Alignment and Morality part 1 – Why Dr. X. Ample isn’t Evil All Through

Posted in My Thoughts on X Thing with tags , , , , , on 27/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

Well, this is a first – a post I promised you was coming is actually here. The Alignment Rant. This was going to include my thoughts on Neitzscheism but I got carried away and had to split this into two parts. This one’s just going to be about alignment.

Most of you know about the famous Dungeons and Dragons Alignment Grid. Even the clam-examiners probably know it; in fact, the ones most likely not to have heard of it are the people like my neices and cousins who spend their time glued to the TV and likely never heard of D&D in their tiny little lives. However, in case I am wrong, and because every blog entry of this sort ought to show what its subject is, then you can see the table and a full explanation here. Go on, I can wait. I want everyone to be absolutely on the same page here*.

Now, this is, of course, a very simplified view of morality. D&D as a game system is made to be adapted and built upon by its players, none of its rules are written in stone – if your game decides the gelatinous cube is a dumb monster as is and rewrites it so that it can change its shape, extend suckers, drag people in and, you know, travel faster than walking pace, then a) not only are Wizards of the Coast** not going to know, but b) why would they care? What does it matter to them if you use the basic D&D gameset to make a new game involving My Little Pony?

But I’m getting distracted. My point is that the rules say that a character of a certain alignment can’t be a certain character class. Hypothetical Woman plays a paladin, so she must be Lawful Good. But wait a second, does that still count if the god she serves is Duum, God of Eternal Destruction? or Kray-Zi, Goddess of Chaos? or just Sniggar, God or Mischief? Also, if memory serves me right, most people who claim to hear the voice of a god or claim to be doing God’s work aren’t very lawful. Or often all that good, really. In some cases, downright shocking.***

Real people are not robots. There is no button in their heads to be pressed to determine their alignment throughout their whole lives. The morality of real people is determined by a number of factors, including but most certainly not limited to, upbringing, social interaction, political and social situation, family size, date, and class.

A demonstration for you. Dr. X. Ample was born Alexander Ample in a quiet suburb in Milton Keynes in July 2024, the only child of a pair of wealthy scientists, a biologist and a chemist. He was well-schooled, especially in the sciences, and proved to have a remarkable talent for physics and chemistry. By the time he was thirteen, he was already well ahead of his class and being plagued by teachers who wouldn’t allow him to move up more than the two years he was already ahead, and his parents – loving, but both very busy and absorbed in their work – refused to homeschool him. He got incredibly frustrated and at fifteen, the school exploded in mysterious circumstances, although no-one could ever prove it was him. At seventeen, he went to college, where he had a slightly better time despite the fact that he was at BA level and was taking physics, chemistry and computer science at A level. He spent most of his time completely out of his head on drugs of his own devising, and still managed distinction in everything, passing into Oxford university the following year noticeably manic, but still by far the best chemist in his year – or the one above him, come to that. While he was at university, he didn’t sample his concoctions anymore, but they seemed to be continuing to affect his brain, making him more angry, more irrational, more prone to incredible flights of fancy.

And then there was a fire in his home town, killing both his parents. Alexander, now calling himself Xander, blamed the fire services for not dousing the fire quickly enough, and the paramedics for not saving his parents’ lives. On top of the resistance he had had throughout his school life, this was only adding to the resentment to authority he was to cultivate throughout the rest of his life. He now had someone to encourage him, too – his lab assistant and fellow student, Jen-Erika Sydekik, had always been something of an anarchist and greatly admired Xander’s increasingly gargantuan ideas for taking over from the current status quo and establishing one that would work.
Eventually, both of them graduated. And then disappeared without trace for some time, eventually reappearing as a national threat…

OK, so by D&D standards, Dr. X. Ample is obviously chaotic evil. What, really? He’s fuelled by what’s essentially an extended drug flashback, an arguably justified hatred of authority, grief for his parents’ passing and constant goading from his closest friend (alright, and lover, for the purposes of this post). Does this make him evil? How could he be expected to react? He’s still a highly intelligent and strong-willed person, so why should he be expected to curl up into a ball and whimper until the pressure goes away? Yes, chaotic I will accept. But if Dr. X. Ample went through his life – this same one I just described – and was a perfectly nice, pleasant person at the end of it, wouldn’t you be waiting for the safety valve to snap? I know I would.

