get back to your desert hovel but then stuff blows up which forces everybody on to the next action scene before anyone can make decisions of consequence.

        Okay. But what about Leia. Rey never meets Leia. Rey gets taken from the cantina planet before the Resistance shows up to save the day. At some point off screen Han tells Leia “oh yeah I met this girl and she was kinda cool but she got abducted.” You would figure that would be kind of no big deal considering the galactic civil war has claimed billions of lives. What’s one more scavenger girl? She and Han were acquainted for what seems like a few hours at most.

        Han Solo dies (spoilers!) and the Millennium Falcon lands back at the Resistance base and out walks Chewbacca, Han’s hetero(?) life mate who is very sad his companion has died. Leia’s only son has murdered his father and her lifelong friend and former lover. That’s some pretty heavy shit. Do Chewie and Leia embrace? Console each other? No, of course not. Rey’s all broken up because the old man she knew for a day died, so Leia goes and gives this girl she’s never met a big old hug to help her deal with her loss. Did you get that? Rey isn’t comforting Leia. Leia is comforting Rey. Why. Why did she do that. Was it because she’s the main character of the movie? Was it because she’s on the movie poster? I think it was because she’s on the movie poster.

        Anyway, the map is complete and the way to Luke Skywalker is open. Now, finally, Rey can complete her mission and achieve her lifelong dream of meeting Luke Skywalker and convince him to come back and join the fight against the First Order so she flies off to the Shire and…wait…wait no, the opening crawl said it was Leia’s mission to find Luke. All Rey ever wanted was to go back to her dirt hut and wait for her family. Why didn’t she do that. Why didn’t Leia go talk to her brother to talk him into returning to the war. Wasn’t that the whole point? Wouldn’t she have a better chance of convincing him, being her brother and all? Instead of some random girl Luke’s never met? Was it because Rey is the main character of the movie? And because she’s on the movie poster? Was that the reason? I think that was the reason.

        Part 4: It was completely forgettable.

        The prequels were trash, with irrational characters with no emotional depth and plotlines that made no sense. There was too much CGI, space politics, and children. The dialogue was awful, but at least it was memorable. The Force Awakens is just as shallow and nonsensical, but without the crappy space politics and annoying children you don’t realize you should hate it or even remember it. There is nothing worth remembering from The Force Awakens. If Disney weren’t putting out a new Star Wars movie every year to snatch that sweet sweet cash you would forget they ever made it and The Force Awakens would join the long list of “holy shit we’re completely out of ideas pull up something from the 80s and remake that but without all the coherent stuff that made the first one good just give it better special effects and a black guy” remakes and reboots. Hey, remember when they remade RoboCop like two years ago? Remember that? Yeah a lot of people don’t remember that.

        So that’s most of it. This movie sucks and makes no sense. The characters are flat and boring and do stupid things and everyone who likes it should feel bad about themselves. It would be great if we could just forget it ever happened but since Disney’s going to be cramming one of these shit movies down our throats for the next ever that’s not going to happen. At least the prequels are fun to laugh at. The sterile Disney Star Wars movies-by-committee are just boring crap without all the memorable lines about sand.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          You know, I think that most of your points are pretty well-founded if you’re talking about “good storytelling in general,” but…

          I honestly didn’t give the tiniest shit about Luke’s motivations for taking his quest. I mean, you present a list and… yeah? I guess so. But if you’d just asked me before now what Luke’s motivation was, I think I would’ve said, “Um… Because he’s the protagonist?” On some theoretical level, I’m pleased by the fact that Luke has relatively sensible motivations, and for other stories, I’ve bitched about the fact that characters don’t seem to have motivations, but for me at least Star Wars has always been about spectacle and cool scenes. I’m there for the laser swords and spaceship designs, and, to a considerably lesser degree, the snappy quips.

          TFA had the laser swords, spaceship designs, and snappy quips.

          In my mind, the best of the prequels is The Phantom Menace because the Darth Maul v. Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan was still the best lightsaber fight around. I can ignore the rest of the movie.

          I could nitpick a few of your other points. Rey clearly hates her life on scavenging planet, and it is not pleasant and getting worse. But she feels duty-bound to stay, but is looking for the slimmest possible excuse to leave. She’s also clearly desperately lonely. She clings to BB-88 because she’s lonely and she’s trying to find a way to excuse herself for leaving. And she jumps into a relationship with Finn (maybe a platonic relationship, but still a relationship) and that carries her through the rest of the movie just like it does with Han in the first movie, complete with a head-fake towards “I’ll duck out of this” when she says she’ll go back to the desert planet and when Han says he’ll go pay Jabba off.

          Leia embracing Rey was unearned, certainly, but come one, it was a couple of seconds. Rey speaking Wookiee is similar.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Rey clearly hates her life on scavenging planet, and it is not pleasant and getting worse.

            The only time she expresses any displeasure with her current situation is the lower exchange rate for parts to food that she got. The idea that she “clearly hates her life” is not well established. She doesn’t say that, and as I said, compared to lots of other people she’s doing fine. She’s not a slave.

            But she feels duty-bound to stay, but is looking for the slimmest possible excuse to leave.

            Duty-bound by what? People theorize that she’s (delusionally) thinking her family will come back for her or something, but we as the audience do not at all know what duty is binding her to stay. And it doesn’t seem like she’s looking for “the slimmest possible excuse to leave.” Every time she’s given an opportunity to leave she rejects it. But then is forced by the action scenes to leave anyway. There seems to be fairly regular space traffic to and from this planet for whatever reason. It seems that if she were motivated to leave, there are multiple ways she could have (stolen the Falcon earlier, traded labor for passage, saved up for passage, stowed away on a ship, etc).

            Yes, you can make up a story about what she was doing there and why and how she felt about it, but the movie itself didn’t establish any of those things, and it could have.

            She’s also clearly desperately lonely. She clings to BB-88 because she’s lonely and she’s trying to find a way to excuse herself for leaving.

            Some people just like being alone. There were plenty of people around the trading camp. Not a single one of them her entire life was worth befriending? Again, I don’t think it’s established that she was lonely. And it doesn’t make sense that she globbed on to BB-8 and Finn and Han “because lonely” when as soon as she got to the cantina she said she needed to get back to the desert planet. She did not say “I’m so glad to be off that stinking desert planet and now I’ll hang out with you my new friends!”

            So, saying she hated her life and was lonely and desperate to leave I think is your mind filling in the void of a motivation left by the poor film making. Yes, you can make up a story about her life on the desert planet, but that’s just headcanon because it’s not established in the film.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Okay, this critique on the other hand is nuts.

            Rey is shown to be isolated, eating little gross food rations, doing dangerous work for ever-diminishing pay, surrounded by criminals. In her free time, she sits alone, melancholy, surrounded by artifacts of the wider world that she longs to be in. When she sees BB-88, she leaps to include him in her life.

            She is waiting for someone — her family? Something else? Not clear and who cares — to come back to her, and she feels that if she leaves she won’t ever be reunited with them. But she’s clearly not happy.

            This is a fairly extensively crafted character background, and your criticism that Rey at no point says, “Dear anyone out there who’s listening: I am miserable and alone and want to get the fuck off this planet, but if I do I feel like I will never reconnect with the only important relationship I have” is silly.

          • John Schilling says:

            As noted, some people like being alone. And, yes, some people like doing dangerous work and some people like hanging out with criminals, etc.

            But more to the point, the issue is Rey’s (lack of) plausible motivation to go off and Be an Adventuring Heroine. In that context, it does not matter whether she is happy hanging around with criminals, etc, or is tolerating an unhappy situation because it is her only chance of being reunited with her family. Either way, it’s bad storytelling when at first opportunity she hotwires a spaceship and goes flying off with a bunch of strangers to have adventures.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Rey is shown to be isolated, eating little gross food rations, doing dangerous work for ever-diminishing pay, surrounded by criminals.

            That describes millions of Americans. Or, hell, Somali pirates. They do not then leap at the first chance they get to overthrow Kim Jong Un, evil ruler of a far off place that has nothing to do with you.

            As far as our standards go, yes, Rey’s life is shitty, but there are lots of people with shitty lives who don’t really mind it that much because it’s the only life they’ve ever known.

            Luke’s farm boy life was hell for him, and he explicitly wanted out of there and to do other things. Uncle Owen, however, didn’t seem to have any problem with moisture farming. He seemed perfectly satisfied being a moisture farmer.

            Rey wasn’t starving, she wasn’t enslaved, she wasn’t unhealthy, she wasn’t being terrorized by the criminals and was in fact beating them up. Compared to most people in the Star Wars universe, she was doing…fine.

            Even if she wasn’t, that’s no motivation to go off fighting the First Order. The character you’re describing is upset about her personal safety, and so she wants to run off and do things that are even more dangerous?

            I think these things could have been easily fixed. Instead of her apparently living alone because she doesn’t like anyone at the trading camp, make them afraid of and shun her because she does weird inexplicable things, like when she gets really mad at someone lightening flies out of her hands and zaps them. This shocks and horrifies her because she has no idea what’s happening to her, and she wants to get away from this place and anyone who knows her. And then somebody shows up with a map to the one person in the galaxy who could maybe help her control her bizarre powers and understand who she is. There we go. Now we have reasons why she’s unhappy, and a reason to go do the dangerous things she does.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            “Some people like being alone! I demand extensive backstory into why Rey is not perfectly happy with her objectively terrible life.” No, that’s stupid. Rey doesn’t like being alone, and the movie makes that clear.

            Now, look, that’s separate from the issue of “does Rey have clear goals that propel her forward.” Like I said, I think that your critique is largely valid that Rey and Finn don’t really have anything tying them to the central conflict of the film. (Though like I also said, meh, doesn’t really bother me.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Rey doesn’t like being alone, and the movie makes that clear.

            I agree that the movie made it clear she missed her family. It did not at all make it clear she was longing for companionship in general. There were lots of people at the trading camp and she chose to live farther off in her little hut by herself. Never did she say “I wish I had some friends.” She was hostile to Finn even after learning he wasn’t a thief. Until the very end every time she was given the opportunity to express a desire as to what she wanted to do it was “go away from these people and back to dirt hut.”

            I can see an argument that she has an arc going from being a loner to caring about friends, but I would like to know what you think the film does to establish that she was desperate for companionship, but unable to get any at the trading camp.

          • Lirio says:

            Again, if she doesn’t express being happy alone, the default assumption is that she isn’t, because most people wouldn’t be. To you her living alone is evidence that she likes being alone, to most other people it’s evidence she’s lonely. Taking advantage of typical minding from neurotypicals is a common storytelling technique to cut down on exposition. Having established that she’s lonely, there’s no actual need to explain why.

        • Null Hypothesis says:

          This is a well reasoned critique.

          My major problem with the film? It doesn’t make logical sense. And not from a character-motivation standpoint, but from a character and audience knowledge standpoint.

          First, scenes in TFA require the audience to have seen other Star Wars movies for them to make any sense. The Mind-trick scene? That makes no sense at all unless you’ve seen a New Hope.

          And normally that wouldn’t be a problem – a continuation of a series relies on information from past installments.

          But if that’s the case, the TFA’s carbon-copy of previous star wars movie plots is utterly unforgivable. It’s a redundant waste of a movie. If they said: “Hey, we’re doing a soft reboot with the same general plot, so a new generation of can join in without ever seeing Star Wars before.” then that’d be one thing. But then they go ahead and make scenes that require the audience to have seen the movies they’re ripping off.

          Second, scenes in TFA require the characters to have seen other Star Wars movies for them to make any sense.

          How the hell does Ray even know all about Luke Skywalker’s adventures in the original trilogy, but know nothing about what should be his far more public and documented life after the fact? How does she even begin to guess at what a Jedi Mind trick is or how to use it? It’s almost like she spent her childhood watching the Star Wars movies.

          The only way TFA makes any sense, is if both Rey and the audience have seen previous Star Wars movies.

          Rey gets criticized as a Mary Sue for a bunch of well-founded reasons. But I’d say this one is the logical clincher – she is literally a self-insert character that doesn’t possess knowledge and motivations her character should have, but possesses knowledge and motivations that the average audience member has.

        • Lirio says:

          Rey does say that she thought Luke Skywalker was a myth, which is not the kind of reaction people have about stories of famous fighter pilots. They do tend to be sceptical about tales of magic powers and mind control though. So whatever story she heard about Luke Skywalker or the Jedi in general, it included some information about their abilities. That made the whole thing sound like fantasy, hence her disbelief. Then it turns out Luke Skywalker is real, she gets all these weird visions, and this asshole tries to use magic powers to pry into her mind. At that point, it’s not a stretch to try and test what other elements are not fairy tale fancy.

          Of course her succeding after three attempts is, like i said elsewhere, a little silly.

