American Evangelion

Everyone who couldn’t afford the VHS tapes or DVDs eventually got the chance to watch NGE on Adult Swim, where it was presented in a more or less unedited format, and now a days, it is available to anyone with an internet connection and Google. But back in the late 90’s, anime was much harder to come by. You could put your trust in a fan subber, you could shell out the cash to ADV at your local movie store, or you could wait until it was on TV.

We’ve spoken before about the prequel to Evangelion, and it’s entertaining but ultimately unnecessary addition to the enjoyment of NGE as a whole, but now let’s take a look at a road not taken: the Americanized, kid friendly dub of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

This particular unfired bullet was optioned but ultimately not picked up for broadcast by ABC Family Worldwide (later 4Kids Entertainment, after the a complicated situation involving purchases of Fox Kids by both Saban and Disney that we simply don’t have the space to go into here). The basic gist is that Pat Robertson’s International Family Entertainment had bought the license to the “Christian Anime” Neon Genesis Evangelion, sight unseen, in 1995, after Robertson had heard the title as “Genesis Evange-Lion”, as well as a few of the Cross oriented attacks of Sachiel in the first episode, and assuming that it was basically a Christian Voltron.

It wasn’t.

The license sat gathering dust until the purchase, when some brilliant but anonymous staffer realized what was included in the purchase, and brought it to the attention of animation head Arlo Tedeschi, who pounced on the idea of having a giant robot show in the vein of Robotech, and being unafraid to alter the program and incorporate other shows to fit the length, just as Carl Macek had done with Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada. Unfortunately, when Tedeschi viewed the “pig in a poke” that he had, he realized that it would be difficult to merge the unique “horror mecha” style of Evangelion with any other series he could get his hands on cheaply (other than Nadia of the Blue Water), so he opted to reuse, edit, and otherwise transform the program to fit the bill.

While never actually produced, the in-house documents and the episode notes I was able to scrounge from the dumpster before shredding provide a fascinating insight into the creation process, the very mercenary attitudes towards character creation, and the ways in which editing existing footage can turn a deeply personal and psychological program into an action comedy. Reaching out to Hideaki Anno for comment on the documents, he replied almost too quickly, saying “Terrible idea, but we needed the money. A dog would never work. It has to be a penguin.”

Characters:

Shawn Benji Isaacs: a brash and hot headed young pilot, our hero is trying his hardest to impress his father, Gary, who was quite the mecha pilot in his own day. Drop all the depressing stuff about hospitals and staring at ceilings, because kids don’t want to watch that. Add in exciting rock music whenever he has his headphones in. A bit of retouching to make him smile more and add in more grunting expressions like he’s really fired up should be possible. We can reuse the interiors of the Unit 01 fight against the toilet paper monster (which should be a bit hit with the kids), because he really gets hot and passionate during that fight.

Ray Anderson: we want a second male lead, so I propose using footage of Toji in his suit from the “Jet Alone” episodes to serve as secondary pilot for unit 00. This will allow an easy rivalry between him and Shawn Benji, with a lot of playful school ground fights, but an overall impression that they are friends despite it all.

Anna Langley: other than dropping all the references to her being German, she should translate over without any difficulty. The angry girl who is maybe in love with the protagonist while he wants nothing to do with her is a stock character everyone will recognize.

Rachel Anderson: as a solution to the Rei Ayanami problem, we turn Rei into the sister that Toji is always talking about. This explains why she is often injured: it’s from the Angel attacks, and hence Ray is angry at the Angels and wants to destroy them completely.

Kevin Allen: a young camera obsessed fellow who is always following around Ray and Shawn Benji, he is the source of much of the footage of the battles that end up on the local news.

Michelle Kennedy: the hip and cute homeroom teacher of our cast, she drives a fast car, is addicted to a special brand of cola (can’t show drinking on a kids show after all), and is responsible for leading the missions that our heroes undertake.

Gary Isaacs: a seemingly cold and distant man who watches from afar, he regularly leaves his son tape recorded messages about how proud he is to have him as a son, and how good a job he’s doing as a pilot, because he has trouble speaking to him directly due to an unresolved trauma in his past.

Most of the other characters simply received name changes (Rita for Ritsuko, though editing out her smoking was going to prove expensive) or were dropped entirely (Lorenz and the Seele Pillars).

Sample Plots:

Episode One: Attack the Angel Beast! A mash up of the first two NGE episodes, focusing more on the action sequences and dropping any of the hospital related scenes entirely, Benji is picked up from the train station and rushed to his robot, where he immediately gets in and helps the American Army battle the first Dark Angel. Edit out the crosses.

Episode Two: Dark Angel Attack! A mash up of episodes three and four. Benji and Kevin go camping, and talk about how different life was before they had to deal with the Dark Angels. Benji makes a vow to destroy all of them and make his father proud. Kevin wishes that he could be a cool pilot like Benji. The second Dark Angel attacks, and Benji brings both Kevin and Ray along with him as co-pilots, Ray because Benji could use the help, and Kevin so he can live out his dream of being a pilot.

Episode Three: Battle on the Boats! Mostly footage from episode eight. We finally get to meet Benji’s older brother, Ryan (a very cool spy who Anna has a crush on), and Anna, as the US Navy is attacked by the sea dwelling Dark Angel and they battle it back. Add in some dialogue about how we should stop hunting whales and dolphins and this one is in the can.

Episode Four: Volcano! Mostly unchanged episode ten, but edit out the swimsuit scene.