Incidentally, there’s one thing about the Lawful Good thing that the paladins get – a lot of players of paladins seem to focus on the Lawful and not so much on the Good. That’s when you get something called Lawful Stupid. However, as I said, it is actually possible to play a paladin who isn’t good – who votes that Darth Vader is a paladin? *hand up* I also had a chaotic good paladin in a LARP game once who was sent to join the Company to help with her anger management issues. She got turned into a smear on the pavement in the first session because, well, I thought ‘berserk’ would be a fun flaw and there was this demon who was six times more powerful than me… Yeah.

Anyway, more on the morality schtick tomorrow. I hope this made sense. I tried to be more concise than i normally am…

* – Yes, I am aware that I use a lot of Wikipedia links. This is because often it saves me linking about three more different sites on the same subject. I’m aware that the information may not be reliable, but if I think that is the case then I will find additional material. Wikipedia is pretty on the ball as far as alignment is concerned, though.

** – The current co-producers of D&D.

*** – I had some misgivings about including Bin Laden there. But since he did claim that he was acting in the name if Islam, it really only proves my point, and I can only apologize if I offended anyone – but not for trying to make a point.


Dr. X. Ample and the Fucking Script

Posted in My So-Called Life, Showbiz with tags , , on 25/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

Please excuse the couple of days’ gap in posting here* – I am flying and falling, tumbling in turmoil, but not bouncing into Graceland. No, my life decided to LEVEL UP RITE NAO DAMMIT and, due to a rather unexpected decision by my landlord, I am moving out on my own for the first time ever. I’m on top of things for now, but things like blogs take a bit of a back seat to things like rent deposits and benefits forms.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m talking about today. If you read the title and are not a clam-examiner, you have likely worked out what this is all about. This. Or, if you prefer the Seussian version, this. In case you’re not clear, Josh Olsen doesn’t want to read your fucking script.

Tenured Radical is pretty offended by this. She says that since Olsen is rich and has connections in the film industry, it is his duty to help talented young screenwriters get their break. She points out the incredibly true fact that it’s almost impossible to get into Hollywood – or publishing, or big theatre, or the fashion industry, or any other creative job – if you don’t know someone who’s already there. You have to be a friend of a friend.

I know this. Hell, I know this – my brother, the Boil, just finished a film degree. He spends hours storyboarding films, dedicated to the execution and the planning. We have a family friend working at the BBC, but that’s not going to get him in cinemas. All that’s going to get him is maybe the fact that she knows somebody who can help him, and so it goes. In the art world, it’s hard not to be resentful of some of the artists already there, especially when you don’t see the point, and they’re being paid vast sums while you can’t give your work away.**

So, yes, talented amatuers need help. Oh, so desperately do they need help. And who better to help them than those at the top?

I agree with what I just said. I also disagree with the main content of Tenured Radical’s post because of the slightly controversial belief that, yes, rich people and people who are successful in their field are humans too. For the record, I don’t like the phrase, ‘Dr. X. Ample is human too,’ or the variants, ‘Misc. Mook is a person as well’ and ‘Person Ecks has feelings too’. It is a begging phrase. It asks me, not to bring the subject to the same level of consideration as everyone else, but in some way *higher*. It begs pity, even where none is necessarily needed.

I do not use it in that sense. When I say that Josh Olsen is human, I am not asking you to pity him. He is successful, he has everything he needs and he seems*** happy. He doesn’t need pity. However, does need sleep and rest, time to eat, time to spend with his family and friends, time to do his own work. Is Tenured Radical seriously suggesting that he do his job and spend every second remaining in the day reading amatuer scripts and writing reviews? He must get hundreds of these things! And even if he only gets a few a week now, if word got out that Josh Olsen would read your screenplay for you, he’d get thousands of the damn things. And up till now I’ve been talking about ‘talented amatuers’ but the vast majority of amatuers are DIRE. Think about it. Would you like to spend five hours every day reading and reviewing every single fanfiction on, thoughtfully, professionally and with a view that the author really, *really* wanted your *honest* opinion and thought *such* a lot of you, but honestly, if you told them how bad their work really was, would never forgive you? Because that’s what it amounts to.

Josh Olsen is not morally obligated to read anybody’s script. He is not contractually obligated to anyone who simply hands him a script and asks him to read it. The fact that he is successful does not make him evil.**** There is no debt of success to be paid to those who haven’t made it yet. The people giving him scripts act as though he owes it to them to read it. Almost all the time, he owes them nothing, not his time, not his opinion, nothing. It is his choice whether to read the damn thing and nobody has any right to flounce about whether or not he does so.


