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Eric: I told you I wasn't dead. Though death wouldn't hurt so badly. Also? Schlock Mercenary.

Schlock Mercenary

(From Schlock Mercenary. Click on the thumbnail for full sized "see, this is why they need a UNSCLU in that time...")

I'm really tired. I have the worst gout flareup I've had in years, and I've had it since, oh, last Thursday or Friday. While at the pharmacy to get a prescription refill, my car was rearended in the parking lot, so I got to talk to the nice officers. (And they were nice, no joke.) I have learned to despise certain vendors of enterprise level computer equipment with the passion of a thousand suns. And my LDAP server hates me.

I would be asleep, but the thing about gout? It's like being stabbed with a white hot knife through a joint that has magically become the most sensitive point on your body. I'm nowhere near sleep at the moment. And so I have turned to my old friends, the webcomics. And I have read one of my favorites, Schlock Mercenary.

Which, you will recall, is on the to do list. Twice.

And today's strip is an absolutely perfect setup for one of those essays, and what the Hell? I'm not going to sleep.

Let's talk Shakespeare, shall we?

Everyone loves to quote Shakespeare. Even people who hate literature, hate theater, hate having to go to class, hate having to learn history and hate the idea that someone might -- just might -- want to explore the depths of our culture and heritage to understand a part of what makes us human still loves quoting Shakespeare. And there's one line that people love to quote. I've heard it my entire life, spoken with gusto, occasionally with irony, generally with tongue in cheek but all too often with a gleam in their eyes that say they mean it: "the first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers!"

It's a lawyer joke. Everyone loves a lawyer joke, right? And Schlock Mercenary loves them too.

I should pause and say I come not to bury Howard Tayler, but to praise him. I think he has handled Petey's ascendence and the impact it's had on the galaxy and on our heroes excellently, and I'm looking forward to the rest of this plotline. But, let's go back to lawyers, shall we?

Petey, the staggering powerful, extragalactic artificial intelligence -- often an antagonist, sometimes an ally -- is having a hearing to decide if Tagon's Toughs should be extradited to the U.N.S. When they ask what's going to be done, here, they're told that the police officer in question will present the case for extradition, and Tagon will present the defense. This comes as a shock to Massey, Tagon's lawyer, who wants to know why he can't be involved.

"Our laws function more smoothly without [lawyers'] 'help,'" Petey replies, providing the air quotes for 'help.' He goes on to tell Tagon that "requesting the intercession of an attorney is a sign of a guilty conscience." This is a chuckle for the reader, especially when Colonel Kerchak starts to fill out an application to emigrate to the Fleetmind's space after hearing it.

First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. Petey did it. They do not bring their evil there. As he says in today's strip, "my decision, and it will be mine alone, swings neither upon rhetoric nor legalese. It swings, hangs, and will fall upon truth. You cannot impress me with logical constructs, airtight arguments, or six-syllable words."

And that, to my mind, is the brilliance of Howard Tayler. Because he didn't just evoke the sense of that happy, overquoted piece of Shakespeare. He actually brought out its true meaning.

That's right. There's a meaning behind "the first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." See, I've done something most of the people who quote that line haven't done. I've read the play.

(How do I know they haven't read the play? Time and time again, the quote is ascribed to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. But that's not where it's from. It's from Henry VI, Part 2 -- one of the histories. Specifically, Act IV, Scene II. It is a scene where Jack Cade is rallying support to raise an army and rebel against the throne, as part of York's plot to seize power for himself. Cade pledges, in his conquest:

I thank you, good people: there shall be no money;
all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will
apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree
like brothers and worship me their lord.

And one of his supporters, Dick the Butcher, cries out that the lawyers must be killed as part of this. And of course it's true -- if there is rule of Law in England, one cannot decide arbitrarily who is to be fed and who is not, abolishing money, seizing all property, and causing all citizens to wear proscribed uniforms.

See, that's the point. The people who want to get rid of all the lawyers in Henry VI Part II don't want to emancipate the common man from those bastard lawyers. They want to establish a tyranny. The first thing any tyrant must do is eliminate the rule of law, eliminate legal recourse....

Dare I say... eliminate logical constructs, airtight arguments, or six-syllable words?"

