Posts Tagged ‘Braak’

In times of strife, sometimes we find illumination in complexity and melancholy. To that end, director Dan Hodge at the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective serves up All’s Well that Ends Well, a rarely-performed Shakespearean “problem play”: A beast neither comedy, nor tragedy, nor history.

Read More at the Broad Street Review

Some Notes on Tragedy

Posted: November 16, 2015 in Braak, Politics
Tags: , , ,

It probably has not escaped anyone’s notice that I don’t usually write things in the face of terrible tragedies.  With one or two exceptions, I usually don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how other people survive in the world; I keep most of it at delicate, carefully-maintained distance.  Any horror is capable of collapsing that distance, bespeaking not just itself but every horror, every agony in the unremitting misery of the world.  I don’t have a good mechanism for feeling bad about only one thing at a time, I think.  Somehow, in my imagination, every tragedy is chained together and to drag one loose is to pull all of them free.

When things like this happen I start to feel…”deliberate” I suppose is a word.  Maybe this is a kind of vanity – in the face of external stresses I become introspective.  Vanity is certainly something I am capable of.  And maybe it’s a kind of cowardice – I look for, instead of some way to act, only the one way to act perfectly correctly, the opportune moment to do only the exact right thing.  Sometimes the opportune moment never presents itself, and I do nothing, and so maybe this is a way of forgiving myself of the responsibility of action.  Cowardice is certainly something I am capable of.

I don’t know.

A philosopher that I happen to like is Baruch Spinoza, and a quote that has felt especially pertinent to me lately is this one, from his Tractatus Politicus:

Peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character.

I suppose I’m interested in what that means, what it means that peace is not the absence of violence, but is instead a resistance to violence.  That war is not an active condition but a passive one – a state of entropy that emerges on its own when the hard work of peace is abandoned.  That it’s peace that is the real work, the difficult work, the challenging work.

I don’t know the answer to this, either.  I don’t know how to win this war, and I am suspicious of anyone who claims to know.

I do know that I want to do the right thing, and only the right thing, and I don’t know what that is or even what it looks like.

So.  This is the letter I wrote to my congressmen.  I encourage you to write to your congressmen, too.

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I made a joke in the comments on THIS POST, at the Toast, about how I would like to watch a movie that was just Heather Lagenkamp and Jamie Lee Curtis going around and solving mysteries, but then I started to think about it and actually this is basically a completely amazing idea that I will now elaborate.

The premise of Final Girls, Inc., is that our heroines have formed what is essentially a private-detective agency, except instead of going around from town to town and fighting and killing monsters, they go around in search of other “final girls” — people who have survived horrific encounters with the supernatural — and help them cope with the trauma and put their lives back together.

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hugo_sm

The Hugo Award is a rocketship, to indicate the importance of rocketry or something, I don’t know

(Okay friends!  We are trying to get back to some regularly-scheduled programming, now that this nonsense with the baby has settled down somewhat.  To reward you all for your patience, I’m starting on with some inside baseball horseshit about an obscure conflict deep in the nerdliest bowels of the science fiction & fantasy community.  Maybe this is what you read Threat Quality for!  Probably not!  Too bad!)

Today I would like to talk about this, a proposal for an award for SF storytelling, created by a guy named Jay Maynard, whom you probably (do not) know as “Tron Guy.” I do not think that this proposal, or the conflict that has engendered it, is particularly interesting or important in either the grand scheme of things or in the petit scheme of things, but puzzling over it has led me to some ideas that I have about the nature of criticism that I DO think are interesting, and so I’m going to write about it anyway.

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The thing about a tumor is, it’s not just malign tissue.

(Well, the first thing is that it’s not “malign” at all; tumors aren’t evil, they’re just obstinately disinterested in the well-being of the organism that supports them. They’re more like Libertarians.)

A tumor isn’t just malign tissue, it’s a factory for malign tissue. It swells up somewhere, on your testicle, for instance, which you discover in the shower on Sunday night because your doctor told you when you were fourteen to start checking for tumors, because being fourteen wasn’t already an age replete with anxieties about uncontrollable forces destroying your life, you had to add in fucking tumors.

You find a mass on your testicle, and you know how tumors work, you know that it’s metastasizing even as you think about it, sending out fucking saboteurs to the rest of your organs.

I’ve had an ache in my thigh for a while now; is it a muscle pain, or is it a metastasized tumor that lodged in the muscle tissue of my leg? My back hurts, my spine is crawling with tumors. There are tumors in my intestines, in my prostate (prostate cancer is what killed my grandfather) and my colon (colon cancer is what killed his brother). There’s a pain in my groin roughly in the spot where my lymph nodes are (lymphatic cancer is an extremely common and dangerous variety).

If it hasn’t metastasized, maybe they’ll just cut off one or both of your testicles. If it’s spread to your muscles and your bones and your intestines, maybe they’ll just have to amputate my entire lower body. People can survive like that – you have colostomy bags for the rest of your life, and a wheelchair obviously, and you don’t fence or do kung fu or do a lot of things anymore, really.

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The Hitler Questions

Posted: April 13, 2015 in Braak
Tags: ,

I like hypothetical ethical dilemmas. I think they’re interesting, because ordinarily I think we don’t really think about what constitutes “right” and “wrong”: we’ve just got a sense of it, and when questions come up, we respond to them intuitively first, and then justify them later. The purpose of Ethical Dilemmas is to interrogate that mechanism that lets us choose, but in an environment where outcomes are known to us. This lets us examine both how we feel about a question, and how those questions interact with what we say our principles are.

Here are some questions about whether or not you’d go back in time to murder Adolf Hitler.

(Trigger warning for some talk about the Holocaust and about rape and murder.)

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Here’s the thing about nerds – and please know that I’m including myself in this, maybe as the worst of us all, the monster is within me, &c.: we all know at this point that there are nerds. Nerds are people who like weird stuff, and sometimes display a socially-unacceptable level of enthusiasm for our weird stuff. We dress up in costume for Harry Potter book launches or sign our emails with Star Trek quotes or what have you. But I think everyone also knows that there are nerds, and then there are nerd nerds: the kind of guys that you hope never show up to a conversation about any topic, because despite our enthusiasm and our granular knowledge of every little bit of a topic, we’re fucking terrible.

We’re the Comic Book Guys of the world, the Um, Actuallys, the Technically Speakings of the world. You all know us and I think that, even though we talk a big game about bullying, I think we maybe know, deep down, that when we do that kind of shit we deserve a little bit of the pejorative muck that still sullies the word “nerd.”

So, what I’m here to do is to present my Unified Theory of Being a Nerd, and then (maybe more importantly), I want to talk a little about the two major attitudes towards the world that it causes, and why these things are bad, why they should be rejected, and a little bit about how to quarantine them.

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We have all been waiting for the answer to this question, “Can a white man criticize the p.c. culture of the liberal left?” and Jonathan Chait has answered this question at length . The answer is apparently, “He CAN, but probably SHOULDN’T.” Much better writers will do much better responses to this, but it’s left me so irritated that I couldn’t help but write at least a little bit.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with…I guess…let’s do “commencement speakers”, and maybe ask a few questions about why guys like Jonathan Chait get their knickers in a twist when a student body tries to block one person or another from speaking at their commencement.

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I don’t know, now I got started, I figure I may as well get it all out of my system.  The idea, as I mentioned earlier, was to try to do one of these supernatural-adventure-mystery shows like Constantine or Detective Grimm, but with a feel that was more like CSI or Law and Order (or Bones, I guess), where you’re using these sort of forensic systems and legal procedures to deal with supernatural concepts, rather than every week having to have to hunt a new monster that you Look Up in the Book.

I guess, imagine it like the Deep Space Nine to Star Trek: The Next Generation.  A key difference between the shows, and one that a lot of people liked better, is that in DS9 there was no getting away from the problems that they ran into.  They were here in a place, dealing with communities over and over again, facing certain problems and then the consequences of those problems, and such like.  And imagine it even a little more concrete, where we start the show knowing what different tools we have at our disposal to create and solve mysteries, and if we’re going to create a new tool, we have to 1) know how it works, 2) know why it works, and 3) not introduce anything that we’re going to wish we could forget about three or four episodes down the line.  But THEN, imagine that it’s not just a question of formalizing our investigative processes, but a question of formalizing what the communities are like and how they relate to each other, so that if we are going to introduce a new monster we have to 1) know what it is, 2) know why it’s here, and 3) not introduce it unless we plan to use it again.

SO.

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I was talking to Holland via THE INTERNET the other day, and complaining (I pretty much only ever complain when I talk to Holland about things) about things that bother me in these sorts of supernatural adventure mystery shows like Constantine and Detective Grimm.

This thing is, when they have to figure out what the monster is and what they have to do about it, the either 1) look it up in a book (some variations include Grimm: first ask that guy about it, THEN look it up in a book, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: look it up in one of several books), or 2) use some kind of spell or charm that has the exact specific purpose of finding this particular demon/monster/orc and then is never mentioned again.

Both of these bother me, and as a sort of mental or creative exercise, what I would like to do now is brainstorm some ideas based on the following premise: what if you were a forensic scientist (i.e., a person whose job is to extract secrets from the dead, so: necromancer) in a world where the mundane and the supernatural mixed regularly? Like, there were just demons and faeries and trolls and such around, what systems would you use to figure out who committed the crime? What procedures would you put in place?

If you had this stuff in place, could you just basically make a CSI or Law and Order episode, but with monsters? (I am definitely aware that these shows ALSO resort to “one resource that solves all the problems” and “one resource that solves exactly this problem, exactly this one time”, they’re not immune to it, but they also have these multi-purpose but not omni-purpose procedures in place.)

Anyway, I think it’s interesting.

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