Episode Five: Dance for Victory! Mostly unchanged episode nine, editing out the original bombing of the angel, and adding in more American music for the longer dance sequences to make up for time. Add in a sub plot about how Anna has loved to dance since she was a kid, while Benji has always thought it was stupid. He learns to get over it and discovers that even things he didn’t like at first can be fun.

Episode Six: We’ve Got the Power! Edited version of episode eleven. Altered so that the power outage is directly the fault of the Angel, and there’s an explanation of how electricity works to satisfy some of the educational aspects that we’re supposed to have.

Episodes Seven and Eight: The Undersea Base! Using edited footage from Nadia episodes five, six, and seven, we follow Benji’s younger sister, Nadine, and her friend John as they investigate the origin of the Dark Angels, which all seem to be coming from the ocean. Reveal that the evil Gargoyle has been in charge of the Angels, and sending them forth to attack the city, because he believes that by covering the planet with water, he can stop the destruction of the world’s ecosystem. Nadine is kidnapped.

Episode Nine: The Robot Monster! Edited version of episode seven. Edit together a longer combat sequence, with both Ray and Benji fighting the Jet Alone robot.

Unfortunately, Tedeschi’s notes stop there, and we can only speculate on where he intended the plot to go based on other scribbling in the margins of the typewritten document:

–Benji and Anna love sub plot?

–What to do with Gargoyle at the ending?

–Why does Nadine have a tan and Benji doesn’t?

–Ending of series + last episodes unusable. More Nadia?

–No ONE DIES

 

–Needs mascot character for stuffed toys — penguin too weird, maybe a dog?

–Have the robots combine into a bigger robot?

–Emphasize that the Angels are just robots and no one gets hurt, except for Ray’s sister’s broken arm. The Casualties of War.

–Work Rita in more? She used to work for Nemo?

–Gary has to be a hero, not the villain — no evil dads on TV

–Gargoyle is Gary’s Dad?

 

Watching Star Wars with Teenagers

I watched Star Wars with a group of teens, most of whom had never seen it before. Here are some of their questions and remarks:

–Is Yoda in this movie?

–Does anyone read that? (referring to the opening crawl)

–Is this one A New Hope? (we were watching the Silver Screen edition, which doesn’t have Episode IV in the title)

–I love that noise, that’s my favorite noise in all of Star Wars! (referring to the sound of R2D2 getting shot by the Jawas)

–(mockingly) “I was going go to Toshi station to pick up some power converters!”

–Why does he [Luke] whine so much? Dude should just listen to his dad.

–That’s like a snap on repeat (referring to R2D2 showing “Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope!” on repeat.)

–His Dad is Darth Vader! (even the kids who had never seen the movie knew this)

–Oh hell no! (when Wuher tells Artoo and Threepio “We don’t serve their kind!”. It was a black teenager who made the comment)

–Oh shit, they look so fake! (speaking about the aliens in the Mos Eisley cantina. They were in hysterics looking at all the various creatures)

–I know this music! This is in that one game… (The Cantina theme)

–Chewbacca’s my husband!

–That’s so gross! Did you see how his mouth went like…! imitates Greedo’s mouth sucking inward to say “Ya-bocca”

–That dude’s got no chin! (Grand Moff Tarkin)

–The is the lowest energy sword fight I’ve ever seen. (I didn’t point out the pun)

–Isn’t that his sister? (I clarify that we don’t learn that until Return of the Jedi)

–But don’t they have the same last name? (I let them know that Leia’s last name is Organa, not Skywalker, because she was adopted.)

–How do you know so much about Star Wars?

Overall, the kids were rapt throughout. A couple of them were locked to the screen from start to finish, only pausing occasionally to get popcorn but otherwise never breaking eye contact. Even the ones who were normally rambunctious and disruptive were really enjoying themselves. We only had one drive by who just wanted snacks who informed us that “Star Wars is stupid and gay” and the other teens shouted him down as he left. Good gender breakdown, about 60% female to 40% male.

They were very eager to see Empire and Jedi soon.

Why is deconstruction so infuriating?

I was watching David Harvey’s excellent lecture series on reading Marx’s Das Kapital, and in the introduction, he talks about how he’s done this class for many many years now, and in all sorts of departments, even those you wouldn’t expect to see reading economic and social philosophy. And, he notes, each year he learns something from each class; each one has its own perspective. Even, he says, a literature class in the early 70s that was filled with folks from the comparative literature department at Johns Hopkins who loved Derrida.

They were fascinating, he goes on to say, because unlike with every other time he taught the course, they barely got through the first chapter. They analyzed every word for every possible meaning (“What does he actually mean by value? What does he actually mean by money commodity? What is fetish about?”). They seized on every analogy. They wanted to talk about his language choices. Harvey was really looking forward to talking about the working day and other interesting things, but they didn’t even reach chapter two before the semester was over.

And this struck me as one of the possible reasons why people find deconstruction and post-structuralism and postmodernism and such so infuriating — they won’t let you move on, they won’t let you just make statements and keep going, they won’t let you blithely get away with saying “you know what I mean” or “look, you’re missing the point”, because, well, they don’t, and they aren’t. For them, this is the point. Why did you say that that particular way?

Take, for example, Richard Taylor’s famous 1962 essay Fatalism (simply because it’s fresh in my memory right now). The argument in it is shit. Taylor himself has admitted such. It’s a Schrodinger’s Cat situation, where he wrote the paper to demonstrate the absurdity of it. The paper was written to be disproven, and the fact that people have taken Taylor to be some sort of anti-free will zealot is another absurdity (and demonstrating the truism that no one is really paying attention and no one understands irony, least of all the targets of ironic criticism).