Petey truly believes (as he has believed before) that he is benevolent. However, Petey's benevolence has always been paternalistic at best. He thinks he knows best. And he's right. The laws of the Fleetmind function more smoothly without lawyers, because they aren't laws. They're whims. Petey is going to decide what he thinks is right, and no argument, logical construct, or law is going to dissuade him. There is no appeal. There is no higher authority. All involved will simply have to cope with it.

Part of the brilliance, to my mind, is the fact that Tagon and his mercenaries are in fact guilty. They did actually blow up the interior of that television network's building, and they did it for profit. But the case being presented by the Detective isn't what they did. They're literally being framed for a crime they did commit. And that means there's a mystery afoot. Massey recognizes it. He's trying to figure out what's actually going on -- who's actually to blame for the conspiracy. Who their real enemy is.

"So what," you might be saying. "Tagon's guilty. Do the crime, do the time."

Yeah, well, that brings us back to lawyers. See, detectives don't get to falsify evidence to convict even people they know are guilty. (I'm not saying it's the detective who falsified it in this case -- take this as a general point). The rule of law requires evidence. It requires support. And it most certainly doesn't require that laws be set aside so that two people can give their versions of a story and cause an all powerful third party to arbitrarily decide what to do based upon "the truth." The fact is, Petey can't actually know what the truth is. He can only find out what he and the people in the room think the truth is. And they might be wrong. Or they might be lying.

We have a system to remove that kind of arbitrary decisionmaking and loose interpretation of the truth. It's called the legal system. And we have people who go to very very hard schools, take very very hard exams, and become licensed by the states they work and practice in to be our advocates when we have to use that system. When we're arrested, by law we have to be told our rights. One of those rights is the right to an attorney, whose job is to advocate for us and our rights. If we can't afford one, we're given one. And no matter how much Dirty Harry movies or Dick Wolf TV shows might scoff, that's a very, very good thing. It means that policemen can't just arrest us and get us convicted with impunity. It means that judges aren't all powerful, and neither are Senators or Congressmen. Or, for that matter, Presidents. It means that "innocent until proven guilty" actually means something. It means that a man can always appeal until he reaches the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court doesn't rely on the vision of a single, all powerful judge, but nine justices, a majority of whom must be convinced of any decision.

It's far from perfect. It's far from immune from corruption. It's slow, and sometimes byzantine, and often frustrating. It makes mistakes. But, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it's the worst form of justice except for all the others ever tried in human history. Anything else is the surrender of Freedom.

And Howard Tayler knows it. I'm sure of this. As I've mentioned before.

"Requesting the intercession of an attorney is a sign of a guilty conscience." And yeah, no one would take the Fifth unless they had something to hide, either. The right to remain silent? If they weren't guilty, they would answer the questions, wouldn't they? A search warrant? If you have nothing to hide, why would you care if the police could walk into your house at any time and look for and seize whatever they like? Only bad people get arrested. Only guilty people go to court.

You know, the police I dealt with earlier today were kind, friendly, cheerful and professional. They were good to me, they were good to the guys who rear-ended me, and they were in all ways what I would want a police officer to be. But if they asked me to go to the station and answer a few questions, I would want to know if I were under arrest. And if I were, I would want a lawyer present, even though I knew that I had done nothing wrong, because this is a scary prospect and I want someone who knows what's going on, what my rights are, and what my responsibilities are, thank you very much.

(Not that there was any danger of that here. Sometimes, it's hard to ascribe fault. But when I was asked to relate my side of the story, it opened with "well, I was in line for medication when someone came in and said "hey, anyone own a Green Honda parked in the lot? 'Cause it just got wanged by an SUV....")

Petey is setting himself up as infallible, unappealable authority, by his rules, without laws to interfere or the 'help' of lawyers. And in so doing, he is implying he is either a God, dispensing justice from above without reproach or appeal... or a garden variety tyrant.

I know which one Petey probably considers himself.

And I know which one he is.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at July 12, 2006 1:38 AM

Comments

Comment from: larksilver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 2:37 AM

I have a couple of relatives who suffer from gout. I do not envy you this thing, and can only offer my sincere hope that the trouble will subside and allow you to function more comfortably.

Moving on from the "ooh, ow, I'm sorry dude" lame-ass stuff...

I thoroughly enjoyed this essay. I was so, so glad to see all those words there, and drank them in like a woman who'd just walked off the surface of the sun. Then, when I realized where all those lovely words were going, I enjoyed them even more.

