Sunday, September 25, 2016

Read for Fun: Seinfeld and Philosophy

"Seinfeld and Philosophy" is a book I bought some time ago. I read a few of its essays but then it got lost in the shuffle. I finally finished it the other day. The show about nothing has profound things in it. Since this is a philosophy anthology I can't use my normal grading method so I'll just sample three of the essays.

 "The Costanza Maneuver: is it rational for George to 'Do the Opposite'"?


This is one of my favorites. Not only is it interesting but it cleaves to Seinfeld as much as to the philosophy. I'd say this is one of the better essays in that regard.  


The title of this episode refers to the season five episode "The Opposite" where George realizes that his every instinct has been wrong so Jerry (jokingly) advises him to do the opposite of what his instincts tell him.  In pursuit of determining if this is a truly rational thing to do, the author of the essay uses concepts such as the Three Kinds of Rationality (minimum, median and maximum) and employs a test; it is rational if it is both feasible and reliable. 


The author of the essay also speaks of the comical mechanics in this central joke of the episode. Neither George nor the audience expects the Costanza Maneuver to work and the contrast with its great success is both startling and baffling. It's also about George's neurosis; that's always funny. 

Seinfeld, Subjectivity and Sartre


This one is about the constructions of the Self (identity, personality etc.) and how it exists in relation to others. It is not only that the persona of the characters is revealed through their interactions with others but that it is influenced and built by them. Examples include Jerry encouraging some odd plan or another by George and Kramer's eccentrics coming from all the strange people he interacts with.
This particular essay had another point to prove; that Jean-Paul Sartre advocated the relationally constructed Self instead of being an essentialist. The author of this essay goes to great lengths to disprove what I assume is a widespread and long standing interpretation. Of course, Sartre's play, "No Exit" and that famous line "Hell is other people" is brought up. In both the play and the TV show there are three (or four) unpleasant people locked in a room for a prolonged period of time as their punishment. Yet the author of this essay notes that the Seinfeld four don't see it as torture because it is their natural environment.
Seinfeld and the Moral Life

The author of this essay attempts to prove that the four main cast members are kind and compassionate people who regularly try to do the morally correct thing; yes all four of them.  While I disagree I'm more put off by the faulty logic and reasoning in this essay.

Before starting the argument to prove this, the author of the essay first separates "integrity" from the idea of "being moral" because someone can be a horrible immoral person with great integrity. While this is sound enough it also means there is less land to defend. When the author of the essay begins their defense of their argument they point to the few actions that could be interpreted as good and kind and ignores the context. It's cherry picking.
Then the author of the essay responds to possible counter-arguments by stating that being a "comedy of manners" is more or less the same as being concerned with morality because manners are about avoiding hurting someone's feelings. This ignores the possibility of being petty, superficial or self-interested. There is also the phrase "obviously false on its face". This sounds like the start of the Costanza Maneuvers' first section. It referred to the tendency of some people to believe they've won an argument by saying "you're being irrational". Saying that something is false does not prove it to be so.

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 There are others in this essay that I greatly enjoyed such as "J. Peterman the Ideological Mind: Paradoxes of Subjectivity" and the "Elaine Benes: Feminist Icon or Just One of The Boys". There are only one or two that I disliked and that's more about disagreement or whatever.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Seinfeld and Philosophy" an A



Click here for the next book review (a review request): Crik


Click here for my previous book review (a review request): Fae


Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Answering Review Request: Fae

Rhonda Parish asked me to read an anthology she edited call "Fae". Its theme is fairies and more specifically, the kind of fairies known as Fair Folk from the old folklore instead of the later, Victorian idea. The introduction goes into this in more detail. Suffice to say that there's a lot of diversity here. I will look at a couple for this review and then give the book as a whole a grade.
 
"Only The Eyes Of Children"

 This is a 1st person narrative with a smart ass half-fey. The protagonist, "Robin Archer", reminds me of Harry Dresden but he's not a detective. Instead, he's more like a vigilante. He Fights Like a Normal since his magic abilities are limited and take a huge toll on his stamina. He refuels with ice cream, coke and pork tenderloin sandwiches.


The trope, "Friend to All Children" is a big part of this story. It's an interesting take on the idea of changelings. Fae can't reproduce like humans can so they are both fascinated by and protective of children. They love playing with children in city parks and if they don't do this often enough then a compulsion could build up until they snatch a kid instead. Robin states that most Fae in the modern age are pretty good about returning them after a few days and the ones that don't usually raise the kids as their own with much love. In fact, he describes Tatiana the Fairy Queen as a paragon of maternal instinct. 


Another thing that makes this story interesting is the other part of the changeling story; the vast majority of child abductions are via other humans such as slave traders. That's the plot for this story, tracking down a certain cell of them in Indianapolis (incidentally, that city is supposedly bursting with Fae).