But look at the examples he uses: you’re a ship commander, an admiral, someone with the power to determine whether a war happens or not. Then, you’re a passive observer, just someone who reads the paper. From someone who makes things happen, to someone things happen to. Lovely, but not enough.

One command from an admiral isn’t enough to start or stop a battle. Say that you give the order not to attack, and the enemy attacks anyways. What then? Or, say that the commander gives the order not to attack, and everything is peaceful in the Atlantic that day. But, over in the Gulf of Tonkin, a few submarines fire at a ship, and then there’s that headline, regardless of the individual commander’s actions. Do I or don’t I have free will if it’s multiple people acting on me?

But must Will be imposed by violent means? It’s always battles being ordered, gun barrels being warm after shots are fired.

I’m missing the point, of course. I’m not playing the game by the established rules. I’ve introduced other variables that confound the entire situation. I’m reading the essay like it were a short story. I’m fixating on what would be incidental details to other readers (make it a seamstress completing a dress if the order is given by the customer, or a Captain telling his divers to go searching the wreck they’re excavating that day, and the analogy still holds (headline: “Sunken Treasure Found Off Coast”)). It seems like I’m being an asshole or a pedant, but I’m focusing on what’s interesting and revealing about the paper to me, rather than the somewhat banal parts that can be summed up quickly (it is obvious that we have free will, just not absolutely (“I cannot determine what sort of pitch will be thrown, but I can attempt to hit it to the best of my ability, and even then, cannot determine what the players on the field will do as I run to first”) and the rest is just semantics).

Or is it?

We’ve got a paper loaded with violent imagery that sees the reader cast down from commander to paper reader, all as essentially a joke designed to get other philosophers to disprove fatalism. It intentionally associates the fatalistic viewpoint with militaristic order and control, and then depersonalization and passivity. Why those examples? Why that style of situation?

And I’m just doing this from memory, not even putting in the effort that is usually done by my colleagues.

But why should that scare or annoy you? What are you afraid we might find in your work? Why are you in such a hurry to move on?

What’s worse is that when you try to read anything they’ve done, they don’t even seem particularly interested in deconstruction. Derrida considered it a minor part of his portfolio, and often wondered why it became as big as it did. It was merely one tool in the box — like calling a general contractor a “hammerer” or a “nail gunner”. So after you bust you ass trying to figure out what, exactly, they’re doing and why, it turns out that the method isn’t really even of primary importance to them. They don’t even want to discuss it. It’s trite, passe, something settled long ago, something they’ve heard all before.

Which is what, I suspect, makes it so infuriating — we will seem to argue to the death about nothing at all, only to tell you that we don’t care very much about the argument in the end, while you’ve been pulling out the stops and convincing yourself that that this is a very important point that you must get across, when in truth we’re almost certainly speaking about two different topics entirely, and no one has bothered to slow down and say so.

“…on your knees in a field, under heavy rain, screaming for your dad to notice you.”

Jordan Bernt Peterson was born in 1962, holds a B.A. in political science, and a PhD in psychology. He teaches at the University of Toronto.

Like a lot of smart people, he was a very successful and interesting figure in his own field, who then decided to branch out and start bloviating about other fields he knew jack shit about, because he’s a smart guy, and therefore he must be able to understand everything effortlessly (see also Dawkins, Richard).

It’s easy to attract a crowd by doing two things: giving them an enemy, and giving them simple self-help advice. The latter is so formulaic that it barely is worth mentioning, but it is instructive to touch on briefly because it is done by just about every one of these types, from gurus like Peterson to the bigger groups like the Scientologists or the Objectivists. Basically, it involves two main things: one, focus on fixing your own problems by calming down, making a list of problems that you’d like to work on and a concrete plan for how to achieve them, and then only working on those problems to the exclusion of other things because your problems are self-caused, and two, the reason you’re not successful is because other people are holding you back and there’s a subtle and insidious conspiracy at work to keep down people like yourself, people who want to use hard working and responsible people who are in the know, to get ahead without doing the hard work that you’re doing.

Yes, they contradict one another. If you’re responsible for your own problems, then they are self-caused, and not the fault of the Enemy. But let’s not worry about that. The first part isn’t shitty advice at all, and it works — planning for the future and focusing on one problem at a time are excellent ways to eliminate problems from your life. And having a mantra to help you remember to do so, be it “Clean your room” or “Remember the present moment is all you have” or “Constant and Never Ending Self-Improvement” or “Know very clearly where you want to go,” well, that works too, as corny as it might sound. And because that works, it let’s the second part take hold, and can help foster a dependence on the person, the desire to spread the ideas that made you feel good, and, of course, spending money on the things they’re selling. And they’re always, always selling things you can buy, from books to tapes to online seminars to in-person courses…

Like a lot of gurus, Peterson thinks that his audience is stupid. Really stupid. It might not seem like it at first, because he comes out all pepped up and full of energy, like a gym school coach ready for the “big game”, but if you know anything about the subjects he’s talking about, he’s lying through his teeth most of the time to make himself look smart and his opponents look stupid. But there’s an understanding that you’ll get your information from him, and not from other sources. It’s not stated outright, but it’s understood that people criticizing him are either jealous of his success, or want to tear him down for some political agenda. So who would think to check his sources, or see if his statements are accurate?

A good example of this is the C-16 bill, which launched his career into public stardom. Now, Peterson wants you to believe that this bill makes it so that if you don’t call a hypothetical tumblr strawperson bunself, bun can call the cops and have you thrown in jail. What the bill actually did was just classify trans people in the same manner as, for example, black people or women when it came to being discriminated against for hiring and renting, when criminal actions taken against them, and such. So, basically, if you’re that sort of jerk, just make sure you can say the white guy you hired was at least as qualified or was a better fit for the company, or document them slacking off on the job and don’t say you’re firing them for being trans, and their case won’t go anywhere. The odds of a prosecuting lawyer accepting a case for someone using the wrong pronoun are about the same as the odds of hitting the lottery, and then convincing the judge and jury over the defense attorney… I don’t want to say never, but it isn’t going to happen.