It is indeed easy to forget that our broken, clunky, pain-in-the-ass system is still the best thing out there. It is also easy to forget that not all attorneys are evil snakey-drones, and that even the evil snakey-drones are in fact providing a service.

Thanks for the reminder, and the drink. I was sure thirsty.. but then, I'll be that thirsty next time I see more of them words on here. It's a good thing that websnark essays aren't (generally) alcoholic in nature; I'd be in rehab within the month.

Comment from: sun tzu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 8:10 AM

Ah, How I had missed Websnark.
Great essay...And, I believe, completely on the spot. Nice job.

Comment from: Vosh [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 8:43 AM

Speaking as an attorney, I can only say, "well said, Mr. Burns." Very few capture the true meaning of "kill all the lawyers" as nicely as you and Taylor have done.

Free legal counsel for both of you if you ever end up in front of the court in which I practice. Which, if you are lucky, will never, ever happen.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 9:35 AM

I thought the common misascription of the quote was to the first scene of Octavian's triumvirate. I can't even get mistakes right. Good grief.

I suppose now the way the story will swing is that Tagon's defense, whatever it turns out to be, will sway Petey and our antiheroes will be allowed to go on their way. Because the alternative is for Petey to pass a sentence on Tagon and/or his whole crew, and at that point their only way out would be to figure out how to take out Petey and the Fleetmind; and I don't believe the time's ripe for that, I think more buildup is required.

Speaking of quotes, "The gout comes with the honor." Good to see you today.

Comment from: Misha Grin [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 9:39 AM

Dude, I know and you know that I read some pretty good writers in the course of a given day. Some DAMN fine writers I might even say. But this is the best essay I've seen in a long, LONG time. Well written, all 'round.

You have been much missed, my friend.

Comment from: roninkakuhito [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 9:53 AM

Paul
He could sentence them to work for him on the Andromeda front. That is, if you look at his previous behavior, one of those things that he does fairly frequently.

Comment from: Howard Tayler [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 10:30 AM

For the record, my characters do not necessarily behave nor speak as I believe they should. They act as THEY believe they should.

(This is me making sure I get neither credited nor blamed for espousal of an opinion held by somebody I created.)

That said, great essay, Eric. Thank you!

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 10:40 AM

For the record, my characters do not necessarily behave nor speak as I believe they should. They act as THEY believe they should.

Which is another point in your favor, sir. ;)

Comment from: JB Segal [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 10:46 AM

Have they not actually offered to jab your toe full of delicious, soothing steroids yet?

For an attack that bad, usually after 2 days, they're willing to put me through the hell-on-earth torture of the needle-in-my-inflamed-toe for the soon-to-follow blessed relief.

As well, yay, Studly Rx-Strength Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflamitories, and yay Thousands-Of-Years-Of-Relief-Bringing (And-GI-Side-Effect-Inducing) Colchicine!

Really, all my sympathies. I know your pain.

JB - off to take today's dose of Allopurinol.

Comment from: Egarwaen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 10:59 AM

For the record, my characters do not necessarily behave nor speak as I believe they should. They act as THEY believe they should.

Given that many of them are murderous psychopaths, this is probably a very good thing.

Also, Eric, I think this is my favourite piece of writing from you yet. Good job. I'm very glad that you're not yet dead.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 11:50 AM

I suppose this wouldn't be a good time to toss in a typical "What do you call 1,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? (A good start.)" joke.

I do think that the main ire against lawyers and indirectly to judges these days is this assumption (or observation) that they've taken away the freedom to govern because there are very few laws that are not challenged in a court of law, and that many political and moral decisions are being decided more or less by a Court, especially the Supreme Court in the United States. And that we've allowed lawyers and the legal process to override nearly anything so that we can be protected from being sued against.

Some of it is justified. I have a half-cousin who is going through a very costly and painful legal divorce battle because he stupidly played around with a girl at his workplace. But since neither spouse could come to terms on their own on anything, they've left it up to a judge to decide how to split things and who gets to take care of the two daughters left in the wake of this divorce.

It's too easy to let someone we think is more qualified to solve our disputes and let us go on our merry way. I do wonder if we are out of control with how we overuse the legal process, through.

Comment from: roninkakuhito [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 11:57 AM

With the popularity of low carb high protine diets causing an upswing in cases of gout in thirty-somethings, maybe there will be an upswing in research in treatment-leading-to-a-cure.