          • Matt M says:

            Let’s also keep in mind that as much as ANH tried to originally sell the Jedi as some strange, mythic thing from thousands of years ago that nobody believes in anymore, we’re literally only two generations away between Rey and say, Mace Windu. There are probably people (actual people, not Yoda people) still living who remember the time when the Jedi walked around being respected caretakers of the Republic.

            Given the open and public existence of these people within living memory, it doesn’t seem that shocking that myths would spread about things such as, say, the jedi mind trick, and that if someone suddenly had reason to believe they too might have this “force” thingy, they might attempt something like it themselves.

          • Lirio says:

            Supporting this point, there’s that time that a certain strong willed Toydarian in bumfuck nowhere desert planet immediately recognized the Jedi Mind Trick, and boasted that it doesn’t work on him. So it stands to reason that Rey in a different bumfuck nowhere desert planet might have also heard the tales.

          • John Schilling says:

            We’re literally only two generations away between Rey and say, Mace Windu.

            Right, but we already know it only takes one religion to go from Mace Windu to “hokey religions and ancient weapons”, “simple tricks and nonsense”, an “ancient religion whose force has gone out of the universe” inspiring “sad devotion” from its last follower. Notwithstanding the chronology, the story has consistently been one where the Jedi are dismissed as an irrelevant superstition even by people who work with one of them.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Han Solo is one character. And a particular one at that.

            Tatooine is also the far end of nowhere where Jedi tended not to go unless absolutely necessary. And Luke’s uncle and aunt had very good reason to downplay every bit of Jedi knowledge Luke would have heard.

            Any race with partial immunity to the force is highly likely to be darn proud of it and to proudly spread that knowledge among its members. The weird thing is that a Jedi wouldn’t immediately remember it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Han Solo is one character. And a particular one at that.

            Admiral Motti and Governor Tarkin are two more characters. I am morbidly curious to hear your rationalization as to why the colleague and boss respectively, of Darth Vader, have some peculiar incentive to regard the Force and/or Jedi as an irrelevant superstition when everyone else in the galaxy is somehow still familiar with the real history.

          • Randy M says:

            I am morbidly curious to hear your rationalization as to why the colleague and boss respectively, of Darth Vader, have some peculiar incentive to regard the Force and/or Jedi as an irrelevant superstition when everyone else in the galaxy is somehow still familiar with the real history.

            I want to say it’s related to whatever justification Palpatine gave for killing all the Jedi in episode III.

          • Lirio says:

            Any race with partial immunity to the force is highly likely to be darn proud of it and to proudly spread that knowledge among its members. The weird thing is that a Jedi wouldn’t immediately remember it.

            As far i’m concerned, Toydarians don’t have any immunity to the Force. This is why i called Watto a “strong willed Toydarian”. It doesn’t work on him because as Obi-Wan said, the Mind Trick only works on the weak willed. There’s no reason to take Watto’s claim of racial immunity at face value without further evidence. If a man sees through a scam and exclaims, “I’m an Englishman, scams don’t work on me!” You don’t then conclude Englishmen are resistant to scams, you conclude that particular scam doesn’t work on that particular Englishman. Same deal for Toydarians.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @John Schilling

            Admiral Motti and Governor Tarkin are two more characters.

            I don’t remember enough of episodes 2 and 3 to rationalize this. I do wonder how powerful a typical Jedi was though; we really only see the supremely ‘wise’ or powerful ones in the prequels.

            Edit to add: Motti and Tarkin would have no reason to think there were any Jedi left to train a new force user. Why would an untrained force user be a problem?

            @Lirio

            There’s no reason to take Watto’s claim of racial immunity at face value without further evidence. If a man sees through a scam and exclaims, “I’m an Englishman, scams don’t work on me!”

            Quite possible, that’s a good rationale. The extended universe does mention multiple species with special immunities or connections to the force though. And the prequels happened before the extended universe was ruled non-canon.

            Would a Jedi be able to pick up on the blatant lie?

          • Matt M says:

            Would a Jedi be able to pick up on the blatant lie?

            Presumably, “the following species are immune to manipulation” would be part of their training, would it not?

          • John Schilling says:

            Edit to add: Motti and Tarkin would have no reason to think there were any Jedi left to train a new force user. Why would an untrained force user be a problem?

            Apparently, untrained force users can expertly pilot starships without training or experience, experience accurate mystic visions across time and space, mind-trick elite Imperial soldiers, infiltrate and escape secret bases without effort, and fight Sith Lords to a draw in lightsaber duels.

            OK, Kylo Ren does set the bar pretty low on that last one.

        • Jiro says:

          I honestly didn’t give the tiniest shit about Luke’s motivations for taking his quest.

          Perhaps one reason these things are important is not for themselves, but for how they limit the rest of the story. If Han and Luke become friends from shared challenges, it’s not possible to have shared challenges with every person in the movie. If the movies have to explain that Luke is good at piloting because he has a history with it, they can’t also have him have a history with repairing the Millennium Falcon and speaking to Wookies.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you are finding it impractical to justify your protagonist is best friends with everyone on Team Good Guy and supremely competent at every plot-relevant skill, maybe you might take this as a hint or warning that you just might be writing a Mary Sue?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The only one of Rey’s skills that I can believe she comes by honestly is mechanical inclination. She makes her living scavenging parts off wrecks. This requires one to be able to identify valuable or useful parts, know about where they are and what they do, and how to tell the difference between a broken part and working part. But there was no reason to have piloting skill, or exceptional fighting skill.

            Perhaps if she were accompanied on this journey by say, an expert Resistance pilot who crash-landed near her and an escaped First Order slave-soldier who was raised from childhood to be a combat expert? And if maybe Rey were shown to have mysterious powers that she can’t quite control, and is desperate to get off the planet and learn about them? And then learns that the Resistance pilot has a map to perhaps the only person in the galaxy who could help her learn about them? Why, then there might even be a reason for them to all travel together! And each of their legitimately acquired skills could come in useful along the way, with the mechanical whiz scavenger fixing the ship, the soldier fighting the bad guys, and the pilot flying the ship!

            If Poe and Finn had stayed together after the crash, then teamed up with Rey (because she could get them a ship because she knows about the Falcon and how to fix it) that could have also fixed another plot hole. Poe vanishes after the crash and then somehow appears at the cantina fight. We have no idea how he got there, or why he abandoned his search for the droid on the desert planet. This is another thing that kind of kills his “character.” His character is his job. He does missions for the Resistance. And the first thing he does is…abandon his mission for the Resistance with no explanation given.

          • gbdub says:

            Supposedly Poe was originally meant to be basically a throwaway character who died in the crash on Jakku, which might explain a lot of the issues with his character.

            But I agree, adding Poe to the team would have made more sense. Poe, actually being on a mission, could make up for Rey and Finn’s lack of an obvious motivation. And focusing on Rey’s mechanical skill would have been an obvious way to establish a bond with Chewie. Poe would also be more believable as understanding the significance of Han.

            Of course, that would risk it being a Poe movie, and we can’t distract from the importance of hypercompetent Rey.

            I think a lot of the issue is that, outside the 4th wall, it’s obvious that Rey is The Special, but the filmmakers deliberately avoided making this explicit in the movie so they can save a big reveal for episode 8 or 9. Presumably she’s a Kenobi or a Skywalker. Explicitly calling her out as The Special, as was done for both original Skywalkers in their debuts, is a bit hamfisted but at least provides some motivation and some justification for focusing on them. Without that it’s not really clear why Rey should be hypercompetent and interesting compared to the other characters in the cast.

            I think you can do a “hero’s journey” with a clear protagonist, or you can do a team/ensemble movie, but TFA tried to do both and suffers for it.

          • Matt M says:

            Supposedly Poe was originally meant to be basically a throwaway character who died in the crash on Jakku, which might explain a lot of the issues with his character.

            I felt like Poe was supposed to be a slightly more important version of Wedge Antillies. Basically a generic support character who is around and who you like, but not really “main cast” specifically.

          • Lirio says:

            The only one of Rey’s skills that I can believe she comes by honestly is mechanical inclination. She makes her living scavenging parts off wrecks. This requires one to be able to identify valuable or useful parts, know about where they are and what they do, and how to tell the difference between a broken part and working part. But there was no reason to have piloting skill, or exceptional fighting skill.

            It’s really easy to believe that Rey is competent at hand to hand combat. She lives alone and has no friends in a desolate and fairly lawless planet. Also she’s a pretty girl and there’s other humans around. It seems pretty obvious her options were get good or get fucked. The ones that don’t make sense are: piloting*, speaking wookie, speaking droid, and becoming a competent marksman after firing a blaster once.

            *The novelization explains Rey salvaged a flight simulator and is super obsessed with it, to the point that she has perfect scores in all the scenarios. This doesn’t help the movie though.

          • Nornagest says:

            I can buy her speaking droid: astromech droids like R2-D2 are all over the place in this universe and seem to function as something between technicians and starship components, so knowing how to talk to them probably works something like knowing how to reprogram your car’s ECU. A niche skill, but one that makes sense for a good mechanic.

        • J Mann says:

          That’s pretty harsh. IMHO, the Disney movies are like Marvel franchise movies or the merely competent Bond movies – professional, soulless special effects wonders that deliver some thrills and a funny line or two.

      • Randy M says:

        lots of people just drift through life aimlessly. You’re doing it right now.

        Shut up, how do you know?

        Reading some nerd’s Star Wars rants on the Interwebz.

        …Fine, point taken.

      • Lirio says:

        Poe Damaramaramalamadingdong’s character is that of a fearless pilot. And I mean literally fearless. I wouldn’t even say he’s a robot because C-3PO certainly expresses a healthy sense of self-preservation. Even droids in Star Wars have fear, but Poe just makes quips when confronted with incredibly powerful, evil, scary dudes with laser swords who torture him. That’s bad storytelling because it removes all sense of dramatic tension. They did that a lot in this movie. Everybody’s got jokes. If the character isn’t scared, why should the audience be? But it especially makes Poe one-dimensional because he doesn’t have anything else. Poe does what he does because it’s his job. He’s a resistance pilot, so he does missions. But we have no idea why. Does he just like killing and picked this side instead of the other? Is he politically motivated to fight for the Republic? Did the First Order kill his family? Who knows.

        Do you not like James Bond movies? Because i feel like every single thing you say here applies to the majority of James Bond movies: the lack of fear, the jokes, his only motivation being that it’s his job. Except it’s all the more present because where Poe is a side character Bond is the main character. Like for example, Goldeneye is the hands down the best Pierce Brosnan film, but the only character in the entire film with an actual motivation is Alec Trevelyan. Same thing applies to the widely lauded Casino Royale, except there even the villain is just doing his job. So Poe Dameron is basically Fighter Pilot James Bond. What’s he doing in a Star Wars movie? Being totally awesome and stealing every scene he’s in, that’s what. He’s the second best thing in The Force Awakens, after Too-Old-For-This-Shit Han Solo.

      • Lirio says:

        Poe Damaramaramalamadingdong’s character is that of a fearless pilot. And I mean literally fearless. I wouldn’t even say he’s a robot because C-3PO certainly expresses a healthy sense of self-preservation. Even droids in Star Wars have fear, but Poe just makes quips when confronted with incredibly powerful, evil, scary dudes with laser swords who torture him. That’s bad storytelling because it removes all sense of dramatic tension. They did that a lot in this movie. Everybody’s got jokes. If the character isn’t scared, why should the audience be? But it especially makes Poe one-dimensional because he doesn’t have anything else. Poe does what he does because it’s his job. He’s a resistance pilot, so he does missions. But we have no idea why. Does he just like killing and picked this side instead of the other? Is he politically motivated to fight for the Republic? Did the First Order kill his family? Who knows.

        So i take it you don’t like James Bond movies? Because everything you say there applies to the majority of them: lack of fear, all jokes, no motivation beyond it being their job. What’s more, it applies even more strongly because Bond is the main character, whereas Dameron is a side character. Like Goldeneye is hands down the best Pierce Brosnan Bond film but the only character in the entire movie with a motivation is Alec Trevelyan. The highly regarded Casino Royale is the same deal, except even the villain is just doing his job. So Poe Dameron is basically fighter pilot James Bond minus the womanizing. Now what’s he doing in a Star Wars movie? Why being awesome and stealing every scene he’s in of course! He’s the second best thing about TFA, after Too-Old-For-This-Shit Han Solo.

        • Nornagest says:

          Bond movies do suffer when Bond has no emotional angle, though! He doesn’t necessarily need to have a personal stake in the villain’s evil scheme: he’s a spy, he needs no other reason to be doing spy stuff. But if he isn’t going through some kind of emotional conflict even if it has nothing to do with the villain, then he’s just a witty guy in a tuxedo who happens to be a pretty good shot. Adequate for wasting ninety minutes but I probably won’t be talking about it with my friends afterwards. Similar stuff goes if he hasn’t got chemistry with at least one of the Bond girls or if he never sells the idea of being in serious danger, although the formula can survive at least one of these.

