Author Topic: Pseudopod 197: Set Down This  (Read 39104 times)

Millenium_King

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 385
    • Ankor Sabat
Reply #50 on: July 01, 2010, 08:02:37 PM
Sure.  But people are entitled to snark too.  I can't speak as an editor, but as an author I want to hear every, single opinion - even the dumb or negative ones.  I can sort out what's a good review and what's just mean; we shouldn't encourage people to self censor.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #51 on: July 01, 2010, 08:19:46 PM
I suppose so.  I just feel like I see a lot of "you're not allowed to hold that opinion" around here, as opposed to "our opinions differ."  I think someone can have a stupid opinion about a story, but not an invalid one.

Ok. I guess for me "invalid" is a nicer and more accurate way of saying "stupid." Stupid has a lot of baggage - it's an insult - while invalid merely means "does not apply" or "does not compute." I'd be offended if someone told me my comment was stupid, but not if someone told me it was invalid. Stupid is an attack on my thoughts, invalid is a response to my words.

At least for me. your mileage may vary.

Anyway, a better explanation might be this: for me, when you're talking about a story you're talking about the story, not your politics or the story's politics. The questions at hand are "how did you enjoy the story?" "why did you like it?" "why didn't you like it?" "what was interesting?" "what was boring?" "if you were the writer, what would you have done differently with the same inspiration?"

I think you can see how "I didn't agree with this story and it bothered me" is only barely a valid response to any of those questions, and not a very interesting one at that.

Or, to make it a metaphor, if I were to hold out an orange and ask your opinion of it and you were to respond "I don't really like orangutans," your comment would be invalid.

That's where I'm coming from, anyway.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


eytanz

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 6109
Reply #52 on: July 01, 2010, 08:48:00 PM
I would take "your opinion is invalid" to be a way of saying "you don't have the right to that opinion", not "this opinion isn't interesting and/or relevant". If anyone called my opinions stupid I would be a bit miffed. If anyone called my opinions invalid I would be seriously pissed off.

Also, regarding the following:

Anyway, a better explanation might be this: for me, when you're talking about a story you're talking about the story, not your politics or the story's politics. The questions at hand are "how did you enjoy the story?" "why did you like it?" "why didn't you like it?" "what was interesting?" "what was boring?" "if you were the writer, what would you have done differently with the same inspiration?"

I think you can see how "I didn't agree with this story and it bothered me" is only barely a valid response to any of those questions, and not a very interesting one at that.


It seems to me that if anything about a story bothers someone, that is both a valid (in any sense) and interesting response to "how did you enjoy the story?". It may not tell you much about the story, but story criticism is always about both the story and the reader. If nothing else, the more you know about the reader, the easier it is to interpret their responses.

Full disclosure: I did not listen to this story, and probably will never do so. So I can't comment on this particular one. But it seems to me that for any story that expresses a political stance, the question of "what reaction does this story elicit from people who disagree with its politics" is a relevant, interesting, and informative one.



Millenium_King

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 385
    • Ankor Sabat
Reply #53 on: July 01, 2010, 09:20:33 PM
I totally agree with the above.

I might also add that a politically charged story is going to draw politically charged reactions.  Far from dissuading opinion-based responses, one might argue that it is actually trying to elicit them.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #54 on: July 01, 2010, 09:49:02 PM
Ok, good point and good point. Let me have another crack at this.

Yes, the story is political. It's talking about a big issue - a war - so that's political. What the story isn't is partisan. The story does not, itself, espouse a political opinion. I stand by what I said earlier about this issue: if we live in a country where admitting that war is bad is seen as a "left wing" thing to do, then I don't want to know the right wing. The story has succeeded beyond all my original expectations: I am now well and truly horrified.

Moving on... I never meant to say that someone isn't allowed to have an opinion. That's my least favorite thing in the world. If I said something that implied that, I clearly got carried away and argued myself into a corner. Let me try again:

*Ahem*

You can say you didn't like the story because of what you perceived as its politics. That's great. You rock that opinion all you like. I find your opinion boring and not worth discussing. If you later on develop an opinion of interest, I'll discuss it with you in great detail.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Millenium_King

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 385
    • Ankor Sabat
Reply #55 on: July 01, 2010, 10:20:21 PM
Yes, the story is political. It's talking about a big issue - a war - so that's political. What the story isn't is partisan. The story does not, itself, espouse a political opinion. I stand by what I said earlier about this issue: if we live in a country where admitting that war is bad is seen as a "left wing" thing to do, then I don't want to know the right wing. The story has succeeded beyond all my original expectations: I am now well and truly horrified.