 
"Just Make Believe"

 The start of this short story sounds familiar, doesn't it? A child of adoption who has dreamed of performing magic discovers a supernatural mentor who teaches her to use her powerful latent magic and suggests that she might be a princess from the Fairy Court. However, this story has an altered sense of gravity. This girl is not the protagonist nor the view point character. That would be her "supernatural mentor" who is actually a Fae boy her age (or at least her mental age) who is ecstatic to make a friend capable of magic and has no grand adventure to Herald her into. Indeed, the plot is their budding relationship and the only conflict is personal.

The Fae boy, Robin, is a faun with illusion magic. Between his private insecurity, showing off to impress Nadia, references to stories like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and the general tone of his first person narrative, he is high grade adorkable.

The supposedly human girl, Nadia, learns illusion magic. Neither of them know for sure how she is capable of it but Robin speculates that she has Fae blood. She's a nice girl and not in the sense of "nice as bland" but "nice as friendly" and "nice as compassionate" etc.

 
How useful is illusion magic when talking about teenagers who not only have "growing up" identity issues but also ones regarding their species and their relationship to each other?
 
"Water Sense"
It's about this kid in a desert. Everyone except him in this society has a "water sense" which I took as hydromancy. He's from a different tribe or ethnic or something and that's why he doesn't have this ability. For both reasons he is an outcast. He goes on this vision quest thing with a shaman mentor to determine the truth of his heritage and thus find his identity and water sense. It's interesting world building particularly the origin of the Water Sense and what it means for the tribes that exist off-the-pages.
I include this one in my review for a different reason than the other two. While I like it as well as the other two, this is the only one in the anthology that does not feel "complete". The others have their conclusion or resolution and any threads left dangling are more like Sequel Hooks at most.  This one feels like its missing its final scene; missing half its climax. I don't want to spoil the ending but I will make an analogy to illustrate my point; Karate Kid, Daniel going to Mr.Miyagi for training and then the movie ending as the tournament starts. 
There are others and I like them all. In fact, one of my review tweets is "the title of 'my favorite' keeps changing". That I wrote about these three does not make my top three; they were just the ones that I wrote about. If I were to tell you everything I liked about all of them then we'd be here all day.

 Trickster Eric Novels gives "Fae" an A+

Click here for the next book review (not a review request): Seinfeld and Philosophy

Click here for the previous review request: Dawn of Steam: Gods of the Sun

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Routine Mission Monster Slaying

Welcome to another week of Sassy Saturday at Trickster Eric Novels.  Every week will be an excerpt from one of my novels showcasing a kick-butt heroine. If you want read about the original blog hop the link is here.

The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Fire Demi-Goddess vs Order Entity

The context for this post: A routine mission for Dragon's Lair Team Four in the aftermath of the Mana Mutation Summit.
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Tiza jumped into a batch of smaller monsters. These were a Frankenstein mixture of several vermin that were twenty times bigger than any one kind. They came up to her waist. She assumed them to have been sleeping underground when the mana storm hit. There were five of them, which she figured was unfair; she’d kill them all before Dimwit finished eating.

“I don’t have all those funky powers, but I can kill all the same.”

She struck first by impaling one through the back and blasting another further into the chaos zone. When the other three attacked, she weaved around them and kicked them around with bladed boots. Then she finished them with her sword. By now, the first one was dead from the poison on her blade. The toxins she used in combat had to work quickly if they were to be effective. She spent hours every day studying them before Sathel allowed her to even practice with them. The incident at the castle finally convinced her, although she was still scolded for sneaking out the poisoned sword.

The second returned from her punting, but it was too far away to finish off with her metal sword. Her mana sword, on the other hand, had just the right reach. Holding her metal one straight up with both hands, she focused mana into it. It flowed liked wax into a mold. Leveling her sword like a bow, she fired a mana bolt in the shape of a sword. It entered the franken-vermin’s mouth and came out its rear, leaving two halves of a monster in its wake.

Another swarm approached her blindside. Unfortunately for them, this particular sapient had no blind side. Again molding mana into her sword, she pulled her hands apart to create a new sword. Now dual wielding, she spun around and killed monsters left and right.

One leapt past her guard and bit her left thigh. She cried out and then stabbed it. She fought the remaining ones with it stuck to her leg. There were four more, so she estimated four strikes to finish the battle. With four steps, she killed them all.

Once they were all dead, she pummeled the one on her leg with a mana beam to make sure it was dead. Then she began the delicate process of removing its teeth. It was easier than she thought. It didn’t pierce her skin because a pulsating blue-grey aura blocked its jaws.

“Endurance….”

She didn’t recall Nolien casting that spell on her. It could have bitten clear to her bone and become a disabling injury, taking her out of the mission. Then she smiled. It was comforting to think he was watching out for her even outside of battle.
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Mana Mutation Menace, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon as both an ebook and as a paperback.

 To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit the Tvtropes character sheet. 