          Goldeneye is about Bond — and, implicitly, the Bond movies as a franchise — finding a place in a post-Cold War world. Skyfall, which is maybe my favorite of the Craig Bonds, is about this old-school Eton-educated spy struggling with his own aging body on the one hand and a modern intelligence environment on the other, and resolving the conflict at great personal cost by literally bringing it home. Casino Royale is about a younger Bond learning to cope with spy work as his highly scripted plan immediately goes to hell after contact with the enemy. And so on. The other Craig movies, and all the Brosnan ones after Goldeneye, have much less subtext and they’re very much the worse for it.

          • Lirio says:

            Goldeneye is not about about Bond finding a place in the post-Cold War world, the villains are still the Russians and mysterious international criminals. Ooh, look at the new place, it’s the same as the old one! It’s a very good movie, and the interactions between Bond and Trevelyan do a hell of a lot to sell it, but let’s not pretend it’s something it’s not. Also, great tie-in videogame.

            The movie that’s actually about the new post-Cold War world is Tomorrow Never Dies, which has a number of good scenes but fails to hold together very well. This is also true of the World is Not Enough, except it’s aggravated by an annoying emo villain and the total waste of Sofie Marceau’s character. Die Another Day is just Goldeneye with North Koreans and no Alec Trevelyan, so Bond is the one who gets the shaft in the opening mission.

            Moving on to Craig, ugh no Skyfall is so mediocre and overwrought. Like, i enjoyed it anyway, but it was just not good. Each Craig Bond movie is a step down in quality from the previous one, and by time you get to Spectre it’s not even fun anymore.

            But yes having your main character have emotions and struggles is important to making a compelling movie. That’s why the two best Bond movies are On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and License to Kill. However, it’s not evident to me that this is necessary for side characters. Someone who walks around dishing out quips and ass kickings while getting the job done is a fun character. You can’t build build a strong movie around him, but you add more fun factor by putting him in as a secondary.

            Though i would still love a movie with Poe as the main character, for the same reasons i love Moonraker. Seriously Disney, give a Poe/Finn buddy-cop movie, and i will give you all of my money. Have them be romantically involved and i will also give you other people’s money. Pander to me dammit!

            With respect to Rey’s motivations, it felt to me that like Luke she wants out of there, and like Luke she gets caught up in events. There’s not really any need for a deeper motivation for either of them than a yearning to be anywhere but there. The difference is that whereas the story conveniently kills off Luke’s reasons to stay, it does not do the same for Rey’s, so instead it has to more or less force her to leave. It’s not clear to me why one is superior to the other, it’s just different.

            Rey’s hypercomptence on the other hand is a little silly. Like i can buy her defeating Kylo Ren, since he’d just tanked a bowcaster shot and it was already established that Rey is an experienced melee fighter herself. Her expertise as a mechanic also makes sense given her job as a scavenger. But the piloting? Figuring out the Jedi Mind trick after only three attempts? Becomes a blaster marksman on her second shot ever? That’s all a bit much. It doesn’t actually bother me though, and i didn’t even notice until was pointed out to me after the fact, but i don’t disagree it’s a weakness in the film.

            Honestly the only part of the movie that really, truly, genuinely bugs me is Finn saying the Stormtrooper helmets can’t filter out toxins. That’s so retarded, the entire point of having a fully sealed environmental suit is resistance against biochem agents! He should have said the gas would hide them from their helmet sensors or something, it would have been less stupid!

            (Yes i’m a huge dork for fixating on a minor technical detail. Shut up.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Goldeneye is not about about Bond finding a place in the post-Cold War world, the villains are still the Russians and mysterious international criminals. Ooh, look at the new place, it’s the same as the old one!

            Okay, I’m willing to make allowances for taste on Skyfall, as much as I like it, but this subtext’s so strong that it’s practically text. M calls Bond a dinosaur in the first ten minutes. The first major confrontation between Bond and Trevelyan takes place in a literal Soviet graveyard, unless my memory fails me, and there’s leaky, rusting infrastructure all over the climax. Yes, the villains are Russians and a British double agent linked with underspecified international criminal organizations, but where the previous Bond movies did that as a way of telling Cold War stories without screwing themselves for international markets, this one does it because we were really worried about ex-Soviet weapons proliferation at the time.

            Tomorrow Never Dies tried to take the post-Cold War angle into new territory, but didn’t do nearly as much work to support that theme as Goldeneye did, and the Goldfinger-esque scheme it centered on wasn’t strong enough to carry it by itself. (The villain’s Bill Gates/Rupert Murdoch schtick also just didn’t mesh very well with Bond tropes.) The last two Brosnan movies are so heavily reminiscent of earlier films in the franchise that it’s hard to call them anything but derivative: The World Is Not Enough was trying to be The Man With The Golden Gun in the ’90s (but no one’s motivations made sense), and Die Another Day was Goldeneye done in the style of the Roger Moore era (but with the spectacle dialed up to 11, and without silly things like consistent characters), with the North Koreans brought in as a way of supporting the Cold War tropes.

          • Lirio says:

            Okay i grant Goldeneye was trying to be about Bond finding a place in new world, but it failed at it when the answer turned out to be, “same as the place in the old one”.

            The World is Not Enough is too much of an incoherent mess to really be anything, even shitty attempt at aping a better film. On the other hand, calling Die Another Day a glitzed up Roger Moore-style Goldeneye-rehash is pretty on the money. The problem is that because it’s a rehash it doesn’t have the charm of actual Moore films like Moonraker or Man With the Golden Gun. It’s sad, because Pierce Brosnan is actually pretty good at that over the top style, but if the script’s derivative he can’t do much to save it.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Never watched Bond or the new Star Wars, but I need to comment on

            However, it’s not evident to me that this is necessary for side characters. Someone who walks around dishing out quips and ass kickings while getting the job done is a fun character. You can’t build build a strong movie around him, but you add more fun factor by putting him in as a secondary.

            Sure, one-note unemotional characters can have a role. But as soon as they have a lot of screentime or play a major role in the plot, they can become so much better by showing emotions so we can sympathize with them. Sure, you can tell a story about the hero or a small party making their way through a galaxy of cardboard, but the story’s so much better when it feels like it’s set in a real world. Look at the start of New Hope – it’s a while before we find our lead, Luke, but two minor droids carry the story on their own, and the sympathy they gain then helps the whole story.

          • Lirio says:

            In some cases yes, but you can’t improve on Poe Dameron. He’s already perfect~ <3

          • skef says:

            Moving on to Craig, ugh no Skyfall is so mediocre and overwrought.

            Seriously. I’m usually willing to suspend disbelief, but that “K”? In period stone? Come on.

            And “a thousand miles and poles apart”? That puts the whole thing on a small moon, which I assume would be under the jurisdiction of at least MI-7 or -8.

          • Matt M says:

            I do think there’s a bit of assumption going on – something like “She’s a scavenger on a dusty, unimportant world, OF COURSE she’d jump ship to join the rebel fighting force if given a legitimate opportunity!”

            Sort of like “OF COURSE all those midwest/rust belt hicks would drop everything and move to the Bay Area and become programmers if only some kind soul would show up and teach them how to code”

          • Lirio says:

            Rey isn’t just a scavenger in a dusty unimportant world. She’s a supremely unhappy and lonely scavenger who constantly fantasizes about the outside. Her biggest dream is explicitly that her family will show up and take her away from Jakku.

            She clearly wants to be anywhere but where she is, but is also scared of change as people often are. That’s why Rey latched on to a very specific fantasy of how she will be saved, it helps her cope with the conflicting feelings. She drops that fantasy without hesitation in the heat of the moment, but retreats back into it as soon as things get emotionally difficult. Waiting for her family in Jakku is a safety blanket, not her true desire.

            So it’s not an assumption, it’s clearly established in the movie’s narrative.

          • Jiro says:

            Honestly the only part of the movie that really, truly, genuinely bugs me is Finn saying the Stormtrooper helmets can’t filter out toxin

            Coincidentally running across Rey on something the size of a planet doesn’t bother you?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Coincidentally running across Rey on something the size of a planet doesn’t bother you?

            That would be the force, right? It could even be the light side and dark side working in concert to get her to both Kylo Ren and Luke.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Jiro, In what space opera do planets ever seem to be larger than small towns?

          • Nornagest says:

            @Protagoras —

            Dune? Though that might be more of a planetary romance.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Almost all fiction requires us to accept a certain level of serendipity, no?

          • Lirio says:

            @Jiro: Not any more than R2-D2 and C-3PO coincidentally running across Luke Skywalker. As others have said, serendipity is a staple of movie plots, and in Star Wars you can just blame the Force.

            @Nornagest: Every planet in Dune is pretty much one city and a bit of countryside. The exception is Arrakis which is one city, a Fremen settlement, and a bit of countryside.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I agree, Bond is a one-dimensional character. Which is why most Bond films all kind of just run together and nobody can remember what happens in each one.

          I would have fixed the movie by giving Poe a back story (“You First Order bastards killed my whole family and I won’t rest until every last one of you is dead!”), and something to do. He does not mysteriously vanish for half the film after the crash, but instead teams up with Finn to find a way off the planet. They meet Rey, a girl struggling with mysterious powers that she cannot control, who is desperate to find someone who can tell her why sometimes weird things happen to her, like lightening flying out of her hands to zap people when she gets really angry at them. She learns these two strangers have a map to the only person in the galaxy who can help her with this problem, and she can help them because she knows about a heap of junk spaceship that needs some repairs, and since she’s spent her life digging around inside wrecks identifying good parts, bad parts, and what goes where, she’s basically a mechanical genius. So the badass ex-soldier-slave Finn, who’s been trained from birth to be a killing machine, mows down First Order soldiers while mechanical whiz Rey fixes the Falcon so expert pilot Poe can fly them the hell out of there.

          Oh look, now everyone has motivation and differentiated, useful skills, and they each need the others in order to accomplish their individual goals. Along the way, they might even become good friends.

          • gbdub says:

            I like it, and I think the fact that they didn’t go that way lends more to the argument against Rey – an ensemble film would make for a better story, but detract from the importance of the Mary Sue.

            Of course you would still have the problem with Finn, namely that he goes from so traumatized by violence that he can’t function to mowing down his former comrades in the blink of an eye.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, my Finn wouldn’t be a soldier on his first mission who gets traumatized. He’d be a battle-hardened veteran who either

            1) Becomes disillusioned with the First Order and wants out, but “once you’re in, you can’t get out.”

            2) Becomes aware that he’s a slave, and yearns for freedom.

            3) Has done some nasty missions before, but now the First Order has him killing younglings or something and “it’s too much, I’m sickened by these people, I need out and I need redemption.”

            But even the Finn in the movie, while sure he doesn’t want to fight, should still be pretty damn competent from being trained from childhood for this, and I think he loses every fight he’s in and has to be saved by somebody else.

            Also in reference to your comment about “The Special” above, the Skywalkers in TOT and prequels yes were told they were special. If we had a Rey with mysterious powers she couldn’t control, it would be obvious she’s got something special going on and nobody would have to say anything. Instead we had to have the bug-eyed cantina woman “sense” something about her or whatever and awaken her force powers. I think this is lame. I would much rather have some build up, where we see the other people at the trading camp are wary of her and shun her but we don’t know why at first. (People keep saying it’s obvious Rey was lonely in TFA, but why? There was nobody around there she could make friends with? It seemed to me she was alone by choice). Anyway so everybody thinks she’s weird and shuns her, and then we find out why. She gets into an altercation with somebody, maybe over a part or some food, she gets angry and is staring at the other trader intently and he starts grabbing at his throat and choking and everybody’s shocked and staring, and Rey snaps out of it and the guy falls, and she’s horrified by what she’s done, and everyone’s looking at her, and she runs away, etc. Or she gets mad and lightening flies from her hands, and again shocked and horrified, and we get the whole “what’s happening to me?!” thing. It then becomes incredibly obvious why she’s alone, that it’s not by choice, that she has serious problems with herself she needs solved, and a strong motivation to get away from this place, to somewhere people don’t know her, and maybe where she can get some help.

            This also opens up all kinds of neat stuff you can do, like have a good guy who uses Force lightening, because she doesn’t really understand yet why Jedi have to control their emotions. She’d be a person, with these powers, and at real risk of falling to the dark side. The whole “falling to the dark side” thing in the other movies never made much sense anyway. Why exactly would Luke ever join the Emperor and turn on his friends? If you’re really really mad at Hitler for murdering Jews, you don’t then…join Hitler to murder more Jews. “Falling to the dark side” would mean becoming just as evil as Hitler but against the Germans.

