Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fun New Toy (Gender)

“Dear Buddha, I want a pony, and plastic rocket, and one of those…”
–Mal, Serenity
I ran across Regender, a fun translator-type program to convert web pages into displaying opposite gender names and pronouns. This is a very good way of casually analyzing sexist gender roles prevalent in society. It should save me a lot of time if I ever want to imagine a gender-reversed Heroes episode again.
Caboose: “AI… What’s the A stand for?”
Church: “Artificial.”
Caboose: “…What’s the I—”
Church: “Intelligence!”
Caboose: “Oh… What was the A again?”
Church: “Let’s move on.”
Red vs. Blue, episode “Human Peer Bonding”
The one complaint I have is that it doesn’t recognize the word AI as an acronym of “artificial intelligence”. It seems to think it’s an all-caps version of the Japanese name Ai, which it converts into Anthony. This makes it awkward when I use it on my Halo fanfiction, given the number of times the word AI pops up. “Is this ANTHONY sentient?”
Fun conversions:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Doyle is Still a Rapist (Heroes)

So, on February 10th, David H. Lawrence XVII linked to my “Rapists of Heroes” post on his Twitter account. It seems his Facebook page also displays his Twitter feed in the wall section. I found the tweet there, and it has a few people commenting on liking the link. Thanks, folks. I do disagree with the opinion of DMaria Scaglione, who posts:
This opinion is just too dark for me.Everyone is has one (an opinion). I don't see Doyle as a rapist. To me the character is a man in pain and uses his powers to have people listen to him. Doyle reminds me of the dark side of the clown Emmett Kelly. The quiet clown who sadly no one would listen to. Yet, Doyle may be a face in the crowd, he uses his powers to be heard. Oh crap...I am tired. hopefully I made sense. Good night.
In none of that does she explain why Doyle isn’t a rapist. Rape: any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person. Rapist: person who performs rape. It doesn’t matter what his motivation might be.
I suppose I might have been mistaken when I described Doyle as a sociopath, though. That was more speculation on my part. It could be that he’s not a sociopath, but surely the vast majority of rapists aren’t sociopaths. A quick Google search brings up these statistics about rape. I believe the number of sociopaths is 1 in 25?
Sociopaths aside, it just doesn’t matter that Doyle is a man in pain. I’ll agree that he is in pain. He wants romance, he’s attracted to Meredith, but he can’t get her unless he forces her. It’s okay to sympathize with the character; however, he is a rapist. That should be recognized.
Even if he doesn’t actually forcibly have sex with Meredith on the show, there is a very strong rapist vibe about him. He forces her to participate in a date against her will, which is at least sexual violence. He does rape a woman in the graphic novel Puppet with No Strings, in which he forces a couple to let him in their house, eats their food, and has the woman undress for him. There is the strong implication that he then has sex with her, which is rape.
As for Emmett Kelly, I hadn’t heard of him before this, but he seems nice from his Wikipedia article. I’m not sure how to really apply him to Eric Doyle.
So, yeah, Doyle’s still a rapist, or at the very least a sexual predator. There are shades of grey to many of the villains, but their crimes should never be overlooked because they may be sympathetic. Samuel was obviously in a lot of very understandable pain when his girlfriend dumped him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a mass murderer because the act of destroying the town was brought forth from the place of pain.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Made to Love You (Buffy)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has several notable examples of love spells. Love spells are a fairly popular plot device, appearing in everything from the old pop song “Love Potion #9” to the recent romantic comedy When in Rome. In Buffy, love spells are used primarily for comedy but sometimes for drama. The nature of a love spell involves established characters acting very differently, which can be a source of humor, but the removal of will involved can make it a matter for serious plot. The examples of love spells include Xander’s backfired spell in “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”, Spike’s sought after spell to use on Drusilla in “Lover’s Walk”, Jonathan’s perfection spell in “Superstar”, the enchanted jock jacket in “Him”, as well as various other forms of will removal that are related.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brief Abuse (Stargate)

As I’m rewatching Stargate SG-1, I just watched season one’s “Brief Candle” episode. This one, I remembered fairly well, and I remembered liking its quaintness. O’Neill teaches a bunch of Kool-Aid-drinking human slaves that their god lied to them, shows them to live life more fully, and he comes to appreciate life more himself. It’s that, true, but there’s also an incident of rape that is completely ignored because it’s a female doing it to a male. Not only is this presented as essentially okay, but it forms the basis of a romance portrayed as healthy. Stargate thus continues to perpetuate the sexist meme that men are unable to be raped by women.