This is not exactly dramatic stuff. Beating up a person for being trans should be treated as a human rights violation, same way it is for beating up someone for being a woman or a minority. It is a hate crime, full stop. But you wouldn’t know it from the way Peterson stomped his feet and threw an adult temper tantrum over how he could tell if someone was serious or not when they asked him to use different pronouns.

Because of course he can.

He also thinks that lobsters are just like humans, because both of them are effected by anti-depressants, according to a study he didn’t understand. Therefore, because lobsters have a dominance hierarchy, so should humans, and we should embrace our “inner lobster”. As you no doubt be shocked to learn, this isn’t the case:

From Psychologist Jordan Peterson says lobsters help to explain why human hierarchies exist – do they? Leonor Gonçalves, Phys.Org, Jan 25 2018

Peterson uses the example of lobsters, which humans share a common evolutionary ancestor with. Peterson argues that, like humans, lobsters exist in hierarchies and have a nervous system attuned to status which “runs on serotonin” (a brain chemical often associated with feelings of happiness).

The higher up a hierarchy a lobster climbs, this brain mechanism helps make more serotonin available. The more defeat it suffers, the more restricted the serotonin supply. Lower serotonin is in turn associated with more negative emotions – perhaps making it harder to climb back up the ladder. According to Peterson, hierarchies in humans work in a similar way – we are wired to live in them. But can a brain chemical really explain the organisation of a human society?

It is true that serotonin is present in crustaceans (like the lobster) and that it is highly connected to dominance and aggressive social behaviour. When free moving lobsters are given injections of serotonin they adopt aggressive postures similar to the ones displayed by dominant animals when they approach subordinates. However, the structures serotonin can act on are much more varied in vertebrates with highly complex and stratified brains like reptiles, birds and mammals – including humans.

If nervous systems were computer games, arthropods like lobsters would be “Snake” on a first-generation mobile phone and vertebrates would be an augmented reality (AR) game. What AR allows us to do and feel are incomparable to Snake, and the mechanisms behind it are a lot more complex. For example, one of the most relevant brain structures for dominant social behaviour is the amygdala, located in the temporal lobe of primates including humans. Arthropods don’t have an amygdala (lobsters don’t even have a brain, just an aglomerate of nerve endings called ganglia).

There are more than 50 molecules that function as neurotransmitters in the nervous system including dopamine, noradrenaline, adrenaline, serotonin and oxytocin. These molecules, however, exist all over nature. Plants have serotonin. In animals (including humans), most of the serotonin is produced and used in the intestine to help digestion. It’s the structure where it acts that determines its effect.

The same neurotransmitter can have contrasting effects in different organisms. While lower levels of serotonin are associated with decreased levels of aggression in vertebrates like the lobster, the opposite is true in humans. This happens because low levels of serotonin in the brain make communication between the amygdala and the frontal lobes weaker, making it more difficult to control emotional responses to anger.

As if that wasn’t enough, he has a great deal of trouble understanding children’s movies, and art in general:

aeeoxr2

Note that he lists Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, Dostoevsky’s Demons and Crime and Punishment, and The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski among his favorite books. By his definition, all propaganda, not art.

But then he starts in with this nonsense, and we hit part two of the cult recruitment pitch: The Enemy.

Don’t bother listening to the entire thing unless you really want to. It’s not really worth it. His his inability to stay on topic for more than a few moments gives me a headache:

As you may have gotten from other entries, this is my personal bailiwick: structuralism and post-structuralism, or, as he calls it, post-modernism.

His analysis is, of course, complete garbage. Early on, he mentions Derrida and phallogocentrism, and even tries to give a definition of it (a definition of the word, certainly, but not quite in the sense that Derrida used it), but then proceeds to just change the subject in favor of “Rah rah go western society!” rather than refute Derrida’s claim that history, as a whole, has favored men over women and privileged the spoken word over the written one, let alone attempting to disprove his much larger point that inside almost everything is an unconscious decision to favor one thing over another, an unconscious hierarchy at work, that we should be aware of and sometimes reconsider. (Not that Derrida thinks all hierarchies are bad (sports teams should have the best players, parents are correctly in power over their children, teachers over their students, etc.).)

But Peterson instead just goes off on how those lazy blacks in America have it better than the ones in Africa, so why are those ungrateful and resentful jerks so unappreciative of what they have? Why can’t they just stay in their place and quit complaining?

To paraphrase his argument: “I guess they have it better than the folks in war torn Libya or whatever, but they get shot by the cops regularly… Sure, relative wealth is a thing, but let’s look at absolute wealth too, like this nice building we’re all in, isn’t it a miracle that we can build something like this? Stupid angry black people…”

He’s blowing on the whistle so hard, but I can’t hear anything for some reason.

What, exactly, does this has to do with Derrida? Good old Jacques never said Logic doesn’t work or to hate people who have what you don’t.