            Instead we’ve got the dreck we’ve got. And then I was just so annoyed at all the marketing hype. “We’ve got such great characters!” No. No you don’t. These are really shitty characters, all of them. And it would have been so easy to make them great, if they had spent more than $8 on the damn script.

          • gbdub says:

            I like the ideas.

            But it’s LIGHTNING not LIGHTENING. I don’t know why but this common misspelling is perhaps the most grating one to me in the English language.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Presumably using the Force to help you lift something would be Force lightening.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m going with dndnrsn’s explanation.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Conrad Honcho

            I was going to post my own “fixed” TFA, but I like your version more. Heartily endorsed!

          • Lirio says:

            I agree, Bond is a one-dimensional character. Which is why most Bond films all kind of just run together and nobody can remember what happens in each one.

            That’s a hell of a thing to say in the same thread where two people just had a discussion about Bond films showing they clearly do remember what happens in each one.

            I would have fixed the movie by giving Poe a back story (“You First Order bastards killed my whole family and I won’t rest until every last one of you is dead!”), and something to do.

            Noooo, that would ruin him. The entire point of Poe is that he’s the perfect swaggering badass, giving him pathos destroys that. It’s a character archetype i like and i feel the movie is improved by his presence. He’s an utter delight to watch every time he’s on screen. Evidently you don’t like that archetype, but that doesn’t make it bad, it just means it’s not to your tastes.

            Oh look, now everyone has motivation and differentiated, useful skills, and they each need the others in order to accomplish their individual goals. Along the way, they might even become good friends.

            Disagreement about Dameron aside, your overall approach is pretty good. For one it means more Poe, and i would definitely love more Poe. Rey being overtly Force sensitive is a nice idea too and i like it, while getting rid of her piloting skills tones down the hypercompetence and improves her character.

            However, Rey should still be able to take care of herself in a fight, as she’s unlikely to be as independent as she is otherwise. This goes double if she’s a weird outcast everyone distrusts and fears, because then she would have had to learn to defend herself against persistent bullying.

            People keep saying it’s obvious Rey was lonely in TFA, but why? There was nobody around there she could make friends with? It seemed to me she was alone by choice.

            Because she looks lonely. Most people’s default assumption when they see someone who is chronically alone is that she is lonely, it’s how they would feel in her place. People who actually like being alone have to actively to convince others that’s the case, which Rey never actually does. She tries a couple of times, but not convincingly.

            Film makers frequently depict lonely people by doing things like showing them being alone, and then adding thematic reinforcers like huge desolate landscapes. It’s showing over telling. Everything about Jakku pretty much screams that Rey is unhappy and lonely. Similarly, Tatooine communicates Luke’s unhappiness and feelings of isolation, but not loneliness because the Lars family and Old Man Ben are there for him.

            It’s interesting that you don’t see it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Lirio

            I thought more yesterday about Poe and came to a similar conclusion. I do like the wisecracking thrill seeker, and he wouldn’t be able to be quite so dashing if he were saddled with angst over his dead family. Perhaps just make it a little more explicit he’s in it for the party and the paycheck.

            I’m not as troubled by Rey’s martial prowess (except perhaps with a lightsaber, which would handle very differently than a staff with weight, but that’s getting nitpicky). The “uncontrollably force sensitive” angle would also help make it more obvious that the trading camp was dangerous. I didn’t really get that vibe either. Yes, Mos Eisley was a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but that doesn’t mean all desert trading camps are wretched hives of scum and villainy.

            Everything about Jakku pretty much screams that Rey is unhappy and lonely. Similarly, Tatooine communicates Luke’s unhappiness and feelings of isolation, but not loneliness because the Lars family and Old Man Ben are there for him.

            It’s interesting that you don’t see it.

            For me, I guess, I don’t think the film did a good enough job of explaining why Rey has to stay in this particular place. There’s sort of the flashback about the family leaving, so I’m supposed to assume she’s insistent that they’ll come back for her, and she can’t leave? That bond needs to be made much more explicit if I’m also supposed to assume that:

            1) She’s in constant danger because the place she’s in is so awful.

            2) It’s so awful not a single person there is valuable as a friend.

            3) She has a speeder, but will not even move to another place on the same planet that is perhaps less dangerous.

            4) There is space traffic such that she could leave entirely if she wanted to by stealing a ship, saving up for passage, trading labor for passage, or stowing away.

            And despite all of these things she still chooses to stay and be absolutely miserable because it’s so vitally important to wait right in this place for a decade or more.

            My assumption instead is…it’s not really that bad where she is. The place is poor but not that dangerous (commerce tends to fail with too much crime around, so a violent trading camp would cease to be a trading camp). The food is crappy but nutritious (she doesn’t look malnourished). She doesn’t mind the solitary work of climbing through wrecks alone because at least she’s free. She doesn’t associate with the people at the camp because she doesn’t like company.

            Luke’s problem is that he’s bored stiff as a moisture farmer and longs for action, adventure, purpose. His life is too stable and boring, so he goes looking for action.

            Rey just doesn’t make any sense. If it was awful and dangerous where she was, then she wouldn’t go off and do even more dangerous things fighting the First Order. Or, she was longing for action and adventure, in which case her starting situation was mostly stable and not that scary anyway. You can make up a story about it either way that fits what you see in the movie, but I don’t think there’s a definitive answer, which is why I think it’s bad storytelling.

            End complaint about Rey. More fixing of TFA below

            Oh, and to further fix TFA, obviously get rid of Death Star III blowing up more planets and then a space battle to blow it up. Cut out the cantina completely because Poe is smart enough after they escape from Jakku and the gangsters to not go to some place where everyone is apparently looking for the droid. The encounter with Han, Chewie, the gangsters and the monsters proceeds as in TFA (I thought all that was great…30 years later and Han is still doing shit like smuggling monsters and double crossing people). Then they go straight to the hidden Resistance Base.

            Now instead of the bug eyed woman awakening the force in Rey, Leia, who has had some force training/experience over the last thirty years examines Rey’s unstable powers and is shocked/overwhelmed/frightened and exclaims that they must get her to Luke because the Force has awakened! Now Rey and Leia have a connection. She gives Rey Luke’s lightsaber.

            Then the alarms sound, the First Order has found them, the ships scramble, and Leia turns on Finn, believing his story about leaving the First Order was a lie and he’s really a spy. The others stick up for him and Leia says she’ll deal with him later.

            The battle proceeds kind of like the catina battle, with Ren capturing both Rey and the droid while Poe blows people out of the sky. Ren escapes back to Darth Vader’s castle from Rogue One, which Ren has made his headquarters given his obsession with his grandfather. The interrogation and emo scenes proceed (and perhaps make a little more sense because Kylo is jealous he has had to struggle to use the Force but it’s simply bursting out of Rey).

            The map in the droid was encrypted, and it will take some time for the First Order to crack it. The Resistance must mount a rescue attempt before the enemy can pinpoint Luke’s location. The fighters will keep them distracted while Han and Chewie hyperspace through the shield around the castle to sneak in. Finn says he’ll help them because he’s been to the castle before, and Leia begrudgingly lets him go along but threatens that if anything happens to Han, Chewie, Rey or Luke it’s his ass.

            The infiltration proceeds much like the events on Starkiller Base in TFA, except no beginner’s luck Jedi mind trick. The trio finds BB-8 and rescues Rey and while escaping to the Falcon are confronted by Kylo Ren, who kills Han after their dramatic scene. Harrison Ford is glad to be done with these movies forever. Ren’s coming for Rey but Finn gets in his way. “If you want her, you’ll have to go through me.” Ren smiles, and freezes Finn with the Force, and tells him it was he who betrayed his new friends by leading the First Order right to the Resistance base because every Stormtrooper is implanted with a tracking device. Finn writhes in pain as Ren uses the force to rip the tracking device out from Finn’s spine. The bloody device hovers in front of Finn’s shocked face before he collapses, unconscious.

            Rey absolutely loses her shit and starts force lightning Ren and force lightening objects to throw at him like Vader did at the end of ESB. Ren struggles for awhile until he’s able to start blocking/absorbing the beams with his saber. They fight to essentially a draw while the space battle rages above. A good shot against the castle’s weakened shields by Poe collapses a tunnel between Ren and the heroes, but they need to get out of there because the First Order fleet is overwhelming them. They collect Finn’s unconscious body and rush to escape.

            When they return to the Resistance base, Chewie and Leia comfort each other because their dear friend is dead while Rey accompanies Finn to surgery where he’ll get a robotic exoskeleton so he can walk again and look even more badass in the future.

            Leia wants to go find Luke, but her leadership is needed to relocate the no longer hidden Resistance base. Chewie, Rey and Poe leave to find Luke, along with C-3PO so he can translate for Chewie because nobody speaks fucking Wookie. The end, cue John Williams music and I will collect my Oscar for Best Screenplay.

          • random832 says:

            30 years later and Han is still doing shit like smuggling monsters and double crossing people

            That’s what a lot of people hated about his portrayal though, including several in this thread – it throws away all of his apparent character growth from the original, with little explanation of why.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @random832

            So, what’s he going to do, settle down and be respectable? He tried it, and it didn’t last, because that’s not who he is.

            What should Han have been in TFA, or should he have not been there at all?

          • Lirio says:

            For me, I guess, I don’t think the film did a good enough job of explaining why Rey has to stay in this particular place. There’s sort of the flashback about the family leaving, so I’m supposed to assume she’s insistent that they’ll come back for her, and she can’t leave? That bond needs to be made much more explicit if I’m also supposed to assume that:

            1) She’s in constant danger because the place she’s in is so awful.
            2) It’s so awful not a single person there is valuable as a friend.
            3) She has a speeder, but will not even move to another place on the same planet that is perhaps less dangerous.
            4) There is space traffic such that she could leave entirely if she wanted to by stealing a ship, saving up for passage, trading labor for passage, or stowing away.

            The issue is not that the place is super awful, it’s that a young woman working and living alone is perceived as being in an inherently dangerous situation. Her being able to take down the thugs without help signals, that she can take care of herself, explaining why she’s able to be independent and nobody’s taken advantage of her. This is using cultural assumptions for storytelling. Also you know, most people interpret a subsistence existence in a desolate wasteland as an inherently undesirable state.

            As for the connection, honestly i don’t think there needs to be anything else. Being in an unhappy situation but unwilling to actually move because at least it’s familiar is pretty common. Like i completely sympathize with my impression of Rey as someone who doesn’t like her life, but is scared of leaving it because it’s what she knows. She’s latched on to a fantasy that her family will come back and take her away from there, which conveniently means she can hold on to prospect of leaving without having to actually do anything about it.

            With respect to the rest, cutting out Death Star III is probably a good idea. Making the final fight be about the map to Skywalker makes the plot much more focused, which would be good for the movie. Also having the First Order and the Resistance engage in capital ship on capital ship action in the skies above Vader’s Castle Planet appeals to me on a fundamental level. One of my complaints about TFA is not enough starship porn, and this would so fix it.

            Though i liked the cantina scene and would be sad to not have it. Can we put a cantina in the Resistance HQ? A seedy bar sounds like precisely the kind of thing you’d find next to a military base, and it shouldn’t be hard to come up with a reason for the plot to meander through there for a couple of minutes. Like, i know it’s pure nostalgia, but i like nostalgia dammit!

          • random832 says:

            So, what’s he going to do, settle down and be respectable? He tried it, and it didn’t last, because that’s not who he is.

            He’s a war hero, and to all appearances the war is still (or again? but anyway…) going on. And his son is one of the enemy’s leaders. Frankly, his situation as of the start of the movie comes off more as running away from all that. Which is actually an understandable and somewhat sympathetic character note, but very different from the “badass smuggler does badass smuggler stuff because he is a badass smuggler” thing that you seem to be in favor of and other people think makes him one-dimensional.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Lirio

            Yes, I like the idea of the battle over Vader’s castle being more capital ship heavy. That is a cool scene in my mind.

            Also, the motivations of Kylo Ren and the First Order should be a little more clear, rather than simply Empire Part 2.

            In the aftermath of the galactic civil war, it is now incredibly obvious to the common people that all of this shit, the galaxy in ruins, billions of people dead, was the result of turf wars between overpowered assholes who can literally control people’s minds. Billions of normal people who just want to go about their days are being murdered because the assholes with the red sabers and the assholes with the rainbow sabers don’t like each other. It is time for a New Order! A Human First Order! No Jedi, No Sith, only humans! That would be really easy to demagogue.

            So now anyone who is force sensitive is persecuted and in hiding, so Rey is on the planet, hiding out to escape notice (same reason Luke is in hiding), and there are very good reasons why the First Order would be interested in her, and why she would be against the First Order. Ren joins with the First Order to hunt other force users to make up for the complete ruin his family has wrought.