I think I addressed this already, above.  I disagree with you: I do not think the story is merely saying "war is bad" - it is also implying that this specific war is not only bad, but also unjustifiable.

As a counter-illustration: suppose the story had been exactly the same, but we replace "war" with "abortion."  Suppose the kid had graphic videos of partial-birth abortions on his computer.  Would you say a story like that is not attempting to be partisan and pro-life?

Anyway, I understand that a lot of people did not see any partisanship in this one.  I did.  Others did too.

You can say you didn't like the story because of what you perceived as its politics. That's great. You rock that opinion all you like. I find your opinion boring and not worth discussing. If you later on develop an opinion of interest, I'll discuss it with you in great detail.

Definately fair enough.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #56 on: July 01, 2010, 10:38:55 PM
As a counter-illustration: suppose the story had been exactly the same, but we replace "war" with "abortion."  Suppose the kid had graphic videos of partial-birth abortions on his computer.  Would you say a story like that is not attempting to be partisan and pro-life?

That's an interesting question. After some thought, I would say no, the story is not partisan. The story is examining the phenomenon of abortion, pointing out it's grim side. That doesn't make the story anti-abortion. As someone who believes abortion should be legal, I could listen to that story and say "wow, that was interesting and grim and my understanding of the darker side of abortion is deepened but I still think it's worth it." Abortion is bad - I've spoken to women who've had abortions, and none of them have described it as a good thing, a great or fun experience - but I think it's better than the alternative. War can be the same way.

I'll throw the same question back at you - are you actually saying that dwelling on the horrors of war is partisan? Are you really saying that it is/should be true that only people of a certain set of political beliefs can look at war's dark side and contemplate whether or not it's worth it? Are you saying that right-wingers aren't allowed to empathize with the other side in a military conflict?

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Millenium_King

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 385
    • Ankor Sabat
Reply #57 on: July 01, 2010, 10:56:50 PM
That's an interesting question. After some thought, I would say no, the story is not partisan. The story is examining the phenomenon of abortion, pointing out it's grim side. That doesn't make the story anti-abortion. As someone who believes abortion should be legal, I could listen to that story and say "wow, that was interesting and grim and my understanding of the darker side of abortion is deepened but I still think it's worth it." Abortion is bad - I've spoken to women who've had abortions, and none of them have described it as a good thing, a great or fun experience - but I think it's better than the alternative. War can be the same way.

The fact that you concluded you "still think [abortion] is worth it" (emphasis mine) implies that you would think such a story was implying abortion was not worth it.

I'll throw the same question back at you - are you actually saying that dwelling on the horrors of war is partisan? Are you really saying that it is/should be true that only people of a certain set of political beliefs can look at war's dark side and contemplate whether or not it's worth it? Are you saying that right-wingers aren't allowed to empathize with the other side in a military conflict?

I think you are missing my point a little: showing the horrors of war is not partisan, but dwelling on the horrors of a particular war to the exclusion of all else is partisan.

Suppose I made a 19-minute film called "Wal-Mart" and all I showed for the entire period was children working in sweat-shops.  Would you still consider that non-partisan?  Never once showing the good Wal-Mart has done (with regard to Hurricane Katrina, low-priced pharmacueticals, rejuvinating Chicago neighborhoods etc.).  My point is that if all you show is the negative of something, you move beyond simply asking questions to implying a viewpoint.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #58 on: July 01, 2010, 11:10:30 PM
Suppose I made a 19-minute film called "Wal-Mart" and all I showed for the entire period was children working in sweat-shops.  Would you still consider that non-partisan?  Never once showing the good Wal-Mart has done (with regard to Hurricane Katrina, low-priced pharmacueticals, rejuvinating Chicago neighborhoods etc.).  My point is that if all you show is the negative of something, you move beyond simply asking questions to implying a viewpoint.

That's a really interesting question. I'd say that this is, in fact, one of the qualities of artistic expression that separates it from more mundane forms of expression. If I'm a politician or a newscaster, I need to stay "balanced" to avoid voicing an implicit opinion. I need to give both sides a fair say. I don't feel this is so in art. In art, you can say "I want to give voice to a certain opinion" or "I want to explore a certain doubt" or "I want to express how I feel about something."

