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Housework avoidance post - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Housework avoidance post
Someday, I'll figure out how people go about keeping on top of their housework. Feh. Probably by not making LJ posts when they realize just how depressingly large the job is. Please tell me why I'm constitutionally unable to just put things away when I use them, rather than letting the clutter rise up until it's a huge, major job to clean. Oh, well. One step at a time. I have the keyboard shelf of my computer desk clear. And dusted. So sigh, I'll take a break now.

sjepstein referred me to a New York Times article by David Brooks, about why we have the same political situation now that we had in 2000, despite having totally different issues. It makes sense to me.

Let's see. Clean desk top. Get junk off bookshelves. Laundry. Find places for things that you bought without having a place for them.

Slam head into desk and say, "Why is space so expensive????"

What's with the attraction of "moral ambiguity"? I mean, yeah, sometimes. But it gets thrown around like a religious precept--ironically, it has become the moral absolute that one cannot write about moral absolutes without incurring the scorn of the enlightened. And someone said that Harry Potter is morally ambiguous (a fan, in a praising tone). :Fern just blinks for a few minutes: Adopting a Paul Reiser tone, "Not so much, really." Yes, the characters don't always fall neatly into one camp or the other, but when they're wrong, it's pretty obvious that they're wrong. I've also heard people who don't like moral ambiguity say that it's why they don't like the Star Wars prequels--too morally ambiguous. WHERE? Yes, Anakin's dancing back and forth between Dark and Light like a mad Dervish, but you know when he's in one or another. The message of both HP and the prequels is that good and evil are relatively simple, but the choices between them are quite complex and never over.

Grrr. Staring at mess, thinking, "Couldn't I just go to sleep instead?"

I did a long post on the "books you hate" thread at SugarQuill. (I can't believe how many people hate Lord of the Flies... it's one of the most powerful books I've ever read!) Anyway, I got onto the SW EU issue. This is what I wrote.

Which leads into my all-time book hate: The adult Star Wars novels, and more than half of the kid's ones. Yes, it's a minor, fluffy thing to worry about a series of paid fanfic, but they bug the heck out of me on every possible level. They slaughter the mythology, replace the characters with unrecognizable simulcra, populate the universe with Mary Sues and Gary Stus that no self-respecting fanfic writer would consider, and miss the tone of the movies so completely that they may as well be fanfic of some other property. The attitude toward women is ugly as well, with the major female character being a fairly, erm, over-friendly but not very nice woman in tight clothes and an unrecognizable Leia who is suddenly indecisive about her love life. And there's no sense of history at all. The only one I've been at all fond of is one that's universally loathed by the EU book fan crew--Rogue Planet--because it's the only one that even approached getting the characters, tone, and theme right. Unfortunately, I have to agree with the RP-haters that man alive, the plot reeked. And, to my annoyance, they threw in one of the idiot Gary Stus, but at least AotC rendered him obsolete. I think half the reason I love the prequels as much as I do (the other being that I just dig them) is that they are systematically dismantling the EU and proving that all of those thematic and tone things really were wrong, and it wasn't just my imagination.


Oh. Laundry's done. Better go and get up and down the cellar stairs on my bad foot before it turns to jelly or something.

I feel a bit...: gloomy headachy

22 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
ashtur From: ashtur Date: October 23rd, 2004 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Urgh, sorry to hear that your foots still being a problem :(

But yeah, it seems that there's never enough space... especially for book-people.

Anyway, I agree on the "moral ambiguity" thing. My point of view has gotten to the point of saying "There is such a thing as truth, but sometimes it can be really, really complex"... and that's how I feel with good and evil also. There is such a thing, and even the best person on this rock still carries darkness... so it's there, even if it can be pretty hard to sort out in some circumstances.
From: lunulet Date: October 23rd, 2004 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I saw "david brooks" in your post and had, HAD to use my icon.

Such a well-spoken man. If only he'd just accept that he's in love with John Edwards. Heehee.
From: magnolia_mama Date: October 23rd, 2004 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think a lot of people tend to confuse "morally ambiguous" with "not very nice"-- such as when Hermione's being a self-righteous swot, she's actually being morally ambiguous. Um, no, she's just being a self-righteous swot. By this definition, then, Draco is the epitome of moral ambiguity. Right. And Voldemort's off somewhere gazing at a skull and saying, "Alas, poor Myrtle, I knew thee."