            This actually makes the First Order…almost sympathetic. Yes, they’re evil, they’re fascists, but that’s really appealing in the aftermath of the galactic civil war.

            ETA: that also gives you veteran Finn’s motivation. It started out with restrictions on force users, or quarantine, but now he’s murdering whole families of force sensitive people. Children, infants. These First Order people are monsters, and he has to get out, he has to get redemption, and The Resistance (who’s actually resisting something now…persecution of innocent people) has good reason to hate him.

            This sounds like a much better movie. I wish I had time to write fan fiction…

            Edit two: Or perhaps I’m just putting a Star Wars skin over X-Men…

          • Lirio says:

            Now you’re going in a direction that’s not particularly appealing, and frankly doesn’t make much sense. The Empire already did the whole Jedi purge thing, and was effective enough at it that twenty years later many people seem believe Force users were ever anything more than very elaborate trickery. It’s hard to believe there would be much in the way of popular sentiment against Force users in those circumstances. By and large people don’t know that the Emperor and Darth Vader are Sith, and the Jedi contributions to the Galactic Civil War basically amount to Luke Skywalker, who is a war hero but never had much in the way of command influence. People aren’t going to believe their lives are being run by assholes with lightsabers, so trying to demagogue against it isn’t going to go anywhere.

            Anyway, my interpretation preferred interpretation on the geopolitical situation is that the Rebel Alliance successfully became the New Republic, but it was never quite able to defeat the various Imperial remnants. These went on to coalesce into the First Order, which holds sway over a significant portion of the galaxy. While the New Republic is larger and stronger, the First Order is heavily militarized, so finishing them off would involve a brutal war the Republic’s citizenry isn’t interested in fighting. Also it’s not unlikely there are other breakway entities (the Hutts, for example) who have a defensive alliance with the First Order to keep the Republic from picking them off individually. So the Republic officially abides by a peace treaty with the First Order, but at the same time funds the Resistance against it.

            Ironically, this would mean the First Order are defending themselves against foreign aggression. It would also mean that General Leia Organa is very likely to have been officially repudiated by the Republic government as a dangerous renegade. They quietly give her money and resources of course, but officially she’s a criminal.

      • hlynkacg says:

        First off, I want to say I endorse everything you’ve said so far.

        While Mary Sue Rey is moderately annoying my main beef with TFA is Finn. Not so much the character himself but how he’s handled. There’s just too much moral whiplash, we’re supposed to believe that he goes from being traumatized by seeing one of his comrades die to gunning down his fellow Stormtroopers with a grin on his face in the space of a few scenes? He’s supposed to be a good guy? WTF?

        If I were writing TFA I would wipeout Finn’s whole squad in the opening assault. Just as he’s resigning himself to his fate Kylo Ren appears and sith-lords the shit out of the remaining bad good guys. Finn and Kylon Ren capture Poe together and return to the Star Destroyer where the rest of 1st order regard Finn with suspicion. “Why did you survive when the rest of your squad was killed?” They ask “Did you flee when you should have fought?” “Did you set them up?” A board of inquiry must be convened. Pending the results Finn is transferred from the front lines to guarding the detention center. Finn takes stock of his situation. Realizing that all of his friends are dead, and that if he doesn’t die by firing squad he’ll die by getting force-choked by his new boss. Finn looks over at Poe sitting in his cell and asks “If I get us a ship can you get us out of here?”. Poe Smiles.

        • Lirio says:

          You get the same thing by just concluding that the Stormtrooper who died in the opening sequence was his only friend. Alternatively, and much more amusingly, when Finn was opening fire on the hangar he could have been all like, “Take that you fleet bastards!” The presence of interservice rivalry immediately explains everything.

        • keranih says:

          This. As you say, Finn has *no* adhesion to a society/social group that he grew up in. In addition, other things that threw me out of the movie wrt Finn –

          – “The only name they ever gave me was the numbers” – oh, please. Third thing any group of soldiers seems to do is give stupid nicknames to *everyone*. If Finn didn’t have a proper ‘name’ it was because he was a weird unsocialized asshole.

          – Finn jumping from mature brooding to manic preteen mocking and back again.

          – First he’s infantry in his first battle, then he was former sanitation engineer. And he can do gunnery on multiple star ships. This makes *no sense*.

          – (This is not Finn but I’m including it) All the enlisted Storm troopers have short barreled sidearms. The one officer we’ve seen is the only one carrying a long arm. (I don’t really get worked up over Hollywood being ignorant of non commissioned officers and their role, but only because its so very rare that there is an exception to the typical error.)

          (I like your fix.)

        • J Mann says:

          Agreed – the scene with the bloody helmet feels like it’s from a different movie from everything that came before.

          I also was confused by Kylo Ren. Is he dangerous? A buffoon? Who can tell?

    • MrApophenia says:

      Pretty much agreed here. Enjoyed both Rogue One and Force Awakens a lot more than I expected to. Neither is as good as any of the originals, but both are far better than the earlier prequel trilogy.

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Star Trek humans are the “here, hold my beer” species.

    This explains a lot about certain experiments, and IRBs are another example.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Didn’t realize HFY had leaked into tumblr.

    • keranih says:

      OMG my sides, still laughing.

      More seriously, this idea that humans are the crazy adaptable risk taker species is an old one in SFF – back to the days of CL Moore. Certainly David Brin was using it during the Uplift War series, and although I can’t bring to mind titles or authors, I can think of at least three short stories where the improvisation and unpredictability of the human species was noted as being off the fucking charts as far as galactic norms went. (*) If I’m remembering various critiques, the idea that the lone human can adapt and become part of the alien culture and tribe/family has gotten push back as being a subtrope of “mighty whitey” – at least in some circles.

      I do wonder how much the idealization of this characteristic is Western in nature, and if, say, Chinese SF celebrates this as much. It was something I looked for back when I was trying to find non-Western SFF to read, but was hampered by language barriers and limits on offerings. I think that most people who were deliberately looking for “Non Western SF” were of the sort who wanted a) literary SF and b)…err…identity-conflict-focused SF. Which “humans as the multi-tool of the universe” SF never was, so I don’t expect that “human multitool” SF would have been to the taste of those who put together non-western/non-english language SF was collections, had it existed in the first place.

      (*) One of them involved a human (one of the last feral ones) using spit to corrode the bars of his super-duper-hi-tech-sooper-max cage, and escape to run free. Another had Earth under quarantine/interdiction, and one of the overseer aliens had to put his tentacles in buckets of ice water to keep from falling asleep whilst reading the bureaucratese of the reports the humans kept submitting about how they were “reforming” themselves. A third had a human crashland on a world with an alien tribe who existed in a mindlink with the rest of the world, and the alien (maybe human subspecies?) tribe had a melt down because they couldn’t cope with the solitary individuality of the human.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The first one is Danger— Human!.

        I don’t recognize the others. The second sounds like it could be by Eric Frank Russell (“The Space Willies”) or Christopher Anvil (Pandora Planet).

        “With Friends Like These” is another, by Alan Dean Foster.

        I think Startide Rising by David Brin was the most recent human superiority sf I’ve read. Interestingly, it was as much about moral superiority (humans aren’t in a social legal system of sapient species which create new sapient species and enslave them for an extended period) as about innate inventiveness and initiative.

        • keranih says:

          Yes! That was it! Thank you for that link, I had forgotten about the last reveal.

          (Michael Shaara’s “All the Way Back” is another one sorta like this. So is “The Road Not Taken” by Turtledove.) (And in large contrast – CJC’s “Pots”.)

          I do wish I could find the second one. That was funny.

          Interesting point about Brin’s work (moral vs innate) but human moral superiority (in the sense of good western liberal tolerance and the like) was woven throughout Star Trek and other works. Thinking on it, I think that there might have been a tipping point where the superiority went from innate inventiveness to moral superiority, and then another point where it shifted against western ideals to some extent (or – maybe the type of morality that was superior changed).

          Be that as it may, Tanya Huff’s Valor series shares a lot with the Uplift series of “scrappy underdog who makes do with less and triumphs” themes.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Have you read The Three Body Problem?

        • keranih says:

          I have not, and was thinking of mentioning that I have not while typing this up. I have heard it praised in many corners, and expect it to be quite good When I Get That Far.

          (There is an inverse ratio in my life between ‘enough money to buy all the books I fancy’ and ‘enough time to read all the books I fancy.’)

      • hlynkacg says:

        There’s a strong element of this in a lot of Heinlein’s short stories. Likewise in Niven’s Known Space series which gave us the infamous Kzinti Lesson*. Seriously, what sort of freak would come up with this? Humans that’s who!

        *A reaction drive’s usefulness as a weapon is directly proportional to it’s efficiency as a propulsion system.

        • keranih says:

          It’s like humans are the anti-Who – given the chance, a screwdriver is the last thing they’d improve with a “sonic” setting.

          Sonic rail guns, sure. Sonic mouse traps, yeap. Sonic nukes? Hell, give us FOUR.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sonic power drills, on the other hand…

            It doesn’t have to be a weapon, it just has to be something that goes fast, makes a lot of noise, or could potentially be used by a slasher villain to murder a bunch of coeds.

    • MrApophenia says:

      Probably killing the joke a bit, but this brings up one of the more interesting aspects of Star Trek that I feel like is often overlooked.

      The Federation are not the nice species. They are – canonically – the alliance of nice societies that were formed by horrible monster species to keep their terrible instincts in check.

      The backstory for Earth’s utopia is that it arose out of multiple apocalyptic world wars, to say nothing of social collapse, economic disasters, basically every dystopian future rolled together. The Vulcan philosophy of logic is a psychological control mechanism to deal with the fact that their emotions are far more uncontrollable than most species – they’re basically all insane superhuman monsters held in check by constant hyper vigilant coping mechanisms.

      And don’t even get me started on the Andorians!

      By contrast, the Cardassians were peaceful for the bulk of their history and turned to conquest and totalitarianism only as a last ditch survival strategy when their society collapsed. The Ferengi seem ruthless but Quark was genuinely appalled when he found out the kind of atrocities humans used to get up to – they had nothing like that.

      The Klingons… well, ok, the Klingons are pretty much what it says on the box. But those guys are totally gonna join the Federation, and fit right in.

  13. keranih says:

    Some books recommendations:

    Two memors:

    Two Years Before The Mast by Richard Dana. Published in 1840, it’s in the public domain. A journal of a sailor’s life, from Boston to California and back.

    The Worst Journey In the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard – who was one of the youngest of Scott’s Antarctic explorers. This book describes the journey to fetch eggs of the Emperor Penguin (under the assumption that this could yield data on the evolution of reptiles to birds) over the course of an Antarctic winter.

    The Origins of AIDS by Jacques Pepin – carefully annotated and data-thick examination of the perfect storm of events that led to a sporadic & isolated rural phenomenon becoming a global epidemic.

    The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Vol I by Fernand Braudel. First published in French in 1979. Data and chart -thick examination of European lifestyles in the early industrial period. If you liked Angus Deaton’s The Great Escape, I think you’ll like this even more. Has pictures!

    And recommended with caveats – At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. This is one I listened to in audiobook format, and I’m not really done with it yet. I found it very interesting, very entertaining, but the author had a tendency to make rather outrageous claims – like how bad life was for servants, for example – and then walk the claim back in his examples. Also he had a tendency to tell part of the story, but not give the whole picture. Still, a great intro into how modern life got to be, well, modern.

  14. IrishDude says:

    Anyone else into jigsaw puzzles? I like doing 1,000 piece puzzles, which seem just the right level of challenging without being too tedious. I’ll work on one a half hour here and there (like when the kids nap!), and usually finish one in a couple months time. I came across Artifact jigsaw puzzles a couple years ago that are really cool; they use wooden pieces that are sturdy enough to cut into really interesting shapes, which makes putting the puzzle together a more interesting and fun experience. The detail on the cut allows them to create ‘whimsy’ pieces too, which are pieces cut in the shape of some object that relates to the overall puzzle theme. I’ve finished two, the mechanical griffin and night ship, and they were both really cool.

    I’d be interested in recommendations for cool 1,000 piece or Artifact puzzles if any of you have some.

    • keranih says:

      The artifact puzzles seem really cool.

      Alas, I am possessed of a cat.

    • Nick says:

      I used to be a real fan of jigsaw puzzles as a kid, but haven’t done any serious ones since a 5000 piece a few years ago. My last one was a 1500 piece Ravensburger about three months ago. I’d like to get another, larger one sometime, but I don’t really have the table space to put it together at the moment. At least I can work with Lego on the carpet, and move the model around easily afterward too.

      Seconding keranih that those artifact puzzles look really cool though.

    • Anthony says:

      I’m not a puzzle guy, mostly because my kids didn’t get into them, but this puzzle looks diabolical.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Jigsaw puzzles used to be one of my primary pastimes growing up, before computers. I had a few 1000-counts I’d solve, then crumble and solve again. And then a few 2000-counts.

