Archive | February, 2010

One Good Thern Deserves Another

While the upcoming John Carter of Mars film has been described as an adaptation of the first novel only, the appearance in the cast list of the character “Matai Shang, ruler of the godlike Therns” suggests otherwise, as Shang and his merry band of Therns don’t show up until the second and third novels. And the “Civil War colonel who comes into conflict with Carter” corresponds to nothing in the books whatsoever.

Frazetta illustration for Burroughs' Mars books

I fear that the faithful movie adaptation that fans have spent nearly a hundred years waiting for (admittedly treating “fans” as a collective of variable composition) is not on the way.

But wait, it gets worse. Actor interviews (see here and here) reveal that the Therns are beings like “Olympian gods” who “travel round keeping order in the Universe” (they do no such thing in the books) and that the aforementioned Matai Shang (a fairly minor character in the books – it’s his daughter Phaidor who’s important) will be “John Carter’s nemesis” and a shapeshifter who “can adapt into anything.”

Talk about missing the point! The whole idea of the Therns is that they’re false gods – they’re just ordinary human beings who have set themselves up as gods. Giving them supernatural powers of shapeshifting and starhopping defeats their literary purpose. Burroughs structured Barsoomian society so that the religion of the red and green Martians would be a hoax perpetrated by the white Martians (i.e., the Therns), the religion of the white Martians would be a hoax perpetrated by the black Martians, and the religion of the black Martians would in turn be a hoax perpetrated by their own rulers. (Burroughs, as you may have guessed by now, was not a fan of religion; see also Savage Pellucidar and The Return of Tarzan.) If the Therns are now going to have magical powers, or be aliens with more advanced technology, or whatever it is that’s being planned here, then the story that Burroughs actually wrote is evidently being fairly thoroughly jettisoned.

My enthusiasm for this movie is rapidly dropping.

Looking Greenly

The (or a) UK Green Party has “changed [its] approach to science,” according to this story. (CHT Ken MacLeod.)

Kermit goes green

The changes look to me to be a mixed bag. There are some good things – most notably, the Greens have backed away from the idea of having scientists be legally required to swear an Oath to the Urth! On the down side, though, they’ve apparently made their peace with vivisection. (I don’t think vivisection should be banned by force of law, but I certainly favour opposing it.)

But the chief change seems to be a shift from a “regulate conventional medicine but not alternative medicine” position to a “regulate all medicine” position – a move in the direction of greater consistency, but an improvement in no other way.

A related story claims that “alternative medicine by definition is medicine that has been proven not to work, or not been proven to work. Alternative medicine that works is called ‘medicine’” – an assertion that belongs in the same category as the quondam Attorney General’s apothegm “you don’t have many suspects who are innocent of a crime. That’s contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.”

Hmm, I wonder what the definition of an alternative party is.

We Will Argue on the Plains, We Will Argue on the Beaches

Two upcoming Alabama philosophy events (one more upcoming than the other):

Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front Hotel

Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front Hotel

Why, you may ask, is the Alabama Philosophical Society going to be meeting in Florida? I’ll give you a hint. (And the disparity is even worse for our undergrad majors, whom we like to take to these events.)

Competition, Government Style

Wouldn’t you know that a politician’s idea of a solution to the problem that no one’s allowed to compete with X would be to mandate that X is allowed to compete with no one?

In T. H. White’s words: Whatever is not forbidden is compulsory.

Tea For Two

I was going to write something about CPAC and the tea parties. But then I remembered that I’d already written this last spring.

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