Archive for Dr. X. Ample

The God Confusion

Posted in My Thoughts on X Thing, religion with tags , , , , , , on 25/11/2009 by phyrbyrd

So, I have been reading through my Ultimate X-Men collection – which is by no means complete, I currently have seventeen of the trade paperbacks, but there we go. Anyway, if you’re a clam-examiner you may not know that there have been many, many versons of this particular superteam – the film series cannot possibly have escaped your notice.  The Phoenix story arc is an important part of the X-Men mythos – one might even say that without the Phoenix, it’s not really X-Men at all. But I have expended a whole paragraph and four links just telling you what got my train of thought out of the station, so I’d better get started for real. Obviously, I’ve been thinking about gods. Morality again, too, but mostly gods.

Hypothetical Woman is given the power of a god. This god is truly good, and overwhelmingly powerful, really and truly capable of solving all that is wrong in the world. Or is it? Because if we assume that this is so, then we are saying that the coin only has one side.  For example, Hypothetical Woman and her borrowed powers heal everyone and restore people’s lost loved ones to them. Instantly, there is not enough food, housing and clean water to go round. Well, that’s alright, she can provide enough to eat for everyone – but the planet is still a finite size and soon every single available space is taken up with housing, the animals are extinct and there is still not enough room. Hypothetical Woman, it seems, can’t win.

Random Guy is also given the powers of a god. He is also made omniscient and immortal on top of it all, and his god has a completely neutral morality. Random guy spends a little while interfering in the lives of common humans, and then gets bored. He has nothing to relate to. It’s like squashing spiders – you grow out of it. Why on earth would an omnipotent god give half a damn about something as fleeting, as insignificant, as humanity? Eventually, he gives p and goes out into the cosmos in search of other gods to talk to, abandoning Earth for good.

Dr. X. Ample (say it with me) is also given the powers of a god. An evil one. However, when he tries out his powers, he runs up against the same problem Hypothetical Woman did – there are two sides to the coin. He starts wars in his name, but there are always some people who the war benefits – soldiers who are paid more than they ever were before, entire communities who make a living from supplying military equipment. No matter how many people die, that means more resources are available for those who are left. In frustration, he considers killing everybody, but then he’d only have the animals to torture and they don’t have a concept of evil – and what good is being evil unless there’s someone to know you’re doing it? He could just blow up the planet, but then that would leave him with nothing at all to do, and that would be really dull. Maybe he should go and talk to Hypothetical Woman – give them both something to do.

The point, and I realise that it may not be very well made, is that any good god is evil to someone and vice-versa, and an ever-living god has no reason to even register us at all, since we’re finite. That’s register us as a species, let alone individuals. Anyway, I did also have another point regarding how people believe, but that’s going to have to wait. I make no promises.

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Alignment and Morality part 2 – Hypothetical Woman meets Neitzsche

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

Hello again, and here as promised is the second half of my alignment rant. I only just discovered Neitzsche, so please bear with me – glaring mistakes are likely due to the fact that there is a lot I don’t know about his life and work yet. Anyway, these are my initial thoughts.

The Polish* philosopher Freidrich Neitzsche (and no, I wouldn’t have spelled it right without checking) is often closely associated with Adolf Hitler and Nazism, and so people are afraid to read his work and consider it for themselves – maybe they think they will see the words, think the same thing as Hitler thought, and facism will be born? I don’t know. It annoys me that so many people have an inability to form an independant opinion just because a figure historically marked as the Big Bad liked it.**

So, what does Neitzsche say? Well, he says a lot of things, one of his more famous philosophies is to do with the Übermensch, or Superhuman, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about his views on morality. The Master and Slave theory. That there is a simplified view, this is a more detailed explanation.

So as you can see, Neitzsche believed that Europe (and America, but Neitzsche was concerned with Europe) was ruled by the Slave mentality. I would not go so far as to call it the social illness that he did, but I can see what he meant. We are expected to be selfless, look out for other people, be modest, prudent, and so on. Our films praise the underdog and our politics are all about giving everybody a say. Our religions are about shoring up good deeds for a heavenly afterlife. So far, so good. Nothing wrong with this, really.

But why is the Master mentality (as characterized by, among others, the Hellenic races such as the ancient Greeks and Romans) bad? Is it bad to think of yourself? To say ‘I know’ instead of ‘aw, you’re too kind’ when someone says you did really well? To be experimental and creative? To concentrate on this life instead of the next one? Why can’t our films be about a strong hero?

Yes, there are flaws with both mentalities, but neither is bad, really. The Master mentality is terrible when taken to extremes. That’s when you get people trying to make a Master *race*. But the Slave mentality is also terrible when taken to extremes – that kind of thing triggers people shooting abortion doctors because they kill the poor defenseless unborn babies. *Any* philosophy can be taken to extremes, and I struggle to think of an occasion when this is a good thing.

Currently, our society tends to express anger ‘resentfully’, as Neitzsche put it, as opposed to directly. Especially in Britain, if someone slights us, we tend to do nothing, mutter behind their backs, and sometimes try and get them back in some other way. We have a kind of malicious joy in seeing the misery of those who are richer, more glamourous, more powerful than us – otherwise the celebrity magazines wouldn’t sell so well. This kind of behaviour corresponds to the Slave mentality, and its opposite would be if we expressed anger immediately – this is not to say disproportionately, although I imagine a lot more fights would be started if we were governed by a Master mentality.

For example, Hypothetical Woman lives in a society governed primarily by the Master mentality. So does Random Guy, and they are talking, and suddenly Random Guy makes a joke that Hypothetical Woman finds offensive. Instead of worrying about whether it is rude to tell Random Guy she didn’t like the joke, she confronts him about it. What happens next? I have no idea. I live in a society governed by a Slave mentality so I think if I was Random Guy I would apologise and the conversation would carry on uninterrupted. Dr. X. Ample says he would punch Hypothetical Woman in the face for daring to challenge him, but then, he would. He’s got a Master mentality, but he’s crazy.

* – Neitzsche is commonly identified as German but he was born in Prussia and identified as Polish. Germany as it is now didn’t exist at the time of his birth.

** – There is no evidence that Neitzsche would have liked Nazism, had he lived to see it. He died in 1900. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that he would have despised it.

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 Fanfiction.net, 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.

Thankyou.

* – 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.