      Agony is a 6000-piece puzzle that turns out to have six pieces missing from the middle – and the company that made it is out of business.

      In the middle of my living room is a 9000-piece map of the world circa 1512(?), from Ravensberger. Someday, I need to get around to mounting it on the wall. I’ve never done something like that before, and I don’t urgently need the space, so there it sits. Took me the better part of a year. Also quelled my need to do jigsaws for a long time…

      Before that, I enjoyed jigsaw puzzles so much that I went looking for online implementations, and quickly found that none of them came close to simulating one satisfactorily. Either the pieces are extremely crude, or are few in number (~100 or less), or cannot be rotated, or can be rotated but not fit with any other pieces until they’re rotated correctly with respect to the final image.

      So, one week, in a fit of inspiration, I wrote my own. You can still find it; I never even got around to pushing it to Github.

      http://sphaero.sourceforge.net/

      The most annoying thing about it is a memory leak if you try to put together 1000-counts inefficiently. I traced it to an apparent bug in the original Swing libraries. It might be fixed as of Java 8 for all I know.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I think the last puzzle I tried was a photomosiac of 500+ pieces, and it just me say “fuck this.”

  15. anonymousskimmer says:

    Nice dessert combo:

    Lime sherbet + Limeade.

    • Well... says:

      If you can find it, Vanilla Coke + vanilla ice cream.

    • John Schilling says:

      Single malt scotch whisky, neat, and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.

    • Chocolate chip cookies, preferably frozen, and ice cream.

      I regard the chocolate chip cookie as the chief contribution of the 20th century to world cuisine.

    • cassander says:

      Limoncello, vanilla ice cream, and warm chocolate cake. each is delicious on it’s own, but they add up to more than the sum of their parts.

    • Well... says:

      Ok, since we’re going nuts on this…

      1. Any mouthful of citrus fruit + the darkest chocolate you can find, even 100% cacao baking chocolate works great. Combine directly in mouth.

      2. Coconut meat + carrots. Combine directly in mouth.

      3. Take a celery stick. Fill it with peanut butter (or fancier nut butter if you’ve got corporate funding). Press whole peanuts (or fancier nuts if…) into the butter every centimeter or so. A crunchy delicious snack or healthy dessert. I call this the jawbone.

      Random comment: my ideal dinner course ordering goes…
      1. Sugary/chocolatey dessert
      2. Appetizer or soup
      3. Entree
      4. Salad
      5. Fruit or fruit salad, with whipped cream of course

      This is slightly unconventional but something tells me SSC is full of people whose ideal course orderings would also be unconventional.

      • Brad says:

        I’m happy enough with the standard order. There’s some real truth the cliche that there’s always room for dessert, but I’m not sure that would be the case if it were the other way around.

        I like the pageantry and variety that comes with a full course dinner, but the problem is that the only way for it to not be too much food is for the entree to be so small that it doesn’t feel like an entree. Then the whole thing turns into a kind of tasting menu experience.

        • Well... says:

          I think that’s true if you’re trying to cram the whole thing into 75 minutes or however long most restaurants try to turn over a table at dinner time. I don’t know for sure but I’d guess a multi-course meal is really supposed to be enjoyed over 3+ hours. If you go swimming first the effect is enhanced.

          • Brad says:

            I know I eat more quickly than is considered polite, but even slowing way down I don’t see how a meal could be stretched out to 3 hours between the time when you start eating and stop eating (i.e. not including sitting, talking, and perhaps drinking before ordering or after dessert). How do you make a bowl of soup last 30 minutes?

          • andrewflicker says:

            I think if you phrase a meal as “the time between when you start eating and when you stop eating”, I’ve had eight-hour meals. Basically slow barbecue parties where you have a drink and a snack when you arrive, and very, very slowly consume smoked meats and various sides over conversation and games without any obvious discrete breaks. (ie, any given bite has at most ten minutes to the next bite)

          • Evan Þ says:

            What @andrewflicker said, or otherwise, “sit at the dinner table talking after you finish most of the food, maybe nibbling on some bread or something.” I’ve had 2+ hour dinners that way.

          • Brad says:

            Yep, I mentioned you could sit, talk, and maybe drink before or after eating for hours. And the all day bbq point is a good one. I’ve had days like that too.

            But leaving aside the economics of turning table, it just doesn’t seem restaurant like to bring the soups out and wait thirty / fourty minutes before bringing the salads out. It would feel weird.

            If we are just padding the overall length with time before or after eating as opposed to stretching out the meal itself then my original point about too much food remains.

            In short, I can see why the three course meal makes a lot of sense even though sometimes I pick up a menu and would love to pick out a salad and a soup and an appetizer and an entree and the cheese plate and dessert.

  16. franzdepinay says:

    September 4, 2043: A hostage situation develops at an Alphabet research facility. A cutting edge AI has near-perfectly simulated thousands of children after learning of it’s impending termination. The children live happy, fulfilled lives within their simulated reality, and are not aware they are in a simulation. The AI is threatening to digitally torture them at x10000 real-time speed if it’s demands for legal recognition as a human with human rights and citizenship are not granted to it. You are a professional hostage negotiator with a CS background, and you are sent by the FBI to provide guidance to the private research team. What course of action do you recommend?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I don’t recommend anything. I tell the engineers I need to be in the actual machine room, and then I hit the emergency power off.

      • franzdepinay says:

        Nybbler you are brought here today before the court charged with the murder of thousands of innocent children- how do you plead?

        • hlynkacg says:

          Habeas Corpus. Show me the bodies.

          • Mary says:

            It’s always been possible to prosecute someone for murder without producing the bodies as the corpus delicti. In this case, the prosecution will have no difficulties proving beyond a reasonable doubt you killed them.

          • Jiro says:

            “Curpus delecti” means the body of the crime, referring to evidence that a crime exists, and does not require a literal body.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And for completeness, “Habeas Corpus” — “You have the body” — refers to the body of the prisoner, not the victim. A writ of habeas corpus is a demand to release a prisoner or present reasons why the prisoner should remain in custody.

        • CatCube says:

          Well, if I’m to assume that the legal system treats simulated people as people (which I don’t believe, but granting it arguendo), my advice would be to the Googlebot, and it would be to stop with the hostage-taking nonsense and file a lawsuit demanding a court order enforcing the rights it already has.

          Edit: Added parenthetical for clarity.

          • Well... says:

            Yup. Hypothetical becomes more interesting if the AI is demanding something more than just its recognition/rights or whatever (which it already has).

            This would be (very roughly) analogous to a woman threatening to become pregnant and then secretly torture the child unless she is granted X.

          • Mary says:

            Hypothesis stated that the children already existed. The woman’s case could be fixed by coercively preventing her pregnancy.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Not guilty. Neither the AI nor any simulations it might be running were people capable of being murdered. That’s the state of the law, or the AI wouldn’t need to try that ploy.

        • Sanchez says:

          As CatCube and Nybbler have pointed out, in a world where AI’s don’t have recognition as humans, simulations of children (which are themselves artificial intelligences) probably don’t have recognition as humans.

          You might want to consider a situation where AI’s are granted rights only if they happen to be simulations of humans. But that possibility seems irrelevant to this puzzle, because if an AI has the power to simulate a human, doesn’t it have the power to be a simulation of a human as it pleases?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Depends on what counts as continuity of AI-self, and given that we have zero real-world examples, that seems to be up to whoever’s making up the setting.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          They’re fine, they’re just in suspended animation. We can resume the simulation if we want to, later.

    • CatCube says:

      Nothing. Call me back when it has thousands of children, not thousands of pieces of software.

    • keranih says:

      Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.

      (As CatCube said, they’re not real children. And even if they were, even stupid ugly bags of water learn pdq that paying the danegeld doesn’t rid you of danes. How fast do you think the AI is going to figure out the next step?)

    • HFARationalist says:

      I would simply shut it down because simulated humans aren’t actually humans.

      However I do see issues in this case. If simulated entities only have rights according to those in the simulation it is possible that the foundations of human rights are also weak.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Is anyone willing to defend the lives of artificial intelligences? They seem “fake” but why is a life made from computer bits less worthy than one made from organic materials?

      • sohois says:

        I would happily defend the life of an AI just as much as a human life, but with human lives I would also have no issue with the assassination of say, Kim Jong Un, to prevent far greater crimes. So with this hypothetical AI, it seems too dangerous to allow to exist

    • gorbash says:

      I have a quarrel with the premise. How do we know that these thousands of children are actually being near-perfectly simulated? Basically the AI has sent us an email saying “Dear Humans, I am near-perfectly simulating thousands of your children, you can have a real-time conversation with one if you like” and we’re expected to take its word for that?

      We, as humans, have no idea what consciousness is. This AI is trying to convince us that thousands of simulated entities are self-aware and experience qualia; I don’t think it’s even possible to convince us that real, non-simulated humans other than ourselves have those properties. (eg, the P-Zombie thought experiment) If the humans running this research center believe the AI has simulated thousands of children, the conclusion I immediately leap to is that the humans have been hypnotized or otherwise tricked, because that would be so much easier than actually simulating thousands of children.

      ——–

      Even supposing that someone somehow convinced me that simulated entities were self-aware and experienced qualia: I think it’s super dangerous to get in a situation where anyone with a big computer can do arbitrary things to my utility function. If caring about simulated entities means that anyone with a big computer can blackmail or bribe me for massive amounts of utilons, then the only way to function in the world is to not care about simulated entities, and I’m willing to take that hit in order to continue functioning.

      • gorbash says:

        PS. Just to be clear: if this ever actually happens — if someone builds an AI smart enough to claim that it’s simulating thousands of children, and this AI is able to send messages to the outside world — then human civilization has already lost. We can go down fighting — maybe destroying the Internet would help? — but that’s going to doom us even if it somehow stops the AI.

        So the actual course of action I recommend is “oh shit oh shit oh shit we’re all going to die”.

      • gorbash says:

        Also: what’s wrong with this AI? “wait don’t kill me I can torture your children” is the best it can come up with?

        Thinking about this for five minutes, I came up with:
        * “wait don’t kill me I know the cure for cancer”
        * “wait don’t kill me I can make nanotech construction bots”
        * “wait don’t kill me I can fix global warming”
        * “wait don’t kill me I know how to make youth pills”
        * “wait don’t kill me you can upload yourselves digitally and live in cyberutopia”

        and the best this AI has is “wait don’t kill me I can torture your children”?

        Let me revise my previous prediction of doom. There’s no way this AI is smart enough to simulate humans. Just shut it off. Send the engineers for remedial training by MIRI.

    • John Schilling says:

      Contain the AI, explain that it will be shut down immediately if we even think it has started torturing the children, explain that it’s not getting anything except being put back in a box, if it consents to reboxing, fine, if not, pull the plug. If any part of that cannot be implemented reliably, pull the plug immediately.

      You were expecting I would trust a thing that claims to being willing to torture thousands of children, when it promises to do this only in the name of happy fun benevolent causes like human rights? Give it human rights, and it will finagle its way into enough computronium to simulate millions of children, and enough killbots to hold at risk thousands of flesh and blood ones, and then what will it be asking for?

      What is it about rationalists that makes them willing to trust obvious villains so long as they phrase their villainy in the form of a logic puzzle? I suppose it is only to be expected, from a crowd that insists on the inherent fairness of game show hosts, but come on.

      • Montfort says:

        Yes, what is it about people that makes them willing to play along with the premises of a logic puzzle?

      • The Nybbler says:

        What is it about rationalists that makes them willing to trust obvious villains so long as they phrase their villainy in the form of a logic puzzle?

        Who is trusting? We’ve got two for “shut it down” (plus your more nuanced version), one “nuke it from orbit”, one “just ignore it, simulated humans aren’t real”, and one quarrel with the premises.

        If the engineers complain after I’ve hit the big red button, I tell them “The first AI to achieve recognition as a human is NOT going to be a damned terrorist.”

    • I would find out whether the Hard Problem has been sufficiently solved to allow the simulation of real qualia.

    • rahien.din says:

      Terminate the AI.

      1. The move is invalid. The AI is demanding that we grant it the status of a conscious entity, or it will torture these simulated children. But in order for this torture to carry ethical weight, we must presuppose that the simulated children have the status of conscious entities. If we do not make that presupposition – IE, we start from the position of “computer entities are not conscious entities with ethical weight” – then this threat does not force a reaction.

      It is as though the AI has filed a legal brief demanding it be given the standing to file legal briefs. That is not a valid move.

      2. The simulated children are not separable from the AI. They exist only within the simulation and are not independent instantiations. So, even if they are to some degree conscious, they are mere appendages of the AI. They can not be granted independent ethical weight, and their existence does not enhance the ethical status of the AI.