So, if your 19-minute film "Wal-Mart" was presented as a documentary, than I'd say it was making a partisan statement. If your 19-minute film "Wal-Mart" is following 19 minutes in the life of a character who was a worker in a sweat-shop, then I would say it's not partisan. It's art.

Here's a question for you, then: how would you have done it differently? You have 19 minutes of air-time. You want to tell a story about someone who feels haunted by the war. What do you do?

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Scattercat

  • Caution:
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 4904
  • Amateur wordsmith
    • Mirrorshards
Reply #59 on: July 01, 2010, 11:56:24 PM
Quote
So, if your 19-minute film "Wal-Mart" was presented as a documentary, than I'd say it was making a partisan statement. If your 19-minute film "Wal-Mart" is following 19 minutes in the life of a character who was a worker in a sweat-shop, then I would say it's not partisan. It's art.

QFT; a work of art is different from a piece of political writing because it is subject to interpretation.  I can quite enjoy and even be moved by a work of art with a message I disagree with, and I can find an intriguing portrayal of a point of view interesting even if I don't share that point of view. 

However, not to disregard the interesting discussion, the post that sparked this exchange was written in a derisive, dismissive, and frankly belligerent tone.  It identified the story as "left-wing" and on that basis discarded it.  That is the sort of criticism and response that is unhelpful to anyone and is discouraged on this forum.  Disagreeing with a story is fine; interpreting a story's theme or message and discussing your reaction to that is fine.  (I do that all that time, as with "Fulgurite" or "Bride of Frankenstein.")  What's not conducive to conversation is to be snide, rude, or otherwise shut down discourse, but to remember that we are, in fact, discussing art here, and thus discussing objects whose meaning is unclear and which will always be subject to interpretation and redefinition due to the different lenses with which we view them. 



The Far Stairs

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 127
    • A Thousand Lifetimes in an Hour
Reply #60 on: July 02, 2010, 05:58:46 AM
I thought this was one of the best stories in Pseudopod history. No lie. It was a great example of finding horror in the everyday (the last story that did it this well was "Bophuthatswana"). I didn't see an anti-war message, just one person's horror at witnessing death and suffering--and at how commonplace and pervasive death and suffering have become in a global culture.

There was a point in my life when I realized that tides of violence are constantly sweeping the earth and that it is only by sheer luck that I was born in a place where it is relatively safe to live; ever since then, a great black fear has preyed on the edges of my mind, telling me over and over, "You're not any better than those people in other countries who are having their homes destroyed and their loved ones killed. This could easily happen to you one day." I don't feel guilty for being privileged, nor do I worry all that much about those people in other countries. What I do feel is utterly terrified in a cosmic sense. How can any of us sleep at night knowing what a violent and self-destructive species we are? To a large extent, that's why I read horror stories; they allow me to face a little bit of that fear in a safe environment. But every once in a while, a story comes along that taps into this real-life horror and makes me feel less alone. If I had grown up a hundred years ago, I could probably have maintained the illusion that the world is a basically good place where bad things sometimes happen but everything eventually works out for the best. It's impossible for me to do that nowadays. The unending barrage of awful news from all corners of the world has taught me that any small happiness is a rare and fragile thing. Unless we go and live alone in the woods, we're pretty much forced to digest horror after horror every day. I wonder what kids growing up today think about the world. Do they have any hope? Or do they just resign themselves to cataloging the horrors the way the narrator's brother does in this story?

To me, this story was about the gnawing anxiety of being alive and awake in the 21st Century. Everywhere you look, there's something terrifying to witness. It's on TV, on your computer, at your school, and in your family. It's not just war, it's life in general. The dung beetle metaphor at the end didn't seem preachy to me because it didn't offer any sort of solution. The author wasn't saying, "We should be like the dung beetles." It just seemed like a desperate escape fantasy: "If only there was a way we could fly away from all this shit." I wish there was.

I would take a hundred more stories like this.

Jesse Livingston
Head of Historical Archives
The Far Stairs
www.athousandlifetimes.com


disk2

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 6
Reply #61 on: July 02, 2010, 06:15:35 AM
This much ado about nothing is why I self censored my first post.