But then we finally come to his actual gripe. He needs something to blame for why he and his friends keep getting booted from lucrative speaking engagements on campuses. The degree to which students should be forced to interact with ideas they don’t agree with vs. students understandably not wanting their tuition paying to bring people they hate to speak is one that’s worth having. But Peterson has already declared that postmodernists don’t do dialogue ever (which, again, is completely untrue. If you’ve ever met someone into post-structuralism, god, we talk constantly, and question everything, don’t we?), so don’t talk to them or listen to them, just stamp them out, like we did with the Reds back in the 50s… These people are the new communists, you see… (even if their work doesn’t have anything to do with communism, and many of them were actively un- or anti- communist… (Lyotard was disillusioned with communism after the Algerian Revolution failed to produce the promised outcome — literally the start of post-modernism was his break with the French communist party and his belief that master narratives are too simplistic to explain actually existing social reality, Foucault dropped communism after his first major book, and Derrida barely engaged with it at all in his work; more on those two below)).

And there they are: The Enemy. Hate them. Fear them. They are omnipotent and omnipresent, and yet, paradoxically, we can band together and defeat them if we just work hard and resist them.

If you take him at his word, Peterson lives in mortal terror that the Postmodernist Neo-Marxists are coming to get him (for someone who hates gulags and Stalinism so much, he’s certainly willing to compile lists of people he dislikes to target for abuse.) As he mentions early on, his understanding of the topic comes almost exclusively from the book Explaining Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks, and it’s a dumpsterfire of stupidity.

Hicks is a professor at Rockford University in Illinois, and is… well, basically unknown outside of objectivist circles. He loudly crows about how no one has dared to debate him over his book, thus proving him right, but the truth of the matter is that he just isn’t worth anyone’s time. He’s such small potatoes that any professor who deigned to do so would just be lowering their professional prestige. Thus, he gets to beat up on students, which is just bad form… Students are dumb. They’re enthusiastic, but they’re dumb. They’re still learning, that’s why they’re students. Even if you’re a AAA baseball player, you don’t go play in a high school JV game and then brag about how badly you beat the other team. He’s a friendly enough guy otherwise, but like a lot of objectivists, he’s got his agenda, and he’s going to stick to it, no matter what. Even if it means badly misreading other philosophers.

Now, one of the things you’re supposed to do in philosophy (and in most constructive arguments, really) is called “The Principle of Charity”. You’re supposed to give the person you’re writing in response to the benefit of the doubt, and argue against the strongest possible interpretation of their argument. You should try to fully understand their argument, present it in the strongest terms possible, and then dismantle it (what Daniel Dennett calls “steelmanning”, as opposed to “strawmanning”). This serves two purposes: one, it means that you’ve fully understood the topic you’re addressing and thus your response is all the stronger, and two, it makes you all the harder to argue against, because you’ve preempted many of the responses to you. Despite what some folks might think, Philosophy as a discipline is usually quite rigorous in its argumentation, and the people involved are deep readers and rhetoricians, so if you’re publishing stuff that’s weak, it will get dismantled fairly quick, if it is even published in the first place.

Explaining Postmodernism is like watching Braveheart, only less entertaining. It was initially published by a vanity press (Scholargy Publishing, Inc, also famous for such titles as Complete Guide for Horse Business Success and The Gekkleberry Tree) and then by Ockham’s Razor (which Hicks himself owns (I’ll leave the “self-owning” jokes for the reader to make)).

Hicks does a great job cherry picking to make people look bad. For example, in the very first quotation he chooses from Foucault in Explaining Postmodernism, he states: “Michel Foucault has identified the major targets: “All my analyses are against the idea of universal necessities in human existence.” Such necessities must be swept aside as baggage from the past: “It is meaningless to speak in the name of—or against—Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.”

He makes it out as if Foucault wants to destroy modern society and destroy Truth, Reason, and Knowledge.

But, when read in context, it is obvious that this is not what Foucault is saying at all. (Bolding added by me, to show where the quotations came from, and the ideas they are removed from)

From Truth, Power, Self. An Interview with Michel Foucault – Oct. 1982:

Q. But what about your interest in social outcasts?

A. I deal with obscure figures and processes for two reasons: The political and social processes by which the Western European societies were put in order are not very apparent, have been forgotten, or have become habitual. They are part of our most familiar landscape, and we don’t perceive them anymore. But most of them once scandalized people. It is one of my targets to show people that a lot of things that are part of their landscape — that people are universal — are the result of some very precise historical changes. All my analyses are against the idea of universal necessities in human existence. They show the arbitrariness of institutions and show which space of freedom we can still enjoy and how many changes can still be made.

The second quote isn’t even a direct quote from Foucault, it’s a paraphrase of him from Todd May’s Between Genealogy and Epistemology

From Between Genealogy and Epistemology — Todd May – 1993 p.2

For Foucault, the questions of what we hold to to be true, and how we came to do so, especially as regards ourselves, are of paramount importance especially in attempting to articulate an understanding of what our present is.

The significance of these questions is not confined to their relevance for comprehending our situation. In fact, what is at stake in in the questions of what we hold true and how we came to do so is the conduct of our lives. How we understand what we have come to accept about the world and about ourselves, the context in which we place our various knowledges of things, determines not only the theoretical underpinnings of our epistemology but also the political and ethical commitments of our practice. Both the knowledge that Foucault attempted to provide us and the knowledge of his analyses are inescapably political. Foucault was, above all else, a political writer about knowledge.

And yet, should we follow this line of inquiry too far–that is, should we try to answer the question of what, in their essence, Foucault’s writings _are_–we will only repeat the mistake against which his writings wage a ceaseless struggle. If Foucault was a political writer about our knowledge, it is not because he had anything to say about what our knowledge or reason was like. Indeed, to speak of our knowledge or our reason (or even, at times, our society) invites the kind of blindness that have allowed our knowledges and the strategies within which they are engaged to continue their hold upon us. There is no Knowledge; there are knowledges. There is no Reason; there are rationalities. And so, just as it is meaningless to speak in the name of–or against–Reason, Truth, or Knowledge, so it is meaningless to engage in Politics. The idea that there is one true politics that will lead us to our salvation is a dangerous lie, as the Soviet experience will attest.

