Daily Musings of August 30, 2018

I started using Quora a while back when it notified me that a couple of friends had started following me on there. I’d created an account years ago, but hadn’t used it. The idea was that it would be good for getting freelance business. If you’re not familiar with Quora, it’s a site where people ask questions and anyone can answer them, and then answers are voted up or down. You’re allowed (encouraged) to advertise yourself through it, so it’s a chance to show off your expertise.

That’s the theory, anyway. Now that I installed the app and get a notification about some questions in my fields every day, I’ve noticed something odd. Many of the questions don’t really feel like honest questions. They feel like leading questions designed to promote something. A lot of them are like, “Why do so many system administrators prefer Linux over BSD?” Or, “Why is Microsoft Outlook the best email program?” Even in cases where the products named aren’t for sale, so there isn’t an obvious profit motive, it feels like someone’s selling something. Maybe people who want to answer those questions to sell their own services are posting them with a sockpuppet. I dunno.

So I haven’t really gotten into it, and now I’m not looking for freelance work. I wouldn’t mind answering real questions, but it’s hard to find them among the fluff. Also, the app sucks. Apps suck in general, but this one sucks worse than most. So it’s not something I’m likely to do while I’m having a beer under the shade tree in the evening. I’ll keep half an eye on its notifications, though, and answer the occasional interesting one that comes through.

I might be writing some stuff about Star Wars, Star Trek, and movies in general for a while. I’m not a super-fan or anything, but they are a part of our culture, some of the stories we use to talk about and understand ourselves. That idea gets derided, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Shakespeare and Homer were the popular culture of their day, but we call them classics because they’re old and have stood the test of time. We don’t know yet how much of our entertainment will stand that test (I think we can make some good guesses, and I will), but we do know how influential it is now. These stories, being made as they are by corporations with global aspirations, have ideological aspects that matter. So I’ll be diving into some aspects of that as they come to me here, and maybe assemble them into something longer and more coherent later. Case in point, next:

Someone at reddit was comparing Boba Fett and Captain Phasma, saying basically that Captain Phasma is just another Boba Fett – a character that does nothing except look cool – implying that you can’t blast her if you liked him.

I’m old enough that some of my grade school classmates had the OT action figures. One kid had shelves of them (and black lights in his room! Very cool), so I’m sure he had Boba Fett, maybe an army of Fetts. The thing I remember is that that was all pretty organic. People started buying the heck out of the main figures, so they made more from the secondary characters, and people gobbled those up, and pretty soon they were making one of that guy you see in two frames in the back of the cantina.

And as someone said, Boba Fett was one of the cooler-looking ones, so kids imagined a character and stories for him, and eventually that became fan-fic and books and a whole fandom. It grew from the bottom-up. I don’t think Boba Fett’s actor ever did interviews before the movies to tell people how important he was.

Long story short, the fans decided Boba Fett was cool – then later, Lucas ham-handedly inserted him into scenes in the special editions in response to that. In contrast, Lucasfilm declared Phasma was cool in advance, and dared anyone to disagree by calling those who did “misogynist man-children” (good band name). That’s why it feels so different, even though at a glance they’re both cool-looking action figure characters that do almost nothing in the movie.

This one’s kind of an inside joke, so I can’t explain the whole reason it’s a favorite around here (1:30). But I get a kick out of these that match music with unrelated video when it meshes this well. Plus the clothes and dancing of the 70s are just amazing. Past eras had so much style. Some of the style was terrible, but at least they had it.