I only posted my opinion because I was asked for it by one person, and snidely dismissed due to my post count by another.
As far as my comments being rude or combative I'll just counter with the argument that my critique of this tripe was art itself (after all it did
evoke an emotional response) and you are just unable to understand or fully grasp it.

I suppose I should have said this "story" is more like a diary or journal entry than an actual story, which would be fine if anything actually happened in it.
I've read plenty of books and short stories that used that style to great effect, here however it's used simply to drone on about people's desensitization
to violence and thinly veiled leftist anti-war sentiment.

Had this story been right-wing pro-war flag waving I may have got a chuckle out of it due to the political incorrectness of that stance,
but in the end I would have still found it preachy and boring. Yes, war IS bad, it should be the final option at all times, and when that time comes
it should be fought to be won as quickly and as decisively as possible.

Art is subjective, one man's masterpiece is an other man's brush cleaning cloth, yet strangely enough both opinions are valid and accurate.
With that said here is a quote from the front page of this web site.
Pseudopod
You’ve found the world’s premier horror fiction podcast. Pseudopod  brings you the best short horror in audio form, to take with you anywhere.

WARNING: This is a podcast of horror fiction. The stories presented here are intended to disturb you. They are likely to contain death, graphic violence, explicit sex (including sexual violence), hate crimes, blasphemy, or other themes and images that hook deep into your psyche. We do not provide ratings or content warnings for specific stories. We assume by your listening that you wish to be disturbed for your entertainment. If there are any themes that you cannot deal with in fiction, that are too strongly personal to you, please do not listen.

No where here is art for arts sake mentioned, what is mentioned? Horror fiction and entertainment. This story contained neither in my opinion.



Sgarre1

  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 1214
  • "Let There Be Fright!"
Reply #62 on: July 02, 2010, 07:07:39 AM
Quote
I didn't see an anti-war message, just one person's horror at witnessing death and suffering--and at how commonplace and pervasive death and suffering have become in a global culture.

and

Quote
To me, this story was about the gnawing anxiety of being alive and awake in the 21st Century. Everywhere you look, there's something terrifying to witness. It's on TV, on your computer, at your school, and in your family. It's not just war, it's life in general. The dung beetle metaphor at the end didn't seem preachy to me because it didn't offer any sort of solution. The author wasn't saying, "We should be like the dung beetles." It just seemed like a desperate escape fantasy: "If only there was a way we could fly away from all this shit." I wish there was.

Thank you very much, Jesse Livingston!  Couldn't have put it better myself. except to add that the story is also specifically about realizing one's growing apathy, through repetition, towards images of real violence (disassociated from their human context), in a culture in which images of real violence (disassociated from their human context) are fast becoming the next big fascination on a large scale, and also the realization that the step after that is enjoyment of said commodity - apathetic sadism, essentially.  This isn't an anti-war story as far as I'm concerned and I'm happy to see someone else realize that.

Thanks for listening.

“In this image (watching sensual murder through a peephole) Lorrain embodies the criminal delight of decadent art.  The watcher who records the crimes (both the artist and consumer of art) is constructed as marginal, powerless to act, and so exculpated from action, passive subject of a complex pleasure, condemning and yet enjoying suffering imposed on others, and condemning himself for his own enjoyment.  In this masochistic celebration of disempowerment, the sharpest pleasure recorded is that of the death of some important part of humanity.  The dignity of human life is the ultimate victim of Lorrain's art, thrown away on a welter of delighted self-disgust.”
“Carnival of Crime: The Writing of Jean Lorrain (1855-1906)” by Jennifer Birkett, introduction to SELECTIONS BY JEAN LORRAIN in THE DECADENT READER
« Last Edit: July 02, 2010, 07:09:42 AM by Sgarre1 »



Bdoomed

  • Pseudopod Tiger
  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 5891
  • Mmm. Tiger.
Reply #63 on: July 02, 2010, 01:34:47 PM
Hi disk2,

This much ado about nothing is why I self censored my first post.
Which is all well and good except you came off quite snobbish (probably the wrong word) while doing it.

Your opinions are valid, however I'd like to point you in the direction of our One Rule.  Most of your post is fine, if not a little hostile, but please refrain from being a dick about it.  I refer specifically to:
I'll just counter with the argument that my critique of this tripe was art itself (after all it did
evoke an emotional response) and you are just unable to understand or fully grasp it.