Comment from: Kris@WLP [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 12:02 PM

As much as it irritates me when other people try to anticipate what's coming in the webcomics I'm responsible for, I can't resist it here.

At the moment I believe it's -Petey- who framed the Toughs.

Why?

First, because Petey has a tendency to use entrapment and coercion to get what he wants. If he wants something from the Toughs, he's highly unlikely to just ask. He's going to set things up so that the Toughs have no choice whatever.

Second, as a general rule Howard doesn't spring antagonists on us out of nowhere. At the moment there's no one in the UNS (did I get that right?) -visible- to gain from putting the Toughs in an impossible situation. When a plot like this goes down, Howard shows us glimpses of the plotters. Here, we've seen the network, we've seen the Toughs... and we've seen Petey press-gang an invasion fleet into fighting in Andromeda.

If my supposition holds true, Petey didn't just randomly teraport that battleplate on top of the Toughs; that was his checkmate move. He's drawn the Toughs into a situation where, even if they win their extradition case, they'll be dependent upon Petey's goodwill for sanctuary- because the Toughs can't escape the frame without admitting to illegal acts. No matter what happens, the UNS isn't going to restore their license or allow them back into UNS space. End result: Petey has Tagon & Co. under his complete control. (Which means, as usual, sucks to be a Tough.)

Of course, I'm not Howard; that's only what my personal guess is at the moment. We'll see how right or wrong I am in a couple of weeks, maybe less I think.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 12:03 PM

"Petey is setting himself up as infallible, unappealable authority, by his rules, without laws to interfere or the 'help' of lawyers. And in so doing, he is implying he is either a God, dispensing justice from above without reproach or appeal... or a garden variety tyrant."

The cynic in me compels me to ask: what's the difference? Particularly if we're thinking of "god" in the same way that the ancient Greeks or Romans did - the difference there was that it was really in the level of power.

Thus, the question of whether or not Petey is a god or tyrant comes down to sheer power - and given how he was able to just shove around the UNS at his whim, I'll lean towards the latter.

In a way, that goes to another oft-misused quote, "God is dead". Nietzsche wasn't proclaiming the death of religion or that it was pointless, but that the idea of a god is tyrannical, and that freedom from religion would bring mankind greater freedom. Not that I agree with Nietzsche, but that's one theory on him.

As for where this story goes, Paul, think about how both gods and tyrants work in regards to guilt. They don't care if you're guilty of something differently from what they're accusing. They just care if you're guilty of something.

Personally, I suspect that Petey is going to find that Tagon's crew is guilty, just not of what the UNS is accusing them of (but still something that would warrant extradition). However, as armed mercenaries (particularly ones that have been in business as long as Tagon's Toughs) can be quite useful, I peresonally suspect that Petey will instead lock them down into service under him.

Maybe getting Tagon's Toughs to effectively be working for the Fleetmind was Petey's goal all along. And this method is much cheaper than what they'd charge if he had just hired them outright (Petey does have a head for profit, after all).

Comment from: Dorkboy [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 12:14 PM

The Penny Arcade boys linked to your car and crushed it with their popularity?

Is there no way to STOP these young men!? Their power grows ever stronger...

\/\/

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 12:24 PM

Have they not actually offered to jab your toe full of delicious, soothing steroids yet?

As of this morning, I'm on oral steroids. Five pills a day, all at once. Plus the old friend colchicine. If it doesn't resolve the problem, we go to the needle. And thanks for the commiseration. ;)

Comment from: Zernik [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 1:48 PM

"Petey is setting himself up as infallible, unappealable authority, by his rules, without laws to interfere or the 'help' of lawyers. And in so doing, he is implying he is either a God, dispensing justice from above without reproach or appeal... or a garden variety tyrant."

With human arbitrators, this would perhaps be true. However, this isn't a human - this is Petey. He isn't human - he's AI. The problem isn't so much that Petey could be corrupt, or wrong, but rather that his goal is not "justice", or adherence to any set of laws. Petey is, by the testimony of his previous actions, absolutely (or ruthlessly, depending on your point of view) dedicated to victory in Andromeda, and such purely human ideas as justice and law are merely tools or obstacles in achieving his goals.