* – Goodness, I’m apologising for a posting gap of three days. Bet that won’t last…

** – My personal target of bafflement is currently Tracey Emin. Somehow I can’t help but think that the real art is getting the art world to accept this. But if anyone else can see beauty or intelligence in her work, I will not tell you that you’re a moron or lack taste, partly because of the Eye of the Beholder clause, and partly because I hate it when people say that kind of thing to me.

*** – Although, not actually being psychic, I wouldn’t say for sure.

**** – There will definitely be a post on alignments eventually. It’s one of my great controversial rants.

Why I Hate Public Transport

Posted in My So-Called Life with tags , , , on 21/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

Not a Hypothetical Woman post for this one, or a particularly political one – this one is personal.

See, this weekend I went from The Grim North to the Capital to the wedding of an old and dear friend, one who I’ve known since I was about eleven years old, when she was in college and crashing on our sofa for a while*. She’s come a long way since then – she’s a high-flying corporate lawyer (still very nice, though) and married another very nice corporate lawyer from Munich on Saturday.

Mum-Ra and I got up at half past six in the morning, drove to Big Northern City #1 and caught the train all the way down to London.** That went alright, despite the fact that we’d got on the wrong train – an hour earlier than we’d meant to, and the conductor said he would allow our tickets ‘this once’.*** But we got there alright, after much running around the London underground, and the wedding was lovely. Beautiful church, the Bride looked gorgeous, like a porcelain Royal Worcester cake topper.

The reception was amazing too – I made friends with many of the Groom’s family who all seemed disproportionately impressed when I tried out my terrible high-school German on them, and the only real low point was the speech made by the Bride’s Father, who seemed to think it was appropriate to make jokes about taking people out and shooting them in a room full of Germans.

Anyway, Mum-Ra and I had to leave early, as in before dessert, so as to catch our train home. We sat in a traffic jam in a taxi for twnty minutes, hared through the underground, and missed our train by about four minutes. After some standing around and asking what we were going to do, we eventually stayed the night with one of the bridesmaids and got lifts home, seperately, with other guests.

But I hate public transport. It costs too much and you are at the mercy of the system. You can’t relax and you must always watch the clock, in case you miss your bus, train or tram. You can’t leave your stuff in the car – Mum-Ra and I were lugging an unelegant two bags each around all day – and you can’t leave the party when you want. You have to share your space with drunk people, double-wide strollers, mocking teenagers and people like I was on Saturday, who have been running around for hours and haven’t had a chance to have a wash. Sometimes you don’t get to sit down, sometimes you don’t even get to hold on to anything, sometimes people are crushed tight against you.

I have epilepsy and they don’t let me drive so I don’t know what I’d do without public transport but that doesn’t mean I’ve got to like it. And I hate it when people say, ‘Oh, you can go to the Random Event, there’s a bus that goes there!’ First, I’ve never been on that bus route and I don’t know when to get off, second, I don’t want to stand around waiting for a bus for ages, third, whether or not I want to get on the damn bus is not anyone else’s business. Some people seem to get insulted by my reluctance to go everywhere by bus. Reverend Dad, for instance, doesn’t understand that the bus journey to come see him is two seperate busses, with a change in the most obnoxious town you’ve ever seen,**** and always fills up with soccer fans and idiot kids.

I hate public transport, and I can’t get away from it. Are we clear on this?

* – Her sister and a number of her friends did the same thing – we had a very comfortable sofa, almost constantly occupied by people we came to call, as a group, the Sofa-Dwellers.

** – As you can see, I’m trying not to explicitly name people or places connected to me – there’s two Big Northern Cities but we only have one capital.

*** – The snack shop attendant announced that, ‘There is a snack shop halfway down carriage C and there will be a first class service served in… first class. The snack shop will open shortly and hot and cold drinks and snacks will be available if you… pay.’ Clearly not a morning person.

**** – Also known as my birthplace, but we’ll call it Scumtown.

Vetting and Barring: Is Hypothetical Woman a Pedophile?

Posted in Children, Politics with tags , , , on 15/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

So from October 2009 – next month, for Uncle Doctor and the rest of you clam-examiners – the British government will implement, through an Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) something it calls the Vetting and Barring Scheme. According to the Telegraph, the new law  requires everyone who has regular contact with children, as a result of an association with some form of organisation other than their family, to be approved by the Government after registering on a state-run database. This will cost the person being approved £64 – a one-off fee that is waived for volunteers – and the fine for not getting checked is £5000.

