Sunday, July 16, 2017

Come and talk recent literary/film history with me!

I specifically have one or two questions that Someone Else might be better-equipped to answer:

The Hitchcock film Lifeboat... it has issues, of course, but... well, in a rather peculiar circumstance, it includes a Villain, which villain is
  1. according to the Logic of the Film's Setting
  2. according to opinion spoken by other characters, and
  3. (most importantly) according to his own actions
a Nazi. Whereas plenty of films include "Straw" Nazis (their only dramatic action is to oppose our hero) or "reluctant/in-name-only" Nazis (think of the submarine Captains in both Enemy Below and Das Boot); whereas "Nazi" is often tossed around as an epithet; and whereas "Nazism" and "anti-semitism" are frequently used interchangeably (which is an error)1 in public chatter: Therefore I suspect that the confluence of those three Nazisms in one character (as in Lifeboat) is Comparatively Rare, especially in English-language Fiction.

I have some impression that also there are acting-believing Nazis shown in other English-language films, both as hero (Million-Dollar Baby) and villain (perhaps the Potter saga?), but actually calling it out seems also to be Comparatively Rare.

Are these impressions of probability, do you think or know, correct? Or have you other examples to suggest? (one other film that has been rattling in my mind since I started puzzling this question is La Vita E Bella, whose believing Nazi is a well-dressed woman complaining of arithmetic word-problems in public schools)

1) The existential opposition between any non-Jewish Nazi state and the Jewish Diaspora follows of necessity from the tradition of Jews calling and keeping themselves a People Set Apart while at the same time insisting on staying here amongst these other Gentes. It is, however, not logically impossible that a particular local Jewish Polity should also become National-Socialist — such would be opposed to the Torah Commands to Love thy Neighbour, and to Protect the Stranger and Orphan... but since the Jews are a people and not simply a religion thus they are capable of violating Torah while remaining Jewish. Meanwhile, (recalling that Nazi Germany was also pleased to export its Jews in exchange for gold) Nazi-Jewry-in-Jewish-State would be entirely compatible with Nazi-Germany-in-German-Empire and Nazi-Japan-in-Japanese-Empire and Nazi-Afghan-State-in-Afghanistan... and the latter three together were a genuine live idea during WWII.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Thought Experiment

Her Majesty is supposed, these days, not to be "Political", as it is called. I remain uncertain as to what this really means, except that "Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl, though she doesn't have a lot to say..."

Who-Was-Saturday recently affirmed "Je suis la mère de Charlie Gard", to which a commentator has replied "Je suis son grand-père". I should like to ask, therefore, of Her Majesty,
What if rather than wee Charlie, it had been wee Prince George?
Would the Decision be so finally left in the hands of the National Health Service? And would they be so keen to suspend extraordinary support? It's not an idle question, either, as the late King Edward's last physician boasted for decades of having hastened that royal succession1 (over loud royal cursing, I might add), and even now I can't recommend Her Majesty anymore visit this particular Crown Realm whence I write, lest in some emergency the local medical establishment show her less care than we once showed to the then-expectant Queen of Holland (in memory of which myriads of tulips are sent hither each year...)

Dearest, Your Majesty, who sit as mother over all your kingdoms, and indeed a great-grandmother, the question is not a political question. It's a question of family.

1) one may note with some interest that Mrs "Simpson" Spencer never did have any children, so with or without King George VI, we'd probably have welcomed Queen Elizabeth II anyways. But that would have been a very Different World.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Consent" is, generally speaking, an unhelpful predicate

There's a ... noisy, I think, is the word I want... collection of... er... "social"... activities...

And, there I've gone off the rails before I even start. Wooster, out of my head!

Dear Libertarian,


Sometimes it's needed, sometimes it isn't, sometimes it's impossible, and sometimes it's wrong and, sometimes, irrelevant. Sometimes it Changes the World For Good.

Consent is needed, for example, when a physician advises a patient that surgery may be required for the aleviation of some suffering (or prevention of some untimely catastrophe). In contrast, consent is impossible when a paramedic is confronted with a person in the state called "unconscious victim" — and it may well be wrong to wait for consent to be available, before getting them to a surgeon. (Incidentally, Erich "Houdini" Weiss died as he did because he withheld consent until he was an "unconscious victim".)

Apparently, consent is not needed either when someone wishes to build a Bypass through your House of a Thursday Morning. (You've got to build Bypasses!)

Consent of a particular sort, freely given between a peculiarly-free man and a peculiarly-free woman, Makes a Thing which will persist as long as they two shall live. And hurrah! for that; but we do not dwell on that joy, here.

But sometimes consent is wrong. Sometimes (it is a fallen world) one proposes to another a thing which should not be done. Sometimes the proposal is an outrage against Life; sometimes against Matrimony; sometimes against Just Authority; sometimes against Reason; in any of these cases, consent is wrong.

And yet! There is ever so much noise these days seeking to excuse this-that-or-t'other under the nylon veil of "consent".

So, let me point out one Helpful Case, where consent may be given to some proposition in such wise that the person giving consent becomes thereby the victim of a crime in civil law: these are broadly described as frauds. There are many kinds of fraud and "confidence" tricks, but the common feature of them all is that real consent is given to Some Thing, and thereby a person, of their own consenting, loses some property1. Now, what further circumstance compacts this consensual acquisition into a crime... you will have to review in the Statutes and Ammendments and Judgments et.c.; nonetheless, that part of the crime which, in the law of the Land whence I write, is called "actus reus" is indeed actus when that consent is first sought. And yet one more difficulty, is that consent can be extracted. Consent can be cajoled, tempted, teased, berated and blackmailed into presenting itself. Frauds do sometimes, in that narrow sense of acheiving their object, "succeed".

Still, so long as Law and even (I have some hope!) public sentiment does recognize that this one class of consent does not absolve a crime, perhaps we may hope in time to retreat from the cliff of All-Consenting-to-Consent? I want to hope.

1) Generally, the sense of fraud implies that something is done to which the consenting victim does not consent, but that other thing is, I should argue, distinct, and does not mean that the victim "didn't really consent at all". One who buys snake-oil does not consent to poisoning but does consent to pay.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

So I watched this movie...

... always a risk, that. As is stepping into a Strange church building... I feel the need to pause here, for there is something immensely merciful, at times, in being not able to hear the homily. What a joy the Ancient Usage, the Divine Liturgy of Pope St. Leo, the Forma Extraordinaria... a sermon carefully written and full of orthodoxy is a Good Thing, but such a small thing next to being formed by the tumbled rocks of the old Missal... now, there is vere participatio, where you know just what to pray when and how because they've tried and worked it out carefully for centuries with the aim of helping souls to Heaven; ... when in contrast, some sects calling themselves christian have so much to make it up new every week that they have (I was reminded, in person, today) invented a new god for themselves, with a new name, and after their own image... this particular community calls itself "United", which is a funny tale in itself, for not only is it united separate from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic, it really only shuffled an outer division when established all those decades back... but I digress. It is risky being present for strange prayers or strange sermons or movies, for one knows not what subtle nonsense the insidious might try boring into a too-patient audience.

But this particular movie (nothing to do with Today's weird adventure) was at worst "too sweet". (Stilwell, I don't expect you'd care for it, but what do I know?) You might not want to watch it twice, but one viewing... should do no harm. It has laughs, and a bad poem, (not an evil poem, just bad), but is basically a sound and decent and cheerfully impossible story. "No Stranger Than Love" is it when a mysterious hole appears in a young lady's living-room floor; and things are lost down the hole, and she tries to hide it, but when enough has been noted as lost down the hole it is found out (of course!), and everyone asks what is this hole? Some answers are proffered, and revelations transpire (of course!)... curiously, I don't think what finally becomes of the hole is ever told, but we do have some happy endings.

So, if you need a bit of a laugh, maybe give it a try.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Linguist's bad joke or Accidental Prophecy?

Dear Gene,

I was browsing through Touchstone Magazine and happened upon a meditation occasioned by the DesiLu-era Star Trek episode The Mark of Gideon— you know, the one1 that seeks to contradict my Sci-Fi-Coolness Test, and fails on account of starships can move people and space is huge...

Raedy's Touchstone piece circumstantially connects Mark of Gideon with that dear encyclical Humanae Vitae, to which it seems to allude by popular caricature. And musing on this notion ­— that popular discourse takes place not on the level but by indirection, by repetition of stories misremembered... I was suddenly reminded of the Paramount-era Star Trek:The Next Generation episode, Darmok.

Darmok is a story that Linguists and Psychologists love to tear apart, on the grounds that If a "Universal Translator" is supposed to parse the Underlying Semantics via the Universality of Grammar, and If These Particular Aliens are actually communicating something other than the folktales when they quote their folktales, Then the Quotations are the actual Words that will be Translated, so they should come out sounding like ordinary conversation.

The preceding dismissal misses some important technical technological questions: for instance, if we know that "Darmok" is the name of a hero of legends through several solar systems, then we also know that What These Aliens are speaking sounds very like a language we already know (can you distinguish Romulan from Vulcan?). The "Universal" Translator decides that it is one of these understood languages, and then gives us the translation as if from that language. If the Translator didn't do that, if it were (like Douglas Adams' Babelfish) a mind-reading device, then spies would be immediately found out: no-one could ever talk in word-code... no-one could ever lie.

But more: what Gideon makes clear by being itself a bad example is that when we ponder and argue, often enough it is not in words-as-such and logic, but in long narrative and brief allusion, in innuendo and heartstring play. We already suffer Darmok Syndrome.

Scott King, in Neutralia

1) there are others that ignore the sci-fi coolness principle altogether... what can one do?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Quid est mihi et tibi..."

Today's Gospel is, I don't mind saying, one of my favourites. "They have no wine". Oh dear!

It's a funny thing, since God Knows All That Is, that He asks questions. Jesus does it, in person: when he was Twelve and went with Joseph and Mary to the festival (as was their custom), and then stayed behind... The doctors, it is said, were astonished at his wisdom and his questions... The punch-line is that God asks us Questions to reveal something unto us.

(Socrates, famously, tried a trick along similar lines, and got several archistrategoi and other poloi thoroughly annoyed with him...)

Today, we read that Jesus asked: what is that, to me and thee? As it is written elsewhere, "it is a trifle, for God, to make a poor man suddenly rich". What does Jesus' question reveal to us? Replacing the Wine is not the difficulty: that were a trifle; and He adds (indicative, now!) "My hour is not yet come". Or, to put it another way: This is that couple's Wedding Feast, it won't do to up-stage them in front of Their Whole Family.

Jesus tells us he came to serve, not to be served, and so it is the servants to whom Mary speaks next; rather than stepping in for the groom, Jesus supplements the Steward's office; and so the even the Steward, never mind the Feasting Family, knows not whence comes the Good Wine. Everyone continues feasting, still more joyfully than before. Indeed, they have so much of such wine that the newlyweds may well be accounted Suddenly Rich. But the servants know, because Jesus spoke to them, and Jesus' disciples, because they were with him; and from that time they believed.

Good wine: proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy; it's an old joke, and it's in John's Gospel, too!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"What on Earth is Peter Talking About?"

21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice than, after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them. 22 For, that of the true proverb has happened to them: The dog is returned to his vomit; and: The sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
What's all this about dogs' sick-spew? Why is Peter so Fascinated by ... do you think maybe he thinks dogs being sick is funny? Or ... does Peter himself... puzzle or scry over his own... sick?

And don't get me started on Ford Prefect's whelk obsession...
apologies to the blue-green colour-blind...

I don't know why people go out of their way, sometimes, to make themselves... sound... less literate and knowledgeable than they really are... is it because His Holiness used a Greek word in metaphor? (that's also a Greek Word, by the way... you might like the Saxon "carry-over") Maybe we don't like to be reminded that people we don't always get on with are also intelligent? That they have some erudition? Maybe we don't like the idea that maybe some of the Editorial we... "consume" is indeed one current word for it in English... might be less than wholesome? We already speak this way. We already speak much more coarsely.

Not only that, but scatological metaphor as rebuke has been held good-for-something by the Prince of Apostles quoting King Solomon. This might just be Tradition.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sticks and stones

Bishops carry crosiers, which is to say long hefty sticks, whose symbolic uses are to pull sheep out of ditches and to nudge them (sometimes, thwack!) back on to the right path.

Now, is it in Deuteronomy? Or Exodus? ... Stoning is the sentence prescribed for convicted adulterers — with, what ought to be famous, the Other Spouse and the principal witness (there had to be Two) casting the First Stones.

We don't literally do that anymore — which is a relief, to say the least (and I rather suspect the judicial/executive requirements were meant from the first as an invitation to the Other Spouse to forgive rather than condemn). Whatever Adulterous Israel had fallen into, first in Egypt and then wandering among the other Nations, even so now “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, that Her warfare is accomplished, and Her iniquity is pardoned”. It's not that adultery intrinsically merrited stoning before and now it doesn't: it's that adultery itself must be “stoned” out of the soul (as must wrath, and deceit, and pride and...), before and now. One can't be both aeviternally happy and divided in the soul's attachments.

And that's the difficulty I have with the phrasing (well-meant though I'm sure it was) of admonitions against “[treating] the Church’s moral commands as if they were stones [to] hurl”. On The Contrary: the Church's moral commands are the Stones she has to Throw; and She must throw them at iniquity. With Mary and Jesus, She must strike at the serpent's head. I'm sure the author of the phrase means: “it's no good trying to hurt eachother, and false sanctimony makes it worse”. I think I should agree with that contention; but if Peter's Successor once urged us to approach a mere Council assuming its continuity with Tradition, and if I am now to work at approaching that Successor's immediate Successor assuming the same continuity with Tradition — How Much More should I approach the words of the New Testament as being Continuous with the Old? So, Young Peter, God rest ye and preserve: but, please, can we put more care into our choice of words? Most of us will only know you in this passing World by your words.

For the rest, in short, are you attached to some adultery, whether with a strange woman or a strange god? Then know that there are stones in-coming now: so get you out of their way!

Monday, January 2, 2017

about two "chicken" jokes.

Everyone needs levity sometimes.

Q Why did the Chicken cross the Road?

A for revenge.

Q Why did the Chicken cross the Road?

A because he had delusions of priesthood.

Q Why did the Chicken cross the Roads?

A to complete his graduate research in Novel Hybrids.

Q Why did the Chicken cross the [sounds like "roads"]?

A It was a rehearsal for the Invasion of Cyprus... and it didn't go well.

LEFTOVERS I --- Apocrypha Topologica III

Have you contemplated lately that marvelous invention, the revolving door?

The usual application of a revolving door is to compromise between the extremes of an open window and a wall. Specifically, the Revolving Door is a device which can be set in motion by an intelligent force (say, of animal intelligence at least) but not by an unintelligent force (as, say, a differential in air pressure). In the particular case of pressurized buildings, a good revolving door is not driven by the pressure inside, though air will tend to exit the building as the door is driven by people.

Anyways, as several of the other artifacts already mentioned in this very-occasional series, a revolving door exemplifies mechanical separation within topological connectedness. How strange, that! Anyways, the actual story of the moment is how, some time after the invention of anchored submarine mines, first that a clever engineer found a way to dredge harbours for them by towing weighted cables between separated vessels, and secondly that another clever engineer partially foiled that scheme by inventing a Revolving Door For Cables, In a Cable. I do rather wish that there were happier circumstances around this Intrinsically Delightful Invention, but, well, there we are.

Now, I should also tell you that I first heard about the cable-passing cable-joint from Richard Feynman, who likes to sprinkle his works with ... incorrections... just so that intrepid readers don't take his word for everything, and also to ensure that those inclined to calculation have extra fun checking his facts. As I write elsewhere (no, I shan't link, here) sometimes a condensor should be an inductance, sometimes 2:1 should be 1:2. Is a "shaft-passer" or a "cable-passer" actually a thing?

As it turns out, you can build them semi-automatically. Actually, that there is one of two possible implementations. They can also be built with a fixed axle connected to one side, but the principal of the thing is that the Revolving Door Shape itself serves as the guide for the round "walls" of the revolving door's frame, in consequence of the side-angle-side theorem, or some such.

I am dubious whether these things were any sure foil against the undermining of... under... water... mines... (no, originally, "undermining" was part of Castle-Siege warfare)... because of the fiddly coincidences needed to pass the dredging cable from the a suitable angle at the correct depth... building a chain of these links would be a fiddly mess indeed. But perhaps it was effective enough that you could never feel sure that this-or-that harbour was really safe.

Which is to say, we're also discussing an invisible, and nonmechanical means of inducing a local separation: the threat of a perfectly unintelligent, violent force.