MM
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: October 23rd, 2004 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
That deserves an icon. Hmm. >.>
From: magnolia_mama Date: October 24th, 2004 07:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd GIP an icon like that...surely Ralph Fiennes has played Hamlet at some point in his career. Alas Yorick I have neither the software nor the talent to make an icon, so we'll have to hope for someone else to come to the rescue. :-)
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: October 24th, 2004 10:21 am (UTC) (Link)
He has indeed! Tony and everything! Mind if I give the icon a shot?
From: magnolia_mama Date: October 24th, 2004 10:59 am (UTC) (Link)
*swoons over photo*

Excellent! I say go for it. Can you give me a heads up when you post it? My email is magnolia_mama at earthlink dot net

Thanks!
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: October 24th, 2004 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the idea! I'll certainly let you know when I get it made. I'm in the middle of a desktop to laptop switch right now, so it won't be as fast as I like, alas. I need to get PSP installed. And I think I'll try to find another picture (I can't seem to get one of him and the skull, alas) which lends itself to the quote more. We shall see!
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: October 28th, 2004 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)


nothing fancy, but there ya go. :D
From: magnolia_mama Date: October 28th, 2004 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!

I shall GIP and credit you forthwith.

Okay fernwithy, I promise we're done. :-)

MM
sonetka From: sonetka Date: October 23rd, 2004 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Was she a girl of infinite drip?

Just curious :). And I agree that this should be an icon.
arclevel From: arclevel Date: October 23rd, 2004 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think a lot of it has to do with the definitions being used of "morally ambiguous." I take it to be a trait of characters, not worlds, and a standing trait, not a description of a single act. In a sense, any character who is neither purely good or purely evil (which would include any realistic character that we see much) is morally ambiguous, but to varying degrees. Hermione being a self-righteous swot in general doesn't qualify her for moral ambiguity; Hermione leading Umbridge to her probable death in order to rescue Harry from the Cruciatus does qualify her, IMO. Snape qualifies as highly MA because he's got a lot of nasty acts to his name, continues with at least some of them, but seems to do the "good" thing when push comes to shove. As such, it's hard to peg him on the moral scale. I don't think that moral ambiguity requires that you can't tell what's good and what's evil in the series, but that the characters frequently can't, and that the characters aren't neatly one or the other, even if they are neatly on the good side or the bad side. (Barty Crouch Sr was neatly on the good side, but he certainly wasn't neatly good.) Does any of that make sense?
ladyaeryn From: ladyaeryn Date: October 23rd, 2004 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Chalk me up as one of those who didn't exactly love Lord of the Flies - I understand that it's a metaphor of society and anarchy and all that; I simply didn't care for it. Then again, I had to read it as a school assignment, where we were basically forced to look for that Big Metaphor everywhere in the text, so perhaps if I tried it again on my own I'd enjoy it more. (The only assigned book I ever remember enjoying in my 6+ years of assigned reading was The Hobbit.)

However, like you, my dislike of it is nothing compared to much of the post-RotJ EU. ;)

Back when I was first reading the EU I was comparing reading lists with one of my classmates - she was into more deeply thematic/mythological stuff, I told her what I'd been reading lately was SW novels. She commented and I agreed that, yeah, books like those really wouldn't have much symbolism or depth - and it's only in recent years that it's hit me how right that statement was, but only because I realize it shouldn't have been right.

an unrecognizable Leia who is suddenly indecisive about her love life.

And who's horribly obsessed with her career and therefore a completely neglectful mother and wife (and who seems to flip-flop on just how much emotional baggage she actually has at being Vader's daughter), who at times becomes a complete shrew even around Luke (or rather, the mopey, whipped clone that has assumed his place). And then of course the drunken, wandering Han who abandons his wife and kids after his best friend's death... I stayed with those books way too long.

The only one I've been at all fond of is one that's universally loathed by the EU book fan crew--Rogue Planet--because it's the only one that even approached getting the characters, tone, and theme right.

Yep - another one of those things that makes me a heretical fan. ;) I just remember being so happy that a book had finally gotten Anakin right (it even made me interested in Obi-Wan, which only happens rarely), I didn't much care how crummy a plot it was! Tatooine Ghost was also far more enjoyable than the average EU, but again, the flimsy excuse for a plot unfortunately dominated more than it ought to have, and it also seemed to be used partly as a way to retcon all the backlash-inducing badness that happened in The Courtship of Princess Leia. TG was also one of the books that actually made me more frustrated about the "lack of history" in the EU... here, we actually do get some, but you know that because of its place in the timeline, what we do get is pretty much going to be invalidated.
may_child From: may_child Date: October 25th, 2004 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
She commented and I agreed that, yeah, books like those really wouldn't have much symbolism or depth - and it's only in recent years that it's hit me how right that statement was, but only because I realize it shouldn't have been right.