So, we have two completely unconnected quotes, one of which Foucault didn’t even say, asking us to pay attention to the origins of our thoughts and ideas, to learn where reason and rationality come from, and to understand that our present sense of everything is contingent upon the knowledge of the past. “Quilt quotations” are just bad form. Hicks’ misinterpretation is garbage on par with Karl Popper’s attack on Hegel, which Walter Kaufmann famously eviscerated.  To quote from Kaufmann’s essay above:

From The Hegel Myth and Its Method — Walter Kaufmann, 1959

Here, for example, is a quilt quotation about war and arson: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword… . I came to cast fire upon the earth… . Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you… . Let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one.” This is scarcely the best way to establish Jesus’ views of war and arson.

What Foucault is saying is hardly controversial or difficult to understand. Our present physics is built upon the back of Newtonian physics, for example, which were groundbreaking for the time, but ultimately inadequate. Ptolemaic astronomy was superseded by the work of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Einstein, and many others. One uses a different sort of reasoning when arguing with a child than one does when programming a computer. While I would look dapper in a Beau Brummel suit in the 1800s, I would look like I was attending a costume party were I to wear such an outfit today. Is it so scary to consider that the world once wasn’t like the way it is today, and that perhaps in the future, it won’t be the way it is now? And is it shocking that studying the history of a country through a military lens would produce a different view than studying it through the history of its royal family? I shouldn’t think so.

There is nothing about how these are all equally “valid” or “good” or anything like that. Merely that to understand them, you need to understand them within the context within which they occurred. If I call Henry VIII handsome, one needs to understand that a very large man in tights and velvet was considered the peak of masculinity in his day, whereas we’d laugh him off the runway by today’s standards of beauty. There’s no judgement about “needing” to find him attractive.

Thus, when one can hardly reach the second page of Hicks’ work without seeing one of the central figures in the book completely mischaracterized, where is the sense in continuing? Given Hicks background in Rand, it isn’t surprising that he dislikes this idea (especially since Foucault explicitly identifies himself as a Kantian, and Rand despises her version of Kant, a version that scarcely resembles dear Immanuel at all), but then, given Rand’s reputation among philosophers of all backgrounds, it’s unsurprising that his thirteen year old self-published book hasn’t gotten any traction among them.

The refutation to his work is “No, they didn’t say that. Read the actual book by these authors and you’ll see that.”

There are plenty of reasons to dislike or criticise Foucault, but he never said “Reason is meaningless, destroy history, follow Marx!”

Oh yes, this is all tied into a grand Marxist conspiracy. Because of course it is.

The Marxist accusations are just as stupid, and seem to stem from a desire to just chain together words to call people you don’t like: the conspiracy theory version conservative of “Stupid cocksucing motherfucking son of a bitch!” becomes “Liberal Marxist postmodernist feminist relativist!”

Even a cursory glance at Foucault’s work would show that, not only isn’t he a Marxist, he’s actually quite specifically un-Marxist.

Foucualt dabbled in Marxism in his early years, but didn’t much care for it as he aged and matured as a philosopher. I’m just going to copy a section of the IEP here, because it’s not worth rephrasing what they already wrote:

The Order of Things charts several successive historical shifts of episteme in relation to the human sciences.

These claims led Foucault onto a collision with French Marxism. This could not have been entirely unintended by Foucault, in particular because in the book he specifically accuses Marxism of being a creature of the nineteenth century that was now obsolete. He also concluded the work by indicating his opposition to humanism, declaring that “man” (the gendered “man” here refers to a concept that in English we have come increasingly to call the “human”) as such was perhaps nearing obsolescence. Foucault here was opposing a particular conception of the human being as a sovereign subject who can understand itself. Such humanism was at that time the orthodoxy in French Marxism and philosophy, championed the pre-eminent philosopher of the day, Jean-Paul Sartre, and upheld by the French Communist Party’s central committee explicitly against Althusser just a month before The Order of Things was published (DE1 36). In its humanist form, Marxism cast itself as a movement for the full realization of the individual. Foucault, by contrast, saw the notion of the individual as a recent and aberrant idea. Furthermore, his entire presumption to analyse and criticize discourses without reference to the social and economic system that produced them seemed to Marxists to be a massive step backwards in analysis. The book indeed seems to be apolitical: it refuses to take a normative position about truth, and accords no importance to anything outside abstract, academic discourses. The Order of Things proved so controversial, its claims so striking, that it became a best-seller in France, despite being a lengthy, ponderous, scholarly tome.

The explicit criticism of Marxism in [The Order of Things] was specifically of Marx’s economic doctrine: it amounts to the claim that this economics is essentially a form of nineteenth century political economy. It is thus not a total rejection of Marxism, or dismissal of the importance of economics. His anti-humanist position was not in itself anti-Marxist, inasmuch as Althusser took much the same line within a Marxist framework, albeit one that tended to challenge basic tenets of Marxism, and which was rejected by the Marxist establishment. This shows it is possible to use the criticism of the category of “man” in a pointedly political way. Lastly, the point of Foucault’s “archaeological” method of investigation, as he now called it, of looking at transformations of discourses in their own terms without reference to the extra-discursive, does not imply in itself that discursive transformations can be explained without reference to anything non-discursive, only that they can be mapped without any such reference. Foucault thus shows a lack of interest in the political, but no outright denial of the importance of politics.