Spontaneous Publicity

Holy crap! It looks like David H. Lawrence XVII, who plays “Puppet Master” Eric Doyle on Heroes, linked to my “Rapists of Heroes” post on his Twitter account. He tweeted “Yes! I'm finally known for what I am - a rapist!”. Very cool. Thanks, David!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Acting Like Cavemen (Stargate)

So, I’ve been rewatching Stargate SG-1. I went to the Firefly convention in L.A. last year and had a blast, so I’m hoping to go to the next one, which is the same weekend as a Stargate convention. I saw the movie Stargate and watched the first three seasons of the show, but I don’t remember very much and I thought I’d take a pass through the series. In doing so, I’ve found opportunity to analyze the gender roles and the show’s attempts to challenge sexism. Season one’s fourth and fifth episodes, “Emancipation” and “The Broca Divide” respectfully, both deal with the subject of rape but “The Broca Divide” has the common sexist double standard of disrespecting the act of a woman sexually assaulting a man.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kyle Loh is not a Cannibal

So, Kyle Loh, who is a prominent user at Halopedia, put out some videos at Big Think about 10 months ago, in which he talks about being a stem cell researcher at Harvard. In the video Kyle Loh Introduces Embryonic Stem Cells, Kyle discusses the need for embryonic stem cells and how because extracting an embryonic stem cell from a human embryo causes the destruction of the embryo, and all the ethical issues there, his team is working on developing a way to chemically turn other cells into embryonic stem cells. It all makes sense to me, which shows how much he must have dumbed it down, and he gets his point across pretty clearly.
In the comments section, however, this guy Michael Roach posted the following:
Not only religious people, but most followers of Aristotle or other philosophical Realists and some Pragmatists would argue that since the soul is the form of the body (animating principle), the destruction of one individual, although less developed, for the sake of another, more developed is both a murder (the intentional killing of an innocent) and an act of cannibalism (the consumption of one individual of a species for the sustenance of another of the same species). This ethical burden deserves more attention than it got in your otherwise excellent presentation. I look forward to reading yours and other’s comments.
This completely misses Kyle’s point. He was specifically trying to avoid getting into the ethical concerns of abortion, instead promoting a way to get embryonic stem cells without abortion even coming into it. I suspect Michael Roach watched the video looking for an ethics discussion and was so disappointed by Kyle’s barely touching the subject that he didn’t bother to learn what the point of the video was really supposed to be.
That aside, I find Michael Roach’s reasoning poor. I’m not very knowledgeable about Aristotle, so I can’t comment on that directly, but I think ancient philosophers aren’t good representatives of biology in comparison to modern day biologists. While the ancient philosophers may have developed good ideas about insubstantial a priori concepts, anything scientific is sure to be obsolete. Modern day science shows us things that the ancient philosophers never had any clue about.
I don’t believe in a soul per se. There may be some metaphysical part of every human that represents their personhood, but there is no empirical evidence to suggest such. It is a purely faith-based concept.
“The brain controls every human action, voluntary or involuntary. Every breath, every heartbeat, every emotion. If the soul exists, scientifically speaking, it exists in the brain.”
–Chandra Suresh, Heroes
If we’re talking about the soul in a metaphorical way, in that a soul is simply a word to indicate personhood and identity, I would agree with Chandra Suresh from Heroes and say that the brain is the only part of the body that would be the soul or be host to it. The other parts of the body support the brain, support reproduction of genetic material, or serve no useful purpose.
On the subject of abortion, I take the controversial stance I usually take and say that there’s no personhood to embryos. They may be capable of developing personhood later, but in the fetal state there’s nothing but an empty vessel. Even if there is personhood, I think the woman has a right to abort given that it’s her body subjected to the parasitism with all its negative effects. I won’t go into that, as that could be an article in itself, but I’ll make it clear that I’m in favor of the women’s right to choose whether or not to terminate pregnancy.
It’s the claim about cannibalism that baffles me. How is this cannibalism? There’s no… consumption. The cells aren’t consumed. It’s a part of a human body that is more or less implanted in another body to support the latter’s life or life functions. Does Michael Roach think organ donations are cannibalized? Blood transfusions?
“Eating people alive? Where does that get fun?”
–Jayne, Serenity
Just by slapping the label of cannibalism on this, he thinks that it would automatically imbue it with immorality. I question that. Cannibalism brings to mind the image of the savage island peoples in the South American region, generally exaggerated by the European settlers. I’m not sure what’s real, but there at least were some peoples for whom the practice of cannibalism after military raids was an accepted cultural norm. This is often seen as horrific.
What’s really horrific is that people can war, often senselessly. I won’t get into an anti-war rant here, but the point is that the murder is the bad part. What’s done with the corpses afterward is largely irrelevant. Now, eating a dead enemy may be done in a way to hurt the enemy’s living family, but if there’s some accepted cultural practice or if the dead guy let it be known that he wants his corpse eaten or something, then cannibalism is not innately harmful.
In the case of organ donation, it’s entirely voluntary for the person from whose body the organs are taken. It’s after their death, so no harm there. They’re most likely not going to be killed by the government for use of their organs. And if a person can live longer because of this, that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Is it cannibalism? No, in that there’s no literal consumption. Even if you were to stretch the meaning of cannibalism to have voluntary organ donation count, it wouldn’t be innately bad because cannibalism is not innately bad.
And now we come back to the stem cells. Let’s just skip over the whole abortion issue here, as Kyle wasn’t even advocating that, and talk about what he was talking about. To take a non-embryonic stem cell and turn it into an embryonic stem cell is not bringing forth an embryo, but rather giving the cell qualities of a cell that might otherwise be found in embryos. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this does not even necessitate another human being donating such base cells, and that the same human with the injury could provide the cells from another organ. Even if that’s not true, I don’t think it matters ethically. Even if it is cannibalism, which it’s not, it’s not automatically immoral.
So, to sum up: Kyle rocks, and Michael Roach really missed the point. Harvesting stem cells is not cannibalism, and even if it were you have yet to explain why it may be bad.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Rapists of Heroes