Yeah, the books purport to offer depth and explore issues that, for various reasons, the movies do not or cannot. However, as I like to say, all they do is add gray areas not where none are, but where none belong.

I stayed with those books way too long.

Join the club. It's not a very exclusive club. Anyway...you've summed up a central problem with the books: they're not only inconsistent with the movies, they're inconsistent with themselves. It's been described as Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen Syndrome: too many authors trying to do too many wildly divergent things.

The Courtship of Princess Leia.

Please, not while I'm eating!

Anyway...I too found "Tatooine Ghost" enjoyable, flimsy, contrivance-laden plot notwithstanding. While it was partly used to retcon the abject crap that was COPL (albeit a decade late), it was also used to pacify the Han/Leia fanbase, which had become very vocal in its anger over the treatment of Han/Leia in the NJO.

Troy Denning also did a decent job weaving in some prequel-era stuff, although of course he had the luxury of two prequels being out when he wrote it.
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: October 23rd, 2004 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Somebody, somewhere, referred to Lucas' wholesale massacre of the EU through the Prequels as the "Prequel Steamroller." Or something like that. ::snickers:: I just like the visual.

Moral Ambiguity... someone else in your comments said this should apply to the characters of HP rather than the world, and I think that would be right. But on the other hand, I think there are a lot of people out there who really do prefer when good and evil outside of the characters is ambiguous.

This, I think, is related to the relativistic worldview that many "sophisticated" people hold these days. Folks like me who believe in an absolute right and wrong (however complex) are looked upon as simple-minded (to put it lightly). How can good be really good when it might involve death, or pain, or may include people who are not wholly good themselves? And how can you say that evil is wholly evil, when every person has some capacity for good or some kind of good feeling in them?

I agree that people are neither wholly good nor wholly evil: we're all on a kind of mixed-up mish-mash of a continuum, but that doesn't negate the existence of true good and true evil. Some things are absolutely wrong and some are absolutely right, and any one person can do both.

And I'm not entirely sure that makes them "ambiguous." Snape, to me, is not ambiguous. He's a good guy. He's a jerk, he does bad things, he's certainly not someone I want to be around, but his goals are right, he's on the right side, and I believe he'll come through in the end. Ambiguous implies something being neither one nor the other, but with the characters in HP, I believe we know enough about the major ones to make a judgement. As for the morals of HP, I think we can be pretty confident that they are not ambiguous. They're just complicated, and rightly so.

(Oh, and I quite like The Lord of the Flies.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 24th, 2004 09:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Somebody, somewhere, referred to Lucas' wholesale massacre of the EU through the Prequels as the "Prequel Steamroller." Or something like that. ::snickers:: I just like the visual.

Ha, I like it. Do you suppose when it's totally flattened on the pavement that some brave soul will dare to say, "You know... why don't we just stop retconning this, wipe the slate, and start over?"

:Fern warms her hands over pretty dream that she knows won't happen because Zahn fans would send up a collective whine that would cause deafness in some species of canine.:

I agree that people are neither wholly good nor wholly evil: we're all on a kind of mixed-up mish-mash of a continuum, but that doesn't negate the existence of true good and true evil. Some things are absolutely wrong and some are absolutely right, and any one person can do both.

Right. Which I think is what bothers people about the prequels, though it is also true in the Classic (they just ignored it). Anakin's emotional state is difficult to argue with--they've tortured his mother for a month and she dies; he goes completely whacked. It's a scene we've seen in a dozen war movies, where the hero berserks his way around to avenge a fallen buddy (for great reference, Independence Day, with all the "payback" scenes), and we're conditioned to cheer... but we know, in Anakin's case, that it's the first step on the road that leads to Vader. So people have chosen to block it out entirely, call it abnormal, whatever, because hey, that can't be something that could happen to just anyone. No! It's because he's a whiny spoiled brat and a Bad Seed and ANYTHING BUT JUST LIKE US.

I'm also not convinced this makes him morally ambiguous any more than Snape is. He wants to do the right thing, but he royally screws up and he knows it. Later on, he just gives up trying. Which could be a good argument that Vader is actively evil, since he knows the difference between good and evil and does evil anyway, while the Emperor is amoral. Personally, I'm more inclined to think that Vader was "compromising," believing things to be temporary, that things could go back to a semi-Edenic state if he could just firmly establish control.
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: October 24th, 2004 10:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm more inclined to think that Vader was "compromising," believing things to be temporary, that things could go back to a semi-Edenic state if he could just firmly establish control.

