Friday 22 December 2017

Star Wars flavoured


Contains spoilers

I'm still not sure what to make of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  I'm left with a sense of something Star Wars flavoured, rather than real Star Wars.  Nothing wrong with being Stars Wars flavoured, of course.  It's just not quite the real thing.

This isn't my main problem, but I'm going to flag up the laws of physics as my first suspect.  When Rose's sister, Paige, bombs the First Order fleet, those bombs definitely drop.  Like out of a Flying Fortress over Berlin.  Not like something in deep space, which tend to bobble about amusingly.

I'm not even sure they drop towards the planet they're orbiting, which would be at least explicable.

But they're sufficiently in deep space to make going into warp drive (or is that Star Trek?) safe.  You would have thought all that gravity would have made the ships' computers fall over doing the calculations, given that Vice Admiral Holdo later has to remain on board a near-dead ship to... to do what, exactly?  Until she does have something to do, of course.  In which case, damn lucky she's there.

And, if it's so easy to take out a star destroyer or dreadnought, by flying through it at light speed, why haven't they developed drones, flying bombs, that just do that?  They clearly have the technology.

And that takes me to my real gripe.  Even more crucial than the laws of physics are the laws of story.  I get the impression that in the Harry Potter universe there are a strict set of do's and do-not-do's, and the characters act within those parameters.  Here?  Like children playing make-believe, rules and loopholes are created as and when needed.  Those flying bombs were only dreamt up when it became the most poignant direction for the story to go in.  Nobody said, if they could do that wouldn't they have done it before, and what would the world look like?

Leia as Superman?  Yeah, why not.  Luke projecting so he's solid enough to fight with a light sabre, but not enough to take a hit.  (Or is he using the Force to hold the light sabre at a distance, in which case how did it survive General Hux's onslaught?).  Explosions that kill all those wearing body armour, but not rebels in mufti.  

Maybe I should go more gently and just enjoy the ride.  After all, this has always been a children's playground game writ large.  Look at the supposedly cute animals that pop up jarringly in every episode (nadir: the funny as waking-up-to-find-you're-living-in-so-called-Islamic-State-and-you-have-terminal-cancer Jar Jar Binks).  And the aliens that are patently standard issue bipedals with rubber masks.  And the silly names.

And in children's games logic is fluid.  You're dead; no, I'm not.  Yes, I can, if I want to.  Goals always go in if you're the striker, those jumpers provide absolute ambiguity.

But, possibly, there's no bending of the logic at work here at all as Star Wars has always been a religious, rather than rational, experience.  To subject the Force to secular empiricism, to expect to work out its limits through some double blind experimental procedure, is completely missing the point.  Just as Louis Armstrong may or may not have said about love, or jazz, or maybe it was Fats Waller: if you need to ask, you ain't never gonna know.

So, I guess it comes down to belief.  Well, in that case, I'll stop trying to analyse, assess and justify.  I'll just stick with my belief that this is Star Wars flavoured...

Thursday 14 December 2017

Read all about it! Earth-shattering news!! (See page 12)

I wanted to make this posting about the possibility of making an owl's eyes pop out if you slap it on the back of the head - seriously, google 'owl skull', they have their eyeballs in tubes that resemble early mortars - but there seems to be limited research on the matter out there, and limited scope for field tests to boot.

So, instead, I'll focus on the biggest story to break in decades.  Which I found tucked away on page 12 of The Times.  Yes, we seem to be one step closer to performing human head transplants.

My head, your body.  And all without the fiddly need to download Photoshop.

There's a potential take on Frankenstein where it's not a cadaver that's brought to life but you, your head, on the body of a corpse.  You've popped in for something routine, wake up from the general anesthetic feeling a whole new man.  Or woman.  Who's fussy?

Stories have been written from the monster's viewpoint, but I'm not sure there's been one quite with that take.  I might let that one mull in the dark recesses, see what emerges.

Actually, I wasn't going to blog about Frankenstein's monster at all, but about self-driving cars, which seems to be this week's flavour of the month, and how this is going to make The Knowledge a thing of the past.

And that got me thinking.  If black cab drivers are simply learning a near infinite list of locations and routes, even some that go sarf of the river, aren't doctors just acquiring a relational database of symptoms, conditions and interventions by educational osmosis?  Aren't they as ripe for replacement as cabbies?

Of course, doctors have stronger unions than drivers, at least in the UK, so I fully expect GPs still to be running late, even when my driverless taxi has dropped me at the surgery door on time.

And, of course, the more senior the specialism, the more difficult it will be to be replaced by an algorithm.  I suspect head transplants may be one for the specialists.  Doctor Frankenstein chose his career well.