And calling the story "tripe" wasn't very respectful either.

Carry on.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #64 on: July 02, 2010, 01:38:53 PM
I only posted my opinion because I was asked for it by one person, and snidely dismissed due to my post count by another.
As far as my comments being rude or combative I'll just counter with the argument that my critique of this tripe was art itself (after all it did
evoke an emotional response) and you are just unable to understand or fully grasp it.

Since I was one of those who asked for a fuller opinion, I'll just say that I appreciated the more detailed expansion of it.   



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #65 on: July 02, 2010, 01:44:49 PM
Here's the thing: in my experience people almost never complain that a story was "too political" unless they disagree with the story's politics (or what they imagine the story's politics to be). "Too political" is usually a shorthand for "the story challenged my beliefs and that makes me angry." If you want to criticize a story, talk about what the story actually did or didn't do.

I disagree.  Take the Escape Pod story "Pervert", which to me was a pretty transparent message story telling me that it's harmful for society to suppress someone's sexual orientation.  I don't disagree with that message in the slightest, but the message was still simply too much like a lecture to me.  I like a story that carries a message, but I hate a message that carries a story, and that's a "valid" opinion. 

And regarding calling someone else's opinion "invalid" or "stupid" I'd say that neither of them are a great resolution.  The One Rule here that I've heard of is not to insult other people whether that be the author or other forumites, and both of those sound like insults to me.  I don't have to agree with everyone's posts, but why can't I just say "I disagree" instead of saying that there's something inherently wrong with your opinion.



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
Reply #66 on: July 02, 2010, 01:48:24 PM
I'll throw the same question back at you - are you actually saying that dwelling on the horrors of war is partisan? Are you really saying that it is/should be true that only people of a certain set of political beliefs can look at war's dark side and contemplate whether or not it's worth it? Are you saying that right-wingers aren't allowed to empathize with the other side in a military conflict?

I don't think "partisan" or "political" are the word I would use, because as you said, anti-war isn't really one side of the fence or the other.  I would however say that the story is too message-heavy, the series of events serving only to try to convince me that war is hell.  The basic message is pretty hard to argue against, but since the story seemed to do nothing but deliver that message, I'd still say it's too message-heavy.



Scattercat

  • Caution:
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 4904
  • Amateur wordsmith
    • Mirrorshards
Reply #67 on: July 02, 2010, 09:39:03 PM
I think the story takes as given that war is hell, and then asks, "So what does it mean to us that the war is omnipresent, that we can flip over to YouTube and see a thousand snippets of film direct from combat?"  The same questions arose with the omnipresence of the big news networks and television, with people sitting at their dining room table watching men dying in Vietnam.  Now, we can not only watch, but we can participate.  We can edit, splice, dub, and collect.  The narrator is viewing a groomed and selected collection of videos on his brother's computer, videos culled from the farthest reaches of the world and the very front seat of horror, videos of men dying violently and painfully, and saved them under "Funny War Videos."

Holy crap, dude. 

That's the horror here; not that we are desensitized to violence or that war is bad, but that GIVEN that war is bad, what does it say about the character in the story and humanity in general that his response to the horrific images was to construct them as he did?  He had freedom to react in any way, and he reacted that way.  Did he choose that?  Why?  Did he not choose that?  If not, what influenced him to do that?

We're all connected now, more so than ever before in history.  We are involved.  We are participants.  Do we realize that?  What are we doing with that power?  This story is the dark side of the (overhyped) "Twitter Revolution" in Iran, to me. 



The Far Stairs

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 127
    • A Thousand Lifetimes in an Hour
Reply #68 on: July 04, 2010, 07:17:53 PM
Exactly!

Jesse Livingston
Head of Historical Archives
The Far Stairs
www.athousandlifetimes.com


Millenium_King

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 385
    • Ankor Sabat
Reply #69 on: July 06, 2010, 08:58:06 PM
I think I've mentioned this all before, but the idea that "Oh no! Everyone is desensitized to violence!" is pretty hum-drum to me.  As I have pointed out: less than 400 years ago, young men the narrator's age would have been ridiculed and even ostracized if they had NOT engaged PERSONALLY in terrible violence (vikings, for example, who did NOT kill children on raids were considered eccentric at best).