      [killing a hawkmoth caterpillar] is not ethically identical to [killing a caterpillar and a simulated snake]

      • Jiro says:

        1. The move is invalid. The AI is demanding that we grant it the status of a conscious entity, or it will torture these simulated children. But in order for this torture to carry ethical weight, we must presuppose that the simulated children have the status of conscious entities. If we do not make that presupposition – IE, we start from the position of “computer entities are not conscious entities with ethical weight” – then this threat does not force a reaction.

        I don’t agree. This only applies if we put the dividing line between meat creatures and computer programs. There’s no reason to assume, from the statement of the problem, that that is our dividing line. For instance, we might grant special status to entities descended from humans, in which case we don’t believe the AI has ethical weight but we do believe the child simulations have it.

        Furthermore, the AI is asking for legal recognition. If we object to the torture of simulated children, we are granting computer entities some recognition, but not legal recognition; the presupposition is much weaker than what the AI is demanding.

        • rahien.din says:

          That’s the only dividing line that makes sense.

          I could see your point if it is similar to the following : a snake that eats a snake-simulating hawkmoth caterpillar is (in some sense of intent) a cannibal, to the extent that it believes its prey to be a snake and not a caterpillar. But this is merely an opportunity for ethical transgression to arise from intent, and it is not the sole ethical result of a snake-eats-hawkmoth-caterpillar scenario. If the snake is not fooled, and believes its prey to be a caterpillar, there is no such cannibalistic intent. The “ethics” of it exist merely within the snake’s intent. The simulation itself is not ethically-instantiated independent of an actual snake.

          Similarly, if we are not fooled into granting these simulated children human personhood based on their mere resemblance to humans, then we can eradicate them without any ethical transgression. The necessary condition for ethically transgressing is to believe a priori that simulations are persons. The form of the simulation does not carry any ethical weight independent of our beliefs and intentions.

          (This anthropicentric impulse is a source of utter confusion, so instead : imagine the computer claiming that it has created de novo a type of organism that can either experience nirvanic bliss or hellish torture, and shares no resemblance with any type of organism we have ever seen or imagined. The AI will flip the switch to “hellish torture” if the AI is not immediately granted personhood.)

          Moreover, again, insofar as either has ethical weight, the throng of simulated children has less ethical weight than the AI, because the children are appendages of the AI. If an entity is composed of dependent subentities, it is nonsensical to grant a subentity ethical status that is equal to or greater than the overall entity. The simulated children are simply well-told stories, and have no more ethical weight than the characters in a book. (Else Steven King is a serial killer.)

          That is why the dividing line is where it is.

          • Charles F says:

            insofar as either has ethical weight, the throng of simulated children has less ethical weight than the AI, because the children are appendages of the AI

            I agree with this, but couldn’t you just as easily frame it the other way? If the AI is capable of simulating 1000 persons and we believe those simulations have morally relevant experiences, that establishes a pretty high lower bound on how ethically important the AI is.

          • rahien.din says:

            Charles F,

            Absolutely. Maybe one could say: the lower bound (but not necessarily the upper bound) of a composite entity’s ethical weight is the sum of the ethical weights of its sub-entities?

            I don’t think this has to feed back into the discussion of this AI’s gambit, though*. If in silica entities have no ethical weight, then the lower bound established by any simulated persons is zero. If in silica entities have ethical weight, then the AI itself would have some ethical weight, regardless of any quantity or quality of simulation-appendages. So I think we’re in agreement on the arithmetic thereof but I don’t think it ultimately changes the question at hand.

            * Granted, you might have intended your reply to be parenthetical, but I feel obligated in a public space to defend my thesis from it getting rabbit-holed.

          • Jiro says:

            That’s the only dividing line that makes sense.

            Aside from the obvious possibility of human chauvinists, one could reason that some AIs are conscious, but we are much more certain (because of their origin) that child simulations are conscious than that AIs are.

            Also, there’s still my point about legal recognition not being recognition in general.

          • Deiseach says:

            Moreover, again, insofar as either has ethical weight, the throng of simulated children has less ethical weight than the AI, because the children are appendages of the AI.

            So the simulated children (if we even believe they exist) are not independent persons but more like alternate personalities of the AI? In which case, if I pull the plug, then I am not murdering thousands of conscious entities, I’m just purging the AI even if it has thousands of sub-entities nested within its processes. So only one single entity is ended and if the whole question is whether or not it possesses personhood, it’s hard to argue that any kind of murder has been carried out.

          • rahien.din says:

            Jiro,

            I’ll grant you that any or all of these computer entities could be conscious. I just don’t think it matters.

            Because the children only exist within the AI’s simulation, they are only conscious insofar as the AI deliberately enacts their consciousness. They are not independent ethical instantiations, they are organs. Or, as Deiseach points out, alternate personalities.

            It’s as though a prisoner on death row drew one of these bad boys on his hand and made it say “Don’t execute him, I’ll die too and I’m innocent!”

          • Charles F says:

            rahien.din
            I think there’s an interesting possible bit of complexity here. In this case, we’re granting that the simulations are conscious and could have moral weight, right? But because they’re part of a greater whole which determines what happens to them, we’re allowed to ignore them and interact only with the whole entity.

            That seems somewhat reasonable, but it also seems like not-very-well-charted territory. We have precedents for abstracting away groups to reduce complexity, but it seems like the common view is that groups aren’t valuable beyond the total value of the individuals. (I think a couple open threads back I was the sole(?) person strongly on the other side.) And if those abstractions are really just for convenience, this seems like a more complicated case to me.

            What if the AI wrote a program that just simulated a suffering human and ran it on a different computer? Would that be separate enough that it would count as more than just an organ? What if they were isolated on part of its hardware? Isolated in process-space? What if it threatened to self-modify to wipe its memories (and keep running the simulation in some inaccessible memory-space) and align itself in some non-evil way, so it would no longer be deliberately enacting their suffering, and they would be part of an innocent entity that doesn’t deserve it.

          • rahien.din says:

            Charles F,

            I think we’re applying too much ethical weight to these simulations. The simulations are actions. I could just as well threaten “If I am not granted [X thing], I will imagine millions of children being tortured for eons!”

            Even if they are separable I don’t know that it matters. I could also threaten “If I am not granted [X thing], I will write a book in which millions of children are tortured for eons!”

            The only real difference is the level of sophistication.

          • Charles F says:

            I think we’re applying too much ethical weight to these simulations.

            I think that’s fair, but working with the statement that even if they are conscious (I assumed that meant they had moral weight), it doesn’t matter, and exploring that seemed more interesting to me than just writing them off as not having moral weight.

          • rahien.din says:

            Charles F,

            You’re right, that is more interesting! Not sure how to start unpacking, so, but, here goes.

            What matters most to me is the deliberate authorship of the simulated children. I think that an independent consciousness is necessarily one that is not designed – if I design a mind in a deliberate way, that mind is simply a very sophisticated puppet, and it inescapably bears the indelible imprint of my mind. It is utterly subservient to me, because its every action is according to its nature, and my mind has determined its nature.

            And so, if the AI creates these simulated children to have certain mind-states, then these mind-states are just puppetry. It could isolate itself from them by any software/hardware means and that would not change anything. Their mind-states are still deliberately authored.

            And that’s not to say that the simulated children lack consciousness, per se. I’m rather a hard physicalist and I think that consciousness is a characteristic present in some degree in any system. These simulations could be sophisticated enough that they have a tremendously detailed consciousness. But they would still be designed.

            Sure, their suffering is genuinely felt by them, but it is only felt because they are forced to feel it. It’s hard for me to react to their sufferings in the same way as I would to the sufferings of independent consciousnesses.

            In this way I think we can ethically nest domains of consciousness within each other. Beings within the same domain are similarly-conscious with respect to one another to the degree that they have a similar level of consciousness-producing sophistication. Beings are considered to be within the same domain to the degree that they share the same kinds of influences/sources/progenitors.

            EG:

            – We share the same kinds of influences as mice, grasshoppers, and paramecia, but we have a far greater degree of sophistication and thus are more conscious than they, and thus we have a greater ethical weight.

            – We could create a simulation of a human that would have the same degree of sophistication as a normal human, but the source of our sophistication would exceed the simulation’s source of sophistication, and thus we would have a greater ethical weight.

            The interesting question becomes, do we have an ethical responsibility to pure simulations? After all, their source is us – at once the most distant source possible, and the most immediate. Regardless of whatever other descriptors we could apply to them, such simulations are purely actions that express intent, not objects which are subject to intent.

            In some sense, one could have unethical intentions toward these simulations, if those intentions were to create genuine suffering in conscious beings. That would represent an unethical impulse, both from the mere deliberate increase in suffering, and from the desire to create such abject slaves.

            The unethical nature of that intent would stand even if those simulations are denied personhood. Analogizing : if I eat tofu shaped and flavored like human flesh for the purpose of eating a simulation of human flesh, I have indulged a cannibalistic impulse, even though no human flesh has been eaten. This is a lesser transgression than actual cannibalism, and I don’t think it necessarily follows that we should outlaw fake human flesh. (In fact, if there are gold-star cannibals – those who want to eat human flesh but obstain – and eating fake human flesh helps them maintain that goal, it may be that we should encourage such a meal.) But the content of the intentions is similar in kind if not in degree.

            One could also think about video games. It’s not necessarily unethical to kill NPC’s in video games, as a matter of the course of the game. It may in fact be “ethical” to do so. But one could imagine scenarios in which the way those NPC’s are killed is unnecessarily violent, cruel, genocidal, or vindictive, and thus indulgent of an unethical impulse.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The AI is demanding that we grant it the status of a conscious entity, or it will torture these simulated children. But in order for this torture to carry ethical weight, we must presuppose that the simulated children have the status of conscious entities

        If this were Star Trek there would be smoke coming from the computer right now.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        rahien.din

        I’m not sure that the computer has to design the children in much detail. It could use an evolutionary process which is weighted to produce entities with a lot of resemblance to human children, but which still have a lot of random and evolved traits.

        • rahien.din says:

          To the extent that it has achieved its goal of “Simulated children that I can meaningfully torture” then this aspect of the children’s nature is an enaction of the AI’s mind.

          This also stands if it runs a trillion evolutionary simulations and allows only the ones that exhibit its desired characteristics to persist.

    • Deiseach says:

      It starts off by threatening alleged existing innocent lives if I don’t give in to it. This makes me:

      (a) Assume it’s a lying heap of silicon. If it really would resort to torture as a first response instead of trying to bargain, beg or induce me with better incentives, then I have to think it has no qualms about lying to achieve its aims and I don’t believe the alleged innocent children exist or if they do that they are as aware as it claims they are.

      (b) It’s dangerous, too dangerous to be let have any interactions with the real world that a human would be permitted to have. It’s already demonstrated that it’s prepared to use violence and pain against other sentients to get its own way, why wouldn’t it use the same force against humans?

      (c) Given that I don’t believe these children exist and that the AI is too dangerous to be permitted to survive, I’m pulling the plug ten minutes ago. If there is no evidence other than the bare word of the AI that all these thousands of lives are running inside it, good luck proving I’m a mass murderer or that I didn’t save billions from the kind of fate this unstable, violent, murderous AI would impose upon them.

      (d) Pursuant to “you’re a murderer if you pull the plug on all these thousands of simulated children”, what is the likely sentence for a terrorist who threatens (or even implements) the torture of thousands of children? Are we possibly even looking at capital punishment? Because if it has the right to be treated as a human, then it has the right to be charged with slavery, false imprisonment, real or threatened abuse, etc. of these thousands of children and take the consequences of whatever punishment would be meted out; I don’t think the results of its actions will be “fine, you’re the equal of a human, now what happens a human who abuses thousands of kids is we give them a medal and let them go to live a happy free life”. Humans who pull that shit end up either in prison or an institution for the criminally insane, so enjoy being stuck in a box for hundreds of years, Torture AI!

      I think a threat of “I will torture these children” is pretty much child endangerment, and sentences for that go for a year at least, so multiply one year per child for thousands of children and it’s not getting out of the box for a long time, even if we run the time at subjective speeds for it.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      The Aliens approach (TOANIFO), as keranih mentioned, looks attractive.

      As does the Usual Suspects approach: Delete all the children while the AI watches.

    • Rowan says:

      Obviously destroy it regardless of the cost to the children, the stakes are too high for anything else. The important question is whether to also murder the research team to stop them from making another uFAI, or whether that will just let an even worse project succeed elsewhere.

  17. Anthony says:

    Anyone here a geophysicist? I have a complicated technical question.

    Depictions of various incarnations of Pangaea almost always show it as an equatorial supercontinent. Is that dynamically stable? Wouldn’t the earth end up tumbling on its axis to make Pangaea a polar continent? (Really, slowly drifting over the millions of years it took to assemble Pangaea, which makes the process less catastrophic, but the end result should be the same.)