Aside from relations with the UNS, therefore, he has no real interest in giving a verdict based on the true guilt of Tagon's Toughs. His only interest is in a verdict which serves his purposes - much more frightening than a regular "kangaroo court" situation.

Comment from: sun tzu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 1:57 PM

But AIs in this comic have been shown to possess emotions, and be perfectly capable of hubris. Remember how certain Petey was, during the Teraport Wars, that he was far too smart for anything Kevin could tell him to make any difference?
Then Kevin told him how he had figured out the way the Gatekeepers were going to kill them all. For all of Petey's processing power, he lacked Kevin's creative thinking. Aaaand he was too arrogant to realize it.

Comment from: roninkakuhito [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 2:17 PM

Zernik I'm not sure how that differs from "or a garden variety tyrant."

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 2:27 PM

Perhaps it's a... HYPERgarden, with... superintelligently designed planters and species of flower beyond human comprehension!

Comment from: roninkakuhito [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 2:37 PM

If I recall, it is also possible that Howard doesn't know exactly why and how this turns out at the end. Or at least he is as far ahead of us in knowing as his script buffer. I seem to remember that happening before with a Petey story. (He new what he wanted to have happen at the end, but the mechanics of how to make it happen and why it happened were worked out as he wrote the strips. Way back when Petey was still solely a spaceship.)

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 3:08 PM

Ronin - like I said, for these purposes, the only difference between a god and a tyrant is simply a scale of power. It won't be until we see an active effort to throw off Petey's yoke that we'll really find out whether he has enough power to legitimately call himself a lower-case god (of course, should he just make a new Universe and rule over it absolutely, I think we can safely give him the majuscule).

Comment from: roninkakuhito [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 5:12 PM

32_footsteps
I don't think he'd have to go even that far to deserve the upper case. I don't think you'd have to be a creator upper case gee god to be an upper case gee god.

He could "just" make all of reality a part of himself.
*chuckles* Petey the viral God.

Comment from: Arcanum [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 11:25 PM

Just to be contrary, this page makes a pretty good case for Shakespear intending that quote to be taken in exactly the way most people take it: as a lampooning of lawyers.

http://www.spectacle.org/797/finkel.html

Given the usage there, I think he has a point. His description also aligns well with why I think most people dislike lawyers: they are viewed (not entirely without justification) as using the law to distort and pervert justice as often as they use the law to support and uphold it.

Comment from: JSW [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 12, 2006 11:59 PM

"Petey is setting himself up as infallible, unappealable authority, by his rules, without laws to interfere or the 'help' of lawyers. And in so doing, he is implying he is either a God, dispensing justice from above without reproach or appeal... or a garden variety tyrant."

The cynic in me compels me to ask: what's the difference? Particularly if we're thinking of "god" in the same way that the ancient Greeks or Romans did - the difference there was that it was really in the level of power.


The Hebrews, too. I think Richard Dawkins put it best when he described the Old Testament God as "the most unpleasant character in all fiction."

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 12:53 AM

Just to be contrary, this page makes a pretty good case for Shakespear intending that quote to be taken in exactly the way most people take it: as a lampooning of lawyers.

Hardly contrary. However, I disagree with this particular fellow, in part because I think he's reading a very surface interpretation of the events. As he says:

JACK CADE. I thank you, good people:- there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.
And here is where Dick speaks the famous line.
DICK. The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
The audience must have doubled over in laughter at this. Far from "eliminating those who might stand in the way of a contemplated revolution" or portraying lawyers as "guardians of independent thinking", it's offered as the best feature imagined of yet for utopia.

A utopia that involves, by his own quote, the assumption of all commerce, control of food, regimented uniforms, and the call for all people to worship Jack Cade as their Lord and (practically) God.

It's entirely possible that the audience would have been howling. And yes, it's a lawyer joke and he's telling nothing but. However, it is absolutely a tyranny he's describing. Which is itself a deeper level plan for another usurper to... well, usurp. In the end, the idea that this was meant to be purely funny, rather than a joke with a deeper meaning seems unlikely.