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Fire Demi-Goddess vs Order Entity

Welcome to another week of Sassy Saturday at Trickster Eric Novels.  Every week will be an excerpt from one of my novels showcasing a kick-butt heroine. If you want read about the original blog hop the link is here.

The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Annala schools Lunas at the Mana Mutation Summit

The context for this post: Lunas Latrot has launched a surprise attack on Roalt castle and one of his allies, a god-like entity called an "enforcer", has directly attacked Queen Kasile. With her divine magic shut down she has to think quickly before it steals her soul.
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Kasile knew she was dying. Stripped of all mana, her kon was next and then her soul would be swallowed by the enforcer. That would be the end of her, and with her, the end of the Ataidar royal line. She paled and shriveled by the second. After all this time, the Sacred Fire bloodline would end without a drop of it being spilled.

An electric current raced across her brain as her final thought clicked.

She ripped out a chastity dagger and sliced down her right arm. Blood poured from the wound and she prayed to Fiol; not as the royal and semi-divine queen but as the Highest Public Servant. Instead of self-congratulating praise, she spoke of earnest supplication.  

Then the back of her left palm shined. The divine crest that was the Empty Throne of Ataidar burned in her skin. The Royal Crest that was the Crowned Tiger followed it on her right. Her skin became incandescent and the blood leaking from her wound became white fire. Her irises became pools of it.

She gathered the bloody fire in her hand and launched it at the enforcer. It hissed in pain and ceased draining her. In response, she staggered back and forth while a peal of laughter ripped from her throat. The visiting rulers backed away.

No wonder I’ve had trouble controlling it! All this time, I’ve been laboring under the wrong impression! I should incinerate the Fire Sage for his help.”

A pillar of fire roared into life around her. She outstretched her hands and blasted white flames to every corner of the room. It rose up the walls and floor and echoed her glee.

The true source, Fire Sage! The true Authority! Of course, I'm not queen. The throne is empty and the tiger is crowned.”

She raised her right hand above her head and a combination of blood and white flame streamed in a double helix around her arm. The blood soaked her opera glove, but the fire didn’t touch it. She brought it down, clenched, and both of them gushed forth.

“My blood; my heritage; my responsibility. This is Kasile Landros Ataidar, daughter of the daughter of Fire!”

“Madness!” Lunas exclaimed. “We must leave before she demands sacrifices! The enforcer will hold her off!”

Most of the visitors had already fled during Kasile’s speech. The rest followed Lunas’ command. Kasile pointed her right pointer finger and a beam of white death lanced out at him. The enforcer intercepted and absorbed it. The prince, last of the delegates, ran away.

Siron! Stop him!"

Pale faced and shaky-legged, Siron obeyed the command. On his way out, he checked for his rapier and dagger. Then the door closed, the lock melted, and a dome of white fire encompassed the door.

It’s just you and me now, enforcer.”

The fragment of Order twisted the room’s reality. Ethereal lights appeared from nowhere to wrap around the unconscious guards. There were two for every delegate, totaling over two hundred professional warriors. They arose and arrayed themselves around Kasile. The Sacred Fire above them all diminished and wavered. Some of it drifted into orbit around the enforcer and alignment changed into dark Infernal Fire.

“This is not that which needs to escape, Mortal Flesh.”

It launched the corrupted fire at her in rapid volley spheres. She grabbed them as they came and purified them on the spot. Then she gathered it all into a ball and pressed it against her cut. It transformed back into blood and shot back into her system and then again into fire. There was no difference. As blood drained from her body, fire replaced it.

I understand now. You accused me of lying about my status as queen. You are right. The Fire Sage is right. I am not queen.”

The mind-controlled bodyguards slashed with short swords and tomahawks. Mana bolts fell like rain. Kasile smirked and generated a dome of Sacred Fire. Not one of their bolts touched her and their weapons melted into slag before reaching her.

Fiol is queen here. She has ruled for two thousand years. I’m closer to Vice-Roy or High Priestess. Torch Day is to remind me of this fact: I am the torch carrying the fire, not the fire itself.

She thrust her arms to either side and sent Sacred Fire rolling over the bodyguards like a wave. It melted their armor and incinerated their clothing, but did not harm them personally. She gazed appreciatively, then snapped her fingers. Obeying her unspoken summoning, salamander spirits appeared around her.

Take these people to another room. This does not concern them. 

They nodded and scattered. While they grabbed guards large and small, she continued, “My divine power is similar. It’s not mine. I’m borrowing it from the real goddess, yet I claimed that it was mine. Order is a sly bastard.”

Blasphemy!”

Kasile placed her spotless left hand over her mouth in mock apology. “Ohh…Did I upset the emotionless drone?”

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Mana Mutation Menace, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon as both an ebook and as a paperback.

 To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit the Tvtropes character sheet. 


The next Sassy Saturday is Routine Mission Monster Slaying


Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).