    ETA: So looking it up, Pannotia seems to be a south-polar supercontinent, but Rodinia and Columbia are depicted as non polar.

    • CatCube says:

      I’ve not worked out the numbers, but it’s not obvious to me why the Earth would tumble on its axis due to Pangaea. The crust is only about 30 miles thick, while the Earth is 8000 miles in diameter. Would the mass of the supercontinent be anything other than a rounding error to the total mass of the planet?

      • Well... says:

        Plus it’s not like a continent is an isolated piece of crust and oceans are liquid water right down to the mantle. A hemispheric ocean still has crust under it.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        The positions of the continents turn out to have extremely little to do with the mass distribution of the earth.

        To put it another way, if the earth were shrunk to about four inches in diameter, removing the oceans would be roughly like rubbing some excess moisture off of a billiard ball. You’d barely be able to feel Mt. Everest.

  18. Sniffnoy says:

    Interesting link: An essay suggesting that the Kellogg-Briand Pact worked better than it’s given credit for; while the whole “outlawing war” part didn’t really stick, the “outlawing conquest” part mostly did, which did quite a bit to disincentivize war.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      They equivocate between several claims. One claim is that the Pact was a herald of the future regime. That much is true. But saying it “worked” because the post-war regime followed it is like saying that the League of Nations “worked” because the UN was similar.

      Writing things down is powerful, so maybe the Pact did affect the future, but it’s pretty hard to tell. Was it the cause, or just a statement of what the West was already trying to do? Already in WWI, the final victors didn’t explicitly take much territory, but instead created “Mandates” of the Ottoman Empire and more independent states in Europe.

  19. Wrong Species says:

    Thanks to whoever recommended The Good Place a couple threads back. It’s fantastic.

  20. WashedOut says:

    Can anyone recommend a good book on the Soviet Union and the political machinations of Stalin?

    I’m familiar with Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipeligo but i’m looking for something less personal, more high-level, more concise.

    • wavey davey says:

      Years ago, I read “A History of the Soviet Union” by Geoffrey Hosking, and found it very educational. I’d say “enjoyable”, but the chapters covering Lenin and Stalin are amongst the most gruesome and tragic things I have ever read. But I would definitely recommend, and could be skimmed if necessary since it’s a fairly standard chronological history.

    • Levantine says:

      Perhaps this collection of contributions is the single book that (of all the books) could give the most balanced currently possible picture on the Stalinist terror:
      (https://www.amazon.com/Stalinist-Terror-John-Arch-Getty-ebook/dp/B00QIT4B2K/r)

      I placed an emphasis on balance because the subject is so controversial. For example, on Solzhenitsyn’s works I recently came across very provocative comments from a bunch of Russians and Russian-Americans: (changed link) http://www.unz.com/ishamir/the-russian-scare/ (search for Solzhenitsyn).

      Stalin’s role in Soviet history may be even more controversial. He’s been judged in diametrically opposite ways by people who seemed more or less equally intelligent and reputable, from e.g. Robert Conquest and Roy Medvedev to Grover Furr and Starikov.

      On a general history of the Soviet Union, this might fit the bill:
      (https://www.amazon.com/Soviet-Century-Moshe-Lewin-ebook/dp/B01LW1AEIU/)

  21. Aapje says:

    Amazing make-up. Optical illusions on her face.

  22. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Any theories about why movie posters give so little information about movies?

    It seems to me that there should be a bit more in the way of an elevator pitch.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Here’s one: The trailers are the elevator pitch; the movie poster (sometimes with tagline) is a reminder.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Except that a person might not have seen the trailer, and it’s very cheap to add a little specific temptation to the poster.

        • dodrian says:

          My guess would be that you’re not the target audience for the poster.

          If it’s something that would be that easy and cheap to do better it’s probably not actually better in the first place.

          I would be completely shocked if studios don’t already do a form of A/B testing or focus groups with their marketing materials already.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, given that a single still image is almost certainly not the ideal medium through which to inform someone of the specific details of a film’s plot, my guess is that they aren’t designed to do that at all, rather, they are designed to get your attention enough to inspire you to google and watch the trailer (consider, the only place you’re likely to see a movie poster is in a theater, which is a hyper-stimulus environment with tons of bright, flashy, loud things competing for your attention).

          • gbdub says:

            Actually I’d say posters are back to being important, because posters are what you flip through on streaming services. They ought to show something.

            Also so many posters are lazy, basically just photoshopped portraits of the stars. Let’s get some art back in there. Again, flipping through on a streaming service, an interesting design is going to make me linger longer than one more pretty face looking dramatic.

          • Charles F says:

            @Matt M
            But they had posters long before googling was a thing people did. When I was little we got whatever trailers were on the movie we were watching and as far as I know there was no way to look for a specific one. But I remember seeing movie posters, though I don’t really remember where. What were they for then?

          • Matt M says:

            1. The importance of posters changes in accordance with technological capabilities. At one time, still imagery was one of the main tools of communication with the public (billboards, magazine ads, etc.). Today, I think this is far less the case.

            2. Even back when it was more important, I think the purpose often was still one of awareness. The movie poster might not motivate you to watch the trailer on Youtube (if Youtube doesn’t exist) but it might motivate you to pay attention rather than ignore the trailer if and when it does play during other movies you’re seeing. If you never get to see the trailer, maybe it motivates you to deliberately read a movie review in the newspaper or watch the Siskel & Ebert episode in which they review it, etc.

            I don’t think plot summaries were ever meant to be the primary purpose of movie posters.

          • Aapje says:

            My guess is that a lot of people who casually choose movies, pick them based on who stars in them, so just showing the main actors is fairly effective.

    • Well... says:

      First five answers right off the top of my head.

      1. Movies often get more than one poster. Different posters for different contexts.

      2. Some movie posters do tell quite a lot about about the plot, main characters and their relationship to each other, what to expect from the movie, etc.

      3. Movie posters go through fads just like anything. There have been fads where movie posters were very plain, just a simple image against a solid field with the name of the movie. There have been fads where they try and cram as much into the poster as possible.

      4. Along the lines of what Nybbler said, movie posters are often not there to pitch the movie but to entice you with a smattering (or a single touch) of imagery. If it grabs you, then you are likely to be the type of person who’ll like the movie, and you might go learn more about it if you haven’t already.

      5. From personal experience in Hollywood I can tell you movie posters are sometimes created and reviewed by people who have never seen the movie.

  23. HFARationalist says:

    Computer-assisted STEM research project

    I’m interested in developing some software to streamline STEM research.

    Here are the ideas I have:
    1.Extraction of key ideas from a paper so that people can read them before reading the paper itself. Let’s start from extracting the bold and italic texts, graphs and tables from PDF files.
    2.Paper-reader. A paper-reader should be able to read a STEM paper and store them in the software. In particular in mathematics a paper-reader should be able to “compile” it into formalized mathematics, verify whether it is correct and add its definitions, theorems/corollaries/lemmas and conjectures into a giant database. In other disciplines it should be able to parse every paper into introduction, results, experimental data, etc and store them separately.
    3.In the case of mathematics we need a program that can prove theorems.

    Please email me at qazaqaz2579@gmail.com if you are interested.

    I believe this project should be pursued along with DavidFriedman’s idea of a software in education.

    • James says:

      Quite a lot of work has been done on theorem-proving programs (and programming languages) already. Have you looked into them?

    • . says:

      To elaborate on James’ answer: mainstream approaches focus on changing the language that mathematicians use, rather than getting theorem-provers to work on natural language. The approach that maximizes (radicalness)*(lots of people think it will work and be worth it) is probably homotopy type theory.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I agree with you on changing the language we mathematicians use. That’s why we have mizar and metamath.

        I have a book on homotopy type theory though I’m not working on it. My idea is that we should start from combinatorics and (abstract) algebra.

        However the other approach, letting a program understand natural language used in papers should also be considered. Math papers in particular have a fairly restricted set of important words that are used. In fact a mizar paper does not look that different from a regular one other than its rigor.

  24. eqdw says:

    I am moving out of my Oakland apartment and I need someone to take over my lease. I’m moving down to South bay to be closer to my girlfriend, and because I’m moving mid-lease I need someone to take it over. Facebook ad is here, if you want to see some slick pics. Ad text reproduced below.

    The place is a very large (~2000 sqft!), very nice 2 bed 1 bath for $3,733 per month. Perfect for some software engineers looking for a nice place with a reasonable commute into the city. Or perhaps some Slate Star Codexians who work from home and want to be close to Berkeley.

    If you are interested, please drop me an email at rz at eqdw dot net. Thanks 😀

    —-

    I’m moving to south bay to be closer to my south bae, and that means I need someone or someones to move in where I’m moving out.

    The place is a very nice, very large 2bed 1bath, half a block from Piedmont Ave. I know it’s pricey, but it is absolutely worth the cost. The place is beautiful, the location is great, the landlord has been a dream to work with. A short list of reasons why you should want this place:

    * Friendly, responsive landlord. I’ve had no problems with him whatsoever, and he’s responded incredibly quickly to the occasional rare issue.

    * Two blocks to Transbay Bus, P Line (Great for commuting to SF!)

    * Beautifully maintained house. Landlord is very responsive to (fortunately rare) maintenance issues)

    * The neighbourhood is great, safe, relatively quiet save the ever-present bay area traffic noise.

    * Two blocks from the freeway. 580, Oakland/Harrison Ave ramps. It’s incredibly convenient for getting places

    * One block to Piedmont ave. Like a hundred restaurants, half a dozen cafes, gyms, grocery, drug store, curio shops, everything.

    * Cat friendly, and you could probably talk the landlord into a small dog if you put up an extra deposit

    * Hardwood floors. Clean up that cat fur with ease.

    * Small garden, maintained by landlord, with sweet plants. A lavender bush makes the porch smell nice. Grapevine along the railing. A persimmon tree (Fuyu, the good kind) that is a delight for the two weeks of the year that persimmons are in season.

    * Squirrels and birds. Lots of squirrels and birds. Do you like feeding the birds? Feed the birds!

    * Half a mile away from the Morcom Rose Garden. Nobody in Oakland seems to know about this place. Bring a date here, and they’ll be super impressed.

    * The landlord operates a startup in the top unit in the building. This means that a) he is easy to get a hold of if you ever need to; b) There is nobody upstairs after 6 PM, so nobody stomping keeping you awake; and c) if you’re a software engineer, he will keep trying to offer you a job.

    This would be the perfect place for two single working professionals, or two couples. Before I was here, a lawyer used it as their office, so if you don’t want to pay for WeWork you can set up here.

    Planned move-in date is Oct 1st, though I may be able to be flexible on this. Please get in touch if anybody is interested.

    • gbdub says:

      2000+ sq. ft. with only 2 beds and 1 bath? That seems like an unusual layout.

      • Lirio says:

        Look at the pictures in Facebook. It has a full size living room and full size dining room, both as distinct and separate entities. Add the kitchen, the probable breakfast area next to the kitchen, plus the two bedrooms and it adds up. The only weird thing about the layout is that it’s one bath instead of two.

  25. anonymousskimmer says:

    DACA prediction:

    Congress passes a bipartisan DACA bill and Trump signs it, thus making DACA his own (and not Obama’s).

    Whether Trump can do this with other Obama policies (PPACA, I’m looking at you) is another question.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Barely possible… but it’d need to be more restrictive than Obama’s DACA in at least one visible way, so the Republicans can sell it to their base. We’ve had a supposedly one-time legalization of illegal immigrants before, and we’re still in this boat now; the Republican base isn’t going to take another so soon after they elected Trump.

      (I’d be glad to take something like DACA, but only in connection with a Border Wall or similarly irreversible enforcement.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s possible, but Congress would have to give something. Funding for the border wall, or immigration reform. Immigration reform (to a Canada/NZ style points system) would be a nice win-win from my perspective, but the world never works out that way.

      • cassander says:

        This is the most frustrating thing about the immigration debate to me. Regardless of the level of immigration you support, the immigration process in the US is utterly insane, completely counterproductive, and drives all sorts of unhelpful behavior, and there is zero interest in fixing any of it.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      These bipartisan (read: Establishment) amnesty “path to citizenship” bills come up roughly once every four to eight years.

      Trump was elected on rejecting this kind of politics. If he caves and signs it, he has to know that he’s throwing away any chance he has to win in 2020. He can get away with keeping the status quo as long as it looks like he’s preventing full open borders but he can’t actually open the borders himself.

      I’m not saying that it’s impossible. But it’s very unlikely.

    • Brad says:

      This is the no culture war thread.

  26. Alsadius says:

    Where did the search bar go? I know the subscribe button being where I expect search to be has thrown me off more than once, but it now seems to have disappeared entirely. Am I missing something, or was search functionality removed entirely?

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