Heroes is a dramatic show that has many common themes, such as sexuality and violence. A theme that runs between those two is that of rape and other sexual assault/violence elements. Some of Heroes’ sexual predators have been used to bring sex appeal to the show, engaging the viewers while simultaneously repelling them, while others are meant simply to disgust and terrify. Characters Brody, Doyle, Sylar, Flint, and even Elle to some extent have threatened our protagonists with sexual violence.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Anti-Twilighters: A Bestiary

As I’ve been a part of the online Twilight community, I’ve become aware of the series’ rather vocal detractors, who have been generally termed anti-Twilighters or simply antis. While I have in the past made articles in attempts to respond to such folks, I now realize I was faulted by attempting to lump every anti together into one category. This is a mistake as with any group it may be split into several categories. Here are the categories of anti-Twilighter I have defined: the feminists, the misogynists, the casual dislikers, the rabid haters, and the rare and valuable sensible dislikers. Note that there may be some crossover within these categories.

The Other Marty Fallacy (Back to the Future)

My dad and I enjoy the movie Back to the Future. As we watch it, he likes to point out continuity errors and plot holes in the story, like “Sure they know the minute lightning strikes, but they don’t know the second.” One of the things he consistently asks is “Where did the other Marty go?” at the end of the film when Marty (who was trapped in the past) goes back to the future a little earlier than when he left and observes another version of himself go back in time. So, what happened to that other Marty and why doesn’t he appear in 1985 with the first Marty? For the longest time, I haven’t been able to answer that question. Now, however, I believe I have the answer. There is no other Marty, but instead only one. Believing in the existence of another Marty that would come to join the first one hinges on a presumption of a multiverse-based time travel. Back to the Future, however, uses a form of time travel in which there is only one universe whose timeline is overwritten whenever time travel occurs.
In the story of Back to the Future, Marty gets into the DeLorean at the Twin Pines Mall in 1985 and travels back to 1955. He has his little adventure, and then travels back to 1985 and arrives 11 minutes before his departure. The car breaks down, and he runs to the mall, which due to the changes he did to past has now been called the Lone Pine Mall, and witnesses himself getting into the car and time travelling away. For clarity’s sake, I will refer to the Marty we have followed throughout the movie, who observes himself, as Marty-1 and to the observed Marty as Marty-2. My dad asks what happened to Marty-2, for presumably Marty-2 would have to return to 1985 at some point.
Confusion, I believe, arises from the assumption that Back to the Future takes place in a multiverse, and that time travel involves entering separate universes. Both Dad and I are familiar with the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, which is used in some time travel stories like Timeline by Michael Crichton or The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter. So, when Doc Brown in Part II draws a timeline skewing into a tangent to create an alternate 1985, the natural conclusion we make is that he is describing alternate universes. This, however, may not be the correct interpretation.
The time travel physics of Back to the Future seem to be based on there being a single universe with a time-space continuum that must be carefully looked after. When Marty inadvertently stops his parents from getting together in 1955, he starts being erased from existence. It takes action to repair the timeline to prevent a paradox. His actions in the past do affect the future, and though he seems to encourage people to do things they would do anyway (Goldie Wilson, Chuck Berry, his parents), he is not caught in a strange loop, as the 1985 he arrives in is not the one he left. The timeline is overwritten.