The fact that the biggest horror one can dredge up is 24-hour news networks and youtube videos just says to me that the 21st century world has made a LOT of progress in a very short time period.

It's also interesting to note that everyone here has been saying "war is bad" as a given.  As it was some Law of Nature.  "War is bad" is NOT a given.  That's a culturally-based statement.  Hundreds of years ago, death in battle was the highest achievement a man could aspire to.  Now war is a dirty word.  Again: progress.

To come back to the story: it all felt whiny and preachy to me.  Message heavy and overly focussed on, what I see as, not really a big deal (watching violent videos).

This whole discussion has boiled down to whether this story was "political" or "partisan" - I agree with Unblinking: either way, it's way too heavy handed in its message.

Some people may not agree - but that's totally fine.  Some people obviously do not think it's too heavy handed.  Everyone opinions differ.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #70 on: July 06, 2010, 09:16:39 PM
I think I've mentioned this all before, but the idea that "Oh no! Everyone is desensitized to violence!" is pretty hum-drum to me.  As I have pointed out: less than 400 years ago, young men the narrator's age would have been ridiculed and even ostracized if they had NOT engaged PERSONALLY in terrible violence (vikings, for example, who did NOT kill children on raids were considered eccentric at best).

Your point is...?

I don't know - the fact that the world sucked even more four hundred years ago does not erase the horror of the now. Maybe the story is just ahead of it's time ;).

The fact that the biggest horror one can dredge up is 24-hour news networks and youtube videos just says to me that the 21st century world has made a LOT of progress in a very short time period.

It's also interesting to note that everyone here has been saying "war is bad" as a given.  As it was some Law of Nature.  "War is bad" is NOT a given.  That's a culturally-based statement.  Hundreds of years ago, death in battle was the highest achievement a man could aspire to.  Now war is a dirty word.  Again: progress.

I'm not sure which point you're making here. Are you claiming that "war is bad" is not a given - it's a culturally biased statement - and therefore not true? I'll grant that it's a biased statement, albeit one that I'm willing to defend. Or, are you again arguing that there's been progress?

To come back to the story: it all felt whiny and preachy to me.  Message heavy and overly focussed on, what I see as, not really a big deal (watching violent videos).

This whole discussion has boiled down to whether this story was "political" or "partisan" - I agree with Unblinking: either way, it's way too heavy handed in its message.

Some people may not agree - but that's totally fine.  Some people obviously do not think it's too heavy handed.  Everyone opinions differ.

That's fair, though let's not forget that we're here to express, consider, and debate opinions. At least, that's what I'm here for.

Anyway, I'm pretty puzzled by the first half of your post. Are you writing that war isn't as bad as we're all keyed up to believe, or are you writing that we've made progress and therefore it's a dead issue, not worth talking about? The first is an interesting statement, though possibly growing beyond the scope of this particular message board. I won't jump down your throat for it - there are some pretty major political scientists who will talk about how war is an unavoidable necessity and we'd be happier as a world if we just got used to/over it - though I do disagree. The second, though, is a bit... well... I don't know how to put this. Above you told me you'd like me to call your opinions stupid when I don't like them, but I'm still not comfortable with that :P.

Okay, okay, that was silly.

I feel that "we've made a lot of progress" isn't a good reason to criticize or silence social commentary. By that logic we should immediately cease all social commentary. After all, "a lot" is such a subjective term and we've certainly made at least some progress on pretty much any issue you can name. Where do you draw the line? At what point have we made enough progress - short of solving the problem altogether - that we should stop commenting on it?

And if we do, how are we expected to ever solve the problem the rest of the way?

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Millenium_King

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 385
    • Ankor Sabat
Reply #71 on: July 06, 2010, 10:20:42 PM
No, no: all I'm saying is that nowadays the cultural view is that "war is bad" and that it used to be "war is fantastic."  Some people (myself included) might call that progress.

I do not argue that societal progress is not necessary, but I'll return to what I stated earlier: this story feels "whiny."  Given the massive amount of real horror and death being visited in the world today (Africa for example - where many young men are still taught "war is fantastic") - the existential whining of some nameless teenager about some youtube videos feels petty to me.

On the other hand, if the story had created a realistic character and gotten me (the reader) immersed in his existential angst and struggle with the impersonal nature of modern warfare (Jarhead, comes to mind) then I would have actually enjoyed the story.  But that is not what this story does.  It makes some social commentary, then expects us all to stand in awe of the revelation.