And this is just looking at one of the many philosophers he touches on. Derrida, for example, didn’t write anything about Marx until the 1990s, and even then, it was to say (paraphrasing greatly) “Well, this certainly is an idea that has been around a lot without ever really doing anything, but while still being in the back of everyone’s minds, kinda like a ghost, huh?” And Derrida and Foucault basically hated each other.

So, yeah. Peterson is attacking an idea that exists in his head. A conspiracy of dead French philosophers who are out to get him, somehow, with their philosophy that says such scary things as “people use different frameworks of reasoning to come to different conclusions” and “understand things in context” and “people have different ideas from one another”. Really scary, mindblowing stuff there. They both get more complex, and they both use more examples, but you’d have to actually read their books to learn those, and neither Peterson nor Hicks have done that. They haven’t even reached “I browsed wikipedia” levels of understanding. That takes time and effort. And why bother with that when you could just spout off nonsense and rest assured that no one giving you money will bother to check your work?

Solo: a Star Wars Story Complete Spoilers

Solo: a Star Wars Story
Final Approved Story Draft

Han is a hip young pilot fresh out of the academy. He’s talented and flashy and doesn’t play by the rules, but he’s also a loyal friend to those he cares about, and committed to causes that engage him.

His arch rival was the man who graduated second from the Academy, Lorn Faloon. Lorn is everything that Han isn’t: uptight, bound by the rules, and under the impression that the Empire has the world’s best interests in mind. We symbolize this by having them dress mostly the same, but Lorn’s collar is buttoned, as is his vest. His ship is also a X-shaped, boxy thing, in contrast to the Millennium Falcon’s circular shape, but that comes later. If we can have them play tic-tac-toe at some point, that would be good. He is angry that someone like Han could graduate first in his class, because Lorn has done everything right, and should be ranked far above, but Han’s hot shot unorthodox tactics have always placed him higher, and his willingness to take risks, despite putting his own life at risk.

Right after the big graduation ceremony, Han receives a coded message from his childhood pal Dal Thanoken, who reveals that Han’s sister, Gretel, has been kidnapped by the Dathomir witch Dortchen Yaga, and taken to the swamps of Kodos, where she will be sacrificed and eaten if someone can’t stop her.

Han needs a ship, and fast!

Calling on an old pal from Corellia, Lando Calrissian, Han enters into a high stakes game of Sabacc, a deadly game that involves throwing cards which represent monsters, traps, and Force “spells” that effect game play. Han easily dominates the tournament, which showcases a number of fan favorite monsters from the other films, such as the Sarlacc, the Bossk, the Great Pit of Carkoon, the Rancor, and more. Han’s arm mounted “Sabacc Rack” and “Duel Gauntlet” are sure to be popular accessories with the kids and cosplayers, too.

Han reaches the final round of the tournament, only to discover that his final opponent is none other than Lando himself! Lando ponies up his favorite space ship, the Falcon, as an additional prize, and to match it, Han is forced to bet his Sabacc deck, composed of countless rare and out of print cards that are worth an Emperor’s ransom. But this means that if Han loses, he’ll have no way to quickly earn the money to rescue his sister. He’s staking his entire future on this one game!

The duel is fast and furious, with monster card leading into spell into trap into counterspell, the two grandmasters anticipating moves ten turns down the line. The audience is rapt as their monsters battle upon the field, dodging force bolts and smashing barriers, titanically slashing into each other in a manner similar to the arena battle from Attack of the Clones, but much cooler. Finally, when it looks like both men are exhausted, their decks nearly empty, Han plays “Force Friend”, a card that only appeared in the very first Sabacc release, and which has never been seen since, a card few know the existence of, and uses it to become friends with the monster closest to Lando, a Wookiee legend named Chewbacca, who was a hero in the clone wars. With all his defenses aligned in the other direction, Lando is powerless to stop Chewbacca’s crossbow attack, and loses the match one turn before his Tears of the Rist would have cost Han the match.

Lando is impressed, and is gracious in his loss, handing Han the keys and the title with a smile, promising to win her back next time. Chewbacca, who has remained on the field after all the other monsters have been desummoned, decides to accompany Han on his journey to save Gretel, and they take off. Inside the cockpit, Han finds a letter from Lando, wishing him luck, and telling him, cryptically, that the Falcon is “special” and that Han will figure out why in time.

Needing space fuel, Han and Chewie stop at a space port (good spot for advertising joke here, if Exxon or Shell or someone wants to pay for it), and while Han pumps his gas, Chewie goes inside to buy some drinks. Inside the Space Station is the usual: big guy besalisk with greasy trucker’s cap reading a girly magazine, some Jawas playing an arcade game (space invaders? Or is that too on the nose?), and, in the corner, a pretty human space pilot in a wedding dress and holding a space helmet, being harassed by a greedo. Chewie goes over to intervene, because he has a strong sense of duty and justice, and the greedo tries to get in his face, telling him to mind his own business, and in response, Chewie rips his arm off. It turns out that the filling station is attached to a quickie chapel, which is next to a small time casino, like the kind they have in Vegas. “Say, think you could give a girl a lift?” she asks. “My other ride seems a little stumped as to our next destination.”

The girl, it turns out, is Miss Qi’ra Faloon, of the Valengore Faloons. She mentions that she has a cousin at the academy, but Han doesn’t say that he knows Lorn quite well. Han tells her that they’re headed for the Swamps of Kodos, on the planet Kansaw, which suits Qi’ra just fine. She’s got no interest in marrying that lout Lugo Tice, no matter if his daddy is Sheriff of the whole system. Han’s eyes grow wide — this is some dangerous cargo he’s just picked up!