If Back to the Future used a multiverse, there would be no crucial need to avert paradoxes. Marty could break up his parents without being erased, as he would simply enter a separate universe where he doesn’t exist. He would be a traveler from a foreign universe, and thus be able to coexist with a universe that never had a native version of him exist. If he got his parents back together and then went into the future, it is possible he would have to deal with a Marty-2 showing up and there being two (or more) Martys in the same time. However, the only evidence for there being a multiverse is Doc’s diagram, and this may be a misinterpretation.
In Part II, 2015 Biff steals the time machine, gives his 1955 self the almanac, goes back to 2015, and runs off. Marty and Doc then retrieve their time machine without realizing anything was done with it. 2015 Hill Valley looks the same as before Biff tinkered with the timeline. Marty and Doc go to 1985 to find it turned into Hell Valley. Doc then draws his diagram. This has the appearance that Biff created an alternate universe, rather than overwriting the timeline.
This is a misconception, though. The reason why the Hill Valley 2015 Biff returns to in his present isn’t overrun with corruption is because the ripple effect hasn’t yet caught up with him. Biff, however, is groaning in pain as he runs off. Though unclear in the released film, a deleted scene shows explicitly that this is him being erased from existence as a result of his actions previously in the timeline. This seems to create a paradox in that Biff should never have acquired the almanac in the first place, but I think it is evidence of the writers making a mistake rather than evidence that Back to the Future really uses a multiverse. In any case, all that occurs in Part II can be considered an extension built onto what was originally thought up for the first film, and should not necessarily be considered as canon insofar as we are discussing the first film in its own context rather than the franchise as a whole.
As an extension to the thought experiment of the other Marty, my dad asks what would happen if Marty-1 should hypothetically get in Marty-2’s car and go back to 1955 with him. If this happens, would not the Martys quickly multiply, leading to several Martys continuously appearing in 1985? Well, no. Say Marty-1 gets in Marty-2’s car, goes to 1955 with him, and comes back together 11 minutes before Marty’s younger self (Marty-3) leaves for 1955. We won’t have any more Martys arriving. Marty-2 will just run into Marty-3’s car, they’ll leave, and we’ll be left with only one Marty. What happened to Martys 2 and 3? They become Marty-1’s past selves.
It’s a mistake to think of the Martys as separate entities. There is only one Marty McFly. It is not the case that we’re dealing with separate bodies that will always stay separate, as would happen in a multiverse, but rather person whose life along the timeline got some kinks in it. Usually a person’s life is like a straight line, but with time travel it’s like a person’s life is a loose rope that can be looped back on itself. A person’s older body can touch their younger body, but the looped rope is only one piece and it will eventually head off on its own once the loops end. That is, unless the timeline is a strange loop, but that’s not the way Back to the Future works.
In conclusion, Back to the Future time travel physics do not have the gap in reasoning that could lead to the existence of a bazillion other Martys showing up. The counterparts are not formed of newly created matter, but rather matter displaced that will eventually even out. Time travel is very confusing, but I think I have this figured out. Well, in Back to the Future, anyway.