That may not be your viewpoint, and that is fine.  But again, my problem with this story, and all "message" stories is that the success or failure of the story rests with the success or failure of the message.  If the message lands with impact on the reader, the story is a success.  If it does not, the story fails.  Hence: these sort of stories are highly subjective and base their success on societal commentary, rather than effective plotting, character arcs and tension.

There is nothing wrong with societal commentary, but this story is so built around it that the characters are nameless and faceless and the plot: wholly non-existent.  In my mind, it's lazy, boring and (as many have pointed out) reads like a journal entry.  In general, these sort of stories are only appreciated by those who agree with the message.  In contrast, ANYONE can enjoy a story which makes social criticism, so long as the criticism does not overwhelm the story.  In my opinion, the criticism of this story not only overwhelms the story, it beats it completely to death.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


Sgarre1

  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 1214
  • "Let There Be Fright!"
Reply #72 on: July 07, 2010, 02:14:13 AM
Quote
I think I've mentioned this all before, but the idea that "Oh no! Everyone is desensitized to violence!" is pretty hum-drum to me.  As I have pointed out: less than 400 years ago, young men the narrator's age would have been ridiculed and even ostracized if they had NOT engaged PERSONALLY in terrible violence (vikings, for example, who did NOT kill children on raids were considered eccentric at best).

I don't necessarily see a connection between one and the other, and I think you're simplified reduction dodges the point.  This isn't about the act of violence, it's about the observation of the act of violence, the mediated experience, and how mediation tends to turn everything into "entertainment" by reducing it to a spectacle.  The brother "collects" scenes of real people dying.  As I imlied in my statement, I don't  think "war is bad" or even "this particular war is bad" are the main point of the piece.  The author could have used "Jackass"-styled deliberate style self-abuse, or even YouTube-posted "beatdowns", but neither would have been as powerful (they don't involve death) and the current war provides not only a good example of this phenomena, but makes larger sense as the population's attraction to the culture and idea of combat always increases when a war is actually in effect.  Your example of violence in the past is true, but in no way engages the actual point I was making.  We have now "advanced" to the point where the things we made great efforts to reduce (successfully or unsuccessfully) in the last century (war is probably impossible to completely eradicate, but post WWI, when anyone with half a mind realized just how vast, horrible, wasteful and stupid the modern iteration of war was, and how easily it could occur, worked to reduce those circumstances) are now routinely recorded and those recordings are treated as commodities to be consumed at our leisure.  You don't have to think that's horrifying, you can just as easily, as many do, shrug and say "so what?", but I think your'e being deliberately obtuse if you can't see how others might find that horrifying.

Quote
this story feels "whiny."  Given the massive amount of real horror and death being visited in the world today (Africa for example - where many young men are still taught "war is fantastic") - the existential whining of some nameless teenager about some youtube videos feels petty to me.

Given the massive amount of violence and suffering in the world, any "horror" topic pales in comparison. It's an asinine argument, in my opinion  (find one of those Africans and see if they care a whit about Lovecraft's cosmic horror).  Given the widespread existence of systemized rape and genital mutilation in the Third World, would a story about the rape of a middle-classed, teenage American girl seem "whiny"?  Howabout a story with someone discovering the growing popularity of videos of these rapes and mutilations that occur in the Third World, amongst American youngsters?  "Whiny"?

It's obvious that the style and content of the story were not to your tastes.  Given your statements, I'm absolutely sure there are a number of Pseudopod stories upcoming in your archive listening that will not be to your tastes, which is actually a good thing and to be expected.  These arguments on the boards are not an attempt to change your opinion, but I do believe that occasionally you underestimate stories that you dont particularly like for formal/structural reasons.  I believe the intent was for the story to read "like a journal entry" and for the characters to be nameless and faceless.  Plots are in the eye of the beholder, especially when you move out of standard story structure into something like this. Call it "experimental", and thus not something you like on principal, if that serves.

Thanks for listening.

“It is a very good thing to have a built in bullshit detector, but a bad thing when the bullshit detector crowds out the rest of your brain; that’s why they call it being narrow-minded. You quickly reach the stage where anything ambitious, complicated or merely foreign gets spat on along with the things that are generally phony. Pretense and ambition are different words for the same thing, and a writing without pretense pretty soon becomes a literature without ambitions, content to congratulate itself on it’s own insularity. Blimpishness is not a step away; it is all you have left.”
Adam Gopnick from the review of “The Old Devil: A Life Of Kingsley Amis” published in The New Yorker, April 23, 2007.