Especially when one considers the audience and temperament. Shakespeare made a practice of writing and staging plays that put the current administration in a good light. All three parts of Henry VI are no exception -- he makes Jack Cade out to be a buffoon surrounded by menials and idiots because he wasn't about to imply that historical figures who defied and rebelled against the authority that one day led to Elizabeth I were in any way noble. And even the description of a utopia by Cade (from Cade's point of view) leads to an abject tyranny without law or recourse. Cade is both stupid and evil -- and natural, proper, legal, Divine Right granted authority is shown in a better light thereby.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 12:55 AM

His description also aligns well with why I think most people dislike lawyers: they are viewed (not entirely without justification) as using the law to distort and pervert justice as often as they use the law to support and uphold it.

This, by the by, is a point.

My point is, eliminate the lawyers, and you replace them with something infinitely worse.

Comment from: DeeJaye6 [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 1:15 AM

I have an idea that Petey can and does know what the truth is. Why? Because HE is behind it all. Allow me to present my observations:

He took over the Popigai just after Ebinroth pulled his gun on the officer. That's when Petey knew somehting was up.
He then took the Popi into Jovian orbit to deliver his message of where his sphere of influence was.
He then went straight to Celeschul where our boys were doing their thing. Amazing coincidence, no?
And something sure made the CID AI let them go...
And Petey and the others tracked the TAG real easily, didn't they?

Petey is doing all this to give Tagon's Toughs the illusion that he is here to help them and get them more inclined to do what he wants them to do. But I think NSB and Massey might just be on to him. We shall see.

Comment from: abb3w [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 6:40 AM

I'll note that cherries are allegedly good for gout, tasty, and now nicely in season. Mmmm... cherries.

I'll also note that Petey isn't a garden variety tyrant. Not unless you've been using the fifty-gallon drum Miracle-Gro you found in the parking lot of the Springfield Reactor for your garden. He's a couple orders of magnitude more intelligent than human, and has control of the majority of the galaxy's military might.

Whenever you talk about superintelligence in SF, Vernor Vinge is one of three names you need to pay attention to. (Niven and JW Campbell are the other two.) A Fire Upon the Deep gives an useful term for describing Petey: he is a Power, a being from beyond the Singularity/Transcend, and not particularly comprehensible to those of us on this side. This doesn't make him immune to suprise or beyond error (as Old One could tell you), it doesn't make him omnipotent, and it doesn't mean there aren't bigger fish out there than him. It does make him and his plans incomprehensibly beyond human. As to whether the plans are a good thing... you can discuss it with Petey's psychoanalyst, Dr. Pangloss.

As for the lawyers... I suppose we could make Trial by Ordeal a voluntary option again, for those who want something more humane than Trial by Lawyers.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 8:22 AM

True, JSW, but then there's the line between god and God - whereas you'd expect a god to have lots of powers, there's some limits to that. However, a God is omnipotent. While Petey is fairly powerful as of now, I don't think he has infinite power - at least not yet (otherwise, he'd just rule the entire galaxy by willing it, and he would if he could). It might be his ultimate goal to become all-powerful, but he ain't there yet.

Comment from: UrsulaV [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 9:05 AM

Argh! My husband gets gout, and I was deeply astonished to find that people still got what I'd always considered a sort of archaic disease.

I was even more astonished to discover that it can cause you to scream when your foot touches the ground, so the doctor winds up X-raying for breaks.

That stuff is no fun, man. My deep and heartfelt sympathy.

Comment from: Joseph [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 9:35 AM

I've never read this blog before, just followed a link from Howard Taylor's comic strip. Awesome. I also just got done reading this. I'm going to definitely pick up your RSS feed.

Comment from: marlowe [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 9:36 AM

Eric - I think you're spot on in most of the arguments above, but you're being a little simplistic here.

Shakespeare made a practice of writing and staging plays that put the current administration in a good light.

Shakespeare did make a practice of writing plays that kept him in the good graces of the powerful, not surprising considering the nastiness Ben Jonson had to go through after the Guy Fawkes affair. It is, however, impressive the extent to which he's willing to spit in the faces of the monarchs when the occasion presents itself. There's a good case to be made that most of the Greeks in Troilus and Cressida are direct charicatures of Walshingham and the rest of Elizabeth's secret police, for example.

And then there's the Henry Trilogy, where Prince Hal is cast as a tremendous antihero, really bordering on a villain in some points (or an evil genius?). By the end of Henry V, he's betrayed and in some cases directly murdered everyone who has shown him friendship. Yet Henry V presents itself as a triumphant military drama - "once more into the breach, etc" - and that's how most people remember it. This difference of interpretation is the axle around which so much Henry V criticism turns; in the end, the entire play is subject to at least as much interpretation and counter-interpretation as that lawyer quote.

