D&D Campaign Settings Ranked
Post updated here.
Post updated here.
65%) as opposed to the gourmet ratings of each of the Lord of the Rings films (92%, 96%, 94%), and while I often cut against critical consensus, the reviews in this case are a pretty reliable gauge. The film is bloated like King Kong and proof that Peter Jackson needs an editor. Yet there's a lot I liked about it, most of which doesn't even come from the book, which makes my feelings paradoxical; I'm complaining about an oversized length while commending material that by rights has no place in the story.
"The important point is not entirely that Bilbo finds room in his heart for mercy, motivated by pity. It's that, through that merciful act, the larger Providential arc of Divine movement is worked out. Neither Bilbo, nor Frodo, nor even Gandalf, Elrond, or Galadriel, are powerful enough to save Middle-earth from great Evil. Evil will ultimately destroy itself through its own evil impulses, and Gollum is the agent of that demise -- in spite of the best intentions of others."Bilbo's pity, here and now in The Hobbit, is what saves Middle-Earth in The Lord of the Rings -- not Frodo (who will be a foreordained failure, unable to resist the Ring when it matters most), nor Gandalf (who can only aid the Free Peoples per his charge), and certainly not Aragorn (who will rule as a mere reminder of man's past glory and not a promise of any future glory). Bilbo's compassion makes possible what no member of the Fellowship can accomplish, and Jackson foreshadows the euchatastrophe beautifully. Gollum's tortured look is heartbreaking, and carries none of the cheesy melodrama that mars some the interactions between, say, Bilbo and Thorin.
(1) Does the person make someone feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled?The second gauge is critical. One thing I always keep in mind as a supervisor is that if I'm going to get nasty, it's going to be at my equals or superiors, not the poor folks subordinate to me. Not that I do in fact behave this way towards equals or superiors. But if I had to choose, I'd go for the jugular sideways or up the ladder of command. It's telling that assholes are cowards at heart: only the weak beat up on the weak.
(2) Does the person aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful rather than at those who are more powerful?
(1) allows himself to enjoy special advantages and does so systematically,By his threefold definition, James finds that most assholes are men. This isn't surprising. In most cultures, men are taught to be assertive and outspoken, while women are conditioned to be more circumspect and pull their punches. Then too there is plain nature: high testosterone levels and other genetic traits predispose men toward asshole behavior in later life, and gender culture channels these dispositions even more. (I think James downplays nature in favor of cultural conditioning a bit much, but he has the right idea.) That's why it's so easy to rattle off examples of male assholes (Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, Richard Dawkins, Hugo Chavez, Donald Trump, Dick Cheney, Steve Jobs, Simon Cowell, Mel Gibson) while only few women come to mind (like Ann Coulter).
(2) does this out of an entrenched sense of entitlement, and
(3) is immunized by his sense of entitlement against the complaints of other people.
"The bitch listens to the voiced complaints of others, making at least a show of recognition. Nevertheless, what is said makes no motivational difference to what she does; once her face-to-face encounter with you is over, it is as though you never talked. She 'recognizes' you in one sense: she acts as though she feels it is important to hear you out, to entertain your concerns. But this turns out to be only for show. The bitch betrays you behind her back. The asshole fails to recognize you to your face... The asshole is especially outrageous, because, whatever his private motives, he can't even be polite. And when he is polite, or even charming, fundamental respect is not the reason why. Other motives are in play." (pp 93-94)There is a slight problem here. I'm not sure the asshole's brazen honesty makes him more outrageous. He's probably more upsetting to most people, but others might prefer candor to deceit. It will depend largely on the circumstance. We all appreciate respect to some degree or another (however genuine or feigned), but the bitch, as defined, can be insidious and on a deeper level just as offensive as the asshole.
"People raised in these cultures are especially polite and considerate in most interactions, in part because they want to avoid threatening the honor of others (and the fight it provokes)... [But] once they are affronted, men raised in these places often feel obligated to lash back and protect what is theirs, especially their right to be treated with respect or honor." (pp 116-117)He then cites an intriguing study conducted in 1996 at the University of Michigan, in which the behavior patterns of southern and northern Americans were contrasted:
"Subjects (half southerners and half northerners) passed a stooge who 'accidentally' bumped into him and swore at him. There were big differences between how the northerners and southerners reacted: 65% of the northerners were amused by the bump and insult, and only 35% got angry; only 15% of the insulted southerners were amused, and 85% got angry. Not only that, a second study showed that southerners had strong physiological reactions to being bumped, especially substantial increases in cortisol (a hormone associated with high levels of stress and anxiety), as well as some signs of increased testosterone levels. Yet northerners showed no signs of physiological reaction to the bump and insult." (p 117)In other words, if you are from an honor-shame culture like Asia or the Middle-East -- or in this case, from even an honor-shame subculture like the southern United States -- "you will likely be more polite than your colleagues most of the time, but if you run into an even mildly insulting asshole, you are prone to lash out and risk fueling a cycle of asshole poisoning" (p 118). In this sense, the importance of being polite in these shame-based societies is a form of preventive damage control, where people are concerned every moment about their precious honor. The data cited by Sutton would thus imply that people from collectivist (honor-shame) cultures have stronger asshole potentials -- the opposite of James' findings.
Few artists have the luxury of being able to make films at their own snail's pace, and even fewer have this clout on the strength of a small number of films. Terrence Malick's five, released in '73, '78, '98, '05, '11, are not the box-office material that make one a Peter Jackson. (I always wondered at the reason for his 20-year hiatus between the second and third films and can't help but wonder if Malick was so depressed by '80s cinema that he swore off filmmaking forever; someday I'll have to write a blogpost about the evils of '80s American films.) I think of Malick as a composer of nature's symphonies. With one exception, nature is the lead character in all his work, through which plotting and the actual characters are filtered to yield an aesthetic that's pleasing, even exciting, whether you're inclined to arthouse or not. It was a given that Malick would place in this blogathon of favorite film directors, and here's how I rank his work.