Millenium_King

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 385
    • Ankor Sabat
Reply #73 on: July 07, 2010, 06:31:19 PM
Quote
this story feels "whiny."  Given the massive amount of real horror and death being visited in the world today (Africa for example - where many young men are still taught "war is fantastic") - the existential whining of some nameless teenager about some youtube videos feels petty to me.

Given the massive amount of violence and suffering in the world, any "horror" topic pales in comparison. It's an asinine argument, in my opinion  (find one of those Africans and see if they care a whit about Lovecraft's cosmic horror).  Given the widespread existence of systemized rape and genital mutilation in the Third World, would a story about the rape of a middle-classed, teenage American girl seem "whiny"?  Howabout a story with someone discovering the growing popularity of videos of these rapes and mutilations that occur in the Third World, amongst American youngsters?  "Whiny"?

I think you missed my point: the story is "whiny" because it focusses on the topic, not the character.  I believe I pointed that out earlier.  Had it made me feel the character struggling with his existential angst, I would have been impressed.  But instead, it just reads like a lecture that attempts to inflate, what some might consider, an unimpressive societal problem into a world-spanning horror.  Ie. "whiny."

It's obvious that the style and content of the story were not to your tastes.  Given your statements, I'm absolutely sure there are a number of Pseudopod stories upcoming in your archive listening that will not be to your tastes, which is actually a good thing and to be expected.  These arguments on the boards are not an attempt to change your opinion, but I do believe that occasionally you underestimate stories that you dont particularly like for formal/structural reasons.  I believe the intent was for the story to read "like a journal entry" and for the characters to be nameless and faceless.  Plots are in the eye of the beholder, especially when you move out of standard story structure into something like this. Call it "experimental", and thus not something you like on principal, if that serves.

Thanks for listening.

“It is a very good thing to have a built in bullshit detector, but a bad thing when the bullshit detector crowds out the rest of your brain; that’s why they call it being narrow-minded. You quickly reach the stage where anything ambitious, complicated or merely foreign gets spat on along with the things that are generally phony. Pretense and ambition are different words for the same thing, and a writing without pretense pretty soon becomes a literature without ambitions, content to congratulate itself on it’s own insularity. Blimpishness is not a step away; it is all you have left.”
Adam Gopnick from the review of “The Old Devil: A Life Of Kingsley Amis” published in The New Yorker, April 23, 2007.

As politely as I can manage: if you believe I am being narrow-minded, please feel free to state it outright.  I would appreciate it if you left your pretentious quotes at home.

If I take your lead and call this story "experimental" in style, then you would do well to remember that experiments sometimes fail.  I believe this one has.  I might also, very politely, ask you not to make sweeping generalizations about people you know very little about.  I have enjoyed experimental stories in the past, just not this one.

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.


ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
Reply #74 on: July 07, 2010, 06:54:00 PM
Given the massive amount of violence and suffering in the world, any "horror" topic pales in comparison. It's an asinine argument, in my opinion  (find one of those Africans and see if they care a whit about Lovecraft's cosmic horror).  Given the widespread existence of systemized rape and genital mutilation in the Third World, would a story about the rape of a middle-classed, teenage American girl seem "whiny"?  Howabout a story with someone discovering the growing popularity of videos of these rapes and mutilations that occur in the Third World, amongst American youngsters?  "Whiny"?

This. Yes.

I grew up with parents who are controlling to the point of abuse, but they never hit me or raped me. Does that mean that it would be "whiny" for me to write a story about dealing with controlling parents? Would it be "whiny" for me to seek therapy and write about my experiences? I was fed, clothed, and loved. Nobody hurt, raped, or mangled me. There are children in third world countries being sold into sex slavery - how dare you feel bad about your mother throwing out your fantasy novels and RPG character sheets to the point that you had to carry them with you everywhere you went! What's wrong with you?

Pain is relative. That's the point of art - it allows us to understand someone's experience out of context with the rest of the world and experience the world through unfamiliar eyes. It's silencing to say "I judge your pain as 'whiny' because someone else's pain is worse."

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.