Meanwhile, Lorn Faloon has learned of his cousin’s disappearance, and the implications it may have for his family’s spice trade. Without the ties to Sheriff Tice, they would have to pay horrific tariffs that would destroy their profit margins, leaving the Atreides and the Kessels in charge of the universe’s spice. He heads off in his Raptor X. Sheriff Hugo G. Tice isn’t taking this laying down either, scooping up his now one armed Deputy Remvo and his son Lugo, piling them into his Police Interceptor, and speeding off after the Falcon, determined to get Qi’ra back.

The Raptor has a better hyperdrive than the Falcon, so in the middle of hyperspace, the Falcon’s proximity alarms begin to ring, and Han gets the shields up just in time to avoid being blown out of space by a photon torpedo. “Where are your fancy tricks now, Solo?” Lorn taunts over the space channel.

We cut back and forth between the present and the past, with Han as a young academy recruit, saying he wants to make a difference, and be the best pilot in the galaxy, and then sparring with Lorn in the test ship simulators, and then smash cut back to the present as they dog fight, IN HYPERSPACE, jockeying for position back and forth, trying to lock one another missiles on one another. Switches are flipped, dials turned, back and forth between laser bolts flying then freezing in mid-air because they’re moving faster than the speed of light, and suddenly, Han lets loose the Falcon’s garbage, which crashes into the Raptor at light speed, dropping Lorn out of Hyperspace, and disabling his ship, leaving his floating alone and disfigured…

They arrive at the planet Kansaw, only to meet a Star Destroyer, which begins to loose a bunch of TIE fighters, led by Sheriff Tice. “Thought you could get away, did ya boy?” he shouts over the comlink, his southern quadrant accent making him sound simultaneously threatening and ridiculous. More space combat here, only this time, with Chewie piloting, and Han and Qi’ra on the guns like in New Hope. “It could be worse…” Han says to himself.

Still outmatched by the sheer number of TIE fighters, Chewie begins to guide the ship down towards the cloudy planet, looking for some place to hide, only to discover that it is covered in gigantic tentacles. “It’s worse!” They deftly avoid the tentacles, while one wraps itself around the star destroyer and smashes it to pieces.

The Falcon lands, barely, at the epicenter of the tenticular mass, where his sister Gretel is inside an oven-like contraption, and the dread witch Dortchen Yaga is about to finish her spell. What begins is a massive four way battle between Dortchen and Han, Chewie, and Qi’ra, their blasters proving meaningless against the power of the Force, and one by one, Chewie and Qi’ra end up imprisoned alongside Gretel. Han is barely holding on, when a strange calm comes over him. He looks at the Falcon, which seems to look back at him, and he remembers his hand to hand training back at the academy, his instructor Arden Lyn telling him to clear his mind and become one with the environment. The Force is powerless against someone who has the will and the way. A Master of Teräs Käsi is unstoppable. Han touches the outside of the Falcon, and the two merge, becoming a gigantic armored robot combination of man and ship. The Solenium Halcon proceeds to use its massive strength and technique to karate chop through the tentacles that protect Dortchen from his attacks, and then he seizes her ala King Kong, her powers proving useless, and he tosses her upwards, into the sun. Careful viewers will see a little “blip” on the surface a scene later, to confirm that she did, in fact, burn up upon entry.

Han de-transforms, and looks out of breath and ragged. “Phew, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that again, even if I wanted to!” The Falcon, meanwhile, has transformed from pristine to dirty looking, having gotten all mucked up in the fighting. “Grrrragh!” says Chewie. “Yes, maybe someday we’ll be able to afford to have her cleaned!” replies Han.

Everyone is safe, and Qi’ra decides to take Dortchen’s ship as her own, to strike off and figure out life without living under her family’s thumb. She wears a red cape, and reprograms Dortchen’s droid to serve as her sidekick. “Think we’ll ever see you again?” Han asks. “Who knows?” she replies, and then proceeds back up the stairs into her ship. “Oh,” she says, looking over her shoulder. “I left a little surprise for you in the cargo hold. Hope you like it.”

Inside the hold are a ton of crates filled with Spice, enough to set Han and Chewie and Gretel up for life. “Oh, this is hot stuff, and no tariff stamps! I didn’t think you could get this brand on this side of the galaxy! Who do we know that might be interested?” “Grr grogh grrrowww arrghl” says Chewie. “Jabba the who?” replies Han. “Well, lets call him up and see if he’s interested. I just hope we don’t get boarded or have to dump it on the way there.”

Back up in the cock pit, Han asks “Is there anywhere we can drop you Gret?” Gretel replies “Sure, back to Kessel might be nice. I’ve got some scores to settle there. After we pick up my ship from Tattooine.” “Tattooine it is, then!” Han says, making the jump to hyperspace.

Cut to credits with 70s funk music, and a series of jokes and outtakes about Hugo trying to buy fuel from the Space Station attendant playing in screen on the left, while the credits play on the right.

Post credits: Title Card: Central Medical Center, Gand Prime. Lorn lies on a hospital bed, wired up to a chest plate and looking much worse for wear. The insect-like doctors work over him, fixing what they can, and replacing what they cannot. Finally, one in a white labcoat stands at his side, and says “We’ve done what we can for you, Mr. Lorn, but with the damage you’ve sustained, I’m not sure what you’ll be good for–”

“Yes!” he interrupts. “Lorn no longer.” He takes the face plate that was to be installed, and clicks it into place with a metal hand. “Yes, yes, Dr. Zuckuss, what am I good for? Combine the R and N, like your nurses here. I am now 4-LOM! Beware, Han Solo, beware!” he cackles with his robotically modulated voice as we cut to black.