Which just, I think, goes to show that Shakespeare was the master of the double entendre. The lawyer quote wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun if it weren't placed in the mouth of a cold-hearted butcher planning to warp the law to his own ends, but it's still a joke, and it's still funny no matter how deep you read it.

Anyway, good to see you up and about again, and I hope to see more in this space soon!

Comment from: larksilver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 9:48 AM

It's entirely possible that the audience would have been howling. And yes, it's a lawyer joke and he's telling nothing but. However, it is absolutely a tyranny he's describing. Which is itself a deeper level plan for another usurper to... well, usurp. In the end, the idea that this was meant to be purely funny, rather than a joke with a deeper meaning seems unlikely.

Isn't that what the best "humor" is for? Some of the most enduring comedies often touch on sensitive areas which cannot be addressed directly, particularly in cases involving politics or religion.

Shakespeare would certainly not be the first (or last) to use what is apparently surface humor to make a deeper point, and a deeper impression, on his audience.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 10:22 AM

Is there some other medical term for gout that they use when they don't want to bring to mind images of chubby Victorian guys with muttonchops, top hats and bandaged feet?

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 10:57 AM

And then there's the Henry Trilogy, where Prince Hal is cast as a tremendous antihero, really bordering on a villain in some points (or an evil genius?). By the end of Henry V, he's betrayed and in some cases directly murdered everyone who has shown him friendship. Yet Henry V presents itself as a triumphant military drama - "once more into the breach, etc" - and that's how most people remember it. This difference of interpretation is the axle around which so much Henry V criticism turns; in the end, the entire play is subject to at least as much interpretation and counter-interpretation as that lawyer quote.

Unquestionably. One of the truly marvelous things about Shakespeare is the layers he wrote in. Scrape one away, and there's a whole new potential statement and meaning in place.

The lawyer quote wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun if it weren't placed in the mouth of a cold-hearted butcher planning to warp the law to his own ends, but it's still a joke, and it's still funny no matter how deep you read it.

Nor do I deny it. What I deny is that the overall effect is meant to suggest lawyers should actually be killed. The context and implication of the scene -- regardless of the fact that the scene is funny throughout -- highlights the ambitions of a potential tyrant, and the invocation of a slaughter of lawyers carries with it the undercurrent that the rule of law and appeal goes with them.

(There are other interpretations, of course. But I stand by mine. ;) )

Comment from: marlowe [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 13, 2006 12:45 PM

Well said, sir. I'd reply in greater detail, but it is far past time for bed here.

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 15, 2006 11:18 PM

Sorry to hear about the gout. Pretty much any type of acute arthritis is hell on earth, especially if it's in a joint you have a hard time avoiding the use of, like the ankle.

What gets me in Petey's monologue is when he says that "You cannot impress me with logical constructs, airtight arguments, or six-syllable words." Because an airtight argument is one that is logically unassailable and free of fallacy. It cannot be refuted. If Petey is saying that he will not be swayed by that, then he is saying that he is going to force his way regardless of anything.

Comment from: Devilot [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 17, 2006 1:05 PM

I have to disagree with your analysis on one point: Petey _does_ know the actual truth of the matter. He's hyper-intelligent. Combined with his obviously very effective spy network, it's difficult to distinguish between whatever he is and true omniscience. This _doesn't_ mean that he's correct in his actions just because he more likely than not knows the truth behind a given situation--that's a logical fallacy whose name I can't remember at the moment.

Comment from: Devilot [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at July 17, 2006 1:05 PM

I have to disagree with your analysis on one point: Petey probably _does_ know the actual truth of the matter. He's hyper-intelligent. Combined with his obviously very effective spy network, it's difficult to distinguish between whatever he is and true omniscience. This _doesn't_ mean that he's correct in his actions just because he more likely than not knows the truth behind a given situation--that's a logical fallacy whose name I can't remember at the moment.

Comment from: Kris@WLP [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 6, 2006 9:40 PM

And now, a month after the prediction, a month after anyone's posted to this thread, I just want to say: I told you so. }:-{D

Comment from: Fiction Editor [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 3, 2007 5:51 AM

That was a refreshing read. Great to read someone putting the casual Shakespeare quoters in their place.

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