A lot of people are citing the Soham murders – they do this every time children at risk are mentioned, since it’s a high-profile case like Baby P and Madeleine McCann. But the Vetting and Barring scheme likely wouldn’t have done a damn thing in the Soham case – Ian Huntley slipped through the net because his criminal records were destroyed by the police. No scheme is perfect.

But people already have to be checked.  The subject was brought up and discussed extensively this week on BBC4’s Any Questions, and the armed forces minister, Bill Rammell MP, when asked whether we would now need a government check to take a neighbour’s kids to football, had this to say:

Bill Rammell MP: “My clear understanding is that if it is a personal arrangement with friends, with neighbours (…) if it is an agreement with those two families, then that will not, er, the Barring and Vetting scheme (sic) will not apply. If it is a voluntary activity, with a voluntary organization, I think parents would expect that organization to have carried out some checks, and that’s what this is all about.”

Jonathan Dimbleby: “Can’t they – forgive me – we’ve got the Criminal Records Bureau checks already there that they can utilize if they wish to, and most do?”

Well, Mr. Dimbleby has a point – he usually has rather a lot, come to that. And the Vetting and Barring scheme doesn’t make the CRB checks obsolete. Any Questions is usually better for a laugh than anything else, but in the session relating to this particular programme, one of the callers was a piano teacher who said that she had three seperate CRB checks and had friends with six, even thirteen, since a different check is needed for every school or group. They cost £36 each, which the schools pay – money which could, on the whole, be used for things like computer labs and playing fields. Don’t people communicate anymore? Can’t this just be put on a record that they could take with them? Are these checks nailed to the school walls?

I personally do not have children and do not intend to have children – this kind of thing is one of the many, many reasons why not*. The only kid I regularly come into contact with is the daughter of one of my mother’s friends, who I am giving sewing lessons to once a week because she wants to learn and comes up to my standards of ‘people I can stand to be in my space’. I’m given to understand from Bill Rammell’s statement above that I don’t need to be vetted to continue giving free sewing lessons to Kid Stitchy, as she will henceforth be known, but if I’m wrong? I’m on benefits, where the hell am I gonna get £5000?

But this is not my major beef with this. Let’s say hello to Hypothetical Woman (hi, Hypothetical Woman!). Hypothetical Woman not only has a sidekick – her daughter, Concept Girl – she teaches at the Abstract School for Potential Superheroes, as a volunteer. She has her CRB check, and when the Vetting and Barring scheme comes in she’ll be checked by them too – all good superheroines abide by the law, after all.

But Concept Girl is wary of her. She’s wary, in fact, of every adult in the world, and refuses to allow Hypothetical Woman to hug her goodbye when she goes to class – Hypothetical Woman’s co-worker, Random Guy, glares at her when he sees her trying and demands she gets her CRB check renewed. All parents are checked, all contact with children is viewed as bad and everyone is seen as a potential pedophile.

Finally, Dr. X. Ample takes over the country and passes a new law, demanding that all children be brought up by the state unless the parents can pass a vigorous test that proves they are fit to raise their children in the sterile, unfeeling way the government demands.

Yes, this is an extreme image. But instead of being innocent until proven guilty, this law assumes that everyone is a pedophile and so must prove that they are not. SERIOUSLY, the problem is NOT as widespread as the papers would have us believe. I got through childhood without being molested, so did my five siblings and all my friends. If I were to believe the media, statistically speaking at least me or one of my siblings should have been abused in childhood. Not every corner has a pedophile on it, and – especially this – not all men are kiddyfiddlers. Seriously, is anybody surprised at the decline in Scout leaders when every Scout leader is painted as abusing the boys in their charge? It’s become almost as bad a stereotype as the Catholic priesthood, with not nearly as much justification.

But I’m ranting. I started college this morning, I’m quite tired and this issue makes me quite angry.

* – Childfree post likely coming eventually.

REFERENCES: (programme may become unavailable)

Hypothetical Woman and the Intersex Olympics

Posted in Sport with tags , , , , on 13/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

So possibly it’s a good thing that my first real post in this blog is about a real issue, and not a craft post or how boring my life is – it certainly gets the ball rolling. If you haven’t heard about this particular issue lately – where have you BEEN?! Have you been researching clams in a remote area of Wales like my uncle?* For Uncle Doctor, and others like him, I’ll recap.

Caster Semenya, a South African middle distance runner, won gold in the 800 metres in the 2009 World Championships in Athletics with a time of 1:55:45 in the final. This is the fifth fastest time ever run by a woman, and has caused the International Association of  Athletics Federations to accuse her of being a man, and to demand gender testing – a horrifically complicated procedure which takes several weeks and five different experts. Why, I am not entirely sure, since apparently we can now tell all this about a person from a DNA piss test – but I am not an athletics standards officer so nobody’s asking me.

Apparently nobody asked Ms. Semenya either, and the results of said test were leaked to the media even before she knew – according to Netland, she is intersexed, with both sets of sexual organs and three times the level of testosterone a woman would normally have. This is way below the level a man would have, and she identifies as a woman, so it shouldn’t matter. Should it?

See, this is being touted as a racist issue, a feminist issue, a trans issue and a class issue. People are saying that it’s because she’s a black intersex woman from a rural background. And yes, many of the slurs that have been hurled in her direction – ‘hermaphrodite’, ‘that’s a man’, even ‘it’ – are horrible things to say to anyone. And yet somehow I feel the issue is being missed here.

So Ms. Semenya is intersex. This is a very rare condition, but it makes her stronger, faster than her peers. It has been said that the kind of improvements she made to her time were the sort that would normally trigger steroid investigations. How can any cisgendered woman compete? So what then, is Semenya to go race against the men? Is she up to the same standard? However much feminism might say that whatever a man can do, a woman can do too, men are still, on average, faster and stronger than women, and at their peak, faster and stronger still. Plus, I have an inkling that it wouldn’t be allowed. So now what? There aren’t enough intersex athletes for a category of their own and even if there were, that would require them to out themselves whether they liked it or not, and the taboo is still far too high for it to be truly safe.

But Ms. Semenya’s fellow athletes must be feeling rather put out about it all. If her gold medal is taken away and given to Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei, who currently holds the silver, and the silver were passed on to Britain’s Jenny Meadows, it would be a phyrric victory at best, one assumes. Everyone would be saying ‘Yeah, Janeth’s got gold – but everyone knows Caster really won.’ Because you just can’t win. The media’s a bitch like that.

Anyway, in a little whimsical aside, fastforward a few years if you will, to the 2016 Olympics. Hypothetical Woman, who is intersexed,** is entering a new category for the athletics – the mixed 800 metres. She competes against Caster Semenya, double-leg amputee Oscar Pistorius, and several male, female, trans, uncertain and disabled athletes.

Who wins? I don’t know. Personally, I’m betting on Oscar Pistorius. I know that a lot of people called him a cyborg and that it’s been taken as not a nice thing to say but I think it’s unbelievably cool. I do know that Hypothetical Woman won’t win, she’s never been much of a runner…

* – Yes, I’m serious, I have an uncle who is the foremost researcher of global warming indicators in clams. He is very cool and shall henceforth be referred to as Uncle Doctor, if I refer to him at all.

** – Of course Hypothetical Woman’s power, like the rest of the cast, is to fit the needs of whatever point I’m making.


This looks like a job for Hypothetical Woman…

Posted in Introduction with tags , on 12/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

Greetings one and… well, me, and welcome to the initial tester post of the Hypothetical Woman blog. My name is Liz, I’m a 27-year-old, epileptic, English art student and this is pretty much my first stand-alone blog, so let me outline what it’s for.

This blog is not simply to post my rants and opinions about politics, science, media tropes, and anything else that might spring to mind, after Livejournal just became restrictive. It’s not just to show off my original art, craft and writing after DeviantArt and Y!Gallery became both restrictive and depressing. It’s both these things, plus whatever else I might need it for at any time.

The idea of starting a blog has been on the back-burner for a while, but the Hypothetical Woman idea came about while I was thinking about how I would go about explaining what was needed to design timelining software specifically for fiction authors*. The concept is quite a difficult one and I often have trouble explaining things verbally, so I came up with this superheroine, Hypothetical Woman, and her foe, Dr. Xander Ample, as illustrative aids. Beware, you’ll be seeing more of them as I use them to explain more points, I think they’re more interesting than Alice and Bob, or Character A and Character B.

I do my best to be open-minded and level-headed, and most places on the net I find myself playing Devil’s advocate. This is my blog, though, where I get to say what I please. The rating currently is PG, I will up it if necessary. Some of my opinions are not socially accepted, and could also be thought by some people to be unreasonable, overly cynical and, in some cases, downright hateful. I make no apology for this here, in my blog, but I will try and explain. Outside, in other people’s spaces, I try to see their point of view. If you don’t do that here, fine – but spam me and I’ll kick you right out.

*=There will probably be a post on this in future. Or possibly not, I can be quite inconsistent like that.