My thoughts exactly. Anakin expressed his desire to control the beaurocracy for the sake of efficiency (thus saving lives) to Padme, and she asks who would do it, him? And all those years later the desire to control what it going wrong (the Tuskans, the Senate) and MAKE it work, FIX it lead to the "compromise." Holding his breath as he walks through the swamp, so to speak, because of the possibility of firm ground on the other side.
may_child From: may_child Date: October 25th, 2004 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ha, I like it. Do you suppose when it's totally flattened on the pavement that some brave soul will dare to say, "You know... why don't we just stop retconning this, wipe the slate, and start over?"

:Fern warms her hands over pretty dream that she knows won't happen because Zahn fans would send up a collective whine that would cause deafness in some species of canine.:


Hey, can I warm my hands over that too?

However, even if, by a miracle of miracles, they did press the proverbial restart button on the EU, there is no guarantee that the new EU wouldn't be just as bad. Moreover, we wouldn't have the comfort of being able to dismiss it on the basis of "the movies contradict it," because it would be written so as to be consistent with the events of the movies.

I guiltily admit that it is kind of entertaining, in a train-wreck sort of way, to see the continuity fixes that have been thought up to make the EU fit in with what the prequels established.

For instance: Zahn's botched Clone Wars timeline, during which Anakin Skywalker would've been about three: "The timeline was given in Noghri years."

Or the umpteen thieves of the Death Star plans: "Each thief stole a portion of the plans and the Rebels assembled them all."

Or Greedo being in TPM, which contradicts whatever backstory the EU cooked up for him: "It was actually Greedo the Elder who was in TPM."

Or Owen Lars and Obi Wan Kenobi being unrelated, rather than the brothers the EU says they are: "Obi Wan refers to having a brother named Owen. It doesn't mean it's Luke's Uncle Owen."

My personal favorite concerns C3PO, who the EU has being 300 years old instead of 30-odd years old in the OT: "His parts were 300 years old, and Anakin just assembled them."
arclevel From: arclevel Date: October 24th, 2004 01:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
See, that's what I mean about definitions. I agree (basically) with your characterization of Snape, but to me, that *is* ambiguous. He's on the good side, but it's hard to define whether *he* is good. I consider those very different things. Also, I take "ambiguous" to mean uncertain or hard to define; dictionary.com says "open to more than one interpretation," which I also like. I'm not trying to get into a massive sematical debate, really, so much as point out that I think this *is* a semantical debate. The debate over what is or isn't morally ambiguous (in HP, at least) mostly seems to be how we define the phrase, because the character and moral interpretations seem to be pretty similar.

I believe in moral absolutes, also. However, I think they tend to be hard to find or use in real life; few things fit one or the other. As for the morals of HP, I disagree with what I think you're saying (but I'm not sure it's what you're saying). Given the amount of actions that in one place get narrative approval and in other places are condemned, or actions done with narrative approval that lots of fans find morally repugnant, I think there are a lot of questions left open about what is right and wrong. Please tell me if I've misunderstood your meaning.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 24th, 2004 01:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that an (erroneous)impression of moral ambiguity is given because of the third person limited narrator. For instance, the gang's rather iffy treatment of Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle at the end of GoF and OotP is presented in a positive light through the Harry-centric point of view - but does JKR sanction it? We won't know until book seven, when the series comes to it's moral resolution.

falco_999
skelkins From: skelkins Date: October 24th, 2004 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I would agree with the person above who said that when people speak of "moral ambiguity" in the books, they are usually talking about the characters, not about the universe itself.

After all, without positing the existence of right and wrong, what on earth would the phrase "morally ambiguous" mean? The phrase itself assumes some ethical construct; without such a construct, there can no more be "moral ambiguity" than there can be "izzlepflatz ambiguity."
stella_by_moor From: stella_by_moor Date: October 24th, 2004 02:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Someday, I'll figure out how people go about keeping on top of their housework.

Um, we don't. We just make things pretty when there are guests so that other people think we're on top of things ^_^ (Seriously, most of the time laundry gets done when someone runs out of clean underwear.)

I can't believe how many people hate Lord of the Flies . . .

I'm with you - I really enjoyed Lord of the Flies. What's weird is that a lot of the people I know read it in middle school, while I read it senior year in high school. I'm not sure who decided that this is appropriate reading material for twelve-year-old children, but I know that most of the people who read it when they were really young didn't appreciate it.

What's with the attraction of "moral ambiguity"?

I haven't really thought this one out, but I think the aforementioned "moral ambiguity" really ought to be termed "moral complexity." Older readers of Harry Potter like the fact that the Potterverse isn't the cut-and-dry world of fairy tales, where the evil witch is just that - evil with no motivation - and the handsome prince is infallible and faultless. It's more realistic to us that the good guys sometimes do morally suspect things, or use the ends to justify the means. *